Top 5 Things to Do in Chile
We often get asked what to do in Chile. It’s an extremely varied country, with an enviable wealth of terrain to discover. From glacier hikes to sleeping under the stars in the desert, Chile has it all.
With so much on offer, it’s hard to know where to start when you’re deciding what to do in Chile. To help you choose, our travel experts have put together this guide on their top things to do in Chile.
1) Hike glaciers in Torres del Paine
One of the most beautiful places in the world, the peaks of Torres del Paine in Chile’s Patagonia are often one of many travellers’ top things to do in Chile. This UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts a myriad of colourful grasslands back-dropped by three impressive granite mountains. Rising from sea level to a height of almost 3000 metres, these imposing peaks would be a breathtaking sight on their own. Surrounding turquoise glacial lagoons, snow-capped mountains, expansive fjords and forest all add to this region’s charm. Spotting endemic guanaco and puma whilst the wind whips off the Andes makes for unrivalled hiking opportunities.
Explora Patagonia is perhaps the most famous hotel across Chile. Located next to Lake Pehoé in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park, this hotel has an enviable location. All rooms, including the bathrooms, have large floor-to-ceiling windows to show off the stunning vistas surrounding the hotel. Over 40 different excursions are available here, including iconic trekking circuits and horseback rides.
Housed in a restored post-Victorian cold-storage factory, The Singular is a National Monument that is ideally placed for expeditions to some of Patagonia’s most inaccessible parts. With two of their own boats and a wealth of other land-based activities, this property is a great choice for more intrepid travellers. For opportunities to relax, Tierra Patagonia’s design-led Scandinavian feel is unparalleled. Exposed timber interiors create a Sauna-like warmth and there is an extensive Uma spa in which to relax after a hard day’s hiking.
2) Uncover history on Easter Island
Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, is one of the most remote islands on the planet. Set in the middle of the Pacific, this island’s mysterious giant stone Moai statues make it a beautiful outdoor museum. Situated amongst the brilliant blue Pacific water, beaches and volcanic craters, Easter Island is truly ethereal. Besides admiring the spellbinding statues, there’s plenty to get up to on Easter Island. Snorkelling, scuba diving, surfing, trekking and mountain biking are all on offer. The best time to go is from January until the beginning of March, when the Pacific’s waters are still warm enough to swim in. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, then aim for November.
Stay at Hangaroa Eco Village and Resort where it feels as though you’ve travelled back in time. Constructed using local materials such as volcanic rock, cypress woods and natural clay, this holistic resort has been designed to reflect Easter Island’s fascinating ancient culture. Ecological wonder and luxury go hand in hand here – the hotel’s 75 rooms are appointed with oversized bathtubs and all the modcons. Excursions include exploring the ancient ruins at the Rano Kau volcano or uncovering the mysteries of the past at the Hanga Roa Anthropological Museum. Once you’ve discovered Easter Island’s secrets, relax at the outdoor pool and indulge in gastronomic delights at the hotel’s bistro.
If you’d rather stay in a quieter area away from the main town of Hanga Roa, then Explora Rapa Nui is a quirky alternative. Set on a quiet hill area, this property’s thirty well-appointed rooms each have a sea view. This is a great place for adventurous travellers to base themselves. Excursions include exploring the island by bicycle and sea explorations using traditional boats.
3) Discover the Atacama Desert
Ranking among the driest regions on Earth, the Atacama Desert is fifty times more arid than California’s Death Valley. Located in the far north of Chile, it is a place of other-worldly beauty. Towering volcanoes, flamingo frequented lagoons, salt-flats, geysers and shifting sand dunes combine to create a magical landscape. In fact, the Atacama Desert is so out of this world that it’s even been used to test Mars-bound NASA rovers. At 15 million years old, NASA has confirmed this as the driest desert in the world; it can be quite cold, though, with temperatures generally ranging from 0 – 25°C.
The remote oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama provides a haven from which you can discover the surrounding desert. From here, venture into the wilderness on foot, horseback, mountain bike or in a 4WD vehicle. With low-to-zero light pollution, the Atacama Desert is also an incredible place to stargaze in the world’s most advanced observatories.
The Alto Atacama Lodge & Spa does a great job of remaining conscious and authentic. Its red clay structures blend seamlessly into a backdrop of baked red rock, giving it an enviably remote feel. This property lies in the shadow of the salt mountains Cordillera de la Sal and has the San Pedro River cruising through it, so it’s perfectly placed for travellers wanting to explore the surrounding desert. Beyond location, the Alto Atacama has many other exceptional features. Cave paintings, coarse Aguayo tapestries and Amerindian textiles give the hotel’s decor a genuine feel. Expeditions by 4WD to see everything from Tatio geysers to Lickynantay ruins are on offer and if that’s not enough, unwind with yoga, spa treatments or hot springs.
For a luxurious stay, the Awasi Atacama is a truly special option. Guests looking for a tailor-made stay can’t go wrong with Awasi – all activities are completely private and personalised to your needs and requests. Private clay cottages are all extremely spacious and come complete with their own patios, as well as indoor and outdoor showers. The restaurant serving traditional fare is a real highlight and there’s also a pleasant pool area to relax by.
4) The Lake District
Chile’s Lake District is reminiscent of Iceland. Sprawling larch forests, iridescent cobalt blue lakes and snow capped volcanoes make it a land of immense beauty. Here, it’s easy to combine outdoor pursuits such as fishing with more relaxing options, including visiting hot springs and lake side beaches. Epic 4×4 drives, kayaking, hiking and white water rafting are just some of the other ways to pass the time. Once you’ve traversed the topographical wonders, spend time dining on delicious seafood delicacies passed down by early German, Swiss and Scandinavian immigrants.
Set in a beautiful Chilean hacienda in its own 23 acre estate, Hotel Vira Vira is a delightful place to explore the Pucon Valley from. This hotel has an intimate feel, with only 21 rooms spread through the middle of the forest. High end suites offer their own living room and fireplace, as well as outdoor tubs to make the most of clear Chilean night skies. Vira Vira is a great place for adventurers. Several beautiful wilderness areas are nearby, including Huerquehue National Park. Horseback riding, mountain biking, river rafting, fly fishing, kayaking, varied hiking tours, ascents to the active volcano and even skiing on Villarrica’s slopes can be arranged.
Hotel Antumalal is one of the oldest hotels in Chile and also offers an incredibly unique stay. Perched on a bluff overlooking the nearby lake, the rooms have fantastic views, enhanced by large picture windows. The hotel feels very cosy and the facilities are extraordinary – a large pool, spa, exotic gardens and a private beach are all wonderful places to unwind.
5) The Aisen Region
Situated just below the Lake District, the Aisen Region is where Chile’s landscape becomes even more dramatic. Sparkling lakes cut through dense evergreen forest, dominated by the looming presence of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Despite being the third largest region in Chile, the Aisen Region’s sublime landscape is still the most sparsely populated. Several of the hotels are only accessible by boat or foot, ensuring a secluded experience.
Fjords and lakes are teeming with wildlife here, so the majority of waterside hotels offer boat, canoeing and kayaking trips. Marine life enthusiasts can head further out to sea for their chance of spotting dolphins, marine otters and South American sea lions. Fans of hiking shouldn’t miss the region’s beautiful glaciers, particularly San Rafael.
Hacienda Tres Lagos is a luxury retreat perched on the shores of General Carrera Lake. Set in the midst of Patagonian scenery, guests here have wilderness right on their doorstep. Tres Lagos does a great job of encouraging its guests to get out and explore Patagonia. Whether you want to take an extended boat tour of the pristine Chilean lakes, hike through the famous Carretera Austral or try fly fishing, Hacienda Tres Lagos will make it happen. Upon your return to the estate, relax on a private balcony offering spectacular panoramic views of the nearby lake and large hotel grounds.
For relaxation in the heart of nature, don’t miss Puyuhuapi. The only way to access this wellness retreat is by boat – take in the lake views before going for an indulgent soak in an open-air thermal bath. Go off the grid at Puyuhuapi and indulge in pampering opportunities of every kind, from spa treatments to delicious feasts and prestigious Chilean wines. If you’re an adventurer, get outside and explore on hikes, glacier walks and canoeing, sailing and kayaking trips.