Top 12 Things to do in Chile
Chile is a spectacular country with so much to offer. Spaghetti-thin, up to half of this country’s slim width is covered by the stratospheric Andes. Glaciers calve. Penguins mix with flamingos. Vineyards knit mild valleys into a neat green patchwork. Sharp spikes of snow-capped rock bite into the sky. At least that’s what your photos will say. It’s harder to capture how it feels to be wrapped in the raw wilderness or to scan the expansive pampas from the porch of a secluded estancia. North to south, mountaintop to the seashore, you’ll get a carefully curated up-close look at this vast and varied country. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the wonders Chile has to offer, so to help you out we’ve rounded up our favorite spots in Chile to assure an outstanding visit to this gorgeous country.
#1 – Experience the 2020 Total Solar Eclipse
On December 14, 2020, the day will turn to instant night in one of the few places on land where the total eclipse of the sun will be visible. More than 90% of the path of this eclipse will be over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, however, the narrow path passes over the very bottom of South America. From a scenic viewing point in the National Park of Villaricca, take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the total solar eclipse and from the beautiful lake district in Chile.
#2 – Santiago
Santiago, Chile’s capital and largest city sits in a valley surrounded by the snow-capped Andes and the Chilean Coast Range. Explore the cosmopolitan, energetic, worldly and historically-rich city on foot and take a guided walk in the city center where grand Spanish Colonial architecture is the rule. Take in the museums, grand architecture and pedestrian malls of the Centro, and enjoy people-watching in the hillside parks of the city’s landscape.
#3 – Patagonia
This renowned region of Chile is known for its soaring peaks, breathtaking natural sights, nine national parks, and three national monuments. It is the natural habitat of the guanaco, long-legged rheas, endangered Andean deer, Andean condor, and so much more. Icy glaciers plunge into emerald lakes and dramatic views envelop visitors upon arrival, leaving many at a loss for words.
#4 – Torres del Paine/Los Glaciares National Park
The torres – soaring, spikey “towers” of granite carved by ancient glaciers – are one of the signature sights of Chile. The granite pillars dominate the landscape of South America’s finest national park and have been included as a part of Unesco’s Biosphere Reserve system since 1978. Make sure to stroll along the Sierra del Toro trail, putting you in the middle of a diversity of landscapes including teal and azure lakes, emerald forests, roaring rivers, and massive glaciers.
#5 – Grey Glacier
One of the most spectacular sights in Torres del Paine National Park is arguably Glacier Grey, located in the Patagonia region. Take a boat ride that puts you just a short distance from the sheer face of the glacier and its dazzling blue color that stuns visitors. We often hear how glaciers can move mountains and scour out fjords, but it’s only from this perspective that you can truly appreciate their overwhelming scale and power.
#6 – Los Flamencos National Reserve
This national reserve is located in northern Chile and houses deep blue and turquoise lagoons, salt flats, mountains and most famously, flamingos! There are seven areas of the reserve with varying weather conditions, vegetal climates, and animal populations to explore. The combined effect of the pink flocks in the blue water backed by the snow-capped Andes is truly magical and something you won’t want to miss.
#7 – Easter Island – Moai
This remote volcanic island in Polynesia is famed for its 900 monumental statues called moai, created by inhabitants during the 13th – 16th century. Begin your visit of this spectacular site by arriving pre-dawn at Ahu Tongariki, where 15 moai statues face east. Here enjoy breakfast on the beach during sunrise and take in the massive statues and ponder one of archaeology’s greatest mysteries associated with the Rapa Nui people. Next visit Rano Raraku, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was once the outdoor “workshop” where Rapa Nui carvers chipped at the volcanic rock to craft the statues that stand before us today.
#8 – Easter Island – Poike Volcano
On a scenic walk around the peninsula, you must make time to see the circular, 500-foot wide crater of the massive Poike Volcano. Your guide will draw a picture of ancient life on this massive volcano and the first bit of land that emerged from the Pacific about 3,000,000 years ago. Add in a picnic overlooking the epic landscape and the deep blue ocean that stretched off into infinity, and you’ve got yourself the perfect day.
#9 – Casablanca Valley
Casablanca Valley, situated on the coast between Santiago and Valparaiso, is Chile’s most famous wine region. Visit the family-owned Emiliana Vineyards to learn about local traditions of the region and, of course, taste some of the delicious wines of the valley.
#10 – Lake District
The lake district contains a fascinating mix of natural landmarks to see. First and foremost, you must visit the Petrohué Falls, and watch as the whitewater plunges through narrow channels in the basalt dam that a volcano eruption once threw across the river. Then, be sure to discover the Osorno Volcano and get a close-up look at the lava formations, and its steep-sided symmetrical cone. Take in the plants and animals that have slowly retaken the area over the last century and a half since the last eruption and admire the reflection of Osorno in the smooth sapphire surface of Llanquihue Lake.
#11 – Chiloé Island
After a short ferry ride across Chacao Channel, home to sea lions and a tremendous number of sea birds, arrive at Chiloé Island. Here you can enjoy a stroll on the wide beach and take a boat ride to see the only known shared breeding site for Humboldt and Magellanic penguins.
#12 – San Pedro de Atacama
The vast red Atacama Desert is said to be the driest on earth and is home to desert, salt flats, volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. Enjoy a walk through the Valley of the Moon and along some of the country’s perfectly blue lakes before watching the sun set over one of the best-known views of the Andes.
For more information about many of these locations and more, check out our editorial on Chile “Escape to the Edges”. If you’re interested in visiting Chile, take a look at our upcoming Classic Journeys Chile Culture & Walking Tours!