Chile Travel: Best places to visit and things to do in Chile
Squeezed between the Pacific ocean and the mighty Andes, Chile is a long, narrow nation running north-south, well-known for some of nature’s finest landscapes across the world that range from the driest of the deserts of the world up in the north to the massive glaciers of Patagonia in the south. Alongside this impressive array of natural display, the cultural charm of Chile cannot be overlooked; with cities such as Santiago boasting excellent art galleries and Valparaiso’s vibrant colonial aura, Chile spreads its arms to travelers from almost every walk of life.
Get in touch with our travel experts in Chile, whose invaluable assistance will ensure you get the best out of your vacation. Browse our list of trip ideas and Chile's list of impressive travel highlights to give you an idea of how an itinerary may be completely customized to your liking.
In the meantime, here's a list of must-see attractions this country offers.
With a magnificent Andean backdrop, the 500-year old bustling capital city of Santiago is where the political and cultural heart of Chile resides. Home to finest museums in the country along with excellent dining and nightlife options, Santiago does a great job in enchanting its visitors with its lively urban vibe.
Apart from the cultural happenings, a highlight of any visit to Santiago includes visiting the old colonial square of Plaza de Armas and taking the aerial tramway to San Cristobal Hill for its breathtaking views of the city.
Home to the driest deserts in the world, Atacama extends over 40,000 square miles and contains some of the continent’s most phenomenal landscapes. Dubbed as one of the most visited places in the country, Atacama is filled with chestnut-hued mountains, endless salt plains, and gurgling geyser fields. One of the key highlights of the region is the Valle de la Luna, which translates as “Valley of the Moon”, a unique formation caused by the erosion of sand and stone, eerily resembling the surface of the moon.
Being one of the darkest and driest places on earth, Atacama offers its visitors an unparalleled opportunity to view the flawless night sky through its guided star tours; the near-total absence of moisture in the atmosphere makes this particular night sky a sight to behold!
Los Pinguinos Natural Monument
Largest among the Penguin colonies in the southern part of the country, the Los Pinguinos Natural Monument breeds over 120,000 Magellanic penguins on Magdalena Island, qualifying it as one of Chile's most spectacular sights. Just 22 miles northeast of Punta Arenas, smack in the middle of the Magellan Strait and topped with a pretty red lighthouse, this island, declared a national monument in 1966, witnesses one of the country’s largest agglomeration of the Penguins that come yearly to mate and lay eggs.
Head over in the months of September or October to witness the area teeming with these cute species, migrating here only to find their mate. Los Pinguinos can only be accessed through guided boat tours in the Magellan Strait; apart from the staggering sight of these marvelous birds, the area proliferates with sea lions and seals as well.
Flaunting an extensive golden shoreline along with marvelous colonial-era architecture, La Serena happens to be the second oldest city in Chile. Located in the northern corner of the country, La Serena lures its visitors with its warm desert climate; its closeness to the fruitful Central Valley, home to Chile's finest vineyards, is a bonus.
Strolling through the downtown La Serena, visitors are bound to come across grandiose plazas, stone structures, archaeological museum and an astronomical observatory, giving it the well-deserved reputation of a town for everyone. For the adventurous traveler, La Serena comes almost second to none with its myriad collection of activities like sport fishing, surfing, snorkeling, and hiking.
Another cultural hub hitting the must-visit list in Chile is the buzzing bohemian town of Valparaiso, which sits on the Pacific coast in the approximate center of the north-south stretch. Built upon the steep hillsides, Valparaiso boasts labyrinthian streets with cobbled pathways, illustrating much of its rich colonial legacy.
The poet Pablo Neruda had a home here, the iconic La Sebastiana. Anyone familiar with the man's sensual poetry would understand why one of his homes would be in the middle of Valparaiso: bursting with an unique charisma of its own, this old colonial town is best known for showcasing its brightly-colored homes, a thriving nightlife scene, breathtaking seaside views and its famed underground street art.
Torres del Paine National Park
Deriving its name from the three colossal granite peaks of the Paine Mountain range, Torres del Paine National Park is a glaciated area situated in the extreme southern tip of the Patagonian part of the country. Witnessing over 150,000 visitors every year, Torres del Paine's main draws are its serene lakes and plenty of hiking options apart from the magnificent sights of those three towering glacial peaks. This natural gem can take weeks to fully explore; we recommend opting for the popular “W” route, taking only five days to complete, and comprising some of the best sights of the region.
Torres del Paine National Park can be best explored in the summer months between December to February as opposed to the extreme chills of its winter months.
Chile’s Lake District
Sprawling extensively from Temuco in the north to Puerto Montt in the south, Chile’s Lake District is a far-reaching, lush volcanic valley with snowcapped mountains, thick forests and calm lakes; the entire region was earlier inhabited by the indigenous tribe of Mapuche, before the Europeans took over almost completely.
Given the charm of the idyllic landscapes along with the countless activities it offers, including rafting, kayaking and volcano climbing, this part of the country lures adventure-seekers in droves. Come winter, and visitors can gratify themselves with excellent skiing options in the region.
Part of the isolated group of the Chiloe Archipelago, the island of Chiloe is the fifth largest of its kind in the entire continent, best known for its collection of unique old wooden churches, carved in a very peculiar style of the 17th century, when the Spanish arrived in these islands, followed by Jesuit missionaries, whose influence is still reflected in its prevailing architectures.
Apart from these historic structures, Chiloe boasts numerous colorful stilt houses alongside a national park which is home to whales, dolphins and penguins, thus adding much to the delight of the island’s unique charm.
Located approximately 2000 miles from the country’s mainland in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, Easter Island is popular for its hollow-eyed monumental statues called Moai, created by the ancient (and very advanced) Rapanui tribe. Although exemplifying the sheer brilliance of human artistry centuries ago, these giant stone structures still remain one of the greatest mysteries revolving around the Polynesian people that once inhabited the region.
It’s not difficult to wonder why these well-famed Moai structures have overshadowed almost every other attraction of this distant island. Also home to volcanic craters and two gorgeous white-sand beaches, Easter doesn’t fail in charming adventure-seekers with its great off-coast diving and surfing thrills.
Featuring stunning, well-preserved 19th-century Georgian architecture and a vibrant beachfront boardwalk, Iquique is best known for its first-rate beach resorts and glitzy casino. Resembling Monte Carlo, Iquique is a perfect stop for any free-spirited fun loving soul. Start off your visit by checking out (or participating) in surfing competitions, paragliding over the town and sand-boarding the golden dunes of Cerro Dragon.
Spend the later part of the day strolling down the old, western-styled Baquedano Street, famed for artisans displaying their wares and touristy fun. There is no better way to wrap up your day in this casino town than by indulging in some fun gambling and sampling the country's tastiest cuisines in the town’s top-notch restaurants. Iquique has its own duty free zone, where shoppers can get hold of everything from perfumes to laptops.