Things to do in Chile
Things to do in Chile
There are numerous things to do in Chile, from visiting the capital of Santiago to marvelling at the natural landscapes of the Atacama Desert and Torres del Paine, to pondering the moai of Easter Island.
Santiago and Valparaíso
The cosmopolitan capital of Chile is a buzzing metropolis, set against the spectacular backdrop of the snow-capped Andes. Santiago’s historical attractions, including the elaborately decorated cathedral and the newly remodelled and outstanding Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, are complemented by hillside lanes, leafy parks, booming street cafes and increasingly sophisticated restaurants that all add to the city’s vibrancy and charm.
The former principal port of Valparaíso is within easy reach on the coast. The cable-drawn funicular elevators running along steep hills and colourful houses are reminders of its glorious past.
One of the driest places on Earth, the Atacama Desert is truly one of the most astonishing, with extraordinary landscapes of sand dunes, purple-shaded volcanoes, crusty salt flats, spewing geysers, green oases and turquoise lakes, as well as numerous other sightseeing attractions.
Surrounded by arid mountain ranges, the small village of San Pedro de Atacama is the base for exploring the area. At daybreak, watch the Tatio geysers spout steam and boiling water high into the air, feel the salt crack under your feet at the world’s third-largest salt flat and see pink flamingoes mirrored in intensely blue lagoons.
Torres del Paine National Park
Stretching across southern Chile and Argentina, Patagonia is a land of rugged and untamed wilderness. The remote Torres del Paine National Park, a 5-hour drive through the vast steppe from the southerly city of Punta Arenas, possesses the characteristic unspoilt landscape of this windswept region. The soaring granite towers and cuernos of the park are surrounded by shimmering lagoons and glaciers, dense forests and tumbling waterfalls. This strikingly beautiful area is home to a wealth of wildlife including guanacos, flightless rheas, condors and flamingoes, and can be explored by boat, vehicle or on foot.
Snow-capped volcanoes, rivers and deep blue lakes dominate the scenery of the Chilean Lake District. The southern region can be best explored from Puerto Varas, set on a lake with stunning views of the cones of the Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes. This charming German-influenced town is a starting point for one of the most spectacular Andean lake crossings into Argentina, as well as day trips to the nearby national parks of Alerce Andino and Vicente Perez Rosales.
Reached by ferry and not far off the coast is the distinctive and mysterious island of Chiloé, still preserving its rich folkloric traditions and mythology. Its main attractions are the 16th-century Unesco world heritage wooden churches, the colourful stilt-houses and quaint fishing villages, and many birds, including a colony of Humboldt and Magellanic penguins.