Occupying half the west coast of South America, Chile is a long country, with a lot to see and do. Deserts, cities, national parks, Chile has it all. If you are planning a trip to South America, and especially to Patagonia, you probably expect to visit at least one place in Chile, but this beautiful country has much more to offer than just the most famous attraction in Torres del Paine National Park .
So, here is a list of the top 10 places you should visit in Chile, including some places you may not have heard of …
Sitting in the far north, Iquique will probably be your first stop in Chile if you are arriving overland. Peru. Iquique is a coastal town around Playa Cavancha, a wide sandy beach perfect for sunbathing or water sports. Take a surfing lesson, try sandboarding in the surrounding dunes or just relax and enjoy the cool outdoor atmosphere.
If you're looking for an adrenaline kick, Iquique is also a great place for paragliding. Experience the sensation of flying through the air, enjoying the breathtaking views of the Chilean coast, before landing on the beach.
San Pedro de Atacama
San Pedro de Atacama is a small tourist town located in the middle of the Atacama Desert. It is a popular destination and for good reason. The landscape here is mundane and includes everything from desert and volcanoes to lagoons and salt flats.
Given its location, it is one of the best places in the world to watch the stars. All you have to do is go out and look up, but if you want to learn more, make a walk through the stars to discover the different constellations, planets and galaxies that you can see. If you can, schedule your visit with the new moon and you will be rewarded with unparalleled views of the Milky Way.
Another popular thing to do in San Pedro is to visit Valle de la Luna (Vale da Lua) to see the incredible rock formations. While you can take a ride here, as it is only 13 km from the city, it is very easy (and much cheaper) to reach it by renting your own bicycle. Once there, you will receive a map and advice on the different trails in the valley, each taking you to a different view, but similar to Mars.
Finally, for something a little different, take a trip to Laguna Escondidas, where you will find a series of stunning blue lagoons. The bright blue water contrasted with the surrounding salt crystals is a sight to behold. In addition, it is possible to swim in some lagoons, so bring your bathing suit and float in the cool, cold water that is sometimes even saltier than the Dead Sea.
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The Chilean capital has had a bad impression lately due to political protests in Chile, however, with protests centered on a small area and therefore easily avoidable, there is really no reason not to visit Santiago.
Chile is famous for its ceviche and one of the best places to try it is the Mercado Central. Avoid the many suppliers speaking to you in English and offering Pisco Sours for free. Instead, choose a stall with a Spanish menu, where locals are eating some of the best and freshest ceviche around.
If you need any exercise after all the food, climb to the top of San Cristobal hill for panoramic views of the city. Finally, check out street art in the Bellavista neighborhood before stopping for a craft beer or cocktail at one of the many cool bars on the streets here.
Just a 2-hour bus ride from Santiago takes you to the colorful coastal city of Valparaíso. The main thing to do here is to explore the narrow streets and alleys that house some of the best street art in South America. Climb the winding stairs of Cerro Concepcion and you will discover colorful works of art of all styles that line the walls.
If you feel like spending time on the beach, take a local city bus and take the 20-minute trip to Vina del Mar. There are a few different beaches along the coast, but Renaca Beach is widely considered the best. If you want something to eat, try some seafood empanadas while you're on the coast.
Pucon is a small town by the lake, bustling in summer with locals sunbathing on the beach or eating al fresco in the city's many cafes and restaurants. What makes the city stand out is the powerful Villarrica Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in Chile, appearing in the background. Take a tour here and after a few hours of climbing, you can look at an active volcano.
If you want to get out into nature, visit the turquoise waterfalls of Ojos del Caburgua. Easily accessible by city bus, walk through the trees to discover three different waterfalls and clear blue water. Then, continue on Playa Blanca and relax beside the shore of Lake Caburgua.
If you are looking for trails, the Huerquehue National Park is a great option. Multi-day hikes are available, but you can also take a day hike through the main attractions. In addition to detecting tons of different fauna as you climb the forest, you can stop at a few large waterfalls before reaching three different lakes, each with crystal clear water reflecting the surrounding trees.
Finally, Pucon is surrounded by hot springs, so there are many different options, depending on what you are looking for and your budget. Termas Los Pozones is economical and recommended.
The island of Chiloé is the largest island in Chile and can be reached by boat or bus from Puerto Varas or Puerto Montt.
Castro (seen below) is the main city on the island and the best place to base yourself. There are buses to some of the main points, like Muelle de las Almas, with its beautiful views of the cliff, but the best way to get around the island is to rent a car.
Start your day by driving to Ancud to visit Fuerte Ahui, built in 1779 and is one of the last Latin American bastions in South America. Next to the fort, there is also a golden sand beach, perfect for a break in traffic.
Stop in Dalcahue for lunch, which has a large craft market and is known for having the best seafood on the island. Warning: when traveling between Ancud and Dalcahue, use the main road towards Castro, not the most coastal road that passes through Quemchi, as there is a large construction on that road (at the time of writing (April 20) and this will considerably increase the your travel time.
Most people have never heard of Puyuhuapi, but it is a cute little town with a big attraction that is definitely worth stopping on any Chilean itinerary.
Puyuhuapi is home to Queulat National Park and its Suspended Glacier. Take one of the city's many minibuses to the National Park and, once inside, walk the well-marked and maintained trails, taking you to different views of the glacier. The closest point of view to the glacier is the Sendero Ventisquero Colgante, a 2.5 to 3 hour hike according to the map, but if you are in good shape, you will probably reach it much faster. Boat trips are also available to see the glacier from another perspective.
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Villa Cerro Castillo
Like Puyuhuapi, most people have probably never heard of Villa Cerro Castillo, but with some calling the Cerro Castillo National Park from Torres del Paine, the new Torres del Paine will not remain unknown much longer.
Take a multi-day hike along the Las Horquetas Circuit, which takes you through the best parts of the National Park, including glaciers and pinnacles in the mountains. There are no shops here, just camps, and you will probably have most of the trail for yourself.
If you are short of time, make the day walk to the most beautiful point of the multi-day journey, the glacial lagoon at the base of Cerro Castillo. It's a challenging hike, but the turquoise lagoon surrounded by snow-capped mountains is awe-inspiring and totally worth the steep hike.
Tranquillo River is next to the coast of General Carrera Lake, and houses the incredible marble caves. Although relatively unknown to foreign visitors, the marble caves are one of the best and most exclusive attractions in Chile. And with some amazing photos being shared on social media, they certainly won't remain unknown for long.
Book a 1.5-hour boat tour at any of the agencies in town and get your camera ready for some of the most beautiful colors you've ever seen. Simply put, the marble caves are beautiful. The colors of the caves contrasted with the brilliant blue water are simply incredible. This is undoubtedly one of the best (and great value) tours you can do in Chile.
Torres del Paine
Obviously, no list of places to visit in Chile would be complete without mentioning Torres del Paine National Park. This is probably the most famous place in Chile, and the hiking circuits here are without a doubt the most famous in Patagonia.
If you are one of the few people who have never heard of Torres del Paine, it is home to the W and O hikes, which are multi-day hikes that take you to unreal scenery, including lakes, glaciers and mountains. It is one of the most impressive hikes available and a trip to Patagonia would not be complete without a visit here.
Some of the most emblematic parts of the hikes are the Glacier Gray, which can be seen from several points of view, including some epic bridges, the 770m-high British Mirador and the famous Torres de Torres. The latter are three granite peaks of the Paine Massif that hang over a lagoon and are the postcard image of the National Park (see below).
As the most popular attraction in Chile, it is also possible to visit them on a day trip from Puerto Natales, but note that the hike will be extremely busy. If you are lucky enough to visit as part of a multi-day journey, it is best to go early, before the crowd arrives and, ideally, at sunrise, where you will be rewarded with the towers turning orange as the sun rises. .
With its huge coastline, countless national parks and incredible trails, Chile is a long country, with a lot to see. Although it is home to some of the most popular trails in the world, it is easy to get off the beaten path here and discover trails and attractions that remain relatively unknown to foreign visitors. However, nothing remains unknown for a long time, so visit soon and take the time to explore all that Chile has to offer.
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