From its colonial architecture and musical heritage to its culinary delicacies and abundance of natural wonders, South America stirs the imagination unlike anywhere else on earth. Stretching along the continent’s western edge, the nation of Chile has inspired a large volume of travel literature down the years, including both traditional guide books and travelogue-style memoirs.
If you’re planning to visit Chile’s long, narrow expanse, there’s no better way to prepare than to immerse yourself in its rich culture and history by reading some of the best tomes written about the country. Here are 5 of our favourite non-fiction Chile travel books and guides, including both classics and recent releases.
Lonely Planet Chile & Easter Island (2018)
The latest edition of Lonely Planet’s Chile & Easter Island guide is as comprehensive as we’ve come to expect from the iconic travel publisher. Covering the entire country, from its northern reaches to the icy depths of southern Patagonia, as well as the remote and volcanic Easter Island, the guide provides impartial, up-to-date tips about what to see and do here – as well as what you might want to skip – plus cultural insights and other essential info, catering to all budgets and tastes. There are also colour maps and itineraries to help stir the travel juices.
PUBLISHER Lonely Planet AUTHORS Cathy Brown, Carolyn McCarthy, Kevin Raub & Mark Johanson BUY AT amazon.com
Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile (2004)
In the late 1990s, prolific author Sara Wheeler travelled alone from the top to the button of Chile, turning her experiences into this acclaimed book. Combining history and humour in equal measure, Travels in a Thin Country reveals her distinct knack for discovering the unexpected as she traverses Chile’s richly diverse landscapes, from the world’s driest desert to the sepulchral wastes of Antarctica, in the process admirably conveying the mood of contemporary Chile.
PUBLISHER Modern Library AUTHOR Sara Wheeler BUY AT amazon.com
Desert Memories: Journeys Through the Chilean North (2004)
Award-winning Chilean novelist, poet, and human rights activist Ariel Dorfman is better placed than most to write about his homeland and its often tumultuous history, having been forced into exile following the Chilean military coup of 1973. In this book he sets out to explore one of the country’s least known areas – the Norte Grande, said to be the world’s driest desert but also largely responsible for Chile’s modern success thanks to the 19th century discovery of nitrate here. Perhaps most poignantly, Dorfman also searches for traces of his friend and fellow activist, Freddy Taberna, executed by a firing squad in a remote Pinochet death camp.
PUBLISHER National Geographic AUTHOR Ariel Dorfman BUY AT amazon.com
Essential Chile: with Easter Island & Patagonia (2018)
The 8th edition of Fodor’s travel guide to Chile covers the length and (albeit limited) breath of the country, from its capital Santiago to the tourist mecca of Valparaiso, the icebergs of Patagonia, the idyllic coastal resort of Viña del Mar, the imposing Andes Mountains, world class vineyards, and plenty more. Compiled and written by local experts, the latest edition also features updated restaurant and hotel listings, spectacular colour photos, maps and sample itineraries.
PUBLISHER Fodor’s Travel AUTHOR Various BUY AT amazon.com
Small earthquake in Chile (1990)
A doyen of journalism and international affairs, Alistair Horne’s book became a major hit when it was published at the start of the 1990s. Part history and current affairs, part travelogue chronicling the author’s journey through the continent in 1970, the book’s title is derived from a competition at The Times newspaper in London to find the most boring headline. The classic “Small Earthquake in Chile; Not Many Dead.” emerged as the winner, and Horne went on to use it to underscore the lack of interest in Europe to world events in Latin America.
PUBLISHER Papermac AUTHOR Alistair Horne BUY AT amazon.com