10 things to do in chile
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10 Places to Visit in Chile

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10 Places to Visit in Chile

Have you ever heard of Chile? Nope, not Chili, Chile. For some, it looks like a spaghetti inserted in the southern hemisphere but for many, this thin line is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Today we are going to share with you 10 places to visit in Chile.

But first… How is it possible that there might be so many beautiful things in this country? Surely, there are many factors but the main one is its Nature.

Chile is a tri continental country having territory in South America, Oceania and the Antarctic though the real reason why it offers so many destinations to explore is the Pacific Ocean and The Andes.

Chile’s length is 4270 kms and is constantly surrounded by the Andes Mountains at the East and the Pacific Ocean at the West. 

When condensation in the pacific ocean happens, the clouds stay in the Chilean side of the Andes acting as a room divider between Chile and Argentina. 

“Stuck clouds” creates rain that gives life to ecosystems such as Patagonia

Map of South America where you can see the length of Chile.

Note: While it can be very hot in the central and north of Chile, south is cold and windy

These factors makes that the Chilean territory is constantly changing from north to south. As the latitudes variate, so does the weather, the flora and the fauna.

Chile’s length is 4270 kms and is constantly surrounded by the Andes Mountains at the East and the Pacific Ocean at the West. 

When condensation in the pacific ocean happens, the clouds stay in the Chilean side of the Andes acting as a room divider between Chile and Argentina. 

“Stuck clouds” creates rain that gives life to ecosystems such as Patagonia

Map of South America where you can see the length of Chile.

Note: While it can be very hot in the central and north of Chile, south is cold and windy

These factors makes that the chilean territory is constantly changing from north to south. As the latitudes variate, so does the weather, the flora and the fauna.

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So how is this related with the top 10 best places to visit in Chile?

Well, whenever you go to Chile you’ll have to be prepared for 2 things:

  • Wonder yourself in different ecosystems
  • Traveling long distances

So get yourself ready, prepare your best walking -and hiking- shoes- and be ready to explore the best 10 places to visit in Chile!

Santiago

Modern and vibrant, Santiago has many places to visit while your stay in Chile

Being in the 10th place does not mean it is the worst in this list, we put it first because it is very likely that your first stop in Chile will be Santiago as the main international airport of the country is there. 

Likely to be the capital city with one of the most amazing background landscapes in the world, “Santiaguinos” (people from Santiago) are extremely lucky to enjoy an amazing view to the Andes mountains every day.

Drone shot of a sunset in Santiago de Chile, In the image is the financial district and at the end The Andes
Drone shot of a sunset in Santiago de Chile, In the image is the financial district and at the end The Andes

But not everything is perfect, during winter it can get very polluted as Santiago is located in a valley between the Andes Mountains and the cordillera de la costa (a range of mountains that goes along the coast). 

We recommend visiting in summer when you will enjoy the view of the mountains and there’s less traffic jam. However, the most amazing show happens in winter. If you are lucky and you get to see the mountains snowed after a rainy day… that, will blow out your mind. Unfortunately, it barely rains in Santiago.

Santiago is also a vibrant city that has many touristic destinations to visit and even “day hikes” that can be easily done. Be sure to check out “Best things to do in Santiago from a local” guide.

Cajón del Maipo (Maipo Canyon)

Views at the Yeso Dam
Views of the Yeso Dam in the Andes 

If you want to get a glimpse of how impressive the Andes are then you should do a day trip to el cajón del maipo. 

This canyon is worth visiting as it offer some incredible sights of the Andes -which you’ll see dressed of many different ecosystems during this trip- being able to see hills from different colors, feel and smell the many minerals that exists in these mountains and visit either -or both- the Yeso Dam or the Morado Glacier. 

The Yeso Dam is a great day tour where you can go and do a picnic and come back. If offers great views and beautiful walks that you can do during the day. Santiaguinos often go there camping.

The hike to el morado can also be done in a full day, but it will requiere a bit more of stamina as you’ll start walking somewhere close to the 2.700 and finish at the altitude of 3.500 m.a.s.l.

In the Cajón del Maipo you’ll go deep into the insights of the Andes.

Both tour activities are great, we’d recommend choosing between one or the other depending on your condition as reaching the Morado Glacier will be harder due to altitude. It is still a great option if you want to start climatizing yourself, especially you are planning to visit Atacama.


Vineyards

¿Si al mundo vino y no toma vino a que mi#¢da vino? 
Literal translation…
¿If to the world it came and doesn’t drink wine, why the f¢∞k did it came?

Red wine, white wine, rosé wine… when it comes to wine culture,  Chile is serious about it.

Chileans know how to produce wine, at they show it by having world quality ones.

What’s even better! Chilean wine is affordable, different to most of Europe or US, you don’t have to spent 50 euros to get a good quality wine. Pro tip, if you go to any supermarket you’ll see in the fully dedicated wine aisle how serious this market is. 

Wine isn’t just a “drink” but a full emotional and sensitive experience. 

Wine serves for different purposes besides just being a “drink”, it’s a culture that invites conversation and creates an instance of comfort and confidence between the ones sharing it. 

That’s why we believe that visiting a vineyard is an important step to understand the process behind this beverage. You’ll learn not only how it is made, but how to drink it and learn to differentiate the flavors that wine has.

Things that are taught in vineyards goes from what berries does a wine has to what kind of wood is made the barrel where it was placed to rest.

Chile has many vineyards valleys. We recommend you checking out this list of valleys to visit so you can have a proper idea to which one should you go to.

Valparaíso

A man getting into a trolley bus at Valparaíso’s downtown

“Valparaíso, what a non sense you are, so crazy, crazy port, your head with hills, dishevel, you never stop brushing yourself, you never had time to dress up…” 

Pablo Neruda

Valparaíso is a strange place to describe, the perfect mixt of imperfection, where disorder and chaos are beautiful and intriguing.

Even if it is an evening trip from Santiago, Valparaíso -or “Valpo” as Chileans say- is a must visit in Chile. A gorgeous city where you can have amazing food and awesome views of the port while at the same time enjoying of graffitis, narrow streets, strange old buildings and stray dogs. 

Some people love it, some people hate but I haven’t heard of some one who is in between these 2 feelings. 

But guess what, the real deal is not if you love it or you hate it, rather why you do it. To figure it out you must visit it.

With Narrow alleys and graffitis, Cerro Alegre has become the most visited destination of Valparaíso

No matter what you end up thinking of it by the end of your visit, the views to the port, the houses piled up in the hills and the street art will make the visit totally worth going. Think of it not as something you might like or not but something that you just have to explore.

Easter Island

Moais looking to the horizon while sun is setting
Moais, a Chilean equivalent to the Eiffel Tower, the Pizza Tower or London’s tower bridge. 

These sculptures from the past are intriguing. Specially because we don’t truly know their purpose, how they were made or when -we just have some vagues insights that considers their construction between IX – XVI centuries- and why did the Polynesians stop making them.

You can see hundreds of Moais all over the island

We do recommend finding a local guide otherwise you won’t be able to understand a thing.

You go there with a moai in your mind, you come back with a sunset in your eyes

Rodrigo Mata, Spain

Easter Island has gorgeous nature where you can see Rano Kau crater or enjoy of the beautiful anakena beach. One of our favourites is renting a bike and doing riding around the island, calm, easy and lovely.

Another gorgeous sun setting behind the Moais

It is important for you to know that traveling to Easter Island isn’t cheap, costing around $250-$300 a ticket from Santiago that takes almost 5 hours will make it a difficult place to reach. 

But you will be rewarded with some paradisiacal sunsets. Besides, you have also travelled to the southern country in the world… 5 more hours, does it really matter?

Puerto Varas

Powerful image of Osorno Volcano and the Petrohué Falls.

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Calbuco Volano

This german founded -therefore german style- city in the south of Chile is well worth visiting. Having an amazing view to Osorno Volcano and some great restaurants to have a nice “onces” -tea time- spending time in Puerto Varas is what Chileans call “La Magia del Sur”

“La Magia del Sur” chilean phrase used to describe the feeling of being surrounded of Patagonian nature

Puerto Varas is our recommended head quarters if you want to go exploring the area. 

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Puntiagudo Volcano

Visiting Saltos del Petrohué, enjoying of a nice show in the Lake theatre at Frutillar or driving around the Llanquihue lake -that has gorgeous views and landscapes- are some of the must do in your visit to Puerto Varas

If you feel like a bit more adventurous, we totally recommend you visiting Cochamó and hike -or rent a horse- to La Junta Camping. Otherwise, rent a car and do trip to the Seno de Reloncaví. 

Be sure to check out top recommendations on what to do in Puerto Varas.

Lake District

Ethereal shot I took in the Termas Geométricas in Coñaripe

Chilean lake district is certainly a must go. Yeah, we know, many countries have lake districts and you might have already seen tons of them but we can guarantee you that no other “Lake District” is like Chile’s. 

Huilo Huilo lake

What makes it so beautiful? Think it this way… When you draw a beautiful landscape as a kid you would likely get something that looks like a mountain, some trees, a river and a sunset, right? 

Keep that drawing in your mind but instead of some trees imagine a Patagonian forest, include not a volcano but many, the mountains are the Andes and the lakes… well it is the lake district after all

You can cross to Argentina by the Huilo Huilo lake

Chile’s lake district is a fairy tail like place but without fairies and with tons of outdoor acitvies and crazy adventures to explore. Would you like to:

Volcán Villarica at night
  • See lava? Then climb Villarica Volcano
  • Do one of the best rafting in the world? Then do the Trancura Alto
  • Connect with nature? you have plenty of national parks to hike in!

Truly, I am not sure if this should be a place to visit or simply to sell everything you own and go live there. Just joking!… 

Am I?


2nd and 3rd place aren’t necessary in a hierarchical order. Both are just insane and many people prefer one over the other depending on what you are used to see.

Atacama 

So you came to Chile to see the most beautiful, raw and pristine nature? Atacama is a must go then as it will literally blow your mind. The driest dessert on earth will amaze you with its nature. 

The volcanoes, the colors, the natural wonders like Tatio Geysers or the salt lakes fulfilled of flamingos, everything of Atacama is different to what you’ve seen before.

But Atacama is a massive place, that’s why we recommend you visiting San Pedro as a head quarter and from there do daily activities like going to Moon Valley or driving to the altiplanic lagoons.

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At 4.400 m.a.s.l you’ll find the beautiful altiplanic lagoons
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Early morning is the best time to see flamingoes at the salt lake

We said before that number 2-3 aren’t in a hierarchical order and the reason to that is because some people might find Atacama even more impressive than number 2 simply because Atacama can’t be seen anywhere else. No trees, no rivers, no glaciers. It is simply, desert.

Torres del Paine

While the name is Torres del Paine, in my opinion, The Cuernos (in the picture) are the absolute madness of this park.

Imagine if Magic Kingdom and Universal blend together. That’d be easily the best theme park in the world, great roller coaster with the magic of Disney. Well, in Torres del Paine you won’t see Mickey but it is the equivalent to National Parks.

If you have ever wonder what Nature looks in the most “raw” and pure form, Torres del Paine will answer you that. The Torres (tower) are just an icon of a Park that has it all.  

Sunset view of the grey glacier from camping “el paso” in the O hike

You want to see Glaciers? Then you have the Grey Glacier falling from Chile’s southern ice field and the Paine Grande glacier that hangs from the highest mountain of the Park.

You want to see flora? Prepare yourself to be in an ecosystem of:
  • Patagonian forest
  • Patagonian steppe
  • Berry bushes such as calafate
You want to see fauna? Some animals you’ll likely -some not so likely- see:
  • Condores
  • Guanacos
  • Pumas
  • Ñandú (South American ostrich)

And of course, if you want to live a truly fulfilling experience, you must do a hike. 

Normal recommendation is to do the W but we totally recommend go full into it and do the O hike. We recommend you reading this article on why do we suggest the O and how can you travel the Torres del Paine National Park.

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No matter what hike you do, we simply want to recommend you going to Torres del Paine. For every nature lover this one is simply a “peregrination” place that must be visited at least once in a life time. 

Important to consider:

After 2012 fire where an Israeli tourist produced a fire that burnt more than 17.600 hectares Chilean authorities have placed really strict measure to protect the park. Please go read this article on how to visit the park for further details.

The Torres

Carretera Austral

How on earth can it be that Torres del Paine or Atacama aren’t the number one in this list?! Well, let me explain  

Torres del Paine and Atacama surely are the ones that have highlights of Chile. 

The most amazing hills, the most wild and fierce nature that you’ll experience in Chile BUT there is a place that not too many people know about: 

The Carretera Austral

How can it be more impressive than the classic Chilean destinations? A good answer would be: it is likely not! But Carretera Austral represents everything that Torres del Paine and Atacama aren’t. 

Instead of fierce and wild nature conditions, Carretera Austral is rather the opposite: a calm and peaceful place on earth which beauty is simply unmatched.

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You’ll see endless valleys of unmatched beauty
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Corcovado Volcano close to Chaitén

Carretera Austral begins in Puerto Montt and goes all the way until Villa O’Higgins, it has more than 1000 kms and it has a huge diversity of Patagonian landscapes. 

Things that will happen along the road:

  1. Going up and down of ferries.
  2. Drive along the Patagonian heart
  3. See amazing hills like cerro Castillo
  4. Enjoy of amazing roads view like “La Piedra del Gato”
  5. See a massive stone that looks like an aborigin
  6. Gorgeous rivers like Futaleufú or Baker
  7. Lakes, many lakes
  8. Glaciers, tons of them

As you head south you’ll find yourself in wonder because of the amazing forests, the fiords and glaciers that you will see.

It is also an extremely fun adventure, where you’ll go up and down of ferries, make -optional- amazing hikes like Cerro Castillo hill, see wonderful valleys like Futaleufu, cross amazing rivers like Baker, and see glaciers. Lots of them.

Chile has many touristic destinations, but Carretera Austral is a destination on its own

It will take some time to explore it and you’ll need a car -unless you hitchhike it like I did once in 2011- but I can guarantee you that once you’ve begun exploring it, you’ll see how your heart feels a relief and how you will allow the environment to consume you.

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It might not an ecosystem as dramatic as Atacama  or Torres del Paine but Carretera Austral offers what other places don’t: an in depth experience with nature and with yourself.

Truly, you can drive for hours without seeing any other car. Just Patagonian forest, lakes and rivers appearing out of no where

Carretera Austral offers what other places don’t: an in depth experience with nature and with yourself.PreviousNext

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