Squeezed between the depths of the Pacific and the volcanoes, peaks and glaciers of the Andes, Chile stretches from the driest desert in the north, to the ice fields of the south. In between you will find numerous landscapes from deep fjords and mountain-ringed lakes, to dunes, vineyards, fertile valleys and dark forests. The capital Santiago is cosmopolitan and sophisticated, while out in the Pacific, time has all but forgotten magical Easter Island and its treasure trove of moai.
best time to travel
Travel to Chile's Central Valley, Santiago and the Atacama in the north is possible year-round. The best time to travel to Patagonia and the Lake District is from mid-November through mid-March.
places to go
Great museums, top-notch restaurants, grand architecture, unique neighbourhoods, pretty parks, a dazzling backdrop and a bustling nightlife - this is Santiago, the cosmopolitan, energetic capital of Chile. Take it all in on foot, or on an easy funicular ride up Cerro San Cristóbal, the summit of which provides unparalleled views.
Valparaíso & Viña del Mar
While neighbours, Valparaíso & Viña del Mar are polar opposites. Viña is Chile’s premier beach resort and, with its casinos and restaurants, one of its glitziest. Valparaíso, with its colourful houses, steep streets and some of the best street art in Latin America has attracted poets, painters and philosophers throughout its history.
Torres del Paine
There are no views like it on earth - the towering granite pillars of Paine, reflected in the waters of Lago Nordenskjöld. Combine it with the expanse of Glaciar Grey, the azure lakes, the hiking and trekking routes meandering through forests and over mountain passes, the large herds of guanacos and the overwhelming sense of being in the wilderness, and you begin to understand why UNESCO protected Torres del Paine is a must-see for every visitor to Patagonia.
Laguna San Rafael National Park
Wetlands and pristine rain forests form the vegetation at San Rafael National Park. But the star of the show is the glacier by the same name: huge blocks of ice calve off the glacier's 4 km wide, 70 metre high front, a spectacle you can observe from a safe distance on board a zodiac or cruise boat.
Fertile farmlands, snow covered conical volcanoes, old-growth forests and clear lakes are hallmarks of Chile's Lake District. This region is home to no less than eight national parks and offers limitless options for hiking, trekking up or skiing down volcanoes, rafting and kayaking the raging rivers, canyoning and horseback riding.
Churches of Chiloé
The rural, tranquil, wet and windswept Chiloé archipelago offers densely forested wilderness, coastal villages where wooden houses are perched on stilts, along with more than 150 old wooden churches and chapels. The islands are home to an independent seafaring people whose heritage is a unique blend of Spanish and indigenous culture.
Two snow-capped volcanoes loom over picturesque Puerto Varas, a town rich in German colonial architecture. The town makes a great base for kayaking and canyoning enthusiasts, or those in pursuit of climbing, fishing, hiking and even skiing.
A mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, Pucón is set on dazzling blue Lago Villarrica. After a day in the great outdoors, the town offers great restaurants and a bustling nightlife. And for those wanting to take it easy for a day, there are the area's many thermal springs and the town's gorgeous black sand beach.
The verdant green valley floor spectacularly offset against the brown of the surrounding hills, the vine covered, quiet and extremely beautiful Elqui Valley is the heartland of Chile's pisco production.
The stunning colours of Laguna Verde seem to jump out at you as you first approach, located as it is in a landscape of subdued browns and ochres, in the shadow of the world's highest volcano.
Valle de la Luna
As the sun sets over the lunar-like landscapes of the Valley of the Moon, the landscape of volcanoes and the wind-eroded hills and sand dunes of the valley itself turn to purples, reds, pinks and golds.
Parque Nacional Lauca
Herds of llamas and vicuñas, remote geysers, snow-covered picture-perfect volcanoes, breathtaking Altiplano scenery and sparkling lakes form the centre pieces of Lauca national Park, at 3000-6300 metres, Chile's highest. Lago Chungará is one of the world's highest lakes and extremely rich in bird life.
El Tatio geysers
One of the world's largest and the earth's highest geothermal field, volcano-ringed El Tatio is fed by over 80 geysers and even more gassy fumaroles. Come at sunrise and see billowing clouds of steam and water rise high into the air.
One of the world's most remote places, and certainly one of the planet's most mystical, tiny Easter Island was home to a mysterious and now vanished culture. The remains of this culture are the famous moai: huge stone carved statues, believed to be the living faces of deified ancestors. Aside from the moai, the island offers a huge volcanic crater, great surfing and snorkelling, a ceremonial village and platforms as well as a quarry where the moai were cut.
Hike the Andes
Spectacular Torres del Paine and the mountains around Pucón and Puerto Varas offer some of the finest hiking in Latin America.
Cruise the fjords
Breathtaking sunsets, stunning fjords and mountains and fascinating wildlife - it is all in a day on a cruise through the Chilean Fjords. Choose from 3, 5, 6 or 7 nights and enjoy side trips to the far reaches of the continent, including legendary Cape Horn.
Visit with penguins
Near Punta Arenas in the fjord lands of the south, 120,000 Magellanic penguin can be found on tiny Isla Magdalena. The colony at Seno Otway is smaller but easier to reach.
Wildlife of the Andes
As you hike or drive through the Andes mountain range you have a good chance to spot llamas and its distant cousins, the alpaca, guanaco and vicuña.
The outdoors mecca of Futaleufú is famous for its rafting trips down the river with the same name. With class 3 to 5 rapids lying below snow-capped mountains and glaciers, this is one of the best rafting trips anywhere in the world.
Between September and March, huasos (cowboys) in their traditional finery steal the show at the many rodeos in the Central Valley. Experience expert horsemanship and a piece of national culture of Chile.
Colchagua valley wine tasting
A mere two-hour drive from Santiago, the pretty Colchagua Valley offers some of Chile's best wineries such as Casa Laspotolle, Montgras, Viu Manent and Laura Hartwig. The valley is particularly well known for bold, full-bodied Cabernet, Carménère, Syrah, and Malbec.
Chasing Pablo Neruda
Chile's best known literary giant, Nobel Prize-winning Pablo Neruda and his work is remembered at the three houses he lived in: Santiago's La Chascona, Valparaíso La Sebastiana and the museum on Isla Negra just to the south of Valparaíso.
Hiking Volcán Villarrica
Don your crampons, boots and ice-axe and make the four hour non-technical trek up Volcán Villarrica, just outside Pucón. The views from the rim of the smoking crater are simply stupendous.
Termas de Puyuhuapi
A great getaway set on the shores of a fjord, isolated and hard-to-access Termas de Puyuhuapi is a resort offering day and overnight guests access to steaming hotsprings.
Visit a glacier
Take an exhilarating boat ride in San Rafael National Park or Torres del Paine and witness huge blocks of ice calve off the fronts of enormous glaciers.
In the heart of the beautiful Elqui Valley, the charming town of Pisco Elqui is home to the Mistral Pisco Distillery, producers of some of the finest pisco of the country. Take a tour of a distillery, followed by a tasting of Chile's national cocktail.
Paragliding in Iquique
Winds coming off the Pacific and over the giant sand dunes create near-perfect conditions for paragliding, making Iquique the continent's capital for this exciting pastime. As you soar through the skies, enjoy incredible views of the sand dunes far below.
One of northern Chile's most popular destinations, seaside Bahía Inglesa offers a long white-sand beach and a trendy vibe, making it a great place to take a dip in the turquoise waters and soak up sun.
Northern Chile’s night skies are some of the clearest in the southern hemisphere, as witnessed by the many observatories located here. Visit Elqui Valley’s Cerro Mamalluca observatory and gaze into the endless mysterious depths of the universe.
Sunset at Valle de la Luna
Hike across this aptly named moonscape and as the sun sets see the surrounding landscape of volcanoes, wind-eroded hills and sand dunes turn to purples, reds, pinks and golds.
Tapati, Easter Island
The annual Tapati Rapa Nui, a vibrant festival celebrating the island’s Polynesian culture with traditional dancing, a bareback horse race, woodcarving, basket weaving, singing and dancing contests and surfing competitions, all set amid the mysterious moai statues.