Chile might be a fairly known destination in South America, but there’s still a lot to this country that most travelers miss at first glance. Among snowy mountains, gorgeous beaches, huge nature reserves, and a beautiful culture, it is sure to have something for everyone.
It’s never been cheaper to fly from Canada to Chile thanks to avianca, an airline that offers great prices from Toronto and will soon start to serve Montréal too.
Recently, deals to Santiago have been popping up frequently in the $400s roundtrip on Flytrippers’ cheap flight deals page, so we figured we would tell you a little bit more about this fantastic destination!
In this article, we’ll give you an intro to this beautiful country and an overview of 6 amazing destinations in Chile. Soon, we’ll share a detailed post on each one of those destinations. This is just a little teaser to give you even more desire to embark on an adventure!
Overview of traveling to Chile
Because of its curious narrow shape, which stretches top to bottom of the South American continent, Chile is the southernmost country in the world — meaning that it’s the closest country to Antarctica.
Chile is the most developed country in South America (according to the Human Development Index) and has the highest gross domestic product per capita as well. So it is somewhat different than the rest of the continent.
Traveling in Chile is still fairly affordable compared to North America and Western Europe. The most expensive part used to be getting there, which is why it’s so great that now flights to South America are cheaper than ever!
As a Brazilian, I’ve always found Chile fascinating for many reasons, of course, but especially because of its unique geographical location that allows it to have a little bit of everything within its borders (not unlike my own country).
Its territory is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and has over 6,000 km of coastline. But just on the opposite side, lies the Andes mountain range, and the immense Atacama Desert.
Now, if you’re traveling to a country with that many options when it comes to destinations, it can be a bit overwhelming to decide where to go first.
So here’s my list of the spots you can not miss during your next trip to Chile.
Of course, when talking about exciting urban destinations, Chile’s capital and largest city had to be mentioned. There is just too much to see to leave this spot out of your itinerary. It can also be a great starting point due to its central location.
Santiago, also called Santiago de Chile, sits in a valley surrounded by the Andes and the Chilean Coast, which means the city’s view is very unique and gorgeous.
While you’re there, you can take in the stunning panorama from the top of the tallest skyscraper in Latin America, the Costanera Center, visit the La Chascona, one of the 3 houses of the famous poet Pablo Neruda, eat decadent food, and learn more about Chilean culture by exploring its many museums.
Valparaíso is a port city located on Chile’s coast. It’s known for its funiculars and colorful houses resting on very steep cliffs.
This city is one of those destinations where you just have to wander around to discover true hidden gems.
One of the most popular attractions in Valparaíso is yet another of Neruda’s houses, La Sebastiana. And since the quirky construction was built on a cliff, it has beautiful Pacific views.
You can also visit the vibrant neighborhood of Cerro Alto. There, you’ll see many architectural achievements, among quaint restaurants, and colorful graffiti art.
No need to worry about the current wildfires near the city, as you’ll be fine if you don’t go right now. That would be like worrying about visiting Canada this winter because of last summer’s fires.
The Atacama Desert, Norte Grande
The Atacama is a desert located on the Pacific coast, in the north of Chile. It stretches over an impressive area of 105,000 km² — for comparison, that’s larger than most European countries.
Fun fact: the region’s extreme dryness is so intense that it has been used as a testing ground for Mars expedition simulations!
Within the Atacama desert, you can visit the oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama, where you’ll find active volcanoes, steamy springs, and stylish desert accommodations. Don’t forget, also, to explore the most popular attraction, the Valle de la Luna (the Valley of the Moon) with its unique landscapes.
This area is also known as a hub for stargazing! And I can’t tell you how much this is heavily recommended.
The same goes for Salar de Maricunga, because so many people have assured me the pictures don’t do it justice (and the pictures are pretty awesome). It’s definitely a must to add to your list.
Chilean Lake District
The Chilean Lake District (Región de Los Lagos) area is way less overcrowded than the places mentioned before.
But that does not mean its scenery is less appealing. There, you’ll find snow-capped volcanoes, pale green lakes, and endless kilometers of ancient forest.
If you adore the hustle and bustle of urban life, you can explore the cities of Temuco, Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas, and Valdivia the “city of rivers”.
Right after the Lake District, at the very end of the country, is Chilean Patagonia.
This region is mostly known for its part belonging to Argentina, but rest assured that Chilean Patagonia is just as breathtaking!
By far the most popular spot to visit here is the Torres del Paine National Park.
It’s known for its bright blue icebergs and lakes, golden pampas (grasslands), and for being the natural habitat of the Chilean llama-like animals, the guanacos.
But you should not miss also, the park’s biggest attraction, the Cuernos del Paine (Paine Towers), 3 enormous spiky granite peaks in the Torres del Paine National Park. It’s as impressive as you think!
This destination requires some adventurous spirit, but come on, how can you visit Chile and not see this iconic place?
You might not have heard of this remote volcanic island in Polynesia (a Chilean territory, though), but you’ve surely seen images of the monumental statues called Moai.
Created by inhabitants during the 13th–16th centuries, the Moai statues are carved stone human figures with oversized heads. There are known to be more than 900 of them around the island.
They are so huge and there are so many of them, that the argument of who moved the statues, why they are there, and how they did it, has been the subject of a lot of debates and speculations since Europeans first came to Rapa Nui in the 18th century. It’s still a mystery to this day…
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Featured image: Torres del Paine National Park, Chile (photo credit: Olga Stalska)