South America’s Chile has it all; From mountains and forests to deserts and beaches. Bounded by the Andes mountain range Chile has a geography like no other.
- Out-of-this-world landscapes in San Pedro de Atacama desert.
- The mysterious Easter Island statues on a remote pacific island
- Heart pounding adventurous activities in the lake district.
- Southern Patagonia: a Land of rock and ice.
- Santiago (Chile’s Capital) surrounded by wine regions and coastal towns
Whether you love outdoor activities like mountaineering or more leisurely pursuits like wine tasting or exploring cities; let me show you why Chile is the perfect adventure travel destination.
1. Out of this World Landscapes
The driest place on earth (non-polar) is the Chilean desert at San Pedro de Atacama, home to amazing out of this world landscapes.
This area has been used by scientists and Hollywood as locations for the planet Mars.
A climb up a giant sand dune leads to the panoramic view (above) of the Valle De La Luna (Valley of the Moon). Other highlights in the San Pedro de Atacama region include; The Altiplano lakes at Lagunas Miscanti & Miniques which provide views across sky blue lakes at a lofty elevation of 13,500ft. The scorching salt flats at Laguna Chaxa where you can spot flamingos in their natural habitat.
At 14,000ft elevation, El Tatio is the worlds highest Geyser field. Visits to the Geyser field take place at dawn when towering white clouds of steam are vented into the freezing cold air.
San Pedro de Atacama is a destination like no other on Earth.
2. The Mysterious Easter Island Statues
Easter Island is a Chilean island in the southern Pacific Ocean famous for it’s stone head statues called Moai.
Called Rapa Nui in Polynesian, it is a remote volcanic island in the Southern Pacific Ocean. A relatively small island, you can circumnavigate it in just a day by car.
Throughout Easter Island are these stone head statues called Moai. When you first see a Moai statue you are drawn to its disproportionately large head and that is why they are commonly called “Easter Island Heads”.
The white sand Anakena Beach provides a lookout into the remoteness of this little rock as the waves roll in from the vast Pacific Ocean. The volcanic crater at Rano Kau is the most visible evidence that this island was born by a volcano. And so all of the Moai statues are carved from this volcanic rock.
Once you appreciate the size and scale of these massive stone sculptures you begin to wonder; What purpose do they have? Who put them here? Read more about my journey around Easter Island in my Guest Post on The Planet D.
3. Climbing an active Volcano
The climb up Volcan Villarrica is an exhilarating full-day expedition and rewards those at the summit with unbounded views across the Chile Lake District.
As you stand on the crater’s rim you can peer into the heart of this menacing volcano; an active lava lake venting clouds of sulfur. Volcan Villarrica is one of the most active volcanoes in Chile. It is also one of the few stratovolcanoes in the world to have an active lava lake within the crater!
On the way back down you will be sliding down the slopes on toboggans (sleds) for the ultimate adrenalin fueled activity.
The best time of year to climb Villarrica is from late October into November. The weather is not too hot and the upper level chair lift is open making it an easier climb. In the summer you can’t sled because the snow has melted too much.
Claudio Retamal, UIAGM Certified Mountain Guide
This is the ultimate in adventure tourism and the highlight of any trip to Chile. Read my full article about this exhilarating experience on Volcan Villarrica!
4. The Lake District: A hub for adventurous activities
Pucon is the go-to place for adventurous activities in the Chile Lake District region.
Whether you’re visiting in winter for snow sports or summer for adventure tourism; Pucon is a year round destination fuelled by adventure tourism; climbing, trekking, horse riding, mountain biking and kayaking are all available here.
And once you’re done with the adrenaline fuelled activities there are hot springs in stunning forest canyons to bathe in!
Read my in-depth article for a round-up of the best things to do in Pucon.
5. Patagonia: A land of rock and ice
Patagonia is a region of the southern Andes covering both Chile and Argentina.
This is a magical place where cathedrals of rock and ice rise skyward.
Torres del Paine is the destination of choice here. Day trips from Puerto Natales to these soaring granite pillars are possible. Most visitors will stay for the unbounded hiking routes including the popular “W Trek“.
Access to the Argentinean side of the Alps is best made to the Argentinean towns of El Calafate and El Chalten. El Chalten is a good base for visiting the Fitz Roy range (Pictured).
Carretera Austral is a 1,000 mile unpaved road meandering through glaciers and forests in Northern Patagonia. It is perhaps one of the best road trips. Unfortunately I’ve only been able to visit the Argentinian side of Patagonia, and so a trip to Southern Chile remains on my Wishlist.
6. Wine Tasting in the Wine Regions around Santiago
There are plentiful wine regions in Chile which makes day tripping to vineyards an accessible experience for most itineraries around Chile. Chile is world renown for their production of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère varieties.
Sampling these wines can be arranged through wine tours which arrange visits to these vineyards. The Casablanca Wine Valley (above photo) is best visited from Valparaiso (see below)because it is only half an hour by road from Valparaiso.
Other wine areas in the Santigao region include Maipo Valley and Colchagua Valley.
7. Cross the Andes by Bus
Are your considering travelling to or from Argentina as part of your trip to Chile? Then don’t fly but take a bus along the panoramic Ruta 60 which runs between Chile’s Santiago and Argentina’s Mendoza (and further onto Buenos Aires).
The impressive pass at Los Caracoles looks more like a helter-skelter. Soaring among the Andes at an elevation of 10,500ft this is where Lorries do battle to overtake each other as their engines struggle to breathe in the thin air.
This epic road trip is best enjoyed from the front row seats on the upper deack of a VIP class bus. Read more about this epic bus ride from Santiago to Mendoza.
8. Santiago de Chile
Santiago is a glistening modern metropolis situated at the foothills of the Andes.
The Chilean capital has impressive vistas, pocket green spaces, cultural centers, a famous seafood market and a diverse South American architecture.
Santiago has plentiful historic buidlings to visit. Palacio de la Moneda is the official office of the President of Chile and close by is Plaza de Armas which is the main square of the city.
Read more about visiting Santiago de Chile by reading my list of 9 things to do around Santiago.
9. Coastal Towns of Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar
Escape Santiago and head to the seaside towns of colourful Valparaiso and its smaller sister, Vina Del Mar (translates as “vineyard by the sea“).
Wander the streets of multi-coloured buildings along Valparaiso’s hillsides or sun yourself on the sandy beaches at Vina Del Mar.
10. Flying: The best way to get around Chile
Chile as a country runs north-south down the spine of South America (see map below), making it particularly challenging to get about in short time periods. Whilst bus services offer luxury services the duration of these bus rides between destinations is prohibitively expensive in time.
Therefore the most efficient way to get around Chile is flying. Firstly any visit to Easter Island requires a 5 hour flight to reach! Secondly, even though Santiago is located centrally, the Atacama and Patagonia regions are at opposite ends of the country.
A bus ride between Argentina and Chile is a good option. Although I would suggest flying the route between Mendoza and Buenos Aires to save time. The bus ride between Mendoza and Santiago is a stunning trip among the Andes mountain range.
Map of top Destinations in Chile