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A Route to the End of the World: How to Travel to Chilean Patagonia

October 30, 2013 at 12:06 PM | by | Comment (1)

Go south, way south, to Chilean Patagonia. As home to snow-capped mountains, dramatic fjords, extreme weather, exotic flora and fauna, and the world's second largest ice field, it's no wonder this region ranks high on traveler's bucketlists. We've just crossed it off our own, and all week we'll be sharing our top tips to making this dream destination a reality vacation.

It is impossible to take a bad photo in Patagonia. In fact, the scenery begins the moment your flight sets off from Santiago Airport, with a course due south to Punta Arenas, as it passes over the Andes mountains and the lake district around Puerto Montt en route to the southernmost city on the South American mainland and the gateway to Chilean Patagonia.

Crossing the lines of latitude may be invisible events, but events nonetheless; every few minutes of flight means progressing where once only the most intrepid explorers dared venture. In fact, the name of Punta Arenas was once "Magallanes," after Ferdinand Magellan, first to circumnavigate the Earth and first to sail from the Atlantic Ocean into the Pacific, via the Strait still named for him.

Approach to Punta Arenas Airport (code: PUQ, full name: Aeropuerto Internacional Presidente Carlos Ibáñez) happens over the white caps of the Strait of Magellan. Keep a look out for rainbows, as they'll be the first of many magical sights to come in Patagonia.

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The Seven Sites You've Just Gotta See in Chile's Atacama Desert

October 24, 2013 at 4:07 PM | by | Comments (0)

The Atacama Desert of northern Chile is the driest place in the world with some of the craziest scenery. It's no wonder it often features high on traveler's bucketlists. We've just crossed it off our own, and all week we'll be sharing our top tips to making this dream destination a reality vacation.

Now that we've explained how best to reach northern Chile's Atacama Desert and even how to pack, it's high time to venture out and explore the dramatic landscape.

All of these sights we hit as part of excursions from our hotel, the Alto Atacama, just outside the town of San Pedro de Atacama. Driving to them independently is possible, and we even witnessed some intrepid travelers in reinforced vans setting up camp in their cars at particularly scenic overlooks, but many of the area's hotels specialize in expert-led tours of which you should absolutely take advantage. Getting lost out there may be fun for two minutes, but this is one instance where it's best to keep to the beaten paths.

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Beyond SPF: What to Pack for a Trip to the Atacama Desert

October 23, 2013 at 5:24 PM | by | Comments (0)

The Atacama Desert of northern Chile is the driest place in the world with some of the craziest scenery. It's no wonder it often features high on traveler's bucketlists. We've just crossed it off our own, and all week we'll be sharing our top tips to making this dream destination a reality vacation.

What the Atacama harms with its harsh environment, it makes up for with stark beauty. Thus, venturing into the Atacama Desert is no road trip to Joshua Tree and a little forethought will go a long way.

Now let's get packing...

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Mars on Earth: How to Travel to Chile's Atacama Desert

Where: Calama, Chile
October 22, 2013 at 2:27 PM | by | Comments (0)

The Atacama Desert of northern Chile is the driest place in the world with some of the craziest scenery. It's no wonder it often features high on traveler's bucketlists. We've just crossed it off our own, and all week we'll be sharing our top tips to making this dream destination a reality vacation.

Listen for the whirr as the landing gear of the LAN Airlines A320 descends. In a few minutes more, you'll be on the ground that now, at a few thousand feet, looks like a stretch of rusty orange nothingness. From that nothingness appears a runway, and a few bumps later you've entered the oldest desert on Earth.

Although the Atacama's arid expanse seems peaceful, it's actually only a thin veil disguising the truth of the region—that its volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, salt lakes, towering sand dunes and whipping winds mean the very ground underneath your feet is extremely alive and active. It's often said that the terrain resembles the surface of Mars more than anything you'd expect to find here on Earth and, in fact, NASA maintains testing sites here.

As you can imagine, reaching such an extreme place requires some equally extreme travel, but it can be done. Pack moisturizer and come along...

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Wish You Were Here: The Atacama Desert of Northern Chile

October 15, 2013 at 10:38 AM | by | Comments (0)

A sand dune and the "amphitheater" rock formation at Valle de La Luna

Any attempt to describe the wild terrain of Chile's Atacama Desert is an exercise in futility. To friends, we've likened this "driest place in the world" to the desert in Arizona or southern Utah, but we must admit the Atacama is actually quite indescribable. Forgive the oft-used idiom, but it has to be seen to be believed.

Flying into El Loa Airport (CJC) in Calama, the snow peaks of the jagged Andes fall away and the landscape transitions to a rusty palette of parched volcanic earth. You'll wonder: "what in the world have I gotten myself into?" The striated cliffs, towering dunes, and salt lagoon oases don't resemble anything that should be in this world. Mars maybe, but surely not Earth.

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The 6 Most Scenic Flights in South America

Where: Chile
October 14, 2013 at 12:08 PM | by | Comment (1)

If you think the above photo is beautiful—it's our Andes view from LAN Airlines flight 158 from Santiago to Calama—then get ready to have your mind blown and your bucketlist overflowing.

South America is a land of such staggeringly varied terrain, from desert to glaciers and rainforest to snow-capped peaks, that flying over it without requesting a window seat is one of the biggest travel mistakes one can make.

Now, which route? Get your camera ready because, using our own past travel knowledge and a passion for experiencing the extremes, we've laid out the Six Scenic South America Routes to Fly Before You Die:

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Travel 101: Knowing the Difference Between 'Non-stop' and 'Direct' Flights

October 10, 2013 at 12:32 PM | by | Comments (0)

"Direct" and "non-stop" mean the same thing, right? Wrong—which is why we're taking today to do some travel 101 with a refresher on these terms. Why is knowing the difference so important? Well, you can clearly state your flight preferences to airline reservations and gate staff when making bookings or changing plans, and you'll also just generally sound like the clued-in traveler you are.

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What's Up with the Oneworld Airline Alliance in 2013

March 13, 2013 at 11:41 AM | by | Comments (0)

There's been some big, exciting news in the aviation world, and some bankruptcies and some mergers that cross the lines of traditional airline alliances. These shake-ups will redraw alliance lines and might affect your ability to earn and burn frequent flyer miles to your dream destination. Let's discuss Oneworld since the recent American and US Airways merger will mean the most for US-based travelers.

We already know that the New American will be sticking with Oneworld, which means the inevitable departure of US Airways from Star Alliance. In general, this doesn't open up a wealth of new US destinations, but it actually expands an already thorough South American network and opens a few new European cities to Oneworld.

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Inside the Oneworld Lounge at Los Angeles International Airport

February 7, 2013 at 4:20 PM | by | Comments (0)

You're at Los Angeles International AIrport and preparing to wing your way to another continent and you'll be spending those in-air hours in either Business or First Class. First off, that sounds like you planned an excellent trip—congratulations. Second, you'll want to hit up the lounge for a last-minute tipple or email check, and if you're traveling on a Oneworld alliance airline (like Qantas, LAN, Cathay Pacific, British Airways and Japan Airlines), then the lounge for you is on Level 5 of the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

As it's a combined lounge, the amenities here are generic but plentiful. This means more than 10 shiny Mac desktops, a long buffet bar with both and hot and cold food options, two extensive self-serve beverage areas plus a full bar with bartender, private shower rooms, and plenty of modern, comfy chairs nearby power outlets. The design isn't exactly revolutionary or even notable, but it is clean, modern and spacious.

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What It's Like to Fly for 10 Hours on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Where: Santiago, Chile
January 14, 2013 at 12:05 PM | by | Comments (0)

It flies! It actually flies!

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a headline hog. You can read all about it and its drama (lately more than ever) throughout major media, but there's nothing better than actually stepping onboard with a ticket to ride.

After more than a year of hanging out with the 787 on the tarmac, we finally flew the darned thing as South American airline LAN celebrated the inaugural flight of their new Los Angeles-to-Santiago, Chile 10-hour non-stop with the spiffy new bird.

So, what actually happens onboard a 787 flight? Is it really so different from any other airplane? Having just stepped off of this, our first 787 flight, we can finally answer those questions: lots of stuff and yes.

To describe a 10-hour flight is akin to boring neighbors with photo slides of a water park vacation. Instead, we're breaking it down into the hourly highlights ("the short of it") and, for those rapt with pleasure for every detail, the long of it, in first-person:

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Celebrating LAX's First 787 Flight: LAN 603 Non-Stop to Santiago, Chile

January 11, 2013 at 1:50 PM | by | Comments (0)

While this week hasn't exactly been all sunshine and rainbows for airlines flying their Boeing 787 Dreamliners around the world, last week sure was. On January 2, we stepped onboard aircraft CC-BBC, the gleaming new third 787 delivered to South American airline LAN for what would be a monumental inaugural flight, non-stop from Los Angeles-LAX to Santiago, Chile-SCL.

Our ticket read seat 1L. As the first row, first window on the right, that's practically a cockpit jumpseat (though our legroom and recline would be better). This would be more than a first 787 flight from LAX; it would be our own, personal first 787 flight. To say we were psyched is a gross understatement. The energy and optimism rippled through the line of waiting passengers in all classes, holding all types of tickets, as a special party for the full flight began at the gate.

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How to Say '787 Dreamliner' in Spanish

Where: Santiago, Chile
January 7, 2013 at 5:24 PM | by | Comments (0)

How do you say "787?" Seven-eight-seven or seven-eighty-seven? Though technically both are perfectly acceptable, the language may vary depending on the country to/from which you're flying the new airplane. And, since United is the only US operator of the airlines with Boeing 787 Dreamliners, the international names for the bird are more prevalent.

Before we set off on last week's LAN inaugural flight from LAX-SCL on their newest Dreamliner, @PointstoPointB tweeted us to ask: "how do they call the plane in Spanish onboard? Siete Ocho Siete? Siete Ochenta y Siete? El Sueñoliner?"

Well, dearest @PointstoPointB and future flyers of the LAN Dreamliner, we cleared up the issue firsthand with LAN's flight attendants. Their answer:

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