Behind the Lens: The Captivating Warmth of Chilean Culture

Chile’s iconic landscapes never fail to charm, from the arid Atacama Desert in the north — Earth’s driest non-polar desert — to the Patagonian fjords surrounded by snow-capped mountains and the Torres Del Paine National Park in the south. The Chilean culture, though, can be equally compelling.

For Silversea Expedition filmmaker Ross Vernon McDonald, what welcomed him was the rich and intriguing culture of this country, something that he and his lens weren’t expecting at first.

Rugged landscapes and warm people

“We started in Valparaiso, had two sea days and then after that, it was mostly fjord-based travel which was spectacular. I wanted to get off the ship literally everywhere,” McDonald tells us. “It’s so remote because there are no roads, footpaths or anything, just rugged mountains with trees and dense foliage going all the way down these mountains straight into the water.

“Chilean culture was not something that I was expecting as there are these really iconic landscapes and bucket-list locations. When you think of Chile, you think ‘I’m going to go to Patagonia and hike in the middle of nowhere in the mountains,’ but we were welcomed into these small communities.”

Chilean scenes charmed the filmmaker./Ross Vernon McDonald

Remote communities where traditions prevail

McDonald filmed Chilean traditions passed down in these remote settlements as he observed local farmers, cowboys rounding cattle and live music and dance — complete with spurs, ruffled dresses and a string band. These unique elements of life here truly captivated his lens.

“It’s this mix of Spanish and European heritage coupled with Incan South American culture. It’s a real melting pot of cultures,” McDonald adds. “But the moment with people is always about capturing their spirit in a way. That moment when they’re dancing, smile at a partner or something that captures the action.”

Interested in experiencing Chilean culture firsthand? Learn about cruises that visit the region here.

Editor’s Note: Chilean west coast cruises, offered both in classic cruise voyages and on expedition trips, often include stops in other South American countries as well as the Caribbean, Antarctica and Australia.