Chile is a stunning and diverse country that runs along the western edge of South America. It offers various experiences, so it is a location that will suit many types of travelers. The country has an extensive coastline along the Pacific Ocean, so it is a fantastic place to visit for a beach vacation. However, it also has magnificent rural landscapes that will suit those looking for outdoor adventures and fascinating cities that combine an urban buzz with an insight into Chile's history and culture. No matter what part of the country you are visiting, you will find amazing activities and attractions to enjoy that will contribute to a memorable experience of your time in South America. To help your plan your vacation, here are the 20 best things to do in Chile for first-timers.
20. Sample the Wines in the Wine Region
One of the products for which Chile is best known is its wine, and the country has a stunning wine region. Chile's wine region is a couple of hour's drive from Santiago, and there are many vineyards that are open to visitors for tours of the facilities and wine tasting opportunities. Some of the vineyards also have their own restaurants.
19. Admire the Volcanoes and Waterfalls at Puerto Varas
Puerto Varas differs from many other Chilean towns, as it is a German settlement that has a European vibe rather than a South American style. The town has pretty and colorful buildings that are set around a glistening lake. In the area surrounding the town, there are some stunning lakes and spectacular waterfalls to visit.
18. Hike Through the Wilderness to the Argentinian Border
In most places, you need to drive or take a plane trip to cross the border of a country. However, it is possible to hike to the Argentinian border during your stay in Chile. If you go to Villa O'Higgins, you can hike through the Patagonian wilderness to El Chalten, which is just over the border in Argentina. The hike will take a few days to complete, and you will need to sleep at campsites along the way, but you can boast that you have visited two countries during your travels.
17. Enjoy Traditional Chilean Cuisine
Your trip to Chile is not complete until you have sampled the traditional Chilean cuisine. It is a vital aspect of your experience of the Chilean culture. Traditional Chilean cuisine consists of many flavorsome soups, stews, and bread says Trekking Chile. Rather than only visiting the chain restaurants in the cities, visit the smaller restaurants that have a menu of traditional Chilean cuisine and local specialties.
16. Explore Vicente Perez Rosales National Park
Vicente Perez Rosales National Park was the first national park in Chile, as it was established in 1926. The best place to access the park, which is within the Chilean Lake District, is from the city of Puerto Montt. One of the main attractions within the national park is the Petrohue Falls, where the Petrohue river cascades into the Todos Los Santos Lake. The park is also known for the diversity of its wildlife.
15. See the Mylodon Cave Natural Monument
The Mylodon Cave Natural Monument is close to Puerto Natales in the Patagonia area of Chile. It is part of the End of the World scenic drive, and it consists of a set of easily accessible caves set around a rock formation called the Devil's Chair. The main cave at the monument is the Milodon Cave, which is where the remains of an extinct prehistoric creature called the Mylodon were discovered. It is an interesting cave to explore, and it tunnels 200-meters below ground. There is a marked trail leading to the top of the cave, and from this viewpoint, you can enjoy views over the Eberhard fjord.
14. Climb or Hike in Cochamo Valley
Named after the Cochamo River running through the valley, Cochamo Valley is known as the Yosemite of Chile. It is a popular area for both hiking and climbing. There are multiple hiking trails to explore, but one you should definitely include on your itinerary is the Cowboy Trail. This trail has an interesting history. Not only was it once a cattle trail, but it was also used by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as part of their escape route when they fled the United States.
13. Go Skiing in Valle Nevado
Many people do not think of Chile as a skiing destination, but there are some fantastic places to enjoy skiing in this country. One of the top skiing destinations in Chile is the Valle Nevado. The ski resort was established in 1988, and it is easily accessed via public transport from Santiago. At the highest point in the resort, you are 3,000-meters above sea level.
12. Take a Trip to Chiloe Island
Chiloe Island is Chile's second-largest island, and it is famous for raining almost every day. It has become a popular day trip for visitors to Chile. The island is filled with greenery, and it is home to 16 UNESCO listed churches, says Chile Travel. The island is accessible by boat, and the boat trip is an adventure as you can watch the dolphins and blue whales in their natural habitat.
11. Relax in a Hot Spring
Wanderlust says that Chile is a hot spot for thermal springs. If you head to the Los Rios region, you will find the Termas Geomatricas. It is a popular attraction amongst hikers who want to soak and relax their muscles between long treks while admiring the magnificent views around them, including Ojos del Salado, which is the highest active volcano in the world. Termas Geomatricas has 17 hot pools, and it sits by waterfalls where people stand to cool off.
10. Visit the Ghost Town of the Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works
An unusual attraction to visit during your visit to Chile is the Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works. It is located in the port city of Iquique in the Pampa Desert, and it became a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. Once home to a bustling community, it is now a ghost town. From around 1880, more than 200 saltpeter mines were worked by workers from Chile, Peru, and Bolivia. A visit to the site will give you an insight into the tough conditions in which they worked.
9. Hike or Camp in Pumalin Park
Those who enjoy hiking while on vacation should consider exploring Pumalin Park. It covers a vast area of 988,000-acres, and it is one of Chile's most important conservation areas. However, it was not established as a nature sanctuary until 2005. The park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including the Alerce, which is the oldest tree species in the world. Not only are there are multiple trails to explore, but there are also several campgrounds within the park for those who want to stay overnight.
8. Go to the Mountain Lakes in Lauca National Park
Nature-lovers should head to the mountain lakes in the Lauca National Park. The area is home to more than 140 bird species, including Chilean flamingos, Andean condors, crested ducks, and Andean geese. You will also see llama roaming around in their natural habitat. This national park consists of mountain ranges, high plains, and multiple lakes. Some of the best-known mountain lakes in the park are Chungura and Cotacotani. There are also some interesting archaeological sites within this park.
7. See the Penguins at Isla Magdalena
The best place to see penguins in their natural habitat in Chile is at Isla Magdalena, says The Culture Trip. The island, which is just off the coast of Punta Arenas, is home to thousands of penguins. It is possible to access the island by taking a boat trip.
6. Relax on the Beach in Valparaiso
With such a long and beautiful coastline, it is little wonder that many people chose Chile as their vacation destination to enjoy a relaxing beach holiday. One of the most popular beaches amongst tourists is at Valparaiso, which is the third-largest city in Chile. There is a pretty harbor, and the beach offers lots of fun activities for all the family to enjoy. However, there is so much more to explore in Valparaiso, so you should try to prise yourself away from the beach. The city is known for its unique architecture and its old cobbled streets. Two of the top attractions in this city are Cochrane's Museum and the Naval and Maritime Museum.
5. Enjoy a Cultural Experience in Santiago
Santiago is Chile's capital, so it is likely that you will spend at least some of your time in the city if you are touring the country. Although Santiago is now a modern metropolis, the city plays an important role in Chile's history and culture. Therefore, it is one of the top destinations to enjoy a Chilean cultural experience. Fodors recommends heading away from the city's modern neighborhoods and along the cobbled streets of Santiago's Old Town. There, you will see examples of architecture from different eras, and the district is home to some of the country's top museums and galleries that will give you an insight into Chilean history and culture.
4. Spend Time in the Chilean Lake District
The Chilean Lake District is similar to the European Alps, and it stretches from Temuco to Puerto Montt. It sits at the foothills of the Andean mountains and boasts a unique landscape of lakes, volcanoes, farmlands, and forests. Some of the activities that people enjoy in the Chilean Lake District include volcano climbing, hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, skiing, canoeing, kayaking, and white water rafting.
3. Take a Trip to Easter Island & Rapa Nui National Park
Easter Island's famous stone structures are one of the best-known tourist attractions in Chile, despite the fact that Easter Island is more than 2,200 miles from the mainland. Due to the distance, you cannot take a day trip to the island as the journey is too long. Instead, you should set aside a couple of days in your vacation itinerary to visit the island, as the effort is worthwhile. This Polynesian island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the 887 stone statues. The most famous are the 15 statues that sit on the largest Moai platform on the coast of Ahu Tongariki in Rapa Nui National Park. The beaches within the park are another reason to visit the island.
2. Go to the Atacama Desert and the Valle de la Luna
The Atacama Desert lies close to the border between Chile and Bolivia, and at its heart is the Valle de la Luna, which translates as the Valley of the Moon. It was given its name as it is an inhospitable environment that looks like the surface of the moon. The Valley of the Moon is one of the most photographed parts of Chile due to its unique and beautiful landscape.
Hike in Torres Del Paine National Park
According to Planetware, the best thing to do in Chile for first-timers is to hike in the Torres Del Paine National Park. It is one of Chile's most significant natural landscapes, and it is the top tourist destination in the country. Located in southern Patagonia, the Torres del Paine Natural Park is a breathtaking area that consists of glaciers, mountains, rivers, lakes, and forests. Due to the diversity of the landscape, it is frequented by those who enjoy a wide range of outdoor pursuits. There are multiple hiking trails through the park, although you should use a guide if you intend to attempt any of the longer treks.
Written by Liz Flynn
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