From jaw-dropping nature to vibrant cities, Chile has it all. Here is a guide to the best places to see in the country to make the most of your trip.
The 18 Best Places to Visit in Chile
Chile hugs the Pacific coast of South America, stretching for 2,600 miles between the mountains and the ocean. The nature here is like nowhere else, from dramatic mountain peaks to remote islands.
It’s no wonder that for many hikers, Chile is the dream destination of a lifetime. Of course, Chile has more to offer than just nature (although you could spend a lifetime just hiking). Its vibrant cities, underground culture, and hearty cuisine also attract visitors from around the globe.
The real challenge when visiting Chile is narrowing down which places you want to visit! Here is a guide to the best places to visit on your Chile vacation.
1. Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park is a world-famous park in Patagonia that draws hikers from all around the globe. It routinely tops lists of the best places to visit in Chile. The national park covers a vast area of glacial landscapes and pampas, showing the diversity of Chile’s landscapes.
Must-visit destinations are the three sharp towers that give the park its name, the Grey Glacier and other massive ice sheets, and the many glacial lakes. There are many trails throughout the park for all levels of hiking.
If you are planning a multi-day trek, you can hire a local professional guide (in some areas, you are required to do so for your safety). Adventurers won’t want to miss the opportunity to camp under the stars.
According to many people, Valparaíso is Chile’s cultural capital. If you only have time for one city on your trip, make sure to visit this bohemian town and World Heritage Site on the Chilean coast.
History lovers will adore Valparaíso, as it has a well-preserved old town with cobbled streets. Historically a working-class, maritime city, Valparaíso has many museums dedicated to this heritage, such as Lord Cochrane’s Museum.
Valparaíso is also a great destination for culture lovers. Check out the art both in galleries and on the street in neighborhoods such as Cerro Alegre. Literature lovers can explore traces of the poet Pablo Neruda, who loved the town.
3. Easter Island
Easter Island is located over 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile, but it might as well be a world away from the mainland. This island, known as Rapa Nui to locals, shows a Polynesian culture and landscape you can’t get anywhere else.
Obviously, the biggest attractions on Easter Island are the moai, or giant stone human figurines. These massive statues are all over the island.
You may have seen pictures or examples in museums around the world, but the best way to take in what a feat of human engineering it took to build and transport these statues is to visit the island yourself.
4. The Atacama Desert and Valle de la Luna
Besides lush glacial regions, Chile is also home to one of the driest places in the world, the Atacama Desert. The barren desert has some of the clearest skies in the world, making it a prime location for astronomical observatories and people looking to watch the sunset.
There are plenty of things to do, such as bathing in thermal lagoons, going sand surfing, and exploring the caverns.
One of the most popular regions in the desert is Valle de la Luna, which has stunning rugged landscapes and dry saline lake beds. Use the quaint town of San Pedro de Atacama as your base for exploring this region.
Chile’s vibrant capital is a must-see destination on your trip to the country. It is well-connected to the rest of the country and the world, making it a great hub to start your exploration of Chile.
Visit local museums such as Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino to get a taste of the country’s history and culture.
However, don’t spend too much time in the past — Santiago is a hub of contemporary art and culture. Be sure to go to the many nightclubs to see how Chileans relax.
6. The Chilean Lake District
Visit the Chilean Lake District, a region of southern Chile, and you might forget you’re in South America. The jagged mountains and pristine lakes remind many people of the Alps.
The association with the Alps is stronger when you realize this is the center of Chile’s German community, whose culture you can explore at the many picturesque towns.
While in the Lake District, check out many of the adventure opportunities. You can go skiing down Volcan Villarrica, trekking in Puyehue National Park, white water rafting, and more.
If you’re more of a relaxer while on vacation than an adrenaline junkie, then Iquique is the Chilean town for you. The town is located on the northern Chilean coast and is perfect for relaxing on the beach.
Iquique is also known as the Monte Carlo of Chile, thanks to its hedonistic atmosphere. Spend your nights at the many casinos or enjoy duty-free shopping (this is one of Chile’s two free ports).
8. The Humberstone
Near Iquique, you can explore Chile’s mining history at the Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works. This ghost town in the desert looks like something out of a Western cowboy movie.
During the 19th century, the site was one of the many saltpeter mines that operated in the Pampa Desert.
Today, it is a UNESCO heritage site that preserves the history and culture of the miners, called pampinos, who lived here. Come to learn more about Chile’s history and explore the abandoned atmosphere.
9. The Chilean Fjords
In the southern part of the country, the landscape breaks up into dramatic inlets and fjords. From Cape Horn to the Reloncaví Estuary, you can enjoy the spectacular landscapes formed by fjords.
The best way to see the fjords is by boat. Take a series of ferries or go on an organized cruise or sailing trip. Most of these trips start from Puerto Montt and take you close to these spectacular landscapes in remote parts of Patagonia.
10. Chilean Wine Valleys
Chile is one of the best destinations in South America for wine lovers. Popular wine valleys include Maipo Valley, Colchagua Valley, and Casablanca Valley. Most of these are located close to Santiago, making them a good day trip from the capital.
Many of the estates offer wine tasting as well as innovative cuisine to accompany the wine pairings. Be sure to taste the Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah.
11. Chiloé Island
Chiloé Island is the largest island in the Chiloé Archipelago, located a few hundred miles south of Santiago. The archipelago developed a distinct culture thanks to its distance from the mainland and the cultural mixing of Spanish missionaries, German immigrants, and local indigenous people.
When visiting Chiloé Island, check out the brightly painted wooden churches and stilt houses called palafitos. Like the rest of Chile, the island also has beautiful nature. Check out the wildlife and sea kayaking in Chiloé Island National Park.
12. Carretera Austral
The Carretera Austral is one of the most popular road trip destinations in Chile. This iconic road goes through the remote region of Aysén, part of Patagonia. The highway stretches for around 770 miles, but you can drive just part of it for a taste of the best of Patagonia.
Highlights include the glacial lakes such as General Carrera Lake, the marble caves in Puerto Río Tranquilo, and the sweeping glacial landscapes around Villa O’Higgins. This is a remote, often unpaved route, so make sure you are prepared before you go.
13. Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago at the very southern tip of Chile that is also the southern tip of the South American continent. Lovers of history can visit Cape Horn and walk in the footsteps of countless explorers, including Ferdinand Magellan.
Tierra del Fuego is a great destination for nature lovers as “The End of the World” boasts landscapes that you can’t see anywhere else. Plus, the wildlife spotting opportunities are plentiful, as you can see humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions, and giant colonies of penguins.
Pucón, in Chile’s Araucanía region, is a great base for wildlife exploration. The laid-back city is close to the Villarrica volcano. Hike up the volcano for some truly spectacular views. From the top, you get a great view of the lake that stretches out by the city.
The area around Pucón is full of other adventurous activities, including white water rafting, horseback riding, and more. Of course, you have to let your body relax after so much activity, and thanks to the volcano, the area has many thermal baths.
15. Los Pingüinos Natural Monument
Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to see colonies of adorable penguins in the wild? When you visit Los Pingüinos Natural Monument, you are guaranteed to see massive colonies of Magellanic penguins that call the Magdalena and Marta Islands home.
You can visit the islands via guided boat tours (which are sometimes required) or from the ferries that usually depart from the nearby city of Punta Arenas. You can spot other wildlife, such as sea lions, while you are there.
16. Lauca National Park
When you’re visiting the north of Chile, make sure you spend time in Lauca National Park. The park covers a vast area of untouched landscapes near the Peruvian and Bolivian borders.
The main draws of Lauca National Park are the two still-active volcanoes, Pomerape and Parinacota. Under their snow-capped peaks, there are plenty of trails to explore the landscape and spot wildlife, such as wild alpacas and llamas.
17. Elqui Valley
The Elqui Valley is a great destination for lovers of outdoor adventures and a bit of hedonism. The Elqui Valley is where Chile’s national spirit, pisco, is made. Visit some distilleries, and don’t forget to indulge in some tastings.
To avoid feeling too indulgent, take advantage of the many outdoor adventures in the lush Elqui Valley, such as hiking, biking, and snorkeling.
This is one of the best places in the world for stargazing — don’t forget to check out the International Dark Sky Sanctuary and book a hotel with glass roofs if you can.
18. Valle Nevado
When you think of visiting South America, you probably don’t plan on skiing. However, Chile is home to some excellent ski resorts. Valle Nevado is one of the most popular, but you can also check out historic Portillo or resorts in the Lake District.
Valle Nevado is one of the most popular because it is massive and located very close to Santiago. If you visit in the winter, this can be a great day trip from the capital.
Things to Consider
Before planning your trip to Chile, here are a few things to keep in mind. Chile is in the Southern Hemisphere, so if you live somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, remember that the seasons will be the opposite of what you are used to.
If you’re visiting in July or August, it will be winter, so pack warm clothing! Most people visit Chile to explore the untouched nature, but nature can be as dangerous as it is beautiful. Don’t go on hikes or treks that are above your experience level.
Watch the weather reports closely so you don’t run into trouble. In some areas, it is recommended or even required to go with a local guide, so read up on local regulations.
Finally, some of the more remote locations in Chile are hard to visit by yourself. The best way to get to places such as Easter Island is to go on an organized tour, even if you’re used to being an independent traveler.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few other questions people who visited Chile wanted to know the answers to:
What is the prettiest place in Chile?
This is a hard question to answer as Chile stretches for nearly 3,000 miles along some of the most picturesque landscapes in the world! If you like quaint small towns, you’ll love San Pedro de Atacama or the towns in the Lake District. For pretty landscapes, visit Torres del Paine.
What part of Chile should I visit?
Chile boasts many regions with distinct landscapes, and the best way to get to know the country is to travel all over. If you’re short on time, the best parts to visit are Patagonia, for its stunning landscapes, and Santiago, which you can use as a hub to explore the central region.
What is the #1 tourist attraction in Chile?
Most visitors to Chile make a beeline for Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia.
Is Chile inexpensive to visit?
Compared to the rest of South America, Chile is expensive, especially when it comes to accommodations. However, it will be an affordable trip compared to most parts of Europe or the United States.
How many days in Chile is enough?
To truly get a taste of all Chile has to offer, most guides recommend spending at least 15 days in the country.
So, What Is the Best Place to Visit in Chile?
The biggest draw in Chile is its spectacular nature. From the mountains of Torres del Paine to the Atacama Desert, there are plenty of destinations to satisfy the adventure traveler.
For a taste of culture, visit cities such as Valparaíso and quaint towns such as those on Chiloé Island. So, with so much to see and do, what are you waiting for — book your trip to Chile today!