Who Should Visit Chile and Why
If you know geography well, you may recall a long strip of land at the very edge of South America. You may have tried Chilean wine and wore warm ponchos.
It is a country of contrasts and extremes. There are penguins and seals in the south, and scorpions and ticks have been driven away from the driest desert in the world in the north. Who should visit Chile? It is a good idea to visit Chile if:
- you're looking for variety and new impressions,
- tired of the humid tropical climate,
- in remote places with ancient history and culture,
- skiing, mountaineering, or trekking,
- mountains, lakes, and breathtaking views are your favorite things.
What's the point of going to a place where it's summer in January, hot in the north and cold in the south? It's the only country in South America without poisonous snakes.
3 Reasons to Visit Chile
1. Three countries in one (plus more)
Chile covers four climatic zones and stretches 4,630 km from north to south. As a result, it is traditionally divided into three parts:
- The North. The Atacama Desert, the plains, and the plateaus;
- Middle Chile. Plants thrive in the mild winters and warm, dry summers of this region. Our locals grow a variety of familiar fruits and berries - apples, grapes, watermelons, cherries, plums, raspberries, and exotics - mangos, quinces, cucumbers, nisperos, and cherimoyas. Chileans love avocados (more than 300 thousand hectares are devoted to avocados). Worth a visit here on a foodie tour;
- The South. It is Tierra del Fuego and the city closest to Antarctica, Ushuaia.
2. Comfortable and safe travel
It has the lowest crime rate on the continent of South America. Chileans do not share the same mentality as typical Latinos. Here, people are usually balanced, unhurried, quite sociable, and responsive.
3. There's a lot to see
For those who enjoy cool natural and cultural monuments, Chile is a goldmine.
Here are the top 30 most popular tourist destinations in the southernmost country in the world. Let's explore!
Chile's nature is extremely diverse. Let's look at the most beautiful and popular spots.
➤ Valle de la Luna
Just 15 km from San Pedro de Atacama and it might as well be another planet. But it isn't. The area is called Moon Valley. This looks like Mars from a cinematic perspective.
At least the 8th wonder of the world is in the view: steep canyons, salt pillars that resemble overturned stalactites, and red mountainsides with carved sharp edges.
There's always something beautiful about this place. The view is especially beautiful before sunset when the molten sun gilds the salt-covered peaks and weaves a whimsical lace of shadows.
From the observation deck, you can see the valley of the moon. From there, you can see the plain, above which lies a sleeping volcano, the Lycancabur.
➤ Atacama Desert
When you think of the desert, what comes to mind? Are there endless sands on which camels lazily wander? If so, then the Atacama will astonish you. You would never guess it to be the driest desert: such a diverse landscape with stunning views. There is nothing stereotypical about this landscape. There are several interesting places to visit:
- Death Valley is the most lifeless part of the desert. Even with its eerie name, it attracts thousands of tourists who ride the high dunes hundreds of meters high;
- El Tatio Geysers. When they are shrouded in a snow-white haze, they look aesthetically pleasing;
- Termas de Puritama, hot springs with mineral water. The water temperature varies from 28° to 31°. Ideal for a cool evening in the desert;
- The giant of the Atacama. The drawing dates back thousands of years. Nobody knows why it was drawn. The desert contains approximately 5 thousand mysterious images, but this one is the largest.
Rain rarely falls here. There are few beaches among the salt marshes, pebble outcrops, and snow-covered volcanoes. Flamingos roam the salt lagoons, and guanaco llamas live on rare vegetation islands.
Observing the night sky from this area is one of the best things to do. Here, the skies are unusually clear. Astronomers and people who just like to look at the stars come here on expedition tours from all over the world for this very reason..
➤ Maipo Volcano
A perfectionist's dream, this five-thousand-meter peak. It has a very rare symmetrical form - a perfectly regular cone. A benchmark in the world of volcanoes.
Located nearby is Laguna del Diamante Lake. The water is stunningly blue. The snow-capped peak of the volcano is reflected in the mirror.
Diamond Crater, shaped like a cut jewel, is another neighbor of Maipo.
Along with admiring the peaks, you can also cross the river on a suspension bridge and go horseback riding.
➤ Torres del Paine National Park
A picturesque valley with fjords, volcanoes, lakes, and oases lies 140 km north of Puerto Natales. Torres del Paine Reserve, which means "blue towers", is located here. Above the valley, three sharp cliffs seem to rest against the sky.
It is one of the most environmentally friendly places on earth, with untouched human nature protected by UNESCO. There is something about this place that reminds me of the Alps, but with a touch of the harsh northern desert. Overgrown with moss and lichen, there are mounds of rocks and boulders. The lagoon water has an unusual emerald color.
Walking along hiking trails or along the slopes of mountains or woodlands is pleasant. There are many unusual animals to meet: guanacos, South African foxes, little nandus. They are not afraid of people because hunting is forbidden, so they pose for (and with) tourists who come on photo tours.
➤ La Portada Natural Monument
Would you like to see a 35 million year-long construction site? This is how long it took seawater to build an arch near Antofagasta. An architectural project of the nature of the "Gate" (so translates its name from Spanish).
The length of the arch itself is 43 meters, and the pedestal on which it stands is 50 meters. The arch is composed of black andesite, shell remains, and fossils.
A striking accent is added to the natural composition by the monument. Waves crash against the sharp edges of the cliff, forming foam.
Among the birds that gather here are gulls, pelicans, cormorants, and others. Dolphins and seals can also be seen nearby.
➤ Los Flamencos National Wildlife Refuge
A cluster of flamingos and other rare birds live in this natural area. It is located 33 kilometers from San Pedro de Atacama.
This reserve has such a variety of climatic and natural conditions that it has been divided into seven sectors. Each has a hiking trail.
Would you like to see Chile at once? Then come here. There are deserts and hills, forests and lakes, rivers and salt marshes, and wetlands here. The remains of ancient pre-Columbian settlements dating back 3,000 years.
There is a predominantly flat landscape. Mirror-like reflections of small lakes and lagoons reflect the majestic mountain ranges.
➤ Lauca National Park
UNESCO has protected a site near the port city of Arika. The locals call this area "Water Grasses". Green steppes are scattered across the country, crisscrossed by streams and lakes with islands.
The park is situated in the Andes. Six-thousandths of Gualiatiri and Acotango have the highest peaks.
The alpacas stroll through the fields. They do not fear people. As well as posing for photos, they enjoy eating their treats.
It's best to come here when it doesn't rain a lot, which is from September to December and in spring.
➤ Chungara Lake
There is a high-mountain lake called Chungara in Lauca Park. Bolivia is on the other side of the park.
A lake fills the mouth of an extinct volcano. It is surrounded by a chain of mountains. Still, there are Inca buildings and stairs that can be climbed up to reach the top.
Lake Michigan's rugged beauty is truly impressive. The bright blue azure of the water contrasts beautifully with the lifeless landscape. Near the shore, there are marshy areas where birds swim.
Museums in Chile
Because Chile has a rich history, there are many museums. Let's go from ancient times to the present.
➤ Museum of Pre-Columbian Art
A unique place. Located in Santiago's historic center is a museum with the largest collection of objects from the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas, who inhabited the territory of the country at the time.
A few numbers:
- Over 3,000 ancient artifacts;
- Nearly 100 ancient cultures have been represented;
- Approximately ten thousand years old.
The museum contains statues of deities, ceramics, gold jewelry, wooden idols, snuffboxes, dishes, fabrics, and other household items.
The museum is divided into 4 parts, each of which is responsible for its region:
- Area Mesoamerica (the region of Middle America);
- Area Intermedia (intermediate area);
- Area Andes Centrale (central Andes);
- Area Andres del Sur (area Andres del Sur).
You can eat inexpensively and deliciously at the cafe in the building. In addition, the temperature in the museum is quite cool, so it is better to visit here to escape the heat.
➤ National Museum of History
Santiago's museum is closer to modernity. There are mainly exhibits about the capital's history. There are also some finds from pre-Columbian times.
The museum contains a lot of interesting items, including musical instruments, ancient manuscripts, books, weapons, national clothing, and furniture.
There is an exhibition about Chilean statesman and military leader Captain-General Pinochet. Among Chileans themselves, he has both admirers and detractors. In his own words, Pinochet said: «I'm not a dictator. I just have a look on my face».
As well as historical exhibits, the museum has a large collection of paintings by foreign artists.
➤ Mummy Museum
In the city of San Pedro de Atacama you can find an unusual and creepy museum. They are worth visiting if you like unconventional attractions (and are not intimidated by the movie "The Mummy Returns").
Chinchorro people mummified their dead long before the Egyptians. This custom was also mandatory for all the dead. Many of the mummies were on the surface following the earthquake.
The museum has more than 380,000 exhibits that date as far back as 11,000 years. The collection includes 5,000 skulls. The skulls are interesting because of their shape - in ancient times, deformed skulls indicated a high social rank.
➤ Mirador Interactive Museum
Modern museum - no dusty glass or "Keep out" signs. Visitors can see, touch, and taste everything.
Physicists and chemists weren't your favorite subjects in school? No worries! Everything here is visual and easy to understand. Maybe you're a techie? That's fine, too. Being able to see nature's laws in action is fascinating.
The exhibits demonstrate the structure of the world through the use of lighting, optical illusions, earthquakes, laws of mechanics, and gravity.
Both children and their parents will enjoy the museum. Time flies here, and you can easily spend the day having fun. Plus, you will benefit from it.
➤ The Ghost Town of Humberstone
A museum open to the public is located 48 km from Iquique. This is an abandoned town where it is easy to feel like the last man on earth.
Formerly, this area was inhabited by miners. The saltpeter they mined was used to make fertilizer. The town's businesses ceased to exist after synthesized ammonia was produced. Nitrate stocks were also depleted. The inhabitants wondered: what now? It was a desert all around. There was no work. There was no water. The city began to empty en masse until it was completely deserted.
Currently, it is an open-air museum frequented by tourists. Every year, the city comes alive with a festival. Come here in November to see the show.
Islands and Archipelagos
Chile has 28 fairly large islands, as well as countless mini-Islands. Let's take a look at the most fascinating ones.
➤ Chiloé Island
A second-largest island after Tierra del Fuego. The island is located 90 km southwest of Puerto Montt and has a length of almost 200 km.
There is lush vegetation on the island. It is almost completely covered with evergreen forests. There are low mountains in the center. A bay with small islands surrounds them.
The eastern part of the relief is quite rugged and uneven with glaciers. Located on a low cliff, the west coast has a long coastline with green slopes.
On the water you can see houses supported by wooden poles. The facades are decorated with marble and brick and have quaint porches.
In winter, it rains a lot on the island, so it's better to visit in the summer.
➤ Easter Island
It is the most isolated inhabited island in the world. There are no inhabited areas within 2075 km of the island. It is located 3500 kilometers from Chile. Rapanui is the local name for the island. It has about 8 thousand permanent residents. Several hotels are available for tourists.
In the middle part, there are extinct volcanoes that were created by magma eruptions. Lakes fill the craters of these volcanoes. Until the central water supply appeared, these were the only sources of freshwater.
These are the famous and mysterious stone moai statues. Their stares are fixed on the island, and their faces are stern and gloomy. Exactly why these giants were carved from solid pieces of stone is still a mystery.
Santiago is an island that can be reached by air. The plane makes a stopover here on its way to Tahiti.
➤ Tierra del Fuego
The main island of an archipelago of 40,000 islands is called this. Forests and glaciers cover the island. There are also fjords.
Ushuaia is the southernmost city on Earth. Among the local delicacies is the delicious Kamchatka crab.
Birds and animals inhabit the island in large numbers. They include royal penguins, long-eared seals, foxes, parrots, and hummingbirds.
Antarctica is only 900 kilometers away, so the climate there is not friendly. The average summer temperature is about 10°C, and the average winter temperature is about 0°C. It rains and blows almost every day. Even the tallest trees lean heavily to one side due to the harsh arctic winds.
Even with this weather, the population of the Tierra del Fuego Islands is constant increasing at the expense of tourists.
➤ Magdalena Island
A bird sanctuary is located 32 km northeast of Punta Arenas. Tourists are greeted by a sign that reads: "Welcome to Los Pinguinos".
Numerous colonies of Magellanic penguins live on the island. These birds have become accustomed to constant human contact. As they rush about their business, they glance at humans.
It is only possible to move around the island by following specially fenced paths. So as not to damage the penguins' homes, they were paved. The burrows of these animals resemble those of hares.
Aside from the bird colonies, the island's landscape is rather monotonous: the plain is covered with sparse low greenery. The lighthouse at Faro Isla Magdalena is the only bright spot.
From October to April, you can visit the island. However, dress warmer because the wind is quite strong here.
➤ Robinson Crusoe Island
Unlike the island where the protagonist of Daniel Defoe's novel fell 300 years ago, this island is now inhabited. It is home to about 630 permanent residents.
The climate is temperate Mediterranean. Although the water is too cold for swimming, thousands of tourists come here each year. In addition to hotels, they live in tents and even caves in order to emulate the experience of the book hero. The island offers diving (the coast has beautiful reefs), trekking, rafting, fishing, and surfing.
There are two ways to get to the island: by plane from Santiago or by boat from Valparaiso.
Historical and Architectural Sights
Palaces, churches, cultural heritage sites, and monuments abound in Chile. All are closely linked to the country's history.
➤ Arm of the Desert
A good example of modern art is the 11-meter hand in the Atacama Desert. The sculpture was created by artist Mario Irarrazabal as a protest against the military government in Chile. He interprets it as expressing loneliness, weakness, and grief of a man lost in the desert.
Antofagasta is 76 kilometers away from the sculpture. The sculpture was installed far from populated areas as it is unlikely to have the same effect near settlements.
It was as if the land itself was begging people to end the senseless cruelty. This was a good place to think about meaningful things.
➤ La Moneda Palace
It is the most famous architectural ensemble in Chile. A snow-white marble building from the Classical period with elegantly carved spires on the roof perimeter. The lines are simple and clear without being pretentious.
More than two centuries have passed since the building was built. Because it used to be a mint, it has such a name. Now, it is the seat of government, under the presidency.
Guards of honor change in front of the building with musical accompaniment - a very exciting spectacle.
In the center of the façade is a square, and on the other side are fountains and landscaped areas. Courtyards flank the walls. One of them has orange trees and is used for celebrations.
Overall, the grounds are very cozy. Architecture respects both human scale and the country's unique atmosphere. There are even a few wooden statues from Easter Island.
➤ Alhambra Palace
The city of Santiago has yet another architectural masterpiece. This richly decorated building is in the Arabian style. It is sometimes confused with the Spanish palace with the same name. The Chilean version is a copy.
The palace is notable for its unusually elaborate plaster stucco decoration of the main entrance and facade. Many of the windows and passageways have arches.
Several earthquakes damaged the palace, which was later restored. It now houses the headquarters of the National Society of Fine Arts.
➤ Church of San Pedro de Atacama
A snow-white church with an elegant minimalist style. It was built by Catholic Spanish colonists in the 17th century. When the lights are turned on in the evening, the church appears to float above the ground. It is located in the western part of the capital.
Construction materials are typical of the area - clay, cactus wood, and later stone.
An iconic historical monument, it is one of the oldest churches in the world.
➤ Church of St. Francis
The Franciscan order founded the church in 1613. The church is located in the historic center of Santiago. Nearby is a small square with a fountain.
The church has been reconstructed several times - a relatively new tower stands next to the ancient lower portion. There is a chapel atop the tower, topped with a cross.
A sense of antiquity is especially felt inside the church. The walls are covered in mosaics, stucco, and mahogany, and there are ancient icons all over.
➤ Mark's Cathedral
This is another old religious building. It was built in 1640. In Arica, it is located on the Plaza de Armas.
It is a Gothic-style cathedral, with carved arches of windows, tall towers, and sharp spires. The main color is white, with dark red trim.
The building was erected without using a cement base. The entire metal frame was made in France.
➤ Andean Christ
There is a 7-meter monument to Christ the Redeemer in the Andes, at the Bermejo Pass. Argentina is just across the border. This is no coincidence. In the early 20th century, the two countries almost started a war because they couldn't agree on borders.
The statue was designed by Mateo Alonso to symbolize the union between the two countries. It is especially symbolic that the monument is made of old bronze cannons. It is reminiscent of the New Testament's message:
"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you are also called in one body, and be friendly."
➤ Plaza de Armas
There is no better place to visit in Santiago than this. During its history, it has served as a weapons depot, a marketplace, and a bullring. This is the most concentrated area of attractions.
Here are some of them:
- St. Mark's Cathedral,
- monument to the indigenous Mapuche Indians,
- monument in honor of American freedom,
- monument to Cardinal José María Caro,
- monument to the Founder of Chile Pedro de Valdivia,
- National Historical Museum and Museum of Art.
Contrasting with the old buildings is the multi-story Fundacion Henry Dunant building with a mirrored façade. A unique image of the city is created by the blending of styles and eras.
Chile has a great deal of organized tourist spots in addition to its magnificent nature. Let's explore the most interesting ones.
➤ Paranal Observatory
Atacama is an ideal place to observe constellations of the southern hemisphere. They have built an observatory of world importance 120 km from Antofagasta.
Every day, the "Very Large Telescope" or "Very Large Telescope" takes many pictures of the cosmos. This telescope has lenses that measure 8.2 meters in diameter.
There are about 130 engineers and scientists here all the time who keep the equipment running.
There is a hotel below the telescope itself - the ESO Hotel. It includes living quarters, administration, a dining room, restrooms, a small swimming pool, and two gardens.
The observatory is only open during daylight hours. Visitors are welcome to take free sightseeing tours. It's interesting to see how everything is arranged inside and see how astronomers live. We recommend it to all space enthusiasts.
➤ RC Selva Viva
Chile has a corner of the tropics. This amusement park recreates the atmosphere of an Amazon jungle.
All around there are unusual trees and plants. Exotic reptiles, amphibians, and birds can be seen here. You can touch some of them. Even thousands of butterflies can be found in the butterfly garden.
The center is located in the heart of Araucana Park. A wide variety of children's attractions are available.
There are primarily children's activities at the park, but adults will also find it interesting.
➤ Chilean Zoo
A large zoo is located in the Santiago Metropolitan Park. Mount San Cristobal is conveniently located on one side of it, so it is easy to see the entire monument.
Chile is home to a number of animals and birds that are unique to the region. Here you will find jaguars, lemurs, guanacos, pudu, flamingos, Humboldt penguins, seals, emus, and polar bears.
Tourists enjoy the beautiful view from the mountain.
➤ Portillo Ski Resort
At the foot of Aconcagua, one of Chile's most beautiful and renowned ski resorts is located 160 km from Santiago. In the middle of the mountains is the Inca Lagoon with its incredible blue water.
Skiing, snowboarding, and freeriding are available here. A skiing school is also available. Tourists can enjoy swimming pools, a gym, a jacuzzi, a restaurant with bar, and children's playrooms at the hotel. From June to September, you can visit the resort.