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Planning your trip to Easter Island

Planning your trip to Easter Island

Easter Island (Rapa Nui) with its mysterious moai, is one of the most remote and enigmatic places on the planet. Read on to find out how to plan the trip of a lifetime. Why visit? The island is scattered with more than 900 moai – the world-famous stone statues which measure between 4 and 32 feet in height and can attain weights of 32 tons. The moai and the ahu (platforms) they stand on don’t just look cool staring into the deep blue yonder, they also pose myriad questions about the mysterious civilisation that built them. Another archaeological highlight is the ruins of Orongo where the famed birdman cult took place. Rapa Nui is also famed for its natural beauty. You can hike, bike or horse-back ride to the summits of Rano Kau and Rano Raraku and marvel at the crater lakes below them. Walk along the sandy beach at Anakena and snorkel, scuba dive or surf in the pristine Pacific Ocean. Do be aware, though, that water temperatures hover around the 70F mark, so this is not a beach …
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Introducing Mendoza, Argentina’s wine capital

Introducing Mendoza, Argentina’s wine capital

The Malbecs are mouth-watering, the wineries cutting edge and the Andes resplendent. Every way you look at it, Mendoza is a delight. The pleasant provincial capital of Mendoza owes its prosperity to the Andes, or more specifically the network of acequias (irrigation channels) that taps into the raging snowmelt torrent that is the Rio Mendoza. Built by the Huarpe and perfected by the Incas, the acequias still flow through the streets of the city and the water they bring is life-giving in every sense of the word. Without it there would be no wine, no fountains and no shady avenues... The many faces of Malbec Argentina is fifth-largest wine producer in the world and Mendoza is its undisputed capital. Malbec, which in its native France is only used in blends, has come into its own in Mendoza’s high-altitude desert environment. While most of Mendoza’s highest ranked wines are Malbecs, there are also several excellent red blends and smattering of wonderful Chardonnays too. Winemakers love …
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Antarctica wildlife highlights: penguins, whales, seals…

Antarctica wildlife highlights: penguins, whales, seals…

Prepare to be charmed by endearing Adélie penguins, wowed by muscular orcas and won over by enigmatic leopard seals. Antarctica isn’t just the coldest, driest and emptiest continent, it’s also home to the most pristine and untouched ecosystem on the planet. You’ll be amazed by the sheer abundance and diversity of life down South. Read on to find out more about the a few of the standouts… Penguins Gentoo, Adélie and Chinstrap penguins are the three remaining members of the Pygoscelis genus and you will likely encounter them all on your cruise. Gentoos are the largest and most numerous of the three, and they’re also the fastest swimmers of all penguins…Attaining speeds of 22mph puts them in the same echelon as Usain Bolt! They’re distinguished by their white ‘bonnets’ and red beaks. Adélies are the most penguin-like of all penguins, so much so that they are almost caricatures of themselves. Named after the wife of French explorer Dumont D’Urville, these small penguins are purely black …
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Experiencing Antarctica is easier than you think

Experiencing Antarctica is easier than you think

What do you get the man who has everything? A ticket to Antarctica of course. With icebergs, penguins, whales and more, it’s the very definition of a bucket list destination. The White Continent. Terra Australis. The Seventh Continent. The coldest, highest, windiest, driest, and remotest place on the planet. There are many ways to describe it, but every single one of them inspires wanderlust. Fortunately, visiting Antarctica has never been easier than it is now… We’ve described two of the most popular itineraries below, but guests who want to spend even longer exploring Antarctica should simply ask one of our Destination Experts about the other possibilities. Option 1: Fly in – 6 days cruising in Antarctica – Fly out This option starts and ends in Punta Arenas, Chile and allows you to a) maximize your time in Antarctica and b) totally avoid the rough and treacherous waters of the Drake Passage. The two-hour flight from Punta Arenas to Antarctica is an attraction in itself, but the …
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Shopping for Souvenirs in Santiago, Chile

Shopping for Souvenirs in Santiago, Chile

Nobody wants to be given a lousy T-shirt or a tacky teaspoon. We’ve put together a list of distinctly Chilean curious and keepsakes. And we’ve even told you where in Santiago to buy them… Crafts and artesanía Indigenous peoples may only make up 5% of Chile’s population, but the average Chilean contains over 35% Amerindian DNA. The contributions made by tribes such as the Mapuche and Atacameño are rich and many – most notably in the fields of silverware, textiles and ceramics. Pueblito los Dominicos (Photo: Rodrigo Pizarro) Instead of lugging merch all the way from Patagonia or the Atacama, we’d advise buying your artesanía in Santiago itself. There are quite a few places that sell authentic items and channel the profits straight back to the communities or individuals who made them. For the widest selection try Artesanias de Chile  or Ona both of which have very good charitable credentials. Otherwise, the Pueblito los Dominicos is a quality open air market on Avenida Apoquindo in …
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Introducing Chile: Land of extremes

Introducing Chile: Land of extremes

Measuring 2600 miles from North to South but averaging only 110 miles in width, Chile is home to both the driest desert on the planet and some of the world’s most prolific glaciers. Wedged between the bountiful Pacific Ocean and the towering Andes, this is Nature on a grand scale. There’s kayaking, skiing, fishing and trekking galore but there’s also oodles of culture, food and fun. For nature lovers Chile spans nearly 40 degrees of latitude, and it offers some of the most diverse climates and landscapes on the planet. The town of San Pedro de Atacama in the Atacama Desert is like Arizona on steroids: some weather stations have never recorded precipitation, and the snow-capped volcanoes, high altitude geysers, and freakish rock formations make it a fantastic place for photography, star gazing and contemplation. A little further south you come to the beaches of La Serena (rustic) and Viña del Mar (snazzier), but be warned: the water in Chile is almost as cold as an Oregon beach in …
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Chilean architect scoops prestigious Pritzker Prize

Chilean architect scoops prestigious Pritzker Prize

The Chilean architect famous for re-imagining low cost housing in Latin American cities and for rebuilding the city of Constitución in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake and tsunami, has been awarded architecture's highest prize. Alejandro Aravena's work is not 'beautiful' in the strictest sense of the word, but his buildings and ideas have dramatically transformed several Chilean (and Mexican) cities dramatically, and many see his philosophy of 'participatory design' (involving communities in the design of the cities and buildings they will live in) as the future of urban architecture. Half a good house   This was a technique he first tried in Iquique, where he asked residents of a proposed low cost housing scheme for their input. Facing revolt and hunger strikes if he persisted with high-rise blocks (the only financially feasible plan), Aravena hit upon the idea of building "half of a good house" instead of a bad house. In other words, Aravena provided families with 860 …
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BREAKING NEWS: After 43 years Chile’s Calbuco erupts

BREAKING NEWS: After 43 years Chile’s Calbuco erupts

Calbuco, near the popular Patagonian tourist centres of Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas has erupted for the first time since 1972. Calbuco is one of Chile’s largest and most active volcanoes, but scientists have been taken by surprise by the recent eruptions. Alejandro Verges, an emergency director for the region, said Calbuco had not been under any special form of observation. The first eruption occurred at about 6pm local time on Wednesday 22 April, and sprayed a thick plume of ash and smoke several miles into the sky. This later formed a spectacular mushroom cloud which glowed red as the sun went down, and was illuminated by occasional lightning bolts during the night. Canadian expat, Trevor Moffat, who lives only 6 miles from Calbuco described the event with gripping detail: “It sounded like a big tractor trailer passing by the road, rattling and shaking, guttural rumbling …We left everything there, grabbed my kid, my dog, got in the car with my wife.” WATCH a spectacular time-lapse …
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Mouth-watering South American fast food: Empanadas

Mouth-watering South American fast food: Empanadas

‘Empanada’ means ‘wrapped in bread or dough’ which is a very apt description for these little beauties which originated in Spain in the 1500s. They made their way across the Atlantic (together with a whole host of less pleasant Spanish traditions!) and are now an indelible fixture on the South American culinary landscape. Empanadas are similar to British savoury pies (and in particular the Cornish pasty) although they are (usually) smaller and the fillings are not as sloppy. Empanadas vary greatly from country to country and from province to province, so here’s a rundown of the most popular. Empanadas at a gas station in Argentina. (Picture: JP Pagan) Argentina This is arguably the home of the South American empanada, and the ground beef (with sliced onion, boiled egg and – sometimes – raisins and/or olives) variety is the most common. Argentine empanadas are on the small side. Other popular fillings include: ham and cheese, chicken and (during Lent) fish. Bolivia Bolivian …
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War of the Pacific: Bolivia & Peru lose territory to Chile

War of the Pacific: Bolivia & Peru lose territory to Chile

Like most wars before and since, The War of the Pacific (1879 - 1883) was about money: nitrate and guano deposits (both of which were used in fertilizers) in the Atacama Desert, in this case. Although Peru and Bolivia owned the land where most of the nitrate mines were, the mines themselves were owned and operated by Chile. This lead to disputes about taxes, which in turn resulted in a full blown war between Chile on the one side and Peru and Bolivia on the other. A war showing the territorial losses suffered by Bolivia and Peru. The war started off slowly, but once Chile had mobilized their navy they quickly established supremacy over the more primitive Peruvian and Bolivian forces. The subsequent land battle was short-lived, especially for Bolivia who surrendered as early as 1880. Peru hung on for longer, and Chilean forces got as far as Lima, which they occupied in 1881. Two years of guerrilla warfare followed, but eventually a treaty was signed in 1883. Not only were 13 000 …
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Santiago: Making the most of Chile’s cosmopolitan capital

Santiago: Making the most of Chile’s cosmopolitan capital

Chile is famous for its crystalline lakes and snow-capped mountains; its 100-point wines and its austere deserts. It is without doubt a tourism heavyweight, but its capital goes largely unnoticed. True, most people who visit Chile visit Santiago but this is more to do with connecting flights than anything else. Santiago doesn’t get many days on most itineraries as it has the reputation of being dull and Americanized. It is true that the city’s subway is extremely clean and efficient and that the financial district – unlike those in some other South American capitals – really is just that: a boring conglomeration of office blocks interspersed with Hooters and Pizza Hut franchises. But a booming, successful city isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The ornate ceiling of the metropolitan cathedral. (Picture: Daniel Diaz Vera) When I was living just over the border in Mendoza, Argentina I visited Santiago regularly and always found it to be an eclectic and buzzing city full of cultural and …
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Book review: Heading South, Looking North by Ariel Dorfman

Book review: Heading South, Looking North by Ariel Dorfman

Today Ariel Dorfman is recognized as one of Chile’s most important literary figures; the voice of the leftist Allendista revolution and one of the most vehement and outspoken critics of Pinochet’s regime. But he started life out as an Argentinean, born to Russian immigrant parents and brought up in exile in New York. He first set foot in Chile at the age of 12 and until he was about 18 he despised everything about it; yearning instead to return to the United States which he saw as home. Heading South, Looking North is the memoir of a self-proclaimed “hybrid, part Yankee, part Chilean, a pinch Jew, a mestizo in search of a center,” from his birth in 1942 in Argentina until the day he eventually flees Chile, via Argentina, in 1973 to a life of exile in Europe. The memoir deals, both on a personal level and with reference to the global politics of the time, with identity – particularly as it relates to language and nationality. Large tracts of the memoir are dedicated to the two …
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