Three unmissable experiences for tourists visiting Chile in 2011

Stay in a mushroom-shaped hotel in the Araucanía rainforest, travel by train through the Atacama, or sleep with the sea lapping against your hotel’s wooden legs in Chiloé.

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On top of recent news that LAN Chile plans to invest US$ 4 billion in renewing its airline fleet over the next two years, Chile’s ever-changing tourist industry is constantly unearthing new gems. Here are three new star attractions, featured this week in Budget Travel magazine: ideal both for first time visitors or long-time lovers of Chile’s diverse landscapes.

Mushroom Hotel at Huilo Huilo Reserve

Snuggled at the base of a volcano in the temperate rainforests of Chile’s Araucanía region, Huilo Huilo is a maze of fantastical wooden structures made from the very trees that surround them. One hotel rises like an impossible upside-down honeycomb around the trunk of a tree. On another, a waterfall cascades from the roof over the bedroom windows.

Huilo Huilo will top these architectural marvels with an upcoming 19-room addition, A World Fungi, which will take the form of a giant mushroom. For more information visit www.huilohuilo.com.

Travel through the Atacama on a 1960s train

Transatacama invites you for an unforgettable traverse of the world’s driest desert – carrying passengers through a day-long exploration of some of the Atacama’s most historic and scenic areas.

The 62-mile round trip includes two meals, an on-board musical performance, and stops at the Cerros Pintados geoglyphs, with over 300 large-scale, Precolumbian rock drawings; the colorful village of La Tirana, home to one of Chile’s most vibrant religious festivals, Fiesta de la Tirana; and of course, a handful of abandoned mines and spooky, mining ghost towns. The train departs Saturday mornings from the coastal city of Iquique, and returns around 7pm. For more information, visit www.transatacama.com

Sleep perched on poles in the Chiloé Archipelago

The islands of Chiloé are best known for their singular folklore and higgledy-piggledy architecture, with painted wooden houses perched above the rising tide on long wooden poles. The houses, called ‘palafitos,’ are unique to Chiloé.

The beautiful, 9-room Palafito 1326 hotel opened in 2009 and takes its architectural cues from the 19th century houses of the Gamboa neighborhood in Castro, the Chilote capital, where it was built. Woolen textiles woven in the traditional local style complement modern fixtures and generally rustic decor. For more information, visit www.palafito1326.cl