Things to do
At weekends, gap year volunteers in Chile tend to go down to the lively small town of Vicuña, which has museums and some inexpensive restaurants, or seek the brighter lights of La Serena. Important both historically and economically, the seaside city of La Serena is a popular focus of tourism and the centre of a fertile fruit growing region, particularly papayas, custard apples (chirimoyas) and grapes. It is one of Chile's oldest post-Columbian cities and has a number of museums as well as its beautiful beaches.
More ambitious long weekend destinations might include Santiago, Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. For the adventurous gap year travellers, and those able to endure long bus journeys, are the Atacama Desert in the North of Chile, and the lively Argentine city of Mendoza over the Andes.
A gap year in Chile will leave you astounded with the landscapes and natural beauty it has to offer. Here's a sneak peek for you to plan Your your travel during your gap year in Chile.
Valparaíso: Valparaíso is one of the most atmospheric port cities in Latin America - a city with sinuous hills and a labyrinth of precipitous streets and colourful clapboard houses that inspired the poet Pablo Neruda.
Chile's Lake District: Chile's beautiful Lake District is made up of national parks that offer staggeringly lovely views of ancient monkey puzzle trees, pristine alpine lakes and perfectly shaped volcanoes.
Parque Nacional Lauca: Parque Nacional Lauca in the north of Chile is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve - look out for flamingos, rheas (an ostrich-like bird).
Chiloé: The quirky island of Chiloé has colourful and old wooden churches to marvel at.
Volcán Villarrica: One of the world's most active volcanoes, Volcán Villarrica near Pucón, is safer than it sounds - it is also one of the world's most monitored, so you should have plenty of warning of any imminent eruption.
Fishing: The best spots are in the Lake District and Patagonia. The rivers and streams off the carretera austral, the road that penetrates deep into Chile's southern wilderness, are remarkably clear and offer great opportunities for fly-fishers.
White-water rafting: White-water rafting down any number of the country's spectacular rapids is popular with many taking a gap year in Chile - you'll find specialist operators offering trips down the Maipo near Santiago, the Trancura near Pucón, as well as the Bio-Bio river in Region VIII. Specialist operators can organise week-long trips. The scenery around the Bio-Bio includes hot springs and waterfalls.
Skiing: The world-famous Portillo resort, has hosted many national ski teams, including the Austrian and Italian skiers over for the European summer. Other ski slopes in the area can be found at Farellones-El Colorado, La Parva and Valle Nevado. The ski season usually runs from June to September, so if you would like to ski on your gap year you should plan keeping this in mind.
Antarctica: Voyage to the world's last undiscovered wilderness, Antarctica, from Chile's southernmost city, Punta Arenas.