Snaking down the Pacific coast of South America, Chile is long, skinny and full of surprises. Measuring a whopping 2,653 miles in length and just 217 miles in width, it’s a country packed with incredible landscapes from top to bottom.
Home to a mixture of snow-capped mountains, sweeping vineyards, lunar-like valleys and salt-crusted lagoons, Chile is a brilliant destination for lovers of epic scenery and the Great Outdoors. If you’re after an adventure that provides a new sense of perspective, there’s nowhere better.
True to its name, Moon Valley is an otherworldly lunar-like expanse full of still, stark beauty. Dotted with jagged cliffs shaped by centuries of the desert wind, it’s a valley of dramatic dry lakes and saline hills baked by the Chilean sun.
One of the most popular places to visit in the Atacama, Moon Valley is best at daybreak and sunset when the light and colour play upon the rocks. If you stay to watch the moon rise, you’re in for a real treat.
The Atacama Desert in Chile is scattered with shallow emerald nad azure lagoons full of pink Andean flamingos. These Altiplanic Lagoons, located mostly within the Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos, are circled by volcanoes, and you can often spot grazing vicunas on the slopes. This whole area is a pure photographer’s playground, so be sure that your camera is poised for action at all times.
Part of Chilean Patagonia, Torres del Paine is the most famous and, arguably, the most beautiful national park in Chile. A jaw-dropping combination of glaciers, lakes, pampas plains and alpine forests, it’s heaven for hikers of all abilities.
The most iconic viewpoint is the Mirador Las Torres, set on a bright turquoise lake with the Cuernos del Paine – three legendary granite towers – looming above the far shores. It’s not an easy hike to get here, but it’s worth every inch of effort.
Part of the world’s driest desert, Death Valley is a bizarre sea of sand and rock peaks stretching into the horizon. Brilliant for hiking, cycling and sand-boarding, it’s a place to unleash your inner child and run amok. Like so much of Chile, Death Valley’s extraordinary scenery offers excellent photo opportunities, so keep your camera close at hand.
Flanked by the snow-capped Andes, Chile’s peaceful and atmospheric capital provides a warm welcome to all visitors, making it a great place to kick off a trip. Officially declared the safest city in Latin America, it’s packed with friendly locals, vibrant culture, fascinating history and seriously delicious food.
Even better, the climate is Mediterranean, with practically no rainfall between November and March. Pull up a seat in a cobbled colonial plaza, sip a classic pisco sour and soak up the South American sunshine.
Located in the heart of Torres del Paine, EcoCamp Patagonia is the world’s first geodesic dome hotel that is also 100% sustainable. Beautiful in their own right, the comfy eco-domes here provide the perfect base for trekking, cycling, kayaking and wildlife-watching in Chilean Patagonia, while protecting the fragile eco-system at the same time.
Extraordinary and ethical, this award-winning resort is packed with wild romance. We can’t recommend it highly enough, and it's easy to work into any Chile itinerary.
Green, leafy and dotted with lakes, Chile’s Pucón region feels far more alpine than the rest of the country. Here, waterfalls crash over forested peaks, monkey puzzle trees flank shady hiking trails, and small fishing boats take to the water at dawn. It’s a region with a gentle feel that provides a great place to catch your breath between adventures. For the ultimate retreat, try staying at Vira Vira Hacienda, a luxury lodge like no other.
The third largest salt flat in the world, the Salar de Atacama is surreal on an epic scale. Formed by water flowing into the basin of the Atacama Desert and evaporating to leave a white salt crust, it’s somewhere that will seriously dazzle you. Flanked by a chain of volcanoes and covering 1,200 square miles, it will play with your depth perception, and the sunsets will leave you speechless.
Cast adrift in the Polynesian Triangle of the southeastern Pacific Ocean, Easter Island is a place of pure mystery. A Chilean territory, the volcanic island is famous for the iconic Moai statues scattered across its shores.
Built by the Rapa Nui people, there are almost 1,000 of these stone statues on the island. Very little is known about the Rapa Nui and, indeed, the Moai, which makes them even more bewitching. You can reach Easter Island with a direct 5.5-hour flight from Santiago, making it an easy addition to any Chile trip.
Chile’s Route 7, also known as the Carretera Austral is one of the most dramatic roads in South America and possibly the whole world. Stretching 1,240 miles from Northern Chile deep into Patagonia, it forms the perfect route for an unbeatable road trip. The road passes high altitude lagoons, thick forests, and rippling lakes with Andean peaks and active volcanoes towering in the background.
Towering over Llanquihué and Todos Los Santos Lake in Southern Chile, the perfect cone of Osorno volcano is an icon of Chile’s Lake District. One of the most active volcanoes in Chile, its upper slopes are covered mostly by glaciers and, on a still day, Osorno forms a pristine reflection in the lakes below. The top of the volcano is dusted with snow almost all year round and is famous for being the spitting image of Mount Fuji.
Sitting at the foot of several stratovolcanoes, El Tatio is an exciting geothermal field in the Andes scattered with 80 geysers and dozens of hot springs. At 4,320 metres above sea level, it’s a surreal wonderland, especially at sunrise when the clouds of steam gush into the crisp air.
Sculpted into the Patagonian Andes, Chile’s Marble Caves have to be seen to be believed. Set on the far shore of Lake General Carrera, the caves are reachable only by boat or kayak, which adds to their sense of hidden mystery. Here, the pure marble caves are coloured with natural lilac, cool blue and grey swirls, all rising from turquoise glacial waters.
Dubbed the ‘Jewel of the Pacific’, the coastal resort of Valparaiso is bursting with colour and creativity. A leading hub for poets, musicians and artists, it has a bohemian vibe and boutique feel that you won’t find anywhere else in Chile.
Valparaiso is the perfect place to hop between cafes, sip cocktails and get stuck into some lazy afternoon people-watching. When you get tired, take the famous funicular to the hilltop district and pull up a seat as the sun goes down.
Most visitors arrive on Easter Island to see the Moai statues but stay for the beaches. Easter Island boasts a handful of postcard-perfect South Pacific beaches that feel like authentic tropical retreats. Think turquoise waters, swaying palm trees and soft, warm sands. If you’re making an effort to get all the way out to Easter Island, it’s well worth sticking around to recharge your batteries in the sunshine.
With over 300 crystal clear nights per year, Chile’s Northern Atacama is the ultimate stargazing destination. Home to several observatories and dark sky tours, it’s a global hub for the rising trend of Astrotourism. Under these unpolluted skies, you can see the Milky Way in all its glory, giving you perhaps the ultimate sense of perspective.
Stretching way down south into Tierra del Fuego, the Chilean Fjords are full of drama. From Punta Arenas, you can take a cruise through the Southern Fjords that glides through Glacier Alley and curves around Cape Horn. On the way, you can spot Magellanic penguins and pass the ‘Lighthouse at the End of the World’ in the Beagle Channel.
Rising out of crisp azure waters, Grey Glacier is one of Patagonia’s most stunning ice formations. Situated in Torres del Paine on the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, it’s a mesmerising sight to behold from both near and far.
The area around the glacier is zig-zagged with scenic walking trails, and you can easily spend a full day exploring the wilderness. To get up close, you can take boat trips to within a safe distance of the glacier and – if that’s not enough – you can grab some crampons for a bit of ice-hiking.
Located in Torres del Paine National Park, Lake Pehoe is one of the most photogenic destinations in Patagonia. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains with killer views of the Cuernos del Paine, Lake Pehoe is an unbelievable clear, crisp blue. It’s a classic overnight spot for hikers on the multi-day W trek, and sunrise over the lake is something that you won’t forget in a hurry.
If Chile’s stunning scenery isn’t enough to inspire you, perhaps its delicious wines will give you the final push. Home to three famous world-class wine valleys – Casablanca, Maipo and Colchagua – it’s easy to arrange a gourmet escape within a stone’s throw of Santiago. Wander between vines, much a picnic with an Andean backdrop and sample the local Carmeneres, Malbecs and Syrahs.