Excellent
torres-del-paine-patagonia-chile

11 Best Things to Do in Chile

Written by
Lily Bunker, Jennifer Richt & David Corvacho Puente

Stretched along the western edge of South America, Santiago is one of the most geographically diverse countries on earth. This narrow nation abounds with natural wonders, from the towering glaciers of Torres del Paine and the desolate Atacama Desert to the gorgeous Lake District and enchanting islands of Chiloe.

Beyond its most iconic sites, it’s also bursting with vibrant culture, exceptional cuisine, world-class wines and so much more. Whether you’re wandering the streets of Santiago or exploring Patagonia on a luxury yacht, it’s only a matter of time before this country captures your heart. Here are some of our favourite things to do in Chile.

1. Trek through Torres del Paine

No trip to Chile is complete without a visit to its southern tip, where you’ll find the breathtaking Torres del Paine National Park. Its main attractions are the three massive mountains that loom over the landscape – but the terrain around them is equally enthralling. Here you can hike through dense forests and snow-capped peaks, past glacial lakes and sprawling fjords. 

 

torres-del-paine-chile

During your time in Chilean Patagonia, make sure to keep an eye out for native species like condors, pumas, vicuñas and guanacos. If you’d like to get off your feet for a while, go on a scenic boat trip or kayaking excursion. And when you’re ready for total relaxation, indulge in a day at Uma Spa at the beautiful Tierra Patagonia hotel, or settle into a cosy villa at Awasi Patagonia.

2. Experience Easter Island

Easter Island – also known by its native name, Rapa Nui – is undoubtedly one of the most mysterious places on the planet. This remote volcanic island is located more than 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile. It’s best known for the hundreds of stone statues known as moai, which depict human figures in a distinctly minimalistic style.

In addition to the chance to see the moai in person, Easter Island offers all kinds of adventures. You can go snorkelling, scuba diving or surfing, and traverse the whole island on foot or mountain bike. Explora Rapa Nui offers luxurious accommodation for intrepid travellers, set in a quieter area outside the main town of Hanga Roa.

3. Explore the Atacama Desert

Located at the northern end of Chile, the Atacama Desert is among the driest places in the world. Its landscape is defined by shifting sand dunes, salt flats, geysers and volcanoes – not to mention flamingo-filled lagoons. This otherworldly environment has even caught the attention of NASA, who have used it to simulate expeditions to Mars.

Wild Flamingos stand in a salt lagoon of Atacama desert, Chile

You can discover all the Atacama has to offer with excursions on foot, horseback, mountain bikes or all-terrain vehicles. After a full day of exploring, lay back and look up as the sun sets and the desert reveals a different sort of beauty. This is an absolutely incredible place for stargazing, thanks to unusually low light pollution and state-of-the-art observatories.

Hot Air Balloon Atacama

4. Discover the Lake District

If you want to fill your days with exhilarating outdoor activities, Chile’s Lake District is the place for you. This pristine region bears a striking resemblance to Iceland, with its vast forests, shimmering blue lakes and snowy mountains. It offers almost every outdoor sport imaginable: hiking, skiing, horse riding, mountain biking, fly fishing, kayaking, whitewater rafting… the options are endless.

Beyond its natural beauty, the Lake District is also home to a rich cultural legacy. Make sure to sample the local cuisine, which is influenced by the legacies of German, Swiss and Scandinavian immigrants – and features plenty of locally sourced seafood. Finally, to relax after a long day of exploring, there’s nothing quite like sinking into the natural hot springs. 

5. Marvel at the Majestic Aisen Region

Just below the Lake District, the Aisen Region promises even more dramatic landscapes. This is the most sparsely populated area in the country, and an ideal destination if you’re seeking secluded spots. Go for a spectacular hike through the glaciers, or head out to sea to spot dolphins, marine otters and sea lions.

glacier-aisen-region-chile

Many of the hotels in this region are only accessible by boat or on foot, tucked deep into the wilderness and surrounded by nature. They offer various activities and guided excursions on which you can encounter all kinds of wildlife. We especially love the elegant Hacienda Tres Lagos and the super secluded Puyuhuapi Lodge.

aisen-region-chile-latin-america

6. Wander through Wine Country

Chile has a growing global reputation for its outstanding wines, most of which are produced in the central valleys south of Santiago. An immense variety of grapes are grown here – from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to Syrah and Chardonnay – making it an essential stop for wine lovers.

A visit to Chile’s wine region is a great way to get off the beaten path and discover some of the country’s lesser-known charms. After sampling the best vintages this side of South America, you can visit the vineyards on foot or horseback, and enjoy exquisite cuisine at the region’s renowned restaurants.

Horse riding, Vineyard, Casablanca Valley, Chile

7. Sample Local Cuisine in Santiago

Apart from the abundant natural beauty of Chile, its capital city offers a totally different sort of attraction. Here you can dive deep into local culture – not to mention a thriving culinary scene. Santiago is where you’ll find many of the country’s best cuisine, from fantastic street food stands to world-class fine dining.

argentinian meat empanadas - turnovers

Beyond its gastronomic delights, Santiago is also home to countless museums and art galleries. There’s always something happening here, from cultural events and festivals to live music and shows. The city provides a perfect contrast to the more rugged experiences you’ll have in its remote regions, making it the perfect addition to the beginning or end of your trip.

Detail scenic view of colorful houses in Santiago, Chile

8. Uncover Ancient Legends in Chiloé

For a truly one-of-a-kind experience, head to the mystical islands of Chiloé in southern Chile. This archipelago is shrouded in mist, creating a magical atmosphere that’s the perfect backdrop for its many myths and legends. The main island – also commonly called Chiloé – features old wooden churches, verdant hills, fishing harbours and the iconic palafitos (colourful houses perched above the water on stilts). 

lake-district-chile

Without a doubt, the best place to stay on Chiloé’s main island is Tierra, an architectural gem that combines modern luxury with traditional materials and handicrafts. It’s an oasis of comfort among the idyllic landscapes of the island, overlooking both the countryside and the ocean.

9. Stroll the Streets of Valparaíso

Set on the coast northwest of Santiago, Valparaíso is a haven of history, culture and art. This vibrant port city is crowded with rainbow-hued buildings, which spill down a steep hillside toward the sea. Narrow alleys and staircases wind between them, with intricate street art around every turn. It’s no wonder the historic quarter has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Valparaíso makes for a perfect day trip from the capital – although we suggest spending a few days there to fully enjoy it. Don’t miss La Sebastiana, the former home of poet Pablo Neruda, which has been transformed into a fascinating museum. You can also ride one of the historic funiculars through the city, and sample fresh seafood at the historic Mercado Cardonal.

10. Embark on a Luxury Cape Horn Cruise

All the way at the southern tip of Chile, you’ll find the breathtaking archipelago of Tierra del Fuego. Its name translates to ‘Land of Fire’ – which might seem ironic considering its windswept glacial landscapes. The best way to explore this area is on a luxury Cape Horn cruise, which will take you through the incredible scenery in comfort. 

ushuaia-patagonia-argentina

If you’d like to combine your trip to Chile with a visit to neighbouring Argentina, you can even end your cruise in Ushuaia. This remote city is the perfect place to start your journey through Argentinian Patagonia – or even an expedition to Antarctica

Luxury accommodation in Chile

There are many incredible places to stay in Chile. Here are some of our favourites, handpicked by our travel designers:

Whatever you want from your Chile tour, our team of expert travel designers are ready to help.