Published on April 24th, 2010 | by Mark Chesnut
Travel in Chile, After the Earthquake: My Final Summary
Santiago de Chile, up and running.
I just wrapped up a two-week visit to four major regions of Chile: the capital city of Santiago, the coastal cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, the southern area called Patagonia, and the northern desert called Atacama.
Like most people, I’d seen plenty of reports about the devastation brought by the earthquake that struck central Chile on February 27 (you can see some of my earlier quake-related posts here). To tell you the truth, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But after spending two weeks traversing some of the most popular destinations, I can tell you that — at least in the four areas I visited — if you didn’t know that a major earthquake had struck, you wouldn’t be able to guess. The major destruction took place in and around the city of Concepción, and recovery efforts there continue. In addition, some of the wineries and hotels in the Colchagua valley were damaged, and some hotels there remain closed. (Movie star Elijah Wood also visited Chile last week, to help rescue pets abandoned after the earthquake in some destinations.)
But there is no reason to cancel a trip to Chile because of the headlines you may have read a couple months ago. The four major destinations that I visited are up and running, and are as enjoyable as ever.
Here’s what I discovered first hand:
Santiago: The airport, which suffered more than the city itself, is fully functional, and only minor repairs are being made now (although the air conditioning was still not functioning as of last night, when I was there last). The minor repairs that are still taking place, in fact, pale in comparison to the mess I sometimes witness at New York’s Kennedy airport.
Hotels and public services are perfectly fine in the city; hotels are as luxurious as ever, and dining and shopping as rewarding as always. The one thing to note: if you plan to visit a specific museum, you may want to verify that it’s open, as repairs to some exhibits are taking longer than others and some museums are still closed (you can find my photos, reviews and write-ups about Santiago here).
Valparaíso and Viña del Mar: These Pacific coast hotspots suffered minor damage but, after several hours of walking and driving around, I didn’t see much more than a few fallen decorative architectural elements from a handful of older buildings. (Check out Valparaíso’s amazing historic architecture and artistic ambiance on my blog posts here.)
Patagonia: I flew into the city of Balmaceda and spent several days cruising around the fjords. There was no damage this far south, and as always, the region is a sparkling wonderland of water, mountains and glaciers. (For details and plenty of photos about my time in Patagonia — including shots of the beautiful blueish glacier, click here.)
Atacama Desert: I flew into Calama and stayed a few nights in San Pedro de Atacama, in the desert. This region was unaffected by the quake, and offers more options than ever for luxurious, active and fun getaways in the dramatic mountain landscape (check out my review of five great luxury desert lodges here).
In short, it’s always a good idea to double-check a destination before visiting it. But now is not the time to cancel or put off a visit to this fascinating, diverse South American nation. If anything, the time is better now than ever to visit — and to help.
For more information about travel to Chile, visit Turismo Chile.