Chile’s Top Highlights – Where to Go on Your Next TripShaun Edmond - Product & Marketing
Safe, developed and spectacularly scenic, Chile is many people’s intro to Latin America – and what an intro it is. This famously long country is squashed between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, spanning a wide array of climates and landscapes. The Chilean Andes go from being sand-capped in the Atacama to sinking into the sea around the fjords of Magallanes, and have enough peaks in between to last an avid hiker a lifetime. Chile punches above its weight away from the mountains too: the funky city of Valparaiso and the island of Chiloé, shrouded by myths and mists, have rightly earned their place in Chile’s tourism crown.
Whether this is your first or umpteenth time visiting Latin America, be prepared to be amazed – this really is a country like no other.
- Atacama Desert
- Easter Island
- Puerto Varas
- Torres del Paine
- Carretera Austral
Santiago - A vibrant mix of history and modernity
Santiago, the capital city of Chile, is a captivating blend of old-world charm and contemporary flair. Its historic centre showcases neoclassical and 18th-century architecture, with picturesque plazas and grand buildings that tell the story of the country's past. The bustling streets are lined with trendy cafés, upscale restaurants, and boutique shops, especially in artsy Bellavista and popular Lastarria.
For panoramic views of the city and the majestic Andes Mountains, take a ride on the funicular to the top of San Cristóbal Hill. Alternatively, head up the Gran Torre Santiago, the tallest building in all of South America.
And when it comes to food, Santiago offers a diverse culinary scene, where you can indulge in traditional dishes like empanadas (small pasties stuffed with chicken, beef or cheese) and pastel de choclo (like a shepherd’s pie only instead of mashed potato the mince is covered in crushed corn), or savour fresh seafood.
Fun fact: Santiago’s famous central market (Mercado Central) was designed by Gustav Eiffel and had its roof built in Glasgow.
Atacama Desert - A trip to the Moon
Prepare for your camera to fill up - the driest place on earth is anything but boring. Travellers come back with memories of lunar-like landscapes, salt flats to rival Bolivia’s, steaming geysers and colourful rock formations.
One of the area’s top draws, Moon Valley is best explored at sunset when the golden hues and rugged silhouettes create a truly mesmerizing spectacle. Despite its name, its pointy red walls will make you feel like you’re on Mars – a fact that wasn’t lost on NASA, who regularly use the Atacama as a training ground for the famous Mars Rovers.
On the subject of astronomy, don't miss the opportunity to stargaze in the clear desert skies: at such a high latitude and a near guarantee of cloudless nights, the Atacama Desert is the unquestioned champion of stargazing locations.
Easter Island - Where ancient moai statues guard the land
Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, is a mysterious world of ancient history and captivating landscapes – and a fantastic place to get away from it all. According to industrious cartographers, this is the third most remote island on earth.
The island is famous for its enigmatic moai statues, massive stone figures that dot the coastline and countryside. Hikes along the rugged coast and up the rim of the Rano Kau crater are particularly breathtaking, and will take you past a less polished side of the island – evidenced by the abandoned villages and fallen moai heads.
You can also immerse yourself in the unique Polynesian culture of the island by visiting the Orongo ceremonial village and exploring the unique petroglyphs that adorn the rocks.
Don't forget to relax on the pristine beaches of this remote paradise – and in some places, like Anakena beach, you may have a stone-faced audience.
Puerto Varas - A gateway to Chile's stunning Lake District
Nestled amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Chilean Lake District, Puerto Varas is a picturesque town that exudes charm and natural beauty. With its stunning views of snow-capped Volcan Osorno and German-inspired buildings, including a famous red-roof church, Puerto Varas makes for a pleasant place to base oneself when exploring the Lake District.
Adventure enthusiasts will find plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, from including hiking, biking, kayaking and white-water rafting. You can also embark on a boat trip across the scenic Lake Llanquihue, or take a trip out to the natural habitat of the monkey puzzle tree.
Torres del Paine National Park - A hiker's paradise in Patagonia
Prepare to be blown away by the raw beauty of Torres del Paine National Park.
Located in the heart of Patagonia, this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve offers some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. Towering granite peaks, shimmering glacial lakes and vast open plains create a dramatic backdrop for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
The park is a trekking paradise, with a network of well-marked trails that lead you to landmarks like the iconic peaks and the mesmerizing Grey Glacier. Some treks can be done as day trips from your lodge located either inside the national park or just outside it. Ideally, you should be looking to spend 4 nights or more to fully appreciate the area. Others are a multi-day affair. Lining these trails are remote refugios that offer a place to bed down and mingle with other hikers.
Nature lovers would also do well to include the park in their itinerary, with giant black woodpeckers drumming away in the forests and guanacos roaming the plains to the east. These plains are also the best place in the world to go looking for pumas, with multi-day excursions offering very high chances of a sighting.
Whether you choose to embark on a multi-day trek, base yourself in a cosy lodge or simply take in the panoramic vistas, Torres del Paine promises an unforgettable adventure.
Valparaiso - A jewel then, a jewel now
Known as the Jewel of the Pacific, Valparaiso (Valps for short) is a fascinating place to spend a day. In the glory days, prior to the Panama Canal’s construction, the city was a key stopover for ships going around the continent.
Much of the city’s 19th-century architecture, including its funicular lifts, is a relic of this bygone era. Capitalising upon its shabby-chic charm, the city has steadily reinvented itself as a haven for artists. Many of Valparaiso’s buildings are adorned with murals and street art that have transformed the city into a living art gallery.
Valparaiso’s historic centre is built across a series of hills, so there’s no shortage of breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the city's charming rooftops. Explore the labyrinthine streets, browse through quirky boutiques, and savour delicious seafood in the lively seafood markets.
Chiloé Island - A land of folklore and mythology
Known for its series of UNESCO-listed wooden churches, colourful palafitos (stilt houses) and traditional fishing villages, the central Chilean island of Chiloé offers a glimpse into a traditional way of life deeply rooted in the sea and the forests.
Explore the island's national parks, where mossy forests, wetlands and rugged coastlines are home to an array of wildlife. Dolphins are a common sight from the ferry, an array of seabirds including penguins fish around the northern tip and cat-sized deer bound through the bushes.
Don't miss the opportunity to savour the island's renowned culinary delights, such as curanto, a traditional feast of seafood, meat and potatoes cooked in a pit. And if you start to miss fish and chips, you’re in luck: a local variation called pescado a lo pobre takes things a step further than the UK by serving a fried egg on top.
Carretera Austral - Patagonia’s top road trip
Snaking through the buffer zone between the Lake District and southern Patagonia, where rolling green hills give way to montane vistas, the Carretera Austral is one of Chile’s best scenic drives. Cut off from the rest of the country by land, this road stretches over 1,200 kilometres, taking you through remote wilderness, dense forests and towering mountains.
Marvel at the majestic glaciers, turquoise lakes, lush rainforests and cascading waterfalls that punctuate the route. Discover hidden gems like the marble caves of Lake General Carrera, a surreal natural wonder that will leave you in awe. The Carretera Austral is an adventure lover's paradise, offering hiking, fishing, kayaking and wildlife-spotting opportunities along the way.
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Millie Davies - Travel Expert
Having caught the travel bug as a child, Millie has travelled all over Latin America before making her home in Buenos Aires for 3 years.
Juliet Ellwood - Travel Expert
After graduating with a degree in Anthropology and History and having been fascinated by Latin America since childhood by the book featuring photos of Nazca, Juliet first visited the region in 2003. Since then, Juliet has visited the majority of countries in Latin America but has particularly extensive experience with Peru, a country she loves for many reasons but not least, its incredible archaeological richness and delicious food!
Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Expert
Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours sales team.
Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert
Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.
Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert
A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.
Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert
Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.