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Chile Travel Guide

The land of alien statues, flamingos, poetry + space robots
Chile is equal parts extremely weird and wonderful. 
It has an island filled with 1000 strange stone head statues with no identifiable purpose. But it’s also the homeland of Nobel-prize winning poet, Pablo Neruda.  It has the Atacama Desert, the driest one in the world. But it also has the clearest skies in the world, perfect for gazing up at the night sky and into the universe.  It has both huge active volcanoes and detergent powder blue glaciers. You can see penguins in Chile. As well as the world’s oldest mummies. 
As such, it’s a destination for travellers who thrill in exploring wild, untrammeled corners of the world, and those who are fond of the weird and mysterious. It will delight those who have been charmed by Neruda’s stanzas, and others who simply want a taste of South American adventure.  No matter where your Chile tour package  takes you, you’re in for a journey unlike any other.
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Chile is equal parts extremely weird and wonderful. 

It has an island filled with 1000 strange stone head statues with no identifiable purpose. But it’s also the homeland of Nobel-prize winning poet, Pablo Neruda.  It has the Atacama Desert, the driest one in the world. But it also has the clearest skies in the world, perfect for gazing up at the night sky and into the universe.  It has both huge active volcanoes and detergent powder blue glaciers. You can see penguins in Chile. As well as the world’s oldest mummies. 

As such, it’s a destination for travellers who thrill in exploring wild, untrammeled corners of the world, and those who are fond of the weird and mysterious. It will delight those who have been charmed by Neruda’s stanzas, and others who simply want a taste of South American adventure.  No matter where your Chile tour package  takes you, you’re in for a journey unlike any other.

Location

Chile is nestled along the western edge of South America. It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, 
Bolivia on the northeast, Peru on the North, and Argentina on the east. A number of Pacific Islands share borders with Chile, making this country as diverse as it could get, in terms of climate and culture.

Where to go

Chile has something for everyone. Those inclined towards outdoor adventures will enjoy trekking in Torres Del Paine National Park or conquering the Grey Glacier summit. Travellers looking for offbeat experiences should visit Easter Island, or go stargazing in the Atacama desert. Travellers looking for a little pampering during their trip will enjoy the bustle of the capital city, Santiago, and wine-tasting in Colchagua, Maipo and Limari Valleys.

 Although the country sees a steady stream of travellers round the year, the best time to visit Chile depends on which part of the country you are visiting. For instance, if you’re thinking about booking a Chile group travel package in the southern part of the country, it might be better to travel during the latter months of the year upto March in order to take advantage of higher, more palatable temperatures.
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At a glance

Currency

Chilean Peso
The currency used in Chile is the Chilean Peso. At the time of posting, the conversion from Peso to Rupee is 1 CLP= 0.090 INR.

Weather

Chile’s weather remains relatively steady all through the year, making any time a great time to visit. Central Chile is mostly cool to temperate, ranging from anywhere between 12 ºC to 16 ºC. And the northern part of Chile is mostly the Atacama Desert, known for being one of the world’s most arid regions, so the temperature there reaches around 40 ºC.

Language

Spanish
Spanish is the official language  in Chile. However, many indigenous languages - most famous of them Quechua and Rapa Nui - are still spoken in the country. And English is spoken in areas frequented by travelers.

Expert travel advice

Travel tips and insider advice that have made the most difference to us, sourced from our
community of like-minded travellers and global experts.

Eat seafood in Santiago’s Central Market   

Recommended by Goats On The Road

“Without a doubt, one of the tastiest things to do in Santiago is eating seafood in Mercado Central. This bustling market has been in business since way back in 1872 and continues to be a popular place to shop and eat...The seafood here is all super fresh and delicious, whether you order a plate of ceviche, king crab, or clams au gratin.”

Nick & Dariece are a 30-something couple from Canada who have been travelling for 8 years. They have visited more than 60 countries around the world. Goats On The Road is a very popular resource for travellers, and has been featured on CNN, National Geographic Traveller, NBC and more.

Solve the mystery of Easter Island   

Recommended by Along Dusty Roads

“A dot of an island, thousands of miles from the mainland, Rapa Nui draws those curious to gaze at the 800 plus volcanic rock moai statues and to contemplate what they actually represent. To this day, nobody has a definitive answer to whether they were statues or gods, how they were moved or what importance they held...and it is the impenetrable nature of that mystery which makes it such a unique destination.”

Go stargazing in the Atacama desert   

Recommended by NOMADasaurus

“The Atacama Desert is known for having the best stargazing opportunities in the world. The high altitude coupled with the low density population means there’s almost no light pollution. This creates perfect conditions to see the Milky Way.”

Australia’s biggest adventure travel blog run award-winning travel writers and photographers Alesha Bradford and Jarryd Salem. They specialise in adventure travel, sustainable tourism, detailed travel guides, off the beaten path destinations, photography and creating a lifestyle around travel. They’ve been featured on Buzzfeed, BBC Travel, the Daily Mail, and other publications.

Visit magical Chiloe island   

Recommended by Walkaboot Travel

“The island seemed so unique, so magical, and with such a distinct culture…[it] is a destination wrapped in its own folklore with tales of witchcraft, ghost ships, and magic; it is a place that just screams mystery...This folklore makes it one of the most unique places to travel in Chile.”

Kimberly Erin Davies travels the world sourcing out the best adventure and remote destinations while maintaining luxury in lifestyle, and sharing her adventures on her blog.

Go horseback riding with cowboys in Torres del Paine   

Recommended by Pygmy Elephant

“Torres del Paine is located in the frontier area of Chile. The sprawling pampas around the park have been used for sheep grazing since the 19th century. There are several "estancias" or sheep farms, located near Torres del Paine, where gauchos still work daily.”

Pygmy Elephant is the end result of Andrew Delmenhorst’s two years of full time travel in search of the best adventure experiences the world has to offer.

Incredible places to visit in Chile

Santiago

When you’re exploring a country, what better place to start than its capital? Located in its entirety in Chile’s Central Valley, Santiago is one of the largest cities among North and South America. It was first established in the mid 1500s by Spanish colonizers and has remained Chile’s capital ever since. Given its central location, its temperate climate, and a strong blend of heritage and modernity, Santiago should be an integral stop on any Chile tour package you choose. Here’s how to get the most out of your time in the city:

Cerro de San Cristobal

Cerro de San Cristobal, literally translated as the Hill of St. Christopher, was established by the conquistadors of Spain in the 16th century. Interestingly, Cerro de San Cristobal is of both scientific and religious significance, as it is home to the Mills Observatory on its peak. In addition to its astronomical importance, there is a chapel on the peak of the hill, which was blessed by Pope John Paul the Second. As it looks over the city, it’s the best place to watch the sun set or rise over Santiago.

Sky Costanera

The Sky Costanera is the second-highest building in the Southern Hemisphere, making its sky observation deck offering 360-degree views of the city unrivalled. Watch the sun peek through the clouds while you’re at the top of the observatory with a loved one; for couples considering Chile honeymoon packages, this place is a must in your itinerary.

Eat seafood in the Central Market

Chile is famous for its seafood, and the Central Market in Santiago aka Mercado Central is where you need to go for your first taste.  It has been named as one of National Geographic's top ten food markets worldwide for good reason.  Fresh seafood is hauled straight from the Pacific and taken to the market that is frequented by locals for their weekly shopping. 

Walk inside (brace yourself for the smell of lots and lots of fish!) and you’ll see rows of fishmongers cleaning, chopping, weighing and selling their ware - everything from giant squid to sea urchins,  barnacles to king crab. In the center, there’s a grouping of restaurants; waiters compete with each other to tempt you into their own. #Protip: there’s plenty for you to try. We recommend Pastel de Jaiba (crab cake) or Locos which are a species of large edible sea snails that are eaten with mayonnaise.

Visit Pablo Neruda’s home

Like his poetry, Pablo Neruda’s house in Santiago, La Chascona, is filled with passion and poignancy, an explosion of drama and whimsy and beauty. 

It is, in essence, a love poem for Neruda’s lover Matilde Urrutia (whom he was with while he married to his second wife, Delia del Carril). He bought the house for her and even named it
‘Chascona’ which means “untamed hair”after Urrutia’s wild red mane.

It is a fantastical space - brightly painted, and covered with mosaics of birds and orange trees.
Inside, its rooms are stuffed with many, many, many objects Neruda picked up from his travels and treasured: crystal goblets, handmade Polish dolls, stuffed animals, sculptures from Easter Island, a giant shoe, seashells, collections of butterflies, salt and pepper shakers marked as “Marijuana” and “Morphine.” - the list is endless. And there’s a portrait of Urrutia  by Diego Rivera, who painted her with two heads.  

To be in La Chascona is to be in a Neruda poem. Can time turn into a butterfly or a fish swim in a sea of dreams? In this house, all that is fantastical is possible.

Go on an excursion to the Andes

The Chilean Andes is one of the most good-looking mountain ranges in the world. Charles Darwin himself described the mountains with delight, writing “...the sky an intense blue, the profound valleys, the wild broken forms, the heaps of ruins piled up during the lapse of ages, the bright coloured rocks, contrasted with the quiet mountains of snow, together produced a scene I never could have imagined”.

In trekking the Andes, you’ll be following Darwin’s footsteps. There are plenty of trails based on fitness levels that will take you to mountainous valleys, rivers and forests just waiting to be explored.

The Andes also are home to some of the world’s greatest wine-making regions, and a must-add to any Chile vacation would be a trip to Mendoza, Argentina's most important wine region, that is nestled on the foothills of the Andes.

Torres Del Paine National Park

Welcome to nature at its most raw. Its most wild. The Torres Del Paine National Park, located in the Patagonia region, is a landscape of immense silver glaciers and green meadows filled with daisies and wild orchids, turquoise lakes and snow-dusted granite mountains that reach up into the sky. 

You can feel like a true explorer of old here, with miles of sky and grass reaching in every direction, where every rock and tree and bird you come across has never been seen before. 
And indeed, in the park, you can encounter a variety of wildlife - pumas and condors, gaunacos, falcons and armadillos.

Trek the French Valley

The French Valley, located in Torres del Paine National Park, offers trekkers challenging but rewarding trails. Following a 80 km path, one trail in particular takes 3-5 days to complete. The trade-off is the landscape - turquoise lakes, thick woods, streams so pure you can drink directly, and snow-capped mountains looming in the distance. You’ll feel like you’re in a Lord Of The Rings movie.

See and summit the Grey Glacier

The Grey Glacier, located in the west of Torres Del Paine National Park, spans a whopping 6 km in width alone before it bifurcates. It is one of the largest stretches of continental ice in the world. Travellers can take a kayak up to the Grey Glacier to better take in the view; from this vantage the glacier towers overhead, magnificent in size and its colours - electric blue and crystal white. (If you are a less seasoned kayaker, you are allowed up to a certain distance from the glacier due to the risk of glacial ice falling; professional kayakers, though, are allowed up close.)

And even more adventurous travellers can trek up to the summit. Even if you’re planning last minute holidays to Chile, a visit to the Grey Glacier should be on the cards.

Explore the park with cowboys

If you’ve ever played dress up as a cowboy when you were little, you’ll be delighted to hear that in Torres Del Paine National Park, you can actually saddle up, climb onto a horse and gallop into the wilderness with gauchos by your side. Gauchos (South American cowboys), have lived in the area for regions, and are the best guides to show you around.

Travellers will feel like they’re in a Western, as horses gallop fast and free across large, thick meadows dappled with cloud shadows, eating dinners cooked over an open fire, and camping in the wilderness.

Track Pumas

You read that right. The Patagonian Puma is South America’s iconic and most elusive big cat, so elusive in fact, that in order to spot one of them, travellers need expert trackers by their side to get a glimpse. With patience and luck, you may be able to see pumas, strong and sleek, slowly stalking a guanaco for dinner, or playing in the sunlight with their cubs.

Valparaiso

Valparaiso, nestled on the coast, is colourful,  artistic and bohemian. It’s a sensory delight. The city itself is painted a myriad of colours- hot pink and jade, lemon, lime, purple amber and crimson - infusing a sense of fun and liveliness no matter where you go. And in all corners, you’ll uncover murals and art installations, bands and musicians playing gigs, galleries, and lots of street food stalls. Valparaiso is also called the ‘cultural heart of Chile’ and for good reason. Many Chilean artists, writers and musicians live in the city (Pablo Neruda is one famous former resident.)

A visit to Chile is incomplete without a visit to Valparaiso. Here’s how to get the most of your time here:

Playa Torpederas

The Las Torpederas beach is east of the port. It’s  great for taking a quick swim in calm waters, or for a quiet nap on the yellow sand, or an afternoon of building sandcastles with kids.

La Sebastiana

Neruda, tired of living in Santiago, decided to purchase a house in Valparaiso that “seemed to float in the air, but was well-established on the earth.” The five-story building on top of Florida hill in Valparaiso was perfect. Huge windows look out at the sea. By day, you can look across at the painted houses of the city and the waters stretching towards the horizon, and at night, a black sky dotted by tiny lights. 

La Sebastiana, as original and eccentric as La Chascona in Santiago, expresses Neruda’s fascination with the sea. Walking about the house, you feel as though you’re in a ship. Inside, there are collections of maps, antique compasses, ship models, and relics from the port, as well as portraits of famous marine leaders. And there’s a well-stocked Captain’s Bar, which allegedly, only Neruda could stand behind.

Take in the street art

Valparaiso is known as one of the best street art cities in the world. It’s everywhere you go in the city. Indeed you can take your own tour of street art in the city, but to understand the context and significance of the pieces, it’s best to take a tour with a local guide.  Protip: 
Don’t miss the colourful painted staircases!

Make a wish at the Bridge of Wishes

Puente de los Deseos, or the Bridge of Wishes, is a colourful and Insta-friendly bridge in Horcón, a little fisherman’s village. Travellers make a wish and tie a colourful ribbon on the bridge , while lovers tie the ribbon as a symbol of their bond.

San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama is located in Chile’s Antafagasta region, which is one of the country’s geographically oldest regions. It is also where the Atacama Desert, one of the driest areas in the world,  which is also known for its beautiful views is located. So, whether you’re a stargazer, or you want to relax at one of the hot springs, your options are endless at the San Pedro de Atacama are endless!

The Atacama Desert

The desert itself is one of the most surreal places on earth. Miles of strange landscapes: lakes with salt shores, valleys coloured in red, yellow and green, volcanoes, sand dunes, and geysers. It’s an area where NASA tests space robots and flamingos eat shrimp to turn pink. Why wouldn’t anyone want to visit?

Stargazing in the Valle de Luna

The Valle de la Luna or “Valley Of The Moon” is a destination for astronomy enthusiasts or those who just like to gaze up at the stars. Not only does the landscape resemble the rugged and rough, crater-like surface of the moon, but the clean air and lack of light pollution here means that views of the stars and planets will be clear. Plus, the valley also attracts travellers from across the globe thanks to the gorgeous sunsets in the area that dapple the sky pink and purple, making it feel like a location straight out of Star Wars.

Laguna Verde

The Laguna Verde is a big salt lake, jade in colour, surrounded by red desert hills and striking mountains, as well as the Ojos del Salado, the highest active volcano in the world. There are hot springs on the shores of the lake so you can enjoy a quick dip in warm waters while taking in the views.

Licancabur Volcano

Licancabur is a stratovolcano that straddles the borders of Bolivia and Chile. It’s almost perfect shape (apparently this exists for volcanoes) attracts people from all over the world. Interestingly, NASA’s scientists have stated that the climatic conditions around the crater are the closest to the conditions on Mars, and so use the area as a testing ground for space robots! It is possible for acclimated travellers to trek up to the summit but can be quite challenging.

Rainbow Valley

The Rainbow Valley is so-named for the stripes of yellow, red and green soil that make the valley look rainbow coloured. Different mineral deposits in each type of rock and stratum in this area are what dapple the area distinctive colours. The valley is an important feature in most Chile travel packages, attracting those looking to give their Instagram page a boost. And it is also a popular spot for trekkers.

Salar de Tara

This is a gorgeous salt flat surrounded by mountains, with ancient rock formations, and also a chance to see...flamingos. The birds’ nesting grounds are near the salt flat; the flamingos eat sea monkeys (which can be found in small pools of salty water on the flat) which give the birds their bright pink colour.

Easter Island

Almost everybody has seen pictures of Easter Island’s huge, iconic long-faced stone statues known as Moai by the Rapa Nui people who carved the figures. The intent and construction of the island’s statues (that number more than 1000) have long been the subject of fascination and conspiracy theories, with some people believing that space aliens had a hand in moving the huge statues from miles inland where they were carved all the way to the coast. Either ways, it’s an intriguing place to say the least, regardless of whether you think the statues are testament to mankind’s ingenuity or evidence of extraterrestrial influence.

Lauca National Park

Lauca National Park is located in the north of Chile. It is part of a global biosphere reserve, which means that it holds a diverse variety of plants and animals. The park has over 140 species of birds including the Andean flamingo, which is one of the rarest species of flamingos in the word. And as for wildlife, you’ll be able to spot alpacas and llamas that can be found grazing in the park without a care in the world, as well as vicunas, and if you’re lucky, cougars.

Viña del Mar

Viña del Mar or ‘Vineyard of the Sea’ is a beautiful coastal town on the Pacific coast known for its immensely rich marine life. With near-unobstructed ocean views and the beautiful blue skyline around, it’s no wonder that it’s a popular destination that features on most Chile holiday packages. The Vina del Mar also hosts film and food festivals, frequented by both locals and travellers alike.

Los Pingüinos Natural Monument

Los Pingüinos Natural Monument, consisting of Magdalena Island and the Marta Island, is home to the largest penguin colonies of South Chile.. The park was founded as part of an effort to save the native penguin species known as Magellanic penguins, and was given Natural Monument status. The sight of the wild sea, gentle hills and thousands of little penguins strutting about as if they own the place - and to be fair, they do -  is quite striking.

Chiloe

Chiloe is a place infused with magic. A part of a collection of islands known as the Chiloe Islands found off the southern coast, it stands distinct, thanks to its singularly unique cultural heritage. 

The little island, a lovely magical place with forests and islets, penguins and whales,  is intertwined with spells and superstitions, charms and prayers; there’s little doubt in Chiloe that a dancing female water spirit blesses the locals with an abundance of fish or causes storms based on her mood, that witches roam the forests, or that a bird’s song can be an omen. Chiloe feels timeless, itself a bubble of enchantment.

Protip: eat curanto, a seafood dish unique to Chiloé, full of clams, mussels, cuts of pork, chicken, chorizo, and potatoes, wrapped in nalca leaves and cooked underground in a wood-fire pit. The Lonely Planet calls it "Chiloé's gastronomic bombshell.”

Top things to do & experience in Chile

Nobody wants to be a tourist. Here are curated experiences in art, music, food, culture and communities
to help you have an authentic and memorable trip.

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