The Adventure › A two-week cycling trip through Chile’s deserts, mountains, glaciers, islands, and vineyards.
The Outfitter › Founded in 1979 by the cycling devotee Tom Hale, the California-based biking, hiking, and kayaking outfitter Backroads lives up to its name by hosting off-the-beaten-path adventures in such far-flung destinations as Bhutan, Cuba, and the Canary Islands. “We really pride ourselves on connecting with locals and local culture by avoiding the obvious attractions,” says Liz Barry, one of the outfitter’s travel experts. “And it’s even better when you are experiencing that culture on a bike, because you are right there next to the land and the people.”
The Itinerary › “The diversity that you experience from the north to the south of Chile is absolutely amazing,” Barry says. “Being able to explore places like the wine country, which is like California, and then going down to Patagonia, where you are exposed to the elements, is something that is really extraordinary—especially on a bike.” Indeed, from the dramatic landscapes of Patagonia to the lunar terrain of the Atacama Desert, the South American country offers thousands of scenic miles for cycling.
This Chilean cycling journey begins with a ride in the Rosario Valley along the 60-mile Matetic Loop, which weaves through wine country and passes by the late poet Pablo Neruda’s Pacific Coast home in Isla Negra. Then it is on to Puerto Natales, where riders will embark on a 75-mile ride to Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park. Over the course of four days, the guests will explore the park’s glaciers, fjords, and sprawling expanses by bicycle, foot, horseback, and boat. “Biking through Patagonia—whether the wind is at your back or right in front of you—is definitely a challenge,” says Barry, who recommends staying at Hotel Salto Chico during this portion of the trip. “But that difficult ride into Torres del Paine ends with some spectacular views at the hotel.”
Next, Barry suggests flying 2,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean to Easter Island, where riders can conquer the entire island in a single ride, encountering the iconic moai statues and the Rano Raraku volcano along the way. From there, guests return to the mainland for three days of cycling among the Atacama Desert’s unearthly rock formations, crystallized salt flats, and turquoise lagoons.
The Extreme › Rise at 4 am to ride 25 miles by starlight from Atacama’s Awasi resort to El Tatio—a bubbling field of more than 80 geysers—and the nearby Puritama Hot Springs. After a journey marked by cold
temperatures, harsh winds, and high elevations, the riders will receive a warm welcome. “This is absolutely extreme biking,” says Barry. “But what could be better than a hot-springs dip after so much mileage on your bike?”
The Price › From $32,000 per person, plus airfare.
Backroads, 800.462.2848, www.backroads.com