Sacred Earth Travel - Sustainable Nature and Adventure Travel

Self Drive Tours in Chile
Driving Tips for Chile
For many areas you will be fine with a normal 2 wheel drive car. But if you want to explore off the beaten track, e.g. in the Lake District or Patagonia, a 4 wheel drive vehicle is strongly recommended. In areas like the Atacama or the Altiplano a sturdy 4 wheel drive pick up truck with high ground clearance is mandatory as the dirt tracks occasionally are barely recognizable as such. If you drive in this kind of terrain you must be aware that this is truly explorer style adventure and you should be prepared accordingly with spare tyres (take 2), lots of extra gasoline and gallons of water. Good topographical maps and a compass (and compass reading skills) are essential if you go off road.

Rental cars in Chile are available to travellers who are at least 21 years of age and hold a national and international drivers license. (National license will suffice, but international will be better). You must also have a credit card with which you can make your security deposit.

Speed limits are similar to US speed limits: 50km per hour in urban areas and 100km per hour on highways. Radar traps are common. Don't try to bribe the carabineros in case you get pulled over - this strategy may work in other South American countries but not in Chile - you will only make things worse.

self-drive itineraries in ChileAre you among those people who prefer to explore a region or country by themselves, rather than travelling with a group or following a private guide around?

Did you know that it is quite easy and feasible to arrange or customized self-drive itineraries in many Latin American countries?

Although, there are places where guides are essential - especially in remote regions or on tours that are distinctly adventurous, quite often it is just much more fun to discover a country on your own.

Our self drive tours in Costa Rica have already proven very popular. We now also offer a number of self-drive tours in Chile that provide you with a rental car, a route and pre-booked hotel rooms along the way. You can decide what you want to do and when - discover Chile at your own pace!

All the itineraries can be modified to suit your interests and time frame. For independent travellers or even families with kids and teens this is by far the best way to explore this magnificent country.

As we near our summer months, the southern regions of Chile are getting, well, somewhat chilly. However - Chile is not exclusively a winter escape destination - far from it! The entire north, all the way down to the Lake District is still worth visiting, even during the Chilean autumn or winter months. In fact, there are several advantages to travelling at that time of the year: there are fewer tourists, hotel rates tend to go down, and best of all, you'll avoid the nasty biting flies that can be extremely annoying in some parts of the Andes during January and February -the peak time for tourists.

Chile is a thin and very loooooong country. Rather than trying to see the whole country in one go, we suggest focusing on one or two regions, such as the lake district, the 'Norte Chico' or the central wine valley. We also have several itineraries in Patagonia, both on the Chilean and the Argentinean side, but these are best undertaken in spring or summer - from October through to April is a good time to explore this wild and untamed region.

Self Drive Adventure in Chile's AltiplanoThe north can be visited at any time - though be aware of the 'Bolivian Winter' in January and February, which can produce sudden flash floods, even in the driest desert in the world. However - the rain also brings out the flowers. It is a rare and fantastic spectacle to see the arid deserts of the north in bloom. Is it possible to explore the altiplano on your own with a rental car? Yes, it is - but it is not recommended, except for hard core adventurers. (itinerary on request). The terrain is difficult, there are very few gas stations and facilities, and towns are few and far between. If you want to travel to the highlands it is best to go with a guide or tour, or book one of the hotel packages offered in San Pedro de Atacama, which combine accommodations, meals and excursions all in one.

Self-Drive Adventure to 'El Norte Chico', Chile, Elqui Valley and Star GazingHowever, Chile's 'little north' is quite accessible and can easily be explored independently with a rental car. This region is rarely visited, at least by foreign tourists. Chileans on the other hand, enjoy this area for its magnificent beaches - although the water is cold at the best of times - and colder still during the summer months (July/August).

El Norte Chico's special appeal is not just the fact that it is the growing region for the famous Pisco grapes that are used to produce Chile's national drink 'Pisco Sour', but also the crystal clear skies, which have long made it a preferred region for star-gazing. Some of the largest telescope installations in the world are placed here and some of these are even open to visitors (not every day). But better still, even some of the hotels have telescopes and skylights in the rooms so you can observe the heavens right from your bed. You'll never feel closer to the stars!
The Elqui Valley also has a mystical reputation as a power place. Feeling is believing...

Self Drive Tour Wine Valley, ChileAnother great destination for a self drive tour is the Central Wine Valley - especially during the Chilean autumn, in April/May when the harvest is going on and festive spirits are high. But be warned that this is also a popular time for locals to make a trip to this region, so it is well worth booking early if you want to partake in the festivities that are organized at this special time.

Self Drive Tour of Chile's Lake DistrictFurther south, in the Lake District the best time to travel is October to April, with November often being the driest month. This region is perfect for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. The scenery is spectacular - native forests, glistening lakes, gleaming snow-capped volcanoes, waterfalls and hot-springs, and the possibilities for exploration are endless. Hiking, horseback riding, kayaking are among the favourite pursuits and towns like Pucon and Puerto Varas are well set up to cater to active adventure requests of visitors. Accommodation ranges from basic, comfortable hostels to exquisite hot spring resorts, or even the out of this world 'Montana Magica', which looks like something that you would expect to find in Middle Earth. This area is particularly suitable for family vacations as the many active soft adventures available here have something to offer for the whole family.

Self Drive Tour of Torres Paine, Patagonia, ChileAnd finally, way down south you can explore Patagonia - a scenery of magnificent untamed natural beauty, towering mountains, the southern ice-field, glaciers, steppes, and fjords. Self-drive tours here are possible, but be aware of long distances and make sure you seize every opportunity to fill the gas tank. Two of our itineraries combine Argentinean and Chilean Patagonia. In Argentina the landscape is marked by sweeping vistas and open spaces - and mile after mile of 'pampa' that seem to be mostly populated by sheep, and vicunas. However, if you have time, the Grand Patagonia self drive itinerary offers an amazing adventure that reveals the numerous different facets of this remote part of the world.

Self-drive itineraries are a great and low cost way to explore a country like Chile, where many of the best locations are far off the beaten track and hard or impossible to reach by other means, except with private tours. Self-Drive tours offer complete flexibility and freedom to enjoy your vacation YOUR way.

For further information and booking inquiries please send us and e-mail.