Chile is one of the most popular countries for bicycle touring in all of South America. Californians Cari and Mike tell us why.
Reason #1: THE CARRETERA AUSTRAL.
The Carretera Austral contains, undoubtedly, some of the most breathtaking scenery in Chile with its lush forests, snow-capped mountains and glacial rivers and lakes of the most brilliant shades of turquoise. It is a difficult 700-mile section of road but the memories of its splendor will remain with you for a lifetime.
Reason #2: THERE’S A VARIETY OF LANDSCAPES.
Cycling through Chile, you literally get a little bit of everything. The terrain is constantly changing so you never have the chance to get really bored with your surroundings. There is everything from the Atacama, the driest desert in the World to wine country, volcanoes, farmland, rainforest, mountains, pampa, fjords and stunning coastlines.
Without a doubt, there is something to suit the likes of absolutely everyone.
Reason #3: IT’S A GOOD PHYSICAL AND MENTAL CHALLENGE.
If you’re searching for a way to challenge yourself, then cycling through Chile is perfect for you. With the ever-changing terrain you’ll find long, grueling desert mountain grades that take hours to summit. You’ll battle rain, relentless wind, freezing temperatures and terribly bumpy gravel roads. At times you’ll question your sanity but the feeling of conquering such challenges is so rewarding that as soon as you finish you’ll be thinking about when you’ll return to Chile to do it all again.
Reason #4: WINE.
Chilean wines are some of the best in the World and there are plenty of opportunities to stop and taste at vineyards along the way. If your budget is tight, as ours is, the boxed wines are inexpensive (in fact, cheaper than a bottle of water), surprisingly tasty, much lighter than bottles and make for a nice post-ride and/or dinner drink at camp.
Reason #5: BREAD, AVOCADOS, EMPANADAS AND LEMON COOKIES.
One of the greatest things about bicycle touring is the guilt-free eating we get to do at the end of each day. The various rice and noodle combinations quickly grow mundane but we found 4 foods in Chile we ate almost daily and never grew tired of.
The first empanada either of us ever ate was in Iquique and we both thought we’d died and gone to heaven. These deep-fried or baked pockets of dough filled with infinite combinations of cheeses, veggies and meats set a high standard for every empanada thereafter.
No two are exactly the same so we had to sample many along the way in search for the ultimate empanadas.
The avocados in Chile are the best we’ve ever had, always perfectly ripe and delectably tasty. Although they often felt too soft to the touch, making us thing they were over ripe, we ate them daily and were never disappointed.
Panaderias are abundant in Chile and there is nothing better than the smell of fresh baked bread wafting through the streets. There are many bread varieties, it is inexpensive, always fresh, you can find it everywhere and is absolutely delicious.
I have a terrible sweet tooth and was horribly missing my favorite goodies from home…until we discovered the lemon cookies in Chile. You could always bet our food pannier had several packets floating around as we stocked up at every market we entered, but these crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth treats never lasted very long around us.
Cari and Mike are a California couple who have been bike touring through the USA and South America since June 2010, next heading to Japan with no desire to quit any time soon.
Both avid cyclists, they saved as much money as possible and took off without a plan for an undetermined amount of time in search of fun, a challenge and a grand adventure. You can follow them on their blog at:
Top 5 Reasons to Cycle Chile