Video: A Plane Landing In Antarctica

Have you ever wondered how travelers to Antarctica get to and from the continent? I’m not talking about the thousands of tourists that go aboard a cruise ship each year. I’m referring to the explorers who ski to the South Pole or the research scientists who spend weeks studying the impact of climate change on the frozen continent. Most of them charter a flight aboard a plane operated by a company called Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions, who shuttle their clients from Punta Arenas, Chile, to a permanent base at Union Glacier. As you can imagine, those who make the trip tend to bring along quite a bit of gear, so a large plane is needed for the flight. ALE uses Russian Ilyushin IL76 aircraft, which are landed on a runway made out of ice. The video below is an example of such a landing and gives you an idea just how large these aircraft are.

Video Of The Day: A Trip To Chiloé Island

Upon learning that LAN Airlines launched service to Chiloé Island in Chile, I became immediately curious about what the remote island has to offer. I sought out to find a video that gave an overview of the place, and luckily, Vimeo user Benito Larraín Súnico delivered. This three-minute vignette was taken during a family trip to the island earlier this year, and it shows Chiloé’s colorful houses, remarkable wooden churches, natural beauty and drool-enducing seafood. Most of all, I like how the video captures the friendly people who live and work on the island.

Has anyone out there ever visited Chiloé Island, and if so, would you recommend it for a trip?

Hotel News We Noted: October 5, 2012

Happy Columbus Day weekend, everyone. We’d wish you a happy holiday, but we’re not sure that anyone other than postal carriers really get the day off for this anymore.

Lucky for you, we have lots of fun news this week to keep you busy reading over your two (or three) day weekend.

As always, email us with questions, comments or tips. We love to hear from our HNWN fans!

Hotel News We’re Noting: Birth of a Hotel
If you haven’t already, take the time to check out our newest series on Gadling, “The Birth of a Hotel.” We’ll be following the development and opening of Capella Washington D.C., Georgetown, and talking all about the hotel industry as well. We’d love for you to tune in!

Hotel Openings, Renovations & Rezzies Galore in Las Vegas: The D, Nobu, Wynn and Golden Gate
It has been a busy few weeks in Las Vegas. Recently, one of our favorite ultra-luxe hotels, Wynn, unveiled a major renovation of its spa space. The Zen-themed spa has 45 updated treatment rooms and a new menu. Nobu’s first hotel, inside Caesar’s Palace, has started taking 2013 reservations (about $250/night).

But it isn’t just the strip that’s booming. Downtown Las Vegas is going through a massive overhaul. Doors opened at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts and the National Mob Museum. Zappos announced plans to build its corporate headquarters in the historic neighborhood as well.

Hotel-wise, next week the downtown area will welcome the D Las Vegas, a soaring renovation of the former Fitzgeralds property and sister hotel to Las Vegas’ original Golden Gate Hotel & Casino. Golden Gate announced completed renovations last month. Looks like there’s a lot to see in the Glitter Gulch. We hope to bring you a live report soon.Hotel Openings: Four Seasons Hotel Toronto
There’s more to love in Toronto today with the grand opening (or shall we say re-opening) of the all-new Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. The hotel moved buildings and closed for several months while it moved into the new space. The location will be the brand’s new flagship, and, as can be expected, cool perks, design additions and amenities abound. Enjoy Michelin-starred Chef Daniel Boulud’s latest dining experience, a massive art collection, in-room iPads and house cars with WiFi. The spa should also be impressive. It’s the largest not only in the city but of any Four Seasons worldwide.

Hotel Spotlight: Chile
Things have been heating up in Chile over the past few months. The South American country has seen the launch of several ultra-luxe hotels, including: Hotel Palacio Astoreca (in Valparasio), a 1920s-era Victorian mansion featuring a wine cava, library, a piano bar lounge and a chic spa. The hotel’s restaurant Alegre, is even helmed by an ex-chef of El Bulli.

In more remote settings, we can’t wait to visit Refugia Lodge, the first luxury lodge on Chiloé Island in southern Chile, a region chosen by the New York Times in “45 Places to Go in 2012.” The 12-room property offers all-inclusive packages that tie in trips to remote islands aboard the lodge’s custom-built Chilote boat, visits to penguin colonies, UNESCO Jesuit churches and more.

And, for a true bucket-list adventure, we’d head to Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa on Easter Island. The Hangaroa is Chile’s most ecologically sustainable hotel, modeled after the Orongo ceremonial village with curvilinear walls and grass roofs. In addition to awesome water views, you’ll find a 75-person cinema, spa and two restaurants. It’s a big deal … this hotel is located in the only village on Easter Island.

10 Unique Experiences To Have In Chile

When I backpacked South America, one country I found difficult to plan was Chile. While I had heard they had great wine, adventurous hikes and beautiful landscapes, I had no idea where to actually go and what to actually do. After traveling through the country, I now realize there are way too many worthwhile experiences to have to narrow it down into just one list. However, these are 10 I think everyone should try to incorporate into a trip to the country.

Have a favorite destination or experience in Chile? Share it in the comments below.

Sandboarding In Death Valley/Hiking In Moon Valley

While these are technically two different experiences, you can book a tour in San Pedro de Atacama that allows you to do both in one day. Death Valley is surreal, with gigantic sand dunes and unworldly rock formations. In fact, the site looks so out of this world, many people say it resembles Mars. The basically barren landscape and dry climate is also similar to the red planet. NASA scientists and university researchers go there to test outer space equipment and hypotheses. Moon Valley is also bizarre, with jagged mountains covered in salt, stone and sand formations carved by water and wind, mysterious caves and dry saline-coated lakes. Because of its lunar appearance, a Mars rover was once tested there by scientists.The only company I saw offering the combination tour for both destinations with sandboarding was Atacama Inca Tour. For 12,000 Chilean Pesos (about $25), plus 2,000 $CLP (about $4) to enter Moon Valley, you get transportation, a sandboarding lesson and about two hours of sandboarding, a tour of the Chulacao Caves, which are covered in edible salt, an uphill trek to a viewpoint in Moon Valley to sip Pisco Sour while watching the sunset and a free DVD of the afternoon.

Explore Chile’s Lake District

When visiting Chile’s Lake District, you’ll be surrounded by more than just lakes. The area extends throughout a 210-mile stretch between Temuco and Puerto Montt, and features numerous activities in a world of natural beauty. Along with 12 major lakes, there is also larch forest, jagged peaks, serene waterfalls, green valleys, snow-capped volcanoes and many opportunities for cultural interaction through traditional folklore and indigenous handicraft markets. For many reasons, the destination is often compared to Switzerland. Both have similar landscapes, as well as cultural diversity. While Switzerland has four official languages, Chile’s Lake District was settled by Germans in the 19th century and also has a still existent native Mapuche culture. Make sure to visit Lago Llanquihue, one of South America’s largest lakes with an amazing scene of colors, mountains and volcanoes. For some deep relaxation, visit the geothermal pools at Termas Geometricas. The attraction features a red-planked walkway of slate-covered hot and cold thermal water pools. You’ll also see rivers, waterfalls and canyons. For some, adventure, hiking, biking and rafting are popular modes of transport for exploring Chile’s Lake District.

Go Back In Time On Easter Island

Easter Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is not only one of the most isolated travel destinations on Earth, it’s also one of the planet’s most sacred sites. Once in Chile, you can take a flight from Santiago to reach the destination. Most people know the Chilean Polynesian island for its moai, large, personified stone monoliths with very large features. They were created by the Rapa Nui people between the years 1250 and 1500, and average 13 feet in height and 14 tons. While the architecture is impressive – especially given the time period they were built in – the mystery behind why these structures were constructed still remains a mystery. It is believed the moai were built to honor ancestors or another important group of people; however, the Rapa Nui left behind no oral or written history. Popular ways to view the statues are via horseback riding, renting a jeep or car or biking, although the many potholes and unpaved roads making cycling a bit difficult. Other worthwhile activities on Easter Island include scuba diving, snorkeling, relaxing on the beach and visiting volcanic craters where you can see the rock that created the moai carvings.

Climb The Highest Volcano In The World

At 22,615 feet in elevation, Nevado Ojos del Salado (“Source of the Salt River” summit) is the highest volcano in the world. It’s located on the Chile-Argentina border, and can be accessed via Copiapó, Chile. When making your way up the enormous stratovolcano, you’ll be able to hike most of the way, although a bit of scrambling is necessary towards the top. Additionally, once you reach 20,960 feet on the eastern side of Ojos del Salado, you’ll see what is said to be the world’s highest lake. Wondering if it’s active? The last eruption was in 1993, leading scientists to believe there is a possibility it still is.

If you’re interested in doing a longer excursion and scaling multiple volcanoes, the companies Andes Mountain and Amity Tours offer 13- and 14-day trips.

Hike In Patagonia Via The “W Circuit” In Torres del Paine National Park

Whether you hike this circuit or just visit the national park on a tour, seeing the bizarre scenery of Torres del Paine is a must when in Chile. The entire time I was there I felt as though I were in the most beautiful Tim Burton film ever created, with animal skulls and twisted roots in front of a snow peaked background, and jagged rock formations and pointy pink mountain spires coming together with shimmering glaciers and colorful skies. The “W Circuit” will allow you to see some of the best views in the park. It takes about three to six days, with the highlights being beautiful lakes, the French Valley and the iconic Towers of Paine, enormous granite monoliths shaped by glacial ice. Note that the hike can be challenging for some, especially due to common strong winds and rough terrain.

Travel Underground In The Largest Open Pit Copper Mine In The World

In the north of Chile you’ll find Antofagasta, home to Chuquicamata, the largest open pit copper mine by excavated volume in the world. Its open pit is 14,108 feet long, 9,843 feet wide and 2,953 feet deep. Despite being exploited for over 90 years, the mine still manages to be one of the largest known copper resources on Earth. In fact, copper is one of Chile’s major exports. Codelco, the official owner of the mine, requires visitors to take a free guided tour if they want to visit. You can choose between English or Spanish, and can contact them at or +56 55 322122 to make a reservation.

Get To Know History And Culture In Santiago

Santiago is Chile’s capital, and a great home base for exploring nearby areas like the Casablanca Wine Valley, beautiful beaches and the Andes Mountains. You’ll learn a lot just from hanging out in Plaza de Armas, the city’s main square. Here you’ll find the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, a church as well as a national monument. You’ll also get a firsthand look at the influence of Peruvian immigrants through ethnic food, shops and recreation. Additionally, the city is home to many beautiful parks, like Parque Metropolitano, home to San Cristobal Hill, which offers excellent city views and Parque Forestal, home to the National Museum of Fine Arts and the Modern Art Museum. Moreover, cultural establishments like the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, the Presidential Palace, and various cultural centers will give you a wealth of insight into Chile’s heritage. You should also stop by the Church and Museum of San Francisco, the oldest church in the city. Here, you’ll also be able to see a monolith from Easter Island.

Go Scuba Diving On Robinson Crusoe Island

Robinson Crusoe island, part of the archipelago of Juan Fernandez, is a national park as well as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. This volcanic island of rugged mountain is often described as a deserted area of unspoiled beauty, and for good reason. Both on and off land, the island offers one of the most endemic ecosystems in the world. Furthermore, it features warm, crystal clear water, perfect for scuba diving and submarine hunting. You’ll see a diverse array of marine life, including vidriola, rock salmon, moray, pampanito, corvina, breca and more. You can access the island via a flight from Santiago.

Cross The Strait of Magellan To See Penguins On Isla Magdalena

You can take a ferry from Punta Arenas and arrive on Isla Magdalena, where you’ll see thriving groups of Magellanic penguins. This is where Chile’s largest penguin colonies reside. It is said there are about 60,000 breeding pairs. It’s not surprising this island is the main part of the Penguins Natural Monument. There is a big hill with a lighthouse on top, where most visitors climb to begin their photo taking. If you’d like a tour, Adventure Life offers an excursion to the island via a high-speed zodiac.

Go Wine Tasting In Casablanca Valley

Wine is one of Chile’s biggest industries, and the country is a major exporter of wine. Casablanca Valley is located just 45-minutes outside Santiago. The first vine was planted in the region in the mid-1980s, and quickly made a mark in Chile’s history becoming the first cool-climate coastal region to produce wines. The maritime, foggy mornings and cool Mediterranean climate greatly influence the grapes, which produce crisp, flavorful, aromatic wines. The three major varieties include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, although high quality Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Viognier and Gewürztraminer can also be found. Because it can be a bit tedious to get to, many people either hire a driver or stay the night in Casablanca. Other popular wine valleys to visit include Colchagua Valley, Maipo Valley, San Antonio Valley and Aconcagua Valley. If you’re interested in touring one or more of these regions, Ecotours Chile and Uncorked offer excellent excursions.

[Images via Jessie on a Journey, Anetode, Jessie on a Journey, Metaforico, Hector Garcia]

8 Cool Cities For Summer

Many people’s winter vacation plans understandably revolve around sand and sun and colorful cocktails sporting tiny umbrellas. But summer in the states can be just as oppressive, whether you’re battling sweat-inducing humidity, malodorous public transportation, or overzealous mosquitoes. So for those who want to skip the sunscreen (I know, I know, you’re supposed to wear sunscreen all year round) and instead wrangle that favorite fuzzy sweater out of storage, here are eight cooler cities to visit. A few are in the Southern Hemisphere, offering a double helping of winter. Others have an Arctic vibe. And some made the cut because they stay relatively chilly all year round. Forget endless summer and embrace its polar opposite.

Anchorage, Alaska
Explore the U.S.’s northernmost city this summer by walking or biking the 11-mile Tony Knowles trail. The paved path curls along the spectacular coastline where you might even catch a glimpse of beluga whales along the way. And, since temperatures stay pretty cool, you won’t even break a sweat doing it.

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
If you think Canadians in general are nice, Newfoundlanders will blow your socks off – and then give you their own socks because your feet might be cold. St. John’s, the capital, is the foggiest, snowiest, wettest, windiest and cloudiest of the major Canadian cities. Have I sold you on it?Katoomba, Australia
Only an hour from Sydney, Katoomba is the main town in the Blue Mountains region – a wonderland of eucalypt forests and gorges where Aussies often vacation. Katoomba is also the home of Yulefest, where, throughout July, the entire place pretends it’s Christmas. Area restaurants and hotels serve up multi-course traditional holiday meals, even hiring local carolers and Santas to complete the picture.

Galway, Ireland
Summer temperatures in this west coast city don’t typically top 65 degrees and nights are frigid enough to justify rounds of Guinness at the local pub. At the end of July, Galway hosts an awesome Arts Festival, not to mention an incredibly popular seven-day horse race, the longest in all of Ireland. Be sure to ask a local lady’s help picking out the right fascinator for the event.

La Serena, Chile
Located 300 miles south of chaotic Santiago, La Serena is Chile’s second oldest city. A normally overpopulated beach town during the summers, La Serena transforms into a friendly, laid-back locale in winter, making it the perfect time to visit this “City of Churches.” There are more than 30 of them, many dating as far back as the late 16th century. Where better to keep warm?

Reykjavik, Iceland
It might be the land of the midnight sun, but you definitely won’t overheat in Reykjavik. Arrive by June 21 for summer solstice festivals that take place around the city, including ones where residents wear traditional Viking garb. Don’t think that you can shirk your sartorial duties just because it’s chilly, though; Reykjavik residents dress to impress when they go out no matter the season.

Queenstown, New Zealand
Known as the “adventure capital of the world,” spend your Kiwi winter skiing, bungee jumping, mountain biking, skydiving or paragliding. You can even go canyon swinging if choosing from several ways to launch yourself off from a 100-meter-high, cliff-mounted platform sounds appealing. I hear it’s easiest if you just let someone push you off the edge.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Sure you can tango, eat the world’s best beef and load up on all kinds of leather goods, but you can do that any time in Buenos Aires. So instead check out a distinctly winter event this July: the Annual Buenos Aires Chili Cookoff. This ex-pat organized affair has quickly become a must-attend for locals, too. And word on the street is they still need judges.

[Flickr image via Unhindered by Talent]