This skinny, narrow country snaking down the coast of South America is easily one of the most diverse places in the continent. The lava-fueled volcanos, sun-soaked beaches, and massive glaciers are just a few of the extreme landscapes you’ll find in Chile.
If you’re looking to spend any amount of time in the outdoors, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the sheer number of activities you’ll have at your disposal. Chile is an excellent destination for hiking, surfing, paragliding, and swimming. No matter what you’re interested in seeing, the breathtaking natural beauty of this pristine country is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression.
17. Marble Caves
With swirls of blues, greens, blacks, and yellows, the Marble Caves is one of Chile’s most extraordinary natural wonders. This intricate cave system is made up of solid marble and was carved over thousands of years by water erosion. Juxtaposed against the bright turquoise waves of the lake, it’s a spectacular sight you need to see to believe.
The Marble Caves are located in General Carrera Lake, the biggest lake in the country. You will need to join a boat tour or hire a kayak if you want to see the caves up close and personal.
16. Bahía Inglesa
Treat yourself to a relaxing beach vacation with a trip to Bahía Inglesa. Located near the Port of Caldera, this coastal village has everything you could possibly want – white-sand beaches, warm waters, and plenty of shops and restaurants to keep you entertained.
While many people come to sunbathe on the beach, Bahía Inglesa also caters to those looking to add a bit more adventure to their trip. Spend the afternoon windsurfing on the rolling waves or diving deep beneath the ocean’s surface.
15. Isla Magdalena
Come to Isla Magdalena and visit a few of Chile’s most adorable residents! This pint-sized island is home to the Magellanic penguin colony; the birds come to nest on the shores during the breeding season. Between September and March, you’ll be able to see more than 120,000 penguins (many of which are incredibly friendly to humans).
While you can’t touch them, there is a designated walkway that takes you around their natural habitat. Even though you should keep your distance, you still should be able to snap a few epic photos of these curious, waddling creatures.
14. Mamalluca Observatory
Take a star-studded journey across different galaxies, planets, and constellations with a fascinating tour of the Mamalluca Observatory. The observatory is located high in the mountains in the Region of Coquimbo, where it’s protected against the noisy light pollution of the city. The optimal conditions of the sky mean you’ll be able to see far past our own planet.
Take a close look at Saturn’s rings, or gaze at the craters and crevices on the moon. You might also get to see the Omega Nebula, which is located 6,000 lightyears away from earth. The observatory’s knowledgeable guides also do a great job of explaining the different astronomical features.
13. Paragliding in Iquique
The beachside city of Iquique is believed to be one of the best paragliding destinations in the world. With miles of coastline and unparalleled views of the ocean, Inquique’s natural landscape is breathtaking on its own. But when you’re floating hundreds of feet in the air, it’s surprisingly even more beautiful than from the shores.
You’ll find several paragliding companies located throughout the city. Whether it’s your first time or 50th time, you’ll never be bored while you’re paragliding around Chile.
12. Robinson Crusoe Island
Situated off the sparkling Chilean coast is the remote Robinson Crusoe Island. It’s the second-largest island in the Juan Fernandez Islands, although there are only a few hundred inhabitants. It has remained relatively untouched by tourism, except for scuba divers interested in exploring the sunken WWI shipwreck off the coast.
Robinson Crusoe Island is most notably known as the island that inspired Daniel Defoe’s novel, Robinson Crusoe. Although the book was set in the Caribbean, it is believed to be written about Alexander Selkirk, who was marooned on Robinson Crusoe Island from 1704 to 1709.
11. Surfing in Pichilemu
The picturesque beach town of Pichilemu is a surfer’s paradise. While the water isn’t as warm as it is in other parts of the world, the barreling waves make ideal conditions for surfers of all skill levels.
If you’re just hopping on a board for the first time, you might consider learning at Playa Principal de Pichilemu. The calm, shallow waves and abundance of lifeguards make it an ideal place to learn how to surf. Most advanced surfers will want to ride the waves at Infernillo or Punta de Lobos. Here, waves can reach up to 50-feet high.
10. Hiking Volcán Villarrica
Hiking Volcán Villarrica is not for the faint of heart. It’s one of the most active volcanoes in all of South America, with the most recent eruption occurring in 2015. If you’re up for the challenge, hiking to the summit will be one of the most memorable activities you’ll ever experience.
From start to finish, it takes roughly nine hours to complete the hike. The icy hike to the peak can be very steep and requires crampons, ice picks, and even gas masks (to protect yourself from the sulphuric fumes.)
9. Churches of Chiloé
Dotted along the coast of Chile are 70 churches known as the Churches of Chiloé. Many of the churches were built by Jesuits, who came over from Spain in the 18th and 19th-centuries. But unlike traditional European architecture, these churches were constructed with timber. However, the Churches of Chiloé are still pristine examples of Europe’s influence on Latin America.
Although you may not have enough time to visit every single church, there are a few that you should miss. The Church of Quinchao is one of the largest in the area. You should also plan to visit the bright yellow Church of San Francisco and the three-peaked Church of Tenaún.
8. Valle de la Luna
The stunning Valle de la Luna looks as if you’re walking on the surface of another planet. This lunar landscape is located in the heart of the Atacama desert and is comprised of giant dunes, jagged mountains, and unique rock formations.
For spectacular views of Valle de la Luna, make sure to stay for sunset. As the sun disappears behind the mountainous backdrop, the sky is painted in bright shades of orange, pink, and purple.
7. Cerro San Cristobal
Dominating the Santiago skyline is Cerro San Cristobal, one of Chile’s most recognizable natural landmarks. Named after St. Christopher, this tree-lined hill boasts some of the best views in the entire city. From the summit, you’ll be able to look down on the bustling streets of Santiago.
It takes 45-minutes to walk to the top of the hill. There’s also a cable car that can take you to the summit. Besides enjoying the sweeping views, you can also take a stroll through Santiago Metropolitan Park or a dip in one of the two outdoor pools.
6. San Rafael Glacier
The San Rafael Glacier is one of the largest ice caps in the entire Northern Patagonian ice fields. Unlike other glaciers, San Rafael Glacier is surrounded by lush green jungles, which creates an unusual backdrop against the stark blue colors of the ice.
It’s only accessible by water, which means you’ll need to plan ahead of time if you want to visit. However, many scientists believe that it might disappear entirely in just a few years, so it’s best to visit the San Rafael Glacier as soon as you can.
5. Geysers del Tatio
The geothermal fields at Geysers del Tatio is a bubbling hot spot located on the foot of several stratovolcanoes. As the largest geyser field in the Southern Hemisphere, Geysers del Tatio has over 60 different geysers and over 300 different hot springs. While most geyser fountains shoot up three to four feet, some can exceed heights of over 30-feet.
After a day of trekking through the volcanic fields, treat yourself to a relaxing soak in one of the springs. While some springs are too hot to even go near, there are a few that are ideal hot tub temperature.
4. Lauca National Park
The uncultivated beauty of Lauca National Park is a worthwhile adventure for those visiting Chile. Located in the Andean Mountain range in the north, it continues to attract visitors looking to explore the diverse, rugged landscape of Chile’s outdoors.
Not only are you surrounded by snow-capped volcanos and cobalt blue lakes, but you’ll also get to view a diverse variety of wildlife. Alpacas, flamingos, and more than 130 different bird species roam around the sprawling Lauca National Park.
As one of Chile’s most picturesque towns, Valparaíso is affectionately known as the “Jewel of the Pacific.” This portside town is lined with brightly colored houses, boutique art galleries, and winding cobblestone streets.
Some of the country’s most influential sights can be found in Valparaíso, including the first library, the oldest Spanish language newspaper, and even the oldest stock exchange. Other attractions include the bustling Plaza Sotomayor and the famous museum of Pablo Neruda. You might also take a ride on the Artilleria funicular railway, which boasts dramatic views over the entire city.
2. Moai Stone Statues
The Moai Stone Statues on Easter Island might be some of the world’s most recognizable figures. There are over 1,000 volcanic stone statues scattered all over the island, which were carved by the Rapa Nui people over 600 years ago. The torsos of some of the statues are partially underground, which means you can only see the heads poking out from the surface.
Although Easter Island is technically in Polynesia, the island was annexed to Chile in the late 1800s. It’s a six-hour flight from Santiago, which means it’s not the easiest (or cheapest) place to reach if you’re traveling through the mainland. But if you have the time and the means, it’s a worthwhile escape that you can tick off your bucket list.
1. Torres del Paine National Park
With crystal lakes, snow-capped mountains, and icy glaciers, it’s easy to see why Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most visited attractions in Chile. While you’ll need several weeks to explore everything the park has to offer, it’s worth picking out a few of its most notable sights to visit during your trip.
Trek through the thick forests of the Valley Frances, kayak across the sparkling blue waters of the Rio Serrano, or ice pick your way along the Grey Glacier. You can even just take a leisurely stroll through the trails while admiring the recognizable features of the park – the towering granite peaks of the Paine mountains.