1) Lake District
The Chilean Lake District is memorable for its deep, sapphire lakes contrasting with the ice-white mountains and emerald forests. The area stretches through the Ninth Region, more evocatively known as La Araucanía, and the Tenth Region, Los Lagos, from the Pacific east to the Andes.
Expect to find twelve major lakes, rivers, waterfalls, thermal hot springs and six volcanoes Besides strolling the area, you can also take a tranquil boat on the lakes or go rafting. Common modes of transport are horse riding or cycling, you won’t be disappointed. Do bring a raincoat though, as sudden bursts of rain are not uncommon.
If you continue past the Lake District area and fully explore Northern Patagonia you will be greeted with glaciers and more intense snowy peaks that most tourists don’t go to. Perfect if you are in search of solitude.
Known as the little ‘San Francisco’ of Chile, you will find that Chile’s main port, renowned for its bohemian and artistic colourful vibe is worth the 70 mile trip from Santiago. This jewel of the Pacific will offer vistas of colonial architecture, fully deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage status.
It was the port where many Europeans arrived and set up camp and because of this, Valparaíso offers an improvised urban architecture that you will struggle to compare to any other city. You can stroll down the labyrinths of cobbled alleyways into the historic downtown for a great bit of seafood at the restaurants with a view of the Pacific. Or, do some cooking of your own with the fresh produce from the markets or stores.
If laying on sandy beaches are more your thing, then head to Viña del Mar, translation ‘vineyard by the sea.’ It is located in The Greater Valparaíso Area which is home to 5 municipalities: Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, Concon, Quilpue, and Villa Alemana.
3) Torres del Paine National Park
It’s one of the most important and visited national parks in Chile with 75% of visitors being tourists, and you can easily understand why. The park stretches across the southern Patagonian area and encompasses rich rivers, mountains, a lake and glaciers that reach Argentina.
Many visitors hike the areas by foot across a number of days and stay in the hostels en route. Expect to relish the vegetation and wildlife including guanacos, foxes and pumas. The beginning of the journey usually starts by meandering through the forest. Day two will be spent gazing at the intensity of the lakes and mountains. Day three is a tougher journey through the valleys and finally, day four will be a hike to the final destination point of the Grey Glacier and Lake where you can take in the views by boat.
4) Easter Island
Easter Island or Rapa Nui may be a 5.5 hour flight from Chile, but it is well worth the trip. If you feel like being away from city life for a little while, it is the perfect place for you. It is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world and a special territory of Chile. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park.
You may think that because of the remoteness of the island it is only accessible to the fearless traveler, this is untrue. In fact, the Island’s main industry is tourism. There are two white sand beaches Anakena and the less well known, Ovahe. On these beaches you can snorkel and body board among the other usual beach activities. The island also boasts a rich culture of Moai (ancient human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people) and Ahu (the stone platforms where the Moai used to stand). Be sure not to walk on the Ahu as it is seen as incredibly disrespectful. There are also plenty of caves to explore, but it is advisable to consult a guide when doing this as they can be dangerous.
5) Atacama Desert
The Atacama desert is regarded as the driest desert in the world, according to National Geographic. You can expect a Mars like adventure with the largest cane mine in the world in the hills beyond it. From San Pedro de Atacama you can join group tours with a guide, through the lunar landscapes, ghost towns, and archaeological paradise of ancient mummies and geoglyphs.
You can either hike, bike ride, horse ride or go by vehicle. Be sure to visit the crisp salt flats to see the vibrant flamingos. Some of the best of natures’ spectacles come at nightfall where you can stargaze in the clearest of skies. It is home to the world’s best telescopes and observatories, which are unraveling the secrets of the universe.