Chile – land of extremes and contrasts. In the south, penguins with fur seals live quite comfortably, and in the north – the driest desert in the world, from where even scorpions and ticks crawled away.
We tell you about the top locations of this region, which you should know about before traveling to Chile.
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Who should go to Chile
We recommend visiting this country if you:
- want variety and new experiences;
- get tired of a humid tropical climate;
- love remote places with ancient history and culture;
- are fond of skiing, mountaineering or trekking ;
- love the mountains, lakes and stunning views.
Why even go to a place where summer is in January, hot in the north and cold in the south? If only because it is the only country in South America without poisonous snakes.
3 reasons to visit Chile
1. Three countries in one (and even more)
The state of Chile stretches for 4,630 km from north to south and covers several climatic zones. Therefore, it is conventionally divided into 3 parts:
- North. This is the Atacama Desert, plains and plateaus.
- Middle Chile. It has mild winters and warm, dry summers – wonderful conditions for plants. Locals grow both fruits and berries that are quite familiar to us: apples, grapes, watermelons, cherries, plums, raspberries, and exotic ones: mango, membrillo, pepino, nisperos, cherimoya. By the way, Chileans simply love avocados (more than 300 thousand hectares have been allocated for it). Worth visiting here on a gastro tour.
- South. This is Tierra del Fuego and the closest city to Antarctica is Ushuaia.
2. Travel safely and comfortably
Here is the lowest crime rate on the South American continent. The Chileans themselves are not similar in mentality to typical Latinos. As a rule, people here are balanced, unhurried, quite sociable and responsive.
3. Many attractions
Chile – a goldmine for lovers of cool monuments of nature and culture. We have selected the TOP 30 best tourist places in the southernmost country in the world. Go!
The nature of Chile is unusually diverse. Let's look at the most popular and beautiful places.
➤ Valle de la Luna
Only 15 km from the city of San Pedro de Atacama and it seems that you have moved to another planet. But no. This is the famous Moon Valley. Although it looks much more like a cinematic Mars. The view draws on at least 8 wonders of the world: steep canyons, huge salt pillars that look like inverted stalactites, red mountain slopes with carved sharp edges.
This place is always beautiful. But it is especially beautiful before sunset, when the molten sun gilds the snow-covered peaks and weaves a fancy lace of shadows. It is better to look at the Valley of the Moon from the observation deck. It offers a view of the plain, above which rises a dormant volcano – 6000m Licancabur.
➤ Atacama Desert
What do you imagine when you talk about the desert? Endless sands on which camels lazily wander? Then the Atacama will surprise you. You can’t tell by the look that this is the driest desert: such a diverse landscape and amazing views. There is nothing stereotypically deserted here. But there are many interesting places worth visiting:
- Death Valley – the most lifeless part of the desert. Despite its eerie name, it attracts thousands of tourists to ride on high sand dunes hundreds of meters high.
- El Tatio Geysers. Wrapped in a snow-white haze, they look aesthetically pleasing in the predawn clock.
- Termas de Puritama– hot springs with mineral water. Water temperature 28-31°C. What you need in the evening cold desert.
- Atacama Giant. The drawing is over 9 thousand years old. Who painted it and why is unknown. In general, there are about 5 thousand mysterious images in the desert, but this is the largest.
It almost never rains here. Oases are rare among solonchaks, pebbly drifts and snow-covered volcanoes. Flamingos roam the salt lagoons, and wild guanaco llamas can be found on rare islands of vegetation.
This is one of the best locations to watch the night sky. It is pure and extraordinarily clear. Therefore, astronomers and just lovers of stargazing come here from all over the world on expeditions.
➤ Maipo Volcano
This five-thousander – perfectionist dream. It has a rare symmetrical shape – absolutely correct cone. A reference in the world of volcanoes. Nearby is the lake Laguna del Diamante. It has surprisingly bright blue water. Like a mirror for a volcano, it reflects its snow-capped peak.
Another Maipo neighbor – A diamond crater shaped like a gem cut. In addition to admiring the peaks, here you can also cross the river on a suspension bridge and ride horses.
➤ Torres del Paine National Park
140 km north of the city of Puerto Natales are picturesque valleys with fjords, volcanoes, lakes and oases. This is the Torres del Paine nature reserve, which means “blue towers”. Three sharp rocks rise above the valley and seem to rest against the sky.
This is one of the most ecologically clean places on earth with untouched nature, protected by UNESCO. These places are reminiscent of the Alps, but with an admixture of the harsh northern desert. There are mounds of stones, boulders covered with moss and lichen. The water in the lagoons is unusually emerald in color.
It is pleasant to walk along hiking trails, along the slopes of mountains or forests. It is easy to meet unusual animals: guanaco, South African fox, lesser rhea. Hunting is prohibited, and therefore they are not at all afraid of people and willingly pose for tourists (and with them) who come on photo tours.
➤ Natural monument of La Portada
Do you want to see a long-term construction in 35 million years? That is how long it took the sea water to build a stone arch near the city of Antofagast. This is a unique architectural project of nature «Gate» (as its name is translated from Spanish). The height of the arch itself is 43 meters, and the pedestal on which it stands is about 50 meters. The arch consists of black andesite, shell remains and fossils.
The monument completes the natural composition, forming a bright accent. Waves crash against the sharp edges of the cliff, forming a seething foam. This is a favorite gathering place for gulls, pelicans, cormorants and other birds. Nearby you can watch fur seals and dolphins.
➤ Los Flamencos National Reserve
Another natural area, notable for the accumulation of flamingos and other rare birds. It is 33 km from San Pedro de Atacama. The reserve has such diverse climatic and natural conditions that it was divided into 7 sectors. Each of them has hiking trails.
Want to see Chile at once? Come here. It has everything: deserts and hills, forests and lakes, rivers and salt marshes, wetlands. And even the remains of ancient pre-Columbian settlements, whose age is 3 thousand years. The flat landscape prevails. Majestic mountain ranges are reflected in the mirror spills of small lakes and lagoons.
➤ Lauca National Park
Near the port city of Arica is a UNESCO protected site. “Water Herbs” – This is what the locals call this area. There are many green steppes, streaked with lines of streams and drops of lakes with numerous islands. The park is located in the Andes. The highest volcanoes – six-thousanders of Gualliatiri and Akotango.
Alpacas slowly walk through the fields. They are not at all afraid of people. They enjoy eating treats and posing for photos. It is best to come here when there is little rain: from September to December and in spring.
➤ Chungara Lake
The main attraction of Lauka Park – alpine lake Chungara. It is located on the border with Bolivia. The lake fills the mouth of an extinct volcano. It is surrounded by a chain of mountain peaks. They still have Inca buildings and stairs that you can climb up.
The rugged beauty of the lake is truly impressive. The bright blue azure of the water contrasts amazingly with the lifeless landscapes. Closer to the coast there are wetlands where birds swim.
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Museums of Chile
Chile has a rich history, and therefore there are many museums here. Let's go from ancient times to the present.
➤ Museum of Pre-Columbian Art
Unique place. In the historical center of Santiago there is a museum that contains the most complete collection of Aztec, Maya and Inca items that originally inhabited the country. Some numbers:
- more than 3 thousand ancient exhibits,
- objects from almost 100 ancient cultures have been collected,
- the age of the finds is up to 10 thousand years.
Statues of deities, ceramics, gold jewelry, wooden idols, ritual masks, snuffboxes, dishes, collections of fabrics and other household items are kept here. For the convenience of tourists, the museum is divided into 4 parts, each of which is responsible for its own region:
- Area mesoamerica (region of Middle America).
- Area Intermedia.
- Area Andes Centrale.
- Area Andres del Sur.
There is a cafe in the building where you can eat inexpensively and tasty. By the way, the museum is quite cool, so it's better to come here to take a break from the heat.
➤ National Historical Museum
This museum in Santiago is closer to the present. Most of the exhibits are related to the history of the capital. Although there are also some finds from the pre-Columbian era. Many interesting things are stored here: musical instruments, old manuscripts and books, weapons, national clothes, pieces of furniture.
There is an exposition dedicated to Captain General Pinochet, a Chilean statesman and military figure. Among the Chileans themselves, he has fans and haters. Pinochet himself said: “I am not a dictator. It's just that I have such an expression on my face”.
In addition to historical exhibits, the museum has a large collection of paintings, including foreign artists.
➤ The Mummy Museum
The city of San Pedro de Atacama has a rather unusual and creepy museum. If you like non-standard sights (and the movie “The Mummy Returns” does not scare you), we recommend visiting it.
The Chinchorro people were engaged in mummification of the dead long before the Egyptians. Moreover, this custom was obligatory for all the dead. As a result of the earthquake, many of the mummies were on the surface.
In total, the museum has more than 380 thousand exhibits up to 11 thousand years old. Among them there is a collection of 5 thousand skulls. They are interesting for their shape – in ancient times, skulls were deformed to indicate a high position in society.
➤ Mirador Interactive Museum
Contemporary Museum – no dusty windows and “Do not fit” signs. Everything you can (and should) see, touch and try for yourself. Chemistry and physics weren't your favorite subjects at school? Not scary! Here everything is clear and understandable. Or maybe you were a techie? Also good. It is very interesting and exciting to see the living embodiment of the laws of nature.
Lightning, optical illusions, earthquakes, laws of mechanics, gravity – all “exhibits” are served in a playful way and introduce the structure of the world. The museum is interesting for both children and their parents. Time here flies unnoticed and you can easily have fun all day long. And most importantly – with benefit.
➤ Ghost town of Humberstone
There is an open-air museum 48 km from the city of Iquique. This is an abandoned city where it is easy to feel like the last person on Earth.
Earlier, miners lived here. They mined saltpeter for the manufacture of fertilizers. But after receiving the synthesized ammonia, the enterprises of the city were closed. In addition, the stocks of saltpeter ran out. Residents asked themselves: what's next? Around the desert. No work, not even water. People began to leave the city en masse until it was completely empty.
Now it is an open-air museum where tourists often come. Every year the city comes to life: a festival is held here. If you want to catch this time, come here in November.
Islands and archipelagos
In addition to countless mini-islands, Chile has 28 fairly large islands. Let's look at the most interesting ones.
➤ Chiloe Island
The second largest island after Tierra del Fuego. It is located 90 km southwest of Puerto Montt and stretches for almost 200 km. The island is immersed in greenery. Evergreen forests cover it almost completely. In the center are low mountain ranges. A bay with small islands is hidden in them.
In the eastern part, the relief is rather uneven and indented by glaciers. The west coast stretches along the green slopes of a low cliff. Here you can see houses on the water – The buildings stand on tall wooden poles. They are very distinctive: with cozy porches and bright facades, decorated with marble and brick-like finishes.
In winter, there is a lot of rain on the island, so it is better to come in the summer.
➤ Easter Island
The most isolated inhabited island in the world. To the nearest settlement – 2075 km. To Chile – 3,500 km. The locals call it “Rapanui”. The permanent population is about 8 thousand people. There are several hotels for tourists.
Like the islands that appeared as a result of magma eruptions, extinct volcanoes are located in the middle part. The craters are filled with lakes. They were the only sources of fresh water before the central water supply.
Here are the famous and mysterious moai stone statues. Their eyes are turned inland, and their faces are stern and gloomy. Why did the islanders carve huge giants from solid pieces of stone – is still a mystery. You can fly to the island from Santiago. Here the plane makes an intermediate landing to Tahiti.
➤ Tierra del Fuego
This is the name of the main island of the archipelago of 40 thousand islands. The territory is covered with rare forests and glaciers. There are also fjords. Here is the southernmost city on the planet – Ushuaia. Local delicacy – very tasty king crab. The island is home to many species of animals and birds. Among them are king penguins, eared seals, foxes, parrots, hummingbirds.
Only 900 km to Antarctica, and therefore the climate is inhospitable. The average temperature in summer is not more than 10°C, and in winter about 0°C. It rains almost every day and strong winds blow. Due to the harsh arctic winds, even tall trees lean heavily to one side. Despite such weather, the population of the islands of Tierra del Fuego is constantly increasing due to tourists.
➤ Magdalena Island
32 km northeast of the city of Punta Arenas is a real bird kingdom. Tourists are greeted by a sign: “Welcome to Los Pinguinos.” The island is inhabited by numerous colonies of Magellanic penguins. Birds are already accustomed to the constant visits of people. They just glance at them, busily going about their business.
You can move around the island only on special fenced paths. They were laid so as not to harm the penguin houses. They live in burrows similar to rabbits. Apart from bird colonies, the landscape of the island is rather monotonous: the plain is covered with rare low greenery. The only bright accent – Faro Isla Magdalena lighthouse. You can get to the island from October to April. Keep in mind that the wind is quite strong here, so dress warmly.
➤ Robinson Crusoe Island
Unlike the island where the hero of the novel by Daniel Defoe landed 300 years ago, now this island is inhabited. It is permanently inhabited by about 630 people. It has a temperate Mediterranean climate.
Although the bathing water is too cold, thousands of tourists come here. They settle not only in a hotel, but also in tents, and even in caves, trying on the fate of a book hero. From the entertainment on the island are available:
- diving (there are very beautiful reefs near the coast),
There are 2 ways to get to the island: from Santiago by plane or by ship from the city of Valparaiso.
Historical and architectural sights
Chile has many palaces, churches, cultural heritage sites and monuments . All of them are closely connected with the history of the country.
➤ Hand of the desert
11-meter arm in Atacama – an example of good contemporary art. Its author, artist Mario Irarrasabal, created a sculpture in protest against the military regime in Chile. According to his plan, it expresses the loneliness, weakness and sorrow of a person lost in the desert.
The sculpture is located 76 km from Antofagasta. It was specially installed away from settlements – it is unlikely that the sculpture would have produced such a strong effect near the settlements. It was as if the earth itself raised its hand in conciliation, imploring people to stop their senseless cruelty. A good place to think about important things.
➤ La Moneda Palace
The most famous architectural ensemble in Chile. A snow-white marble building of the Classicism era with graceful carved spiers around the perimeter of the roof. Straight and clear lines without frills and pretentious details. The building is over 2 centuries old. It used to be a mint, which is why it bears that name. Now it is the seat of the government with the president.
Changes of the guard of honor are held in front of the building with musical accompaniment – a very exciting sight. At the main facade there is a square, and on the other side – fountains and green areas. Several courtyards adjoin the walls. In one of them, orange trees grow and celebrations take place.
In general, the area is very cozy. The architecture respects both the human scale and the unique atmosphere of the country. There are even a couple of wooden statues from Easter Island.
➤ Alhambra Palace
Another architectural masterpiece of the city of Santiago. The building was built in Arabic style and has a rich decoration. It is sometimes confused with the Spanish palace of the same name. The Chilean version is a copy.
The palace is notable for the unusually skillful plaster moldings that adorn the main entrance and facades. Windows and passages are made in the form of arches. After several earthquakes, the palace was significantly damaged, and it was restored. Today, the headquarters of the National Society of Fine Arts is located here.
➤ Church of San Pedro de Atacama
A snow-white church in a fairly simple minimalist style. It was built in the 17th century by Spanish Catholic colonists. In the evenings, when the lights are turned on, the church seems to float above the ground. It is located in the western part of the capital.
The building material is typical for this area – clay and cactus wood, and later stone. It is one of the oldest churches and an important historical monument.
➤ Church of St. Francis
The church was built already in 1613 by the Order of the Franciscans. It is located in the historic center of Santiago. Nearby there is a small square with a fountain. The church has gone through several reconstructions – next to the ancient and lower part is a relatively new-looking tower.
In the tower part, crowned with a cross, there is a chapel. Inside the church, the breath of antiquity is especially felt. The walls are decorated with mosaics, stucco and mahogany, and around – old icons.
➤ Saint Mark's Cathedral
Another old religious building. Built in 1640. It is located in Arica, in the Plaza de Armas. This is a cathedral in the Gothic style – with carved arches of windows, high towers, sharp spiers. Primary color – white with dark red contrasting trim.
Interestingly, it was built without the use of a cement base. The entire metal frame was made in France.
➤ Andean Christ
In the Andes, on the Bermejo pass, a 7-meter monument to Christ the Redeemer is erected. It is right on the border with Argentina. This is no coincidence. At the beginning of the last century, these two countries almost started a war due to the fact that they could not agree on borders.
According to the plan of the sculptor Mateo Alonso, the statue became a symbol of the union of the two countries. It is especially symbolic that the material for the monument – old bronze cannons. How can one not remember the message from the New Testament: “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body, and be friendly.”
➤ Plaza de Armas
This is the main point of attraction for tourists in Santiago. At one time, the square managed to visit both a warehouse of weapons, and a market, and a place for bullfights. Here is the maximum concentration of attractions. Here are some of them:
- St. Mark's Cathedral,
- monument to the indigenous people – Mapuche Indians,
- American Freedom Monument,
- Monument to Cardinal José María Caro,
- Monument to the Founder of Chile, Pedro de Valdivia,
- National Museum of History and Art Museum.
An amazing contrast with the old buildings is made by the modern multi-storey building Fundacion Henry Dunant with a mirrored facade. The mixture of styles and times creates a unique image of the city.
In addition to the magnificent nature, Chile also has organized tourist places. Let's go through the most interesting ones.
➤ Paranal Observatory
Atacama – an ideal place to observe the constellations of the southern hemisphere. An observatory of world importance was built 120 km from Antofagasta. “Very Large Telescope” or “Very Large Telescope” Every day he takes many pictures of space. Its lens diameter is 8.2 m. About 130 engineers and scientists live here to maintain the operation of the equipment.
Below the telescope itself there is a hotel – ESO Hotel. It provides living quarters, administration, a dining room, recreation rooms, a small pool and two gardens. Visiting the observatory is only allowed during the daytime. For tourists there are free sightseeing tours. You can see how everything is arranged inside and observe the life of astronomers. Recommended to all space lovers.
➤ Selva Viva
A corner of the tropics in Chile. This amusement park completely recreates the atmosphere of the Amazon jungle. Surrounded by unusual trees and plants. Here you will see exotic reptiles, amphibians, birds. Some of them are allowed to touch. There is even a butterfly garden where you can watch thousands of these insects.
The center is located in the middle of the Araucan Park. It has many attractions for children. The park is primarily aimed at children, but adults will also be interested.
➤ Chilean Zoo
There is a large zoo in Santiago Metropolitan Park. It is conveniently located on one side of Mount San Cristobal, so you can see it in its entirety. The park is home to many unique animals and birds that are unique to the region of Chile.
You can see jaguars, lemurs, guanacos, pudas, flamingos, Humboldt penguins, fur seals, emus, polar bears. Bonus for tourists – the mountain offers a beautiful view of the city.
➤ Ski resort Portillo
At 160 km from Santiago, at the foot of Mount Aconcagua, is one of the most beautiful and famous ski resorts in Chile. In the middle of the mountains, the Inca Lagoon spilled with incredibly blue water. Here you can ski, snowboard or freeride. There is also its own ski school.
The hotel offers tourists a swimming pool, a gym, a jacuzzi, a restaurant with a bar, and children's playrooms. The resort can be visited from June to September.