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Top 12 Things to Do When Visiting Chile

Chile is an outdoor lover’s paradise, with vast natural landscapes that will take your breath away and leave a lasting impression. It is a land of extremes with deserts, mountains, wildlife habitats, and over 2,600 miles of land stretching down South America’s western coast. This is also a land known for its delicious cuisine, local wine, vibrant arts scene.

Here are some of the top things to see and do when you visit Chile. This is a long and narrow country that many people travel by bus, but just be aware that some sights are hundreds of miles apart from each other!

Patagonia Patagonia
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What Is It? It would be a shame to visit Chile and never experience the wild, untamed beauty of Patagonia.

Why Do It? This region is in the southernmost tip of the country, where you’re practically next to Antarctica and at the end of the world. 

Good to Know: The towering Andes mountains have led some people to compare Chile to Switzerland because of the impressive Alps mountain range there.

Santiago Art & Culture Scene Santiago
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Santiago Art & Culture Scene

What Is It? Most tourists who plan a trip to Chile begin their journey in Santiago, which has the country’s biggest international airport. While you’re in town, make sure to check out the city’s art scene because there are lots of local galleries worth visiting. 

Why Do It? Some of the country’s top museums are here, including La Chascona and Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino. 

Good to Know: This is also a really fun place to go out to bars after dark, especially in the Providencia and Bellavista neighborhoods.

Easter Island Easter Island, Chile
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Easter Island

What Is It? One of the most famous and most mysterious sites in Chile is Easter Island, which has been the feature of many documentaries. 

Why Do It? This area is famous for its stone statues that are off the coast of Chile on the island of Rapa Nui. The statutes were carved from the volcanic rock; however, archeologists don’t actually know why they were carved or how they were transported to the island’s coast. 

Good to Know: When you visit, make sure to stop by the museum and the volcanic crater. Active travelers can make the most of this trip by going surfing and snorkeling along the island as well.

Torres Del Paine and the W Trek Cuernos Del Paine
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Torres Del Paine and the W Trek

What Is It? While in Patagonia, one of the must-see spots here is Torres del Paine, which is a series of distinctive rocky spires that mark the region. 

Why Do It? This is a national park known for its stunning glaciers, mountains and lakes. 

Good to Know: The big landmark here is the Towers of Paine, which is a set of three peaks that have been formed by granite and glacial ice. The W Trek is a famous long-distance backpacking hike.

Snow Sports in Chile Chile
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Snow Sports in Chile

What Is It? Lots of people are interested in visiting Chile because of the awesome opportunities to ski and snowboard here. 

Why Do It? Portillo is one of the best places for advanced skiers because it has some big challenges if you know what you’re doing.

Good to Know: For the ultimate adventure, try heli-skiing at Valle Nevado, which is a huge resort and ultra-modern.

La Serena Beaches La Serena
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La Serena Beaches

What Is It? Since Chile borders the western coast of South America, there are lots of lovely beach towns to visit here. 

Why Do It? One of the best is La Serena, which is an old city established in the 1500s and right along the beach. There’s a quaint main square to talk a walk around in town and lots of historic churches to see as well. 

Good to Know: There are several beach areas to visit, so head to the Avenida del Mar and the Avenue of the Sea to soak up some sun and put your toes in the sand.

Elqui Valley Elqui Valley
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Elqui Valley

What Is It? From La Serena, you can go on to explore more of the Elqui Valley in Chicle, which is about seven hours north of Santiago. 

Why Do It? Here you’ll find mountains and valleys in contrast with each other and some of the country’s wine regions. Make a point to stop by a pisco distillery and stay for a tasting to enjoy some local flavors. 

Good to Know: This remote area is also ideal for taking a nighttime walk and looking up at the starry skies on clear nights.

Seaport City of Valparaiso Colorful buildings of the UNESCO World Heritage city of Valparaiso
Credit: Colorful buildings of the UNESCO World Heritage city of Valparaiso by © F11photo - Dreamstime.com

Seaport City of Valparaiso

What Is It? Valparaiso is a coastal city that’s a popular destination for tourists

Why Do It? The terrain is hilly and scenic, and the architecture is fascinating as well. This is a great place to wander around and people-watch. The houses and buildings here are very brightly colored, and there’s a laid-back bohemian vibe that is welcoming and relaxing to be a part of. 

Good to Know: This is an artsy town and many people enjoy wandering the streets to look at the colorful and creative graffiti art.

Atacama Desert Atacama Desert
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Atacama Desert

What Is It? Although you might expect the world’s driest desert to be in Africa or the Middle East, it’s actually the Atacama Desert in Chile. 

Why Do It? Some areas of this desert haven’t had rain 400+ years! Here you can explore the salt marshes, volcanoes, high elevations, and starry night skies. Make a point to see the Valle de la Luna, which is a landscape created by winds, floods, and sand that resembles the surface of the moon. 

Good to Know: If possible, plan your trip to the Atacama Desert for sunset because the colors really come alive then and the landscape creates breathtaking silhouettes across the skyline.

San Pedro De Atacama Church of San Pedro de Aracama
Credit: Church of San Pedro de Aracama by bigstock.com

San Pedro De Atacama

What Is It? While you’re in the desert region, plan to stop in San Pedro De Atacama, which is a small town outside of the desert in northern Chile. 

Why Do It? You will notice Spanish colonial influences in the architecture of churches, homes, and the town square. This is a wonderful stop for foodies because there are so many delicious culinary options in this area.

Good to Know: This is also a popular place to join a tour group and learn more about the region. Tour offerings include the El Tatio Geyser, hot springs, salt caves, salt flats, and mountain lagoons.

Lake District Lake District
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Lake District

What Is It? Another wonderful area for outdoor lovers to explore in Chile is the Lake District. 

Why Do It? This luscious green area is known for its wide variety of adventure sports, like kayaking, mountain biking, and rafting. Fly fishing is popular in the Lake District, and the rivers here are full of large trout. This is also an ideal place to go for a long hike. 

Good to Know: The nearby town of Pucon makes a great home base for travelers looking to spend time in this pristine region. Pucon is known as Chile’s adventure capital, and there are lots of other authentic small towns worth visiting as well.

Rapel Valley Wineries Rapel Valley Wineries
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Rapel Valley Wineries

What Is It? Chilean wine is an international favorite, so head to the Rapel Valley to visit a few local wineries and vineyards. 

Why Do It? The Colchagua Valley is famous for Syrah, Carmenère, and Malbec wines. Many of the wineries offer tours, and the tourism office at Santa Cruz makes an ideal starting point to get information and plan your winery route. Most of the wines produced here are red wines, but you can also find some local Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines here. 

Good to Know: To do a little wine research before your trip, shop for Rapel Valley wines labeled as either Colchagua or Cachapoal Valley.

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