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Exquisite experiences

Article - September 8, 2011
Several hotels, resorts and adventure companies offer the chance to experience Chile’s considerable natural beauty at first hand
Few countries in the world hold as much potential for tourism as Chile. Unforgettable experiences await the traveler, both on and off the beaten track. Extreme skiing in the Andes (during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer season), fishing in virtually virgin fjords, relaxing in luxury in the world’s driest desert, or meandering through enormous stone torsos on an island thousands of miles from anywhere are all possible.

For those skiers for whom regular runs and lifts aren’t enough, South America’s sole snowcat ski resort, Ski Arpa, offers true backcountry skiing. Nestled in the shadow of Mount Aconcagua, Ski Arpa provides more than 4,000 acres of off-piste skiing and riding. An unforgettable Ski Arpa experience can be booked through Santiago Adventures, an agency that offers tour packages to other exciting cultural and adventure destinations around Santiago and throughout the country.

Those seeking an even more extreme snow experience need look no further than Puma Lodge. Inaugurated last June for the 2011 season, Puma Lodge is Chile’s newest heli-skiing destination and fully equipped 5-star resort. Located just 90 minutes south of Santiago’s airport, Puma Lodge is the world’s heli ski destination closest to an international airport.

The area, dubbed the ‘Powder Capital of the Andes’, sees an average snowfall of 39 inches of champagne powder per storm and is the largest private helicopter domain in the world. Puma Lodge boasts more than 1,900 square miles of terrains and long runs, averaging 4,000 feet vertical per run. The stunning lodge itself offers guests spa facilities, an outdoor Jacuzzi, a business center, an in-house medical clinic, and a wine cellar stocked with the region’s finest.

Operating out of Chile’s Lake District, Nomads of the Seas is a unique company offering unparalleled levels of personalized services, revolving around exclusive exploratory fly fishing adventures, ecotourism and cruises through the Chilean Patagonia’s most isolated, pristine and magical niches.

Bird watching, dolphin and whale sighting, heli-skiing and outings to lost hot springs and glaciers complement the Nomads of the Seas fly-fishing expeditions. Onboard the versatile ship ‘Atmosphere’ (ranked among the planet’s top 10 explorer yachts by Super Yacht magazine), Nomads guests sail through gentle fjords and crystal clear lakes while viewing primeval forests and enjoying delicious Chilean cuisine and wines as well as Thalassotherapy treatment.

Nomads of the Seas’ founder and former investment banker, Andres Ergas, says, “Having flown and sailed endless hours and scouted various lands, I have concluded that Chilean Patagonia is definitely one of the most wonderful places on Earth. Its magical surroundings are the perfect setting for a vacation, where passion and technology combine to create an unparalleled adventure in the planet’s southernmost lands.”
In stark contrast to the lush green of the south, northern Chile’s landscapes feature ocher, gold, russet, sienna and dozens of other shades of brown. The Atacama Desert’s unforgiving environment is superbly offset by some of the area’s hotels and resorts, such as Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa. Tucked away in a valley of serene beauty and directly in the shadow of the pre-Colombian Pukara de Quitor ruins, Alto Atacama is a stunning work of architecture that offers the perfect base for exploring the desert. It is no wonder that National Geographic named Alto Atacama one of the best properties in South America.

Another award-winning hotel in Chile is the Posada de Mike Rapu on Easter Island, which Travel + Leisure magazine named Best Resort in Central and South America in 2011. Opened in late 2007 as part of the small and exclusive boutique explora group (which also owns hotels in the heart of the Torres del Paine National Park and in San Pedro de Atacama), Posada de Mike Rapu is situated on a hill in the Te Miro Oone area overlooking the ocean. The hotel’s design is intended to have minimal impact on the surroundings and the site itself was purposely chosen as it was deemed inappropriate for agricultural use and has no archeological remains.

While the private sector is doing plenty to offer rich experiences and exquisite accommodations, the government is also doing its part. Unlocking Chile’s potential as a top tourist destination is Sernatur, the National Tourism Service. Jacqueline Plass, Undersecretary of Tourism at Sernatur, says that the government has identified the sector as a cornerstone for the country’s future development and at the same time, is working to ensure tourism products and destinations in Chile remain environmentally sustainable.