A growing destination among nature lovers and adventure travelers, Chile offers haunting reminders of lost civilizations, surreal desert and mountain landscapes, award winning wines and seafood, and one of the most cosmopolitan cities in South America. With a country as culturally rich as this one, it can be tough to decide where to begin planning a vacation. Here is a list of the top five must-see destinations on a Chile tour to help you get started.
In the middle of the southeastern Pacific Ocean, the enchanted Easter Island is home to the legendary Moai statues that stand tall as they watch over this volcanic island’s impressive landscape. Built by the island’s inhabitants between 1250 and 1500, these minimalist statues were thought to be the living faces of deified ancestors and were erected facing inwards with their backs to the spirit world located in the sea.
Moai of various shapes and sizes scattered all over the island now form the legacy of the Rapa Nui civilization, mostly wiped out by a combination of slave raiding and diseases brought over by Europeans.
One of the most interesting sites on the island is the Rano Raraku quarry, the birthplace of the Moai, where the islanders worked diligently for generations to create these impressive works of art by hand. This quarry still contains around 300 unfinished statues in different stages of completion.
Travelers can visit the Orongo ceremonial village, where petroglyphs depict stories of the Birdman cult and its rituals. Each year, young Rapa Nui would race to retrieve a Sooty Tern egg from the nearby islets, with the winner honored as birdman of the year. Easter Island, with its rich and complex history, provides a truly unique cultural experience in one of the most remote places on Earth.
Santiago de Chile
Surrounded by the cordillera of the Andes, and only a few hours’ drive from the ocean, Santiago offers appealing activities regardless of the season. Travelers should head up to Cerro San Cristobal on a clear day for an amazing view of Santiago and the surrounding cordillera. Spend your day roaming the streets and parks, absorbing the atmosphere of the city and sampling the local cuisine. When the sun sets, hit the town and discover Santiago‘s diverse nightlife.
For those weary of big cities, attractive day tours outside of Santiago provide the perfect escape. To the west lie the twin cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar with their own peculiar charms. During summer, Viña is transformed into Chile’s prime beach resort where you can spend your days by the sea and your nights in the elegant casino.
In autumn, the grape harvest enlivens the picturesque wineries in the surrounding valleys. And if you happen to visit Santiago in the winter, you are in luck, as this lively city is only an hour from the best ski slopes in the country.
San Pedro, a village of no more than 2000 inhabitants, is perfectly situated to serve as a base for exploring the surrounding natural wonders of the Atacama Desert. You’ll be astonished to discover the amount of incredible sights and various activities accessible to travelers from this tiny desert outpost.
Witness impressive sights such as the spewing geysers of El Tatio, the surreal landscapes of the Moon Valley, and the flamingo dotted lakes of Salar de Atacama in Chile´s largest salt flats. If you’re left begging for more, hop onto a mountain bike and spend the day exploring archeological sites such as the Pukara de Quitor, followed by complete relaxation in the thermal pools of Puritama.
Torres del Paine
Puerto Natales is the starting point for an expedition to the incredibly scenic Torres del Paine National Park. Travelers can take one day or multi-day hikes and can either camp or choose to stay in picturesque wilderness lodges.
Enjoy the scenic beauty of the park, as you hike along lakes and waterfalls, appreciating the local wildlife such as condors, rhea, and guanacos that can be spotted along the hiking trails. The monolithic Blue Towers, with their jagged rugged beauty, create a spectacular backdrop to your Torres del Paine adventure.
The growing port town of Puerto Montt is the perfect base for exploring Chile’s stunning lake region with all its national parks, lakes, and volcanoes, as well as the nearby island of Chiloe. A quick trip to Puerto Varas puts you in the ideal spot for a magnificent view of the snow-capped Osorno volcano as it reflects off the tranquil waters of Lake Llanquihue. Other local sights include Petrohue Falls and the emerald waters of Todos Los Santos Lake.
Chiloe’s historic isolation from the mainland has made it a very unique location with its own specific culture that attracts not only foreign tourists but also piques the interest of Chileans. Apart from learning about the island´s cultural heritage, visitors are treated to the fresh seafood that forms an inseparable part of Chiloe’s soul. Stroll among the wooden houses hunting for local handicrafts or go for a nature hike and get to know Chiloe’s wildlife inhabitants.
Latin America for Less is a group of travel experts who live, work, eat, and breathe all things South America. Their inspiration stems from a deep appreciation for the beauty and diversity that make this continent so special.