Chile is geographically a strange country. First of all, let’s address the fact that it looks like a chilli – which is, by the way, an essential part of most Chilean dishes. From desert landscapes to lush valleys and volcanic peaks to massive glaciers – Chile’s terrain sets the perfect example of geological diversity. The Spanish-speaking country’s exotic wine culture and friendly people is an icing on the cake.
Santiago is Chile’s cosmopolitan capital – a melting pot of culture, vibrant nightlife and lip-smacking food. Go on a walking tour, and you will discover its vast museums and grand architecture alongside streetside eateries and lively restaurants. Cerro San Cristobal – the second-highest point in the city at a height of almost 850m, is a great lookout for panoramic views of Santiago. Other highlights of the city include Plaza de Armas – the main square and the focal point of the city, Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino – one of Chile’s best museums that showcases pre-Colombian history and cultures, Centro Gabriela Mistral – a cultural centre where concerts and performances take place regularly, and La Chascona – the historical house of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, turned into a museum.
Chile’s second-largest city, Valparaiso is a colourful port-city packed with poets, artists and sailors – it is famed for its stunning street-art scene and faded historical buildings. Iquique is also a highly popular port city in Chile’s northern region. The city’s tax-free status, lovely beaches and casinos are its prime highlights. Apart from that, Iquique is also a renowned surfing, paragliding and sand-boarding destination in Chile. The cities of Valdivia and Pucon, located in the country’s Sur Chico region, are the other must-visit cities in the country. While Valdivia is a university city with a student population, Pucon is a hub for adventure sports enthusiasts. You can enjoy a variety of activities in the city – hiking, white-water rafting, kayaking, skiing and snowboarding are just to name a few. Pucon also offers a wide range of accommodation as well as eating options including a few great vegetarian restaurants. The city makes a great base for exploring Parque Nacional Conguillio – a UNESCO biosphere reserve comprising beautiful lakes, canyons, forests and the active Volcan Llaima. Located in southern Chile’s Lake District, the city of Puerto Varas offers excellent views of two striking active volcanoes – Osorno and Calbuco. Inside the city, you will find traditional German-style architecture from the colonial-era.
The country has some beautiful cities, but Chile’s true beauty lies in its stunning natural treasures which range from glaciers and fjords in the south to lush forests in the centre to arid desert in the north. Chile is home to the Atacama Desert which holds the record for being the driest desert on Earth. The Atacama Desert is not only dry and hot but also preserves a history of more than 150 million years. The major highlight of the region is Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos – a vast nature reserve spreading across 740 sq km, made up of lakes, mountain peaks and salt flats. Exploring the moonlike terrain of Valle de la Luna is the must-do activity while you are in the area. North of Valle de la Luna, the world’s highest (and third-largest) geyser field, El Tatio, is a volcano surrounded area made up of 64 geysers and offers surreal views especially if you’re visiting at dawn. Shared by both Argentina and Chile, the Patagonia region features some of the most picturesque locations in South America. Located in the Chilean side, Parque Nacional Patagonia is a vast national park with steppe, forests, mountains, lakes and lagoons. This almost 700-sq-km park is home to various bird and animal life like Guanaco, huemul, puma, viscacha, fox and flamingo. Another gem in Chile’s Patagonia region is Torres del Paine National Park – a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Measuring about 1800-sq-km, the park features a diverse landscape and wildlife along with striking scenery.
Easter Island, which is located in the Pacific Ocean, is an overseas territory of Chile. Apart from that Chile has a long list of islands up its sleeve to lure visitors. Islands like Magdalena, Chiloe and the Juan Fernandez Archipelago are the most popular ones. South America’s fifth-largest island, Chiloe is known for its historic wooden Jesuit Mission churches, colorful stilt houses, rich spiritual culture and unique food. The island’s Parque Nacional Chiloé is a popular destination and features diverse wildlife and verdant forests. Magdalena island, accessible from the remote town of Punta Arenas, on the other hand, is known for its Magellanic penguin population. The Juan Fernández island group is quite far away from the mainland. It has volcanic terrain and is mainly made up of three islands with Robinson Crusoe Island being the major tourist hub.
As we mentioned before, one of Chile’s major highlights is its exotic wine culture, and the Colchagua Valley is the producer of the country’s best red wines. Hiring a bicycle to explore the beautiful valley and wineries is a favorite activity.
Chile is a country that will surprise you at many levels. From stunning landscapes to lively cities and top-class wineries to delicious foods – be prepared to experience something extraordinary at every moment of your journey.
The Atacama Desert holds the record for being the driest desert on Earth.