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.

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.

Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon)
Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon)

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.

El Tatio Geysers steam clouds venting, San Pedro de Atacama
El Tatio Geysers steam clouds venting, San Pedro de Atacama

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.

Easter Island statues called "Moai" at Ahu Tongariki
Easter Island statues called “Moai” at Ahu Tongariki

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.

Rano Kau Crater
Rano Kau Crater

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.

Villarrica Volcano Climb
Villarrica Volcano Climb

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.

Sliding down Villarica Volcano
Sliding down Villarica Volcano

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.

Sunset over Villarrica Volcano
Sunset over Villarrica Volcano

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!

This waterfall is a horse ride and trek from Pucon
This waterfall is a horse ride and trek from Pucon

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.

Patagonia; This is Mount Fitz Roy on the Argentina side of Patagonia, adjacent to Torres del Paine on the Chile side
Patagonia; This is Mount Fitz Roy on the Argentina side of Patagonia, adjacent to Torres del Paine on the Chile side

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.

Casablanca Wine Valley Vineyard
Casablanca Wine Valley Vineyard

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).

View from front row seats
View from front row seats

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.

Los Caracoles Route 60
Los Caracoles Route 60

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.

View from San Cerro Cristobal
View from San Cerro Cristobal

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.

Palacio de La Moneda
Palacio de La Moneda

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“).

View of colourful Valparaiso from Cerro Artilleria
View of colourful Valparaiso from Cerro Artilleria

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.

LAN Airlines Plane at Calama Airport, San Pedro de Atacama
LAN Airlines (Now LATAM Airlines) Plane at Calama Airport, San Pedro de Atacama

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

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Southern Patagonia: -50.656426, -73.454590
Lake District: -39.281168, -72.193909
Valparaiso: -33.047238, -71.612688
San Pedro de Atacama: -22.908707, -68.199716
Easter Island: -27.112990, -109.349581
Santiago: -33.437830, -70.650449

 

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