Daaarling Destinations: Chile – South American Eleganza!

INTRODUCTORY NOTE: Welcome to the first installment of “Daaarling Destinations!” This series of blog posts will focus on 5 things you need to know about a featured destination. Two of the five items will always be dedicated to letting you know how the destination shapes up for: (1) LGBT travelers; and (2) family travelers of all stripes. Enjoy!

¡Que tal hu-e-o-na! (That’s Chilean gay slang for “hey guurl!”)

For a sliver of a country on the map, ‘lil miss Chile is suuuurving across all the categories darling! She has gorgeous cities, sassy beaches, fabulous wine country, deep heritage and culture, stunning deserts, ski-tastic mountains, lakes, forests, hot springs . . . yaaaaaas she. has. ev. er. y. thing. !. !. !. And the weather is gorgeous year-round!

Here are 5 things you need to know about Chile and why it should be your next vacation destination.

1. Chile Has Culture Daaaarling . . . and Wine!

Sassy Santiago and Surrounding Areas: This is easily a vacation destination unto itself! Chile’s capital city, Santiago, is where most people will arrive in Chile. It’s urban, chic, fabulous, cultured, and a gorgeous place to stay by itself or before/after other excursions.

Outside the city is some suuuuuriously gorgeous wine country. The Maipo Valley alone is home to some 20 vineyards, while the Casablanca Valley was named a Wine Capital of the World by the global network Great Wine Capitals.

A little farther west of Santiago on the coast are Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. Valparaiso is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the steep hills are dotted with sass-tastically colorful historic architecture and a century-old system of cable-car elevators. Just a few minutes away from Valparaiso is Viña del Mar, a faaaabulous beachfront paradise known for its upscale vacation experiences and its world-famous International Music Festival.

2. Chile Suuuuurves Outdoor Glamour from North to South

North Chile and the Atacama Desert: Normally, you don’t think of a desert as a vacation destination. Well hold on to your pearls, queen, because this is no ordinary desert region. The small town of San Pedro de Atacama is the gateway to the region that houses an array of fab hotels as well as craft vendors and small restaurants for all tastes.

Los Flamencos National Reserve house hundreds of sassy flamingos. The Atacama Salt Flat is the largest in Chile and provides a gorgeous backdrop of mountains and volcanoes. Valle de la Luna and Valle de la Muerte offers bizarre rock formations and stunning dunes where you can sand board (which is like snowboarding, but on desert dunes). Other gorgeous towns in the area offer fab architecture and lively festivals throughout the year.

Astronomy AND Archeology buffs will adore this region. Chile’s northern region is known for its crystal-clear skies and dry climate, so it’s one of the best places on the planet to gaze at the sky. The region’s unique climate has helped to preserve the Mummies of Chinchorro, which date back thousands of years and are considered the oldest in the world. You can also check out well-preserved, ancient petroglyphs (rock carvings) and geoglyphs (large designs or drawings created on the surface of the earth by positioning stones or removing earth or surface rock to create lines or spaces that contrast with the surrounding terrain . . . yeah I had to look those up. #TheMoreYouKnow!).

Southern Chile – Lakes, Volcanoes, and Patagonia: Chile’s seasons are the opposite of ours, so their winter from June to September offers ah-maaaazing skiing as well as forest hiking and volcano treks offering some truly gorgeous views. During the warmer months from October to May, there are oodles of outdoor options for water sports, trekking, canopy rides and volcano climbs.

Looking for outdoor but without all that pesky exercise? Southern Chile is one of South American’s best destinations for natural hot springs in a sassy setting. There are several hot spring facilities that offer unique treatment options like algae therapy and mud or wine baths.

There are also several cities in the south, like Valdivia, Pucón, Temuco, Puerto Varas that offer delights for foodies, beaches, ancient Mapuche culture, film festivals, and spring carnivals.

And for the seasoned outdoors-persons there’s Patagonia and the Antarctic with unspoiled wilderness, stunning views, and tons-o-outdoorsy gorgeousness.

3. Easter Island Honaaay!

This volcanic island measures nearly 100 square miles and is one of the most remote inhabited places on earth, sitting more than 2,300 miles (about five hours by air) from the city of Santiago. It’s traditionally called “Rapa Nui” or “Te Pito Te Henua” (the World’s Navel) by its native inhabitants.

The main attraction is of course the 600 legendary Moai stone statues. Some stand more than 26 feet high, were built by islanders to worship their ancestors, and stand on platforms called Ahus.

For more nature minded folks, there are plenty of natural attractions on the island, including inactive volcanoes, extensive caves, and panoramic Pacific vistas. You can roam the island on horseback, bicycle, or on foot.

4. Chile is Relatively LGBT Friendly

As with most destinations, including the good ‘ole USofA, the urban centers in Chile are more down with the gays than in rural areas. Santiago’s gay scene is huge, with couples holding hands and kissing publicly in the streets. One of the largest gay clubs in South America, Il Divino, is in Viña del Mar.

In general, attitudes, especially those of Chilean men, toward LGBT folk are not very liberal, owing in part to the Catholic, conservative nature of their society. That being said, Spartacus Gay Travel Index for 2018, which names the “LGBT Friendliest Travel Destinations,” rated Chile #55 out of 197 countries (for reference, USA is #39 and Canada and Sweden tied for first place) – Chile has anti-discrimination protections, allows same-sex civil unions, and, most recently, adopted transgender rights, but its scoring gets dinged for the religious influence in the country.

5. Chile is a FABULOUS Family Destination

In fact, bringing children may actually give you a ‘lil leg up because children are welcomed and treasured by the locals, and empathy for parents is usually high. Even strangers will offer help and hotels and services tend to accommodate. Santiago has fantastic children’s museums and parks. In the south, lake towns Pucón or Puerto Varas provide the best starting point to explore the region and have kid-centered events in summer. Easter Island is fabulously perfect for kids, with its easy walks, beaches, and fantastic forays to visit Moai sculptures, caves to explore, and snorkeling.

This is just a wee taste of all the amazingly gorgeous things Chile has to offer. Want more info or want to see what an itinerary might look like? Give me a shout momma!

Photo Credit: All photos by Sernatur and Turismo Chile

7 Reasons Malta is Your New Favorite European Destination

Do you know where Malta is? It’s ok, neither did I until recently.

But prepare to be wow’d Miss Momma Gurl! Three little islands in the Mediterranean (just south of Sicily) add up to one gorgeous destination!

Here are 7 reasons why Malta is YOUR new favorite destination in Europe:

1. The nonexistent language barrier

Look cool in Malta without sounding like a tourist – English is an official language there!

As English is an official language in Malta (in addition to Maltese), there’s no language barrier to worry about and street signs are in English. As a former British possession, Malta is actually a destination for English-as-a-second-language learning! So you get all the benefits of Europe without the hassle of a learning how to say, “Do you speak English?” in the local language.

2. 7,000 years of history

Temples dating from thousands of years ago – so much history in three tiny islands!

The first settlers to Malta arrived around 5000 BC. Since then it’s been variously under rule by the Phoenicians, Romans,

Byzantines, Arab, Spanish, the Knights of St. John, French, and British (it became a Republic and 1974 and joined the EU in 2004). Besides the brief history lesson, that means it is a treasure trove of heritage and culture, with three UNESCO World Heritage Sites and more monuments per square kilometer than any other country!

3. Year-Round Destination

Thanks to its location in the Mediterranean, Malta can be visited any time of the year. Beach season runs well into October and the “winter” (only getting into the 50s) is great for hiking and biking around the islands.

4. Sailing Paradise

The crystal-clear waters are a magnet for sailing enthusiasts who visit Malta from all over the world. Malta boasts various harbors and marinas which can accommodate any kind of sea craft. You can also opt to charter a sailing boat for a week or weekend, while day cruises are a favorite for many.

5. Diver’s Dream

Malta is a diver’s paradise!

Malta was recently rated #2 worldwide as a diving destination. The mild climate makes it possible to dive all year round and many diving schools offer their services throughout the year. Their tailor-made packages offer all types of educational and escorted day or night dives, including equipment rental for the more experienced unaccompanied divers. You can choose to dive from shore or from a boat. A family diving holiday here can be a magical experience, with many dive schools offering snorkeling and diving courses for young sea-explorers.

 

6. Night-Life

They know how to par-taaaaaay in Malta with a large selection of bars, restaurants, clubs, and casinos to choose from. Or you can take it easy and sip cocktails or wine at a sea-front establishment and enjoy gentler live music

7. LGBT Friendly

Although the country is super Catholic (St. Paul is said to have ship-wrecked on the island while fleeing the Romans and thus brought Christianity to the Maltese people), they are also super welcoming and totally down with the LGBT-folk! In fact, the Maltese Islands rose to first place on the ILGA-Europe Rainbow Europe Index in 2016.

Whatcha waiting for?! Malta or bust!!