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Chile was recently named the top country to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet and we couldn't agree more. The longest, thinnest country in the world, this sliver of land is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountain range and spans over half of South America. Chile boasts a tremendous amount of geographical and cultural diversity and with more non-stop flights than ever, there's never been a better time to explore this fascinating country!
1. Atacama Desert
The otherworldly landscape in the Atacama, the world's highest and driest desert, is like no other. It offers a myriad of activities for all types of enthusiasts. Bike through the salt flats or hike and climb among the sand dunes and bizarre rock formations of the Moon Valley. Ride through red-rock canyons, past ancient ruins of pre-Columbian villages and alongside the explosive Gesyers in Tatios Geyser National Park. Summit two of Atacama's most famous and exhilarating peaks, the Toco Volcano or the more difficult 18000 ft. Lascar Volcano. Search for the Cejas Lagoons or the famous flocks of pink flamingos, or hike to the Purima hot springs. At night, you can observe some of the clearest and most brilliant night skies in the Southern Hemisphere.
The city of Valparaiso is set on a picturesque harbor overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Many artists call the city home and have left their indelible fingerprints throughout the streets in the form of vibrant, colorful graffiti. Visit the home of Nobel prize winning poet, Pablo Neruda, and live the inspiration for many of his passages. Baptized by the Spaniards during the sixteenth century, Valparaiso's unique geography climbs hills through alleys, passages and seemingly secret staircases, and is a UNESCO protected historic district.
The capital of Chile, Santiago is a dynamic and contemporary metropolis. It's a city full of character with a thriving arts culture, trendy restaurant scene, and lively nightlife. Old-world colonial mansions in the eclectic neighborhoods of Lastarria and Bellavista transition seamlessly to skyscrapers, all nestled at the foot of the Andean Mountains. For a panoramic view of the city ascend the funicular (cable car) to the top of Cerro San Cristabal Hill to view it in all of its splendor. Foodies will delight in the local cuisine and wine enthusiasts can take a day trip to Casablanca Valley, a well-known wine region.
3. Aysén Region
The Aysén is a region of incredible beauty and remoteness, attracting adventure travelers seeking pristine nature along the world renowned Carratera Austral. Situated between Chile's Lake District and the Magallanes region, Aysen is the least populated of Chile's 15 regions. With hanging glaciers, mazelike fjords, shimmering blue caverns, steaming rainforests, and guanaco-filled steppes, the Aysén region of Chile has much to offer outdoor lovers and those seeking solitude in nature.
4. Marble Caves
The Marble Caves of General Carrera Lake are one of the Aysen region's main draws...and for good reason. The waves have worked their magic on the calcium carbonate rock formations in the lake and along the shoreline, producing swirling rock eddies of cerulean, teal, cobalt, and azure. Explore the caves by kayak and enjoy the blue glacial water and a dazzling light show created as colors shift depending on time of day, season, and water level.
5. Futaleufeu Valley
The Futaleufeu Valley is a mecca for outdoor adventurers. It offers superb fly-fishing, hiking, horseback riding, biking, and especially kayaking and river rafting. South America's big water legend, the Futaleufeu River serves up multiple Class V rapids in a setting that seems almost make-believe and is considered on par with the Grand Canyon and the Zambezi. Thundering out of the Andes and across Patagonia the Fu's clear turquoise waters span more than 120 miles through Chile. The 47 rapids on the Fu range from easy Class II to extremely challenging Class V. Stay at our favorite boutique hotels in Chile when you visit Futaleufeu Valley!
Chiloe is the continent's fifth-largest island, home to vibrant houses, seafaring locals, and wildly remote national parks. Palafitos, stilted homes iconic to the region, line the waterfront to which fishermen return each and every night with the day's catch. There are 16 UNESCO world heritage sites on the island revealing a rich spiritual culture. Wander the national parks of the island, discovering lush forests, penguin colonies, and even a mysterious art installation, sure to capture your imagination.
7. Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most spectacular hiking areas in the world, is the most iconic park in Patagonia. Visitors can amble among the mountain peaks on undulating trails that contour past turquoise lakes, waterfalls, hanging glaciers, and the pampas where guanaco roam and condors soar. Hikes afford spectacular views of sheer towers of granite or calving glaciers. Stay at one of our favorite eco-camps in the world when you visit Torres del Paine National Park!
8. Punta Arenas
This port city overlooks the Strait of Magellan towards Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire), an archipelago off the southernmost tip of South America. From Punta Arenas you can voyage to see some of the most magnificent marine life in Patagonia. The fiords south east of Punta Arenas are the best place in Patagonia to see humpback whales and on Magdalena Island you can walk among a colony of Magellanic penguins (found only in the Southern Hemisphere). If you're a wildlife lover read our blog for more about the best place to see whales and penguins in Patagonia.
9. Glacier Alley
The most amazing stretch of the Beagle Channel, Glacier Alley, is a string of tidewater glaciers that tumble down to the edge of the sea from the massive Darwin Ice Field. Arrayed along the north shore of the channel and surrounded by snowcapped peaks, most of the glaciers were named after European countries; Holland, Italy, Germany, Spain and France, named by the 19th-century explorers who first mapped the region. Many of Patagonia's glaciers are as remote as one would expect in this part of the world and the best way to access them is by a cruise through Patagonia.
10. Easter Island
This tiny spit of volcanic rock in the vast South Seas is the most remote inhabited place on Earth. Located more than 2,300 miles off Chile's coast in the southern pacific ocean, this Polynesian island is steeped in mystery. Famous for the its giant stone monolith statues, called Moai, Easter Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and boasts so much more than just the stone statues. Just 14 miles long and 7 miles wide, Easter Island itself is stunning. Its rugged beauty is composed of rolling green hills, massive volcanic craters, rocky coves, and pristine beaches. Read more about Easter Island.