Travel to Chile by Bike : a practical guide

If you want to spite a traveler, ask him to describe Chile in a few words. It is a thin but long strip of land like from Rome to the North Cape… You can easily imagine the changes in landscape: from the fiery desert of the north, to the Antarctic polar circle of the south.

Chile is the longest and narrowest country in South America: 4,329 kilometers long and 177 kilometers wide on average. This country of great contrasts offers surprising landscapes. It begins with the Plateau and the Atacama Desert, the driest in the world, continues through the temperate Valles Centrales surrounded by the Cordillera de los Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, further south with Región de los Lagos, covered with lakes, volcanoes, rivers and forests, and ends with Patagonia and Antarctica, lands of glaciers, greenery and primeval nature. Also, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there is a magical piece of land: Easter Island. Leaving behind the dark years of General Pinochet’s dictatorial regime, modern Chile is an increasingly popular tourist destination. It’s not difficult to find motorbike hirers on site, while specialized tour operators offer packages that often cover several countries touched by the Andes Mountains on the same trip. Here are some examples.

Exploring Chile Travel & Dreams is a specialized agency in Santiago that organizes motorcycle tours of about 2,830 kilometers spread over 18 days offering assistance and guides who speak Italian. Here is a typical itinerary to get a precise idea of the places: international flight to Santiago de Chile, internal flight to Antofagasta and from there departure in the direction of San Pedro de Atacama, tiny city on the northern plateau, from where you can enjoy the most beautiful views of all of Chile. Here you can see the Salar de Atacama, the largest salt plain in the country dotted with pink flamingos and bordered by volcanoes, and at sunset you can not miss the spectacle of the Valley of the Moon. The next day we leave for Purmamarca (Argentina) to visit the area independently and then head to Salta (330 km), where we visit Cafayate through the nature reserve of Quebrada de las Conchas (380 km return road). Then we return to San Pedro de Atacama through the Paso Sico, if the road conditions allow it; once you arrive at your destination, you can see the Laguna Cejar or relax at the Baths of Puritama, or make an excursion to the Geyser of El Tatio (4,300 meters above sea level). In the following days other destinations included in the package are: Tocopilla, Iquique, Colchane, Putre, Arica and Santiago. Between Colchane and Putre, in particular, you cross three protected areas of the plateau of great landscape impact: the Parque Nacional Volcàn Isluga, the Monumento Nacional Surire and the Reserva Nacional Vicuñas. The best time to make this trip is from March to June and from September to November. The price of the package includes the rental of the bike (BMW F800 GS – BMW F650 GS), assistance, overnight stays and breakfast in a hotel of the third, fourth category. Not included are flights and fuel for the bike. The price varies depending on the number of motorcyclists and their companions, as the travel package is tailor-made to the customer’s specific requirements.

Motoaventura is a Chilean tour operator based in Santiago. Official partner of BMW in the organization of travel, offers customized packages to the north and south of the country, in Peru, Bolivia and Argentina, unforgettable beautiful places such as Patagonia, Bariloche, Route 40, Ushuaia, Torres del Paine, San Pedro de Atacama, Machu Picchu in Peru, Salar de Uyuni and Death Road in Bolivia, Santiago, Viña del Mar, Iguassu Falls, Buenos Aires, Valdivia, Puyehue and up to the top of Volcan Osorno. All you have to do is choose which BMW model is right for you and which places to visit, and they’ll take care of the rest. The protagonists are Robert Baum, director of Motoaventura, Chilean-German enduro expert for over 20 years who knows South America as his pockets. He speaks German, English and Spanish. Sonia Dvorachuk, Marketing Manager, Argentinian, organizes and plans trips, drives the bike or van along the routes and speaks English, German and Italian.

Raid Inside is a group of motorcycle travel enthusiasts who have put their experience to good use by forming an association, promoting destinations, logistics and accompaniment. Periodically, they propose trips to visit Chile, Bolivia and Peru in the heart of the Andean mountain range, riding their enduro motorcycle. You will follow asphalted roads and long dirt roads. Cusco, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca are among the most significant Peruvian locations reached during the trip. Once in Bolivia, the landscape changes progressively passing from the high altitude deserts of Salar de Uyuni and Laguna Colorada, to the Amazonian forest: a height difference of 5,000 meters. And finally the spectacular Chilean deserts: the Salar de Uyuni and the Green Lagoon.

Adventure Travels around the world also offer various tours in this part of the world. The “Patagonia Raid” and the “Transandina Raid 4×4” with their own motorcycles are now well established. The Patagonia Raid, lasting 25 days, passes through Chile and Argentina, along the Chilean Austral Fireplace and the Argentinean Ruta 40; departure from Puerto Montt to enter Chilean Patagonia, continues to the Ruta 5 to Pargua, from where you board the ferry to the island of Chiloé. After having travelled far and wide this green island, from the port of Quellon you can reach it with a ferry Chaiten, from where begins the adventure that will take you through the Carretera Longitudinal Austral. From Chaiten to Cochrane then, to then coast the Lake General Carrera (Lake Buenos Aires) and overcome the last impervious but spectacular stretch to the border of Chile with Argentina. The 27-day Transandina Raid 4×4 crosses Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile for over 5,500 kilometres along the Andes Cordillera. The period indicated for this raid runs from June to September. The costs of these trips are detailed on the association’s website.

Evasioni is a company specializing in personalized trips for motor clubs or groups of friends. It offers all the logistics for the shipment of documentation and assistance to the follow-up of the group with Pick Up. The itinerary is established directly with Evasioni, which already has in its portfolio some proposals for routes of 1,000/2,000 km on different funds. From the sands, to the salt marshes, to the pampas, to the high passages at the limit of practicability. Following the “chimneys” of the Inca expeditions or the caravans of llamas, which until the first decades of the last century regulated the exchanges between one side and the other of the Andes, you can admire breathtaking scenery.

Beware of accidents!

In South America, as everywhere, for tourists, road accidents are by far the main cause of health repatriations and deaths. In the Northern Desert, for example, the blinding sun and heat put a lot of strain on drivers and are often at the origin of accidents. Not to mention the many dogs, donkeys and goats that suddenly appear on the road. Always be very careful!

Typical dishes from Chile

Given the size of the country and the climatic differences from one region to another, Chile offers a wide variety of products and dishes. Among these, some are now traditional recipes to try once you are in Chile. The “cazuela” is a beef or chicken broth, with potatoes, corn, vegetables and pumpkin, while another soup prepared with smoked horse meat is the “ajiaco”. Pastel de choclo” is minced beef or chicken meat, previously cooked with raisins, onions and corn, baked au gratin. Humitas, i.e. corn tortillas stuffed with meat, wrapped in a corn leaf and steamed, are a must. Another popular dish is “porotos granados”, made with beans, pumpkin, corn, garlic and onions. Moving on to the fish we find instead the “machas a la parmesana”, that is cannolicchi served with cheese and gratin, and the “chupe de mariscos”, delicious seafood gratin with breadcrumbs and fried onions. One clarification: do not think to order here the chili with meat. Chili is a hot pepper and “chili con carne” is a specialty from Mexico, not Chile!

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