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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.