There is no place quite like Chile, literally.
This long and narrow country which snakes down the side of Argentina in South America unifies contrasting climates and terrains, which feel like they should be worlds apart. The snow-capped peaks of the Andes are only a few hours from the Pacific coastline, and the dry desert of Atacama in the north of Chile contrasts massively from the frozen Patagonian fjords in the south.
Its complex topography and impressive length (2,670 miles from top to bottom), make Chile the most incredible place to visit, as it offers an incredible array of different places to explore and adventures to cross off the bucket-list.
Here is a list of the unmissable experiences and most spectacular places to visit in Chile.
Discover the Art and History of Chile in the Capital
If you are traveling to Chile, then it is likely that you will pass through its capital, Santiago, at some point of your trip. Although Santiago is, fundamentally, a capital city like many others, it is filled with many areas of interest which demonstrate Chile’s love of art and culture.
Some of the best spots to take in the art of Santiago are the National Museum of Fine Arts in the lively Bellas Artes neighborhood or the Pre-Colombian Art Museum located right next to the Plaza de Armas in the center of the city. For something different, the bohemian area of Bellavista is covered in colorful street art and street performers who will greet you as you arrive, and is a great place to get some food and drinks.
There are a lot of museums, monuments and parks that provide insight into Chile’s recent past, such as the death of Allende, the rise of Pinochet, the disappeared and the transition to democracy. The Museum of Memory and Human Rights is a must-see museum if you are interested in learning about the history of Chile.
To learn more about what to do during your stay in Santiago on our “Santiago – Top Ten Attractions” blog.
Spend New Year’s Eve in Valparaíso
If you are visiting Santiago, then you’re only a couple of hours from Valparaíso, a colorful city, home to some of the best seafood in all of South America, the region’s best graffiti, and Chile’s most famed Poet, Pablo Neruda. It is famous for its chaotic cerros (hills), sinuous streets, alleys, and escaleras (stairways), but most of all for its amazing firework spectacle to celebrate the New Year, and the crazy parties that follow.
Valparaíso’s New Year’s firework display is one of the most famous in the world. Each year, it explodes over the harbor, with fireworks synchronized from 17 different launching points located from Valparaíso, past Viña del Mar, all the way to Concón, and even further up to the beach village of Zapallar.
The fireworks display is not the only reason people come to Valparaíso. It’s the street parties which take place after the fireworks, that makes Valparaíso so much fun at New Year. The ‘party city’ certainly doesn’t disappoint on this day, with its bustling bars, restaurants, clubs and street parties as well as the pyrotechnical show which lights up the sky over the bay, reflecting in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
You can find out more about spending New Year’s in Valparaíso here.
Stargaze in the Atacama Desert or Elqui Valley
Chile is, without a doubt, one of the best places in the world for observing the unfiltered and unadulterated starry sky.
The Atacama Desert is certainly the most popular place for astro-tourism in Chile. The stargazing tours take you to the spots with the clearest skies where you can sit back and relax as you watch the stars, or to the new Alma Observatory, where experts will tell you about astrology and you will have the opportunity to look through professional telescopes.
However, for a more intimate stargazing experience, the Valle del Elqui outside of La Serena, offers something equally spectacular. There, on a chilly evening you can sit with a cup of warm wine, gazing at the moon, the stars and the Milky Way which feel so close you could almost reach out and touch them. Here there are a handful of observatories you could visit for a more educational experience.
Explore the Atacama Desert
The Atacama Desert is not only famous for its clear skies and stargazing opportunities, and for being the driest place in the world, distinguished by its cracked copper earth, gushing geysers, fabulous flamingos and saltwater lakes.
You can choose to cycle and hike to the wonders of the desert, book tours which will take you there and provide background insight to each natural gem or rent a car to see it all yourself. Whichever way you explore the Atacama Desert, best accessed via the town of San Pedro de Atacama, you will lose yourself amongst the endless stretches of tarmac and perfect landscapes it has to offer.
Wine Tasting in Chile’s Wine Regions
Chile is an agricultural paradise with a Mediterranean climate and increasingly organic, sustainable farming practices, allowing winemakers to create high-quality wines which are the purest expression of their privileged land. Within just a three-hour drive of the country’s capital, there are seven principal wine regions that grow Carménère, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, among other less-known varietals like Carignan, País, and Petit Verdot.
Chile’s good wine draws in as many people to this country as does its Andes mountain range. If you enjoy a stroll through green fields, listening to stories, sipping on fine wine, and eating some delectable food, then visiting the Chilean wine regions should be at the top of your list.
Download TheBesty App to find a list of the best wines to taste and vineyards to visit in the whole of Chile!
Take a Boat through the Patagonian Fjords
Any visitor to Chile, aiming to go south, is faced with a dilemma; how exactly do you get there with all those fjords in the middle of the country!?
You can fly there, of course, but by taking an unforgettable boat journey through the Patagonian Fjords, the very definition of slow travel in South America, you will get to experience all of the stunning sights and nature first hand. Leaving from Puerto Montt, the opportunity to get close to glaciers, visiting tiny inhabited islands and looking out for dolphins & whales are just some of the highlights of this trip.
Surf in Arica, Iquique or Pichilemu
For a country with so much coastline, Chile isn’t blessed with the sort of beaches one may expect from a South American country. While it has some nice ones, of course, they don’t really compare to the ones in Colombia or Brazil, for example.
Although not many travelers come to Chile for its beaches, so much as it’s amazing mountains and incredible scenery, more and more are making their way to Chile for the waves.
During the summer, the northerly port cities of Arica and Iquique become surf havens, whilst the central town of Pichilemu hosts international competitions for the brave surfers who take on 10 meter high waves in the crashing waters of the Pacific. Whether you have never surfed before or an expert surfer, you can easily take surfing lessons or rent equipment in each location.
Climb an Active Volcano
The Andes mountain range in Chile houses several volcanoes, of all shapes and sizes, and all equally wonderful to gaze at. However, if you want to see some of the most stunning vistas they each offer and don’t mind a bit of a challenge, then climbing one of them is certainly an experience to consider. Of the many outdoor activities Chile offers, only a few will be as thrilling as climbing one of the volcanoes, especially one of the few active ones.
Ojos De Salado, the highest active volcano in the world; Villarrica, the most active volcano in Chile and Osorno, which outlooks the Llanquihue Lake, are some of the most incredible active volcanoes you can climb in Chile. The difficulty level ranges from easy to punishing, but the end result is rewarding. You can book the volcano hikes online before you travel!
Visit the UNESCO Churches of Chiloé
The island of Chiloé is a land filled with myths and legends. On top of the unique folklore and culinary traditions, there is an array of incredible wildlife and amazing sights that will blow you away. From the moment you first set foot on this extraordinary island, its unique identity will take you by surprise, and you will never want to leave.
One of the most incredible things about Chiloé is its unique style of architecture which uses the building techniques that the missionary Jesuits brought in the 17th century from Spain, mixed with Chiloé’s ancestral carpenters’ wooden boat construction method. The combination of the two brought these impressive nail-less churches to life. In place of iron nails, reinforced wooden joints hold the buildings in place, mimicking the techniques used for the construction of ships.
On the island, 16 of the 70 original churches are still standing, and each one of these has been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, making these churches a definite bucket-list item for your trip to Chile.
Unravel the mysteries of Easter Island
It’s easy to forget that Rapa Nui, more commonly known as Easter Island (or ‘Isla de Pascua’ in Spanish), is actually part of Chile, as it feels like such a standalone curiosity.
A dot of an island, thousands of miles from the mainland, Easter Island is famous for its 800 plus volcanic rock moai statues. To this day, nobody has a definitive answer to whether they were statues or gods, how they were moved or what importance they held… and it is the impenetrable nature of that mystery which makes it such a unique destination.
On the island there are also three volcanoes which are perfect for hiking, glorious beaches for sunbathing, and many snorkeling activities, so it may be small, but you won’t get bored!
Hike to the Torres Del Paine
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without the Torres del Paine. Seen everywhere from the front of guidebooks, on the $1.000 peso bill and basically everywhere else you look, the Torres Del Paine is essentially the national emblem of Chile, just as the Eiffel Tower is of France.
Although it may seem like it is miles away, expensive and impossible to get to, that is actually not true. Well, it is miles away… but research and book ahead of time, and your trip to the Torres Del Paine National Park will be easy and not as expensive as you would think.
With glaciers and glacial lakes, wildlife, and jaw-dropping mountain backdrops, a visit to Torres del Paine is for many travelers the only reason they are actually in Chile. Two multi-day treks, the W-trek and the O-circuit, are world famous, but if you don’t have the time to spare, you can cheat by seeing the Torres Del Taine on a day tour.
As you can see from this list, the various travel experiences in Chile can satisfy all kinds of travelers. Whether you are looking for cultural activities or extreme adventures, the country has it all, thus ensuring that a visit to the country is an amalgam of different unforgettable experiences and trip that will exceed your expectations.
If you’re traveling in Chile and are interested in any of these epic travel experiences, download the TheBesty app to search, compare and book the best tours and activities throughout the country – all in one place.