Nestled between the peaks of the Andes and South America’s Pacific Coast, blessed with diverse and stunning natural beauty, ports along the 2,653-mile length of Chile welcome cruise ships.
Valparaiso, a common port of embarkation or debarkation, is also the port for Chile’s capital, Santiago, about 70 miles inland. Some visitors bound for Santiago get lost in the charms of Valparaiso instead: it’s reminiscent of San Francisco, with dramatic hills and Victorian-style homes. Spend some time looking at artifacts from Chile’s Easter Island at the Fonck Museum, or take an excursion to the expansive beach resort at Vina Del Mar.
If you can tear yourself away from Valparaiso, the thriving city of Santiago and its distinctive neighborhoods await you. These include Centro, the oldest part of the city, and the Belle Artes neighborhood, with galleries, art museums and tempting boutiques. Visit San Cristobal for marvelous views of the city and mountains – the city zoo is there, too. And, don’t miss the main city square, the Plaza de Armas, with its grand Spanish Colonial buildings and lovely gardens.
Sailing south along the coast, your next stop may be Puerto Montt, a little piece of Bavaria on a Chilean mountainside. The lingering influence of German immigrants is evident in the architecture and cuisine. Puerto Montt is also a gateway to Chile’s Lake District, an exceptionally beautiful area of sparkling lakes, rushing rivers and impressive fjords. Visit Puerto Varas on Lake Llanquihue and enjoy the views of the Orsorno volcano; or, browse the charming shops and pubs of Pelluco Beach Resort.
The port of Punta Arenas is often cool blustery (to be expected that close to Cape Horn), but there are wonderful and unusual things to see, such as the sculpted cypress trees and ornate mausoleums of the City Cemetery. Also worth a visit are La Cruz Hill, which has panoramic views of the city and the Strait of Magellan, and the adorable penguins at one of the nearby reserves. For a truly spectacular experience, take a charter flight to scenic Torres del Paine National Park; some cruises offer day excursions to Antarctica, too.
Cruises that call on ports in Chile often sail around Cape Horn to visit Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, too. November to March – the South American summer – is the best time to go, so talk with your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert soon.