What to do in Chile
What to do in Chile
Our guide on what to do in Chile
When it comes to landscapes, Chile offers it all despite its narrow dimensions. This long, lengthy country is just 217 miles at its widest point but stretches more than 2,650 miles from the heart of South America to its southern tip, a gateway to the ultimate last frontier, Antarctica. No matter what you’re hoping to experience you’ll probably find it here, from soaring mountains and volcanoes to beautiful beaches, glistening glaciers, tropical islands, deserts, and cities. Every corner seems to have been well-planned by Mother Nature, with plenty of surprises for visitors and residents alike. From watching penguins as they scurry after their chicks to horseback riding through Patagonia with its glaciers, granite spires and abundant wildlife, hiking fjords, and marvelling at colourful sunsets in a moon-like landscape to unrivalled stargazing and world-class wine tasting, there are many bucket-list experiences to be had here.
One of the most developed countries in South America, with the capital of Santiago a tech hub for the region, Chile is a place that will continuously blow you away. It’s not only the scenery that is guaranteed to make you feel in awe in nature, but the people, and the cuisine, like the traditional Chilean stew paila marina, made with a shellfish stock combined with a variety of seafood, vegetables, herbs, and spices, a great hangover cure ideally enjoyed after a little too much of the famous Chilean beer.
With such a myriad of sights and attractions across multiple geographical zones, it can be hard to decide what to fit in on a trip when you only have limited time, but you’ll definitely want to be some of these options on your must-do list.
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My love for South America started when I was living in Lima, Peru, and family and friends came to visit. That year I went to Machu Picchu 5 times! I do not have one drop of Latin blood in me, which is painfully obvious if you see me dance, and yet without realizing it for the past 15 years South America has been my home.
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Best activities to do in Chile
Chile has a huge range of outdoor pursuits, history, culture and food to enjoy. To help you narrow it down we have put together a list of some of our favorites.
Boat Trip to Glacier Grey
The Glacier Grey is part of the extraordinary Patagonian ice field, spread over nearly 105 square miles in Torres del Paine National Park. One of the park’s (and South America’s) most magnificent sights, its name comes from a deep, sparkling bluish grey hue, something that’s so dazzling it can even be viewed from space. Lago Grey, which translates to Lake Grey, is filled by the stunning glacier and icebergs that are dotted across it. The backdrop is impressive too, with snowy mountains, cascading falls, and hanging glaciers. One of the best ways to see it up close is to take a boat tour to the massive face which allows you to take in the vastness of it all. You’ll be able to hear the cracking sounds as the glacier shifts with bergs dropping off with a thunder into the lake, possibly while sipping a pisco sour made using the glacier’s ice.
Sunset Over the Valley of the Moon
The Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on the planet, is a destination that shouldn’t be missed on a trip to Chile. Not only can you witness some of the world’s most brilliant, almost always cloud-free night’s skies, but you can marvel at Calle de Luna, or the “Valley of the Moon.” One of the most visited places of San Pedro de Atacama, it’s characterized by massive sand dunes, stone formations, and hills and valleys of salt, mimicking the moon’s surface. The jaw-dropping moon-like landscape is found in the Salt Mountain Range that’s part of the Los Flamencos National Reserve, created over time by the elements and the earth’s crust which led to the folding of watery ground beneath the salt lake. Visitors can visit the Las Tres Marias salt sculptures and watch one of the most memorable sunsets with the low light deepening the red, yellow, green, and even blue shades.
Explore the Osorno Volcano in the Lake District
The Chilean Lake District is not only a land of many lakes, but snow-capped volcanoes, waterfalls, and ancient forests. The Osorno Volcano is an icon here with its green slopes and summit that’s covered in snow almost all year round. It soars nearly 8,730 feet into the sky, making it visible from every vantage point in the district of Osorno and beyond. Its unmistakable cone-shaped silhouette is one of the Chilean Andes most famous images and if you’re up for an adventure, it’s worth getting a close up look. A tour from Puerto Varas will bring you to the small village of Ensenada and into Perez Rosales National Park. From there you’ll begin a hike up the slopes of Osorno enjoying magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and the valley of the River Petrohue on the ascent to Osorno Volcano ski station where more jaw-dropping views await.
Horse Ride with a Gaucho in Patagonia
One of the most unique and memorable ways to explore Patagonia is by horseback, taking in the sights with a gaucho as your guide. The gauchos are a close equivalent to a Latin American ‘cowboy,’ with many of them living in the Patagonia region. They’re recognized for their horseback riding skills, vast knowledge of the landscape, and hearty nature, with the ability to endure the region’s weather extremes. Here they specialize in sheep herding, with the sheep used for their wool to make garments to sell, or to keep themselves warm. Rides bring the chance to experience their lifestyle while taking in the best of Torres del Paine National Park, its stunning granite pillars, forests, lakes, rivers, and glaciers. You’ll be able to tap into your gaucho’s in-depth knowledge to learn more about the geology, flora, and fauna while watching for wildlife like the Andean condor and guanaco, a relative of the camel.
Stargazing in the Atacama
Chile is renowned for its clear skies, some of the clearest in the world, but the Atacama Desert with its almost always cloud-free skies and nearly non-existent light pollution make it unrivalled for stargazers. It’s a window to the universe, a place where you can watch countless shooting stars and learn all about the planets and constellations by taking a guided excursion. Experts lead trips into the middle of the planet’s driest desert from downtown San Pedro de Atacama to help you uncover the mysteries of the cosmos. There are 10 telescopes on-site that will be available to capture the mind-blowing magnificence, allowing you to zoom in to see the rugged craters of the moon, spot explosive nebulae, and scattered formations of other galaxies under the guidance of your expert astronomer. Your guide will tell you more about what you’re seeing, help you adjust if necessary, and answer any questions you might have.
Wine Tasting in the Colchagua Valley
Located in the southern transverse valley in Chile’s central wine region, just over 100 miles from Santiago, the Colchagua Valley is dominated by Bordeaux-style blends. Some of the most prestigious red wines in the country are produced right here, most notable Syrah, Cabernet sauvignon, and Carmenere grape varieties. Many of the wineries can be found around the town of Santa Cruz, the point where the Tinguiririca River delivers its snow-melt water from the Andes peaks, naturally irrigating the picturesque vineyards with the silt and clay creating the unmissable terroir. One of the top reasons to take a wine tour here is the diversity of the wineries, which includes everything from the charming boutique tasting room at Laura Hartwig to palatial Clos Apalta Lapostelle, perched on a slope above the Apalta Valley. You won’t want to miss a winery lunch, which can be anything from casual traditional Chilean cooking to an indulgent affair.
Visit the Penguins at Punta Tombo
Punta Tombo is the world’s largest Magellanic penguin colony. There’s no other penguin settlement on Earth of this size that can be easily accessed. While the beach isn’t the kind you’ll want to sunbathe on with a drink in your hand, it’s the perfect place to observe the tuxedo adorned birds, with a population of around a half-million of them here. Getting here requires a dusty 90-minute drive from the town of Trelew but the experience is something you’ll never forget. With so many penguins, it looks like a huge military brigade made up of tiny soldiers. Guanacos and armadillos sometimes make an appearance too. You can even walk among them, observing their way of life, watching their nests and hatchlings, and discover how they swim in the sea. Visitors are often amazed at how the birds move back and forth, looking for their nests or chasing after their chicks.
Easter Island: Take a Tour to Learn the Legends of the Moai
Located some 2,300 miles off the Chilean coast, the Rapa Nui people who settled here centuries ago from Polynesia are believed to have built the nearly one thousand giant Moai rock statues here. They serve as the last and only link to the demise of this isolated culture. A tour is one of the best ways to learn about them and the legends of the Moai. You’ll be able to explore the major Rapa Nui archaeological sites near the Rano Kau volcano crater, learn about the famous Birdman legend at the O’rongo ceremonial village and visit Ahu Akivi, a site with seven standing Moai, one of just a few in the middle of the island. Travel to Ahu Tongariki with its 15 Moai and find out how the statues were built at Rano Raraku. Tours usually end with time to enjoy Anakena Beach and its sparkling turquoise waters too.
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