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Sunset over the Atacama Desert | © Lucy Pierce
Sunset over the Atacama Desert | © Lucy Pierce
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The Most Unique Experiences to Have in Chile

Picture of Lucy Pierce
Updated: 25 August 2017
Chile draws tourists primarily for its landscapes, spanning pastel sunsets over the rolling dusty Atacama desert through to crisp, clear days in Patagonia. A little out of the ordinary and by no means average, this is a country that really does lend itself to some pretty unique experiences. Here’s our pick of the best.

Celebrate the week-long Fiestas Patrias

The famed Fiestas Patrias in Chile becomes a whirlwind of fondas (food joints), cueca dancing and anticucho snacks. Despite only supposed to be celebrated on September 18-19 every year, schools and universities tend to extend the festivities throughout the week, with games and traditional food and costumes being at the forefront.

Live like a local in Chiloé

Chiloé is where the minga celebration takes place, when locals move houses on stilts by floating them across the archipelago. After, the house is attached to oxen who drag it to its new location. Chiloé is also a great place to try the traditional curanto, consisting of seafood, meat and vegetables, which is steamed in a hole, covered with native leaves and cooked over hot stones.

Cooking curanto
Cooking curanto | © madhseason/Flickr

Drink some of the world’s finest wines

Surrounding Santiago are the lush valleys that produce world famous wines, from Carménère to Cabernet Sauvignon. If you want to explore, you can drink your way around the vineyards in the Casablanca, Maipo and Colchagua valleys. While you’re here, paying a visit to a winery is a great way to learn the tricks of the trade from the locals.

Caliterra vineyard
Caliterra vineyard | © Viña Caliterra/Flickr

Watch the sun set over the driest desert in the world

San Pedro de Atacama boasts a wide range of stunning landscapes, one of which is Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley), so named as it looks like something you’d find on Mars. Characterised by sculpted sand dunes and jagged peaks of salt and rock, there really is something magical about watching the sun set over the valley, with the rustic hues converting the landscape into a blazing fire of red.

Sunset over the Atacama Desert
Sunset over the Atacama Desert | © Lucy Pierce

Climb the largest volcano in the world

Ojos del Salado is found amongst the Andes Mountains on the Argentine-Chilean border, near to Copiapó in the Atacama region. Soaring high above the clouds at 6,893m (22,615 feet), it is the largest active volcano in the world. The volcano’s crater lake is presumed to be the highest lake in the world, at 6,390m (20,965 feet) on the eastern side. Due to its dry climate, most of the year around there is no snow, making it easier to climb – though that said, it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Ojos del Salado summit
Ojos del Salado summit | © sergejf/Flickr

Meet the moai residents of Easter Island

Hop on a flight from Santiago to Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui and Isla de Pascua. Here you can unearth the island’s mysterious history through the 887 moai statues, petroglyphs and islander’s traditions. If you’re fortunate enough to visit during the Tapati Festival, you’ll really get a sense of island life. After which, relax on the pristine beaches and bathe in the crystal sea.

Moai statues
Moai statues | © Lee Coursey/Flickr

View extraterrestrial skies

Both the Elqui Valley and San Pedro de Atacama are renowned by astronomers, stargazers and romantics as the prime locations to play dot to dot with the stars. Due to clear weather, lack of pollution, the celestial skies really are a wonder in themselves – be warned, you could become fixated for hours.

Star trails circling the South Celestial Pole
Star trails circling the South Celestial Pole | © European Southern Observatory/Flickr

Hike around the stunning Torres del Paine National Park

Featuring on the bucket list of every keen trekker, the Torres del Paine National Park offers sublime views of natural beauty. Whether you want to commit to multi-day camping trips, or want to pamper yourself in luxury hotels that boast second-to-none views, Patagonia is an absolute must!

Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine | © Lucy Pierce

Visit the largest geyser field in the Southern Hemisphere

Geyser El Tatio and the surrounding geysers near San Pedro de Atacama make up the third largest field in the world, after Yellowstone National Park and the Valley of Geysers in Russia. With over 80 active geysers that unfortunately no longer spurt as high as they used to due to exploration the nearby fields, the place is still a sight, situated at 4,200m (13,780 feet) above sea level.

Geyser El Tatio
Geyser El Tatio | © Lucy Pierce

Meet the Chilean penguins

Go to the end of the world and back to visit Chilean penguins, and watch their happy feet tapping away as they waddle around Isla Magdalena, near Punta Arenas. Here you will find one of the largest penguin colonies of Magellanic penguins – though if you haven’t seen a sufficient amount of penguins, take a trip to Isla Damas near La Serena, where you can also spot Humbodlt penguins.

Skiing in the Andes

The Chilean ‘three valleys’ that consist of Valle Nevado, El Colorado and La Parva are some of the best resorts in the Southern Hemisphere, with guaranteed snow. What’s more, Chilean winter is during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer, so ski addicts can have the best of both worlds, year-round.

Valle Nevado
Valle Nevado | © Lucy Pierce