There is no place quite like Chile. This long and narrow country which sits on the west coast of South America unifies contrasting climates and terrains which feel like they should be worlds apart.

The snow-capped peaks of the Andes are only a few hours from the Pacific coastline, and the dry desert of Atacama in the north of Chile contrasts massively from the frozen Patagonian fjords in the south. Its complex topography and impressive length (2,670 miles from top to bottom), make Chile one of the most incredible places in the world to visit, as it offers an incredible array of different places to explore and adventures to cross-off the bucket-list.

Here is a list of the unmissable experiences and most spectacular places to visit in Chile;

1. Discover the Art and History of Chile in the Capital

If you are traveling to Chile, then it is likely that you will pass through its capital, Santiago, at some point of your trip. Although Santiago is, fundamentally, a capital city like many others, it is filled with many areas of interest which demonstrate Chile’s love of art and culture.

Some of the best spots to take in the art of Santiago are the National Museum of Fine Arts in the lively Bellas Artes neighbourhood or the Pre-Colombian Art Museum located right next to the Plaza de Armas in the centre of the city. For something different, the bohemian area of Bellavista is covered in colourful street art and street performers who will greet you as you arrive and is a great place to get some food and drinks.

There are a lot of museums, monuments and parks that provide insight into Chile’s recent past, such as the death of Allende, the rise of Pinochet, the disappeared and the transition to democracy. The Museum of Memory and Human Rights is a must-see museum if you are interested in learning about the history of Chile.

2. Spend New Year’s Eve in Valparaíso

If you are visiting Santiago, then you’re only a couple of hours from Valparaíso, a colourful city, home to some of the best seafood in all South America, the region’s best graffiti, and Chile’s most famed Poet, Pablo Neruda. It is famous for its chaotic cerros (hills), sinuous streets, alleys, and escaleras (stairways), but most of all for its amazing firework spectacle to celebrate the New Year, and the crazy parties that follow.

Valparaíso’s New Year’s firework display is one of the most famous in the world. Each year, it explodes over the harbour, with fireworks synchronised from 17 different launching points located from Valparaíso, past Viña del Mar, all the way to Concón, and even further up to the beach village of Zapallar.

The fireworks display is not the only reason people come to Valparaíso. It’s the street parties which take place after the fireworks, that makes Valparaíso so much fun at New Year. The ‘party city’ certainly doesn’t disappoint on this day, with its bustling bars, restaurants, clubs and street parties as well as the pyrotechnical show which lights up the sky over the bay, reflecting in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

3. Stargaze in the Elqui Valley or the Atacama Desert

Chile is, without a doubt, one of the best places in the world to observe the unadulterated starry sky.

The Atacama Desert is certainly the most popular place for astro-tourism in Chile. The stargazing tours take you to the spots with the clearest skies where you can sit back and relax as you watch the stars, or to the new Alma Observatory, where experts will tell you about astrology and you will have the opportunity to look through professional telescopes.

However, for a more intimate stargazing opportunity, the Elqui Valley, close to La Serena, a city roughly 4 hours north of Santiago, offers something equally spectacular. There, on a chilly evening you can sit with a cup of warm wine, gazing at the moon, the stars and the Milky Way which feel so close you could almost reach out and touch them. Here there are a handful of observatories you could visit for a more educational experience.

4. Explore the Atacama Desert

The Atacama Desert is not only famous for its clear skies and stargazing opportunities, it is known for being the driest place in the world, distinguished by its cracked copper earth, gushing geysers, fabulous flamingos and saltwater lakes.

You can choose to cycle and hike to the wonders of the desert, book tours which will take you around the area and provide background insight to each natural gem or rent a car to see it all yourself. Whichever way to choose to explore the Atacama Desert, best accessed via the town of San Pedro de Atacama, you will lose yourself amongst the endless stretches of road and perfect landscapes it has to offer.

5. Go Wine Tasting in Chile’s Wine Regions

Chile is an agricultural paradise with a Mediterranean climate and increasingly organic sustainable farming practices, allowing winemakers to create high-quality wines which are the purest expression of their privileged land. Within just a three-hour drive of the capital city, there are seven principal wine regions that grow Carménère, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, among other less-known varieties such as Carignan, País and Petit Verdot.

Chile’s great wine draws in as many people to the country as does its Andes mountains range. If you enjoy a stroll through green fields, listening to stories, sipping on fine wine and eating some delectable food, then visiting the Chilean wine regions should be at the top of your list.

6. Take a Boat/Cruise through the Patagonian Fjords

Some of most incredible views on the planet are nestled in the Pacific coast of Patagonia, in southern Chile. Receding glaciers and deep fjords make direct land travel to South Chile impossible. While flying is an option, the best way to experience the lacework of fjords, rugged peaks, and narrow channels of the Chilean coast is undoubtably to be on the water in a ferry or cruise, the very definition of slow travel in South America.

Cruising the coastline is also an ideal way to get close to the marine life. The mammals, fish, and birds are extremely diverse and plentiful in this remote part of the world. You will have the opportunity to whales (such as blue and humpback), dolphins (such as Peale’s and Commerson’s dolphins), sea lions (such as elephant, leopard, southern, and South American fur seals), and hundreds of species of sea birds, including two types of the elusive albatross.

Leaving from Puerto Montt in central Chile, the opportunity to get close to glaciers, visiting tiny inhabited islands and looking out for sea life are just some of the highlights of this trip.

7. Climb an Active Volcano

The Andes mountain range in Chile houses hundreds of volcanoes of all shapes and sizes, and all equally wonderful to gaze at. However, if you want to see some of the most stunning views they each have to offer and don’t mind a bit of a challenge, then climbing one of the, is certainly an experience to consider. Of the many outdoor activities Chile has to offer, only a few will be as thrilling as climbing a volcano, especially one of the 500 active ones.

Ojos De Salado, the highest active volcano in the world; Villarrica, the most active volcano in Chile and Osorno, which outlooks the Llanquihue Lake, are some of the most incredible active volcanoes you can climb in Chile. The difficulty levels range from easy to punishing, but the end result is always rewarding.

8. Visit the UNESCO Churches of Chiloé

The island of Chiloé is a land filled with myth and legends. As well as the unique folklore and culinary traditions, there is an array of incredible wildlife and amazing sights that will blow you away. From the moment you first set foot on this extraordinary island, its unique identity will take you by surprise, and you will never want to leave.

One of the most incredible things about Chiloé is its unique style of architecture which uses the building techniques that the missionary Jesuits brought in the 17th century from Spain, mixed with Chiloé’s ancestral carpenters’ wooden boat construction method. The combination of the two brought these impressive nail-less churches to life. In place of iron nails, reinforced wooden joints hold the buildings in place, mimicking the techniques used for the construction of ships.

On the island, 16 of the 70 original churches are still standing, and each one of these has been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, making these churches a definite bucket-list item for your trip to Chile.

9. Unravel the mysteries of Easter Island

It can be easy to forget that Rapa Nui, more commonly known as Easter Island (or ‘Isla de Pascua’ in Spanish), is actually part of Chile, as it feels like such a standalone curiosity.

A dot of an island, 2000 miles from the mainland, Easter Island is famous for its 900 volcanic rock moai statues. 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.

On the island there are also three volcanoes which are perfect for hiking as well as glorious beaches for sunbathing and snorkelling. The island may be small, but you’ll never run out of things to do!

As you can see from this list, the various travel experiences in Chile can satisfy all kinds of travellers. Whether you are looking for cultural activities or extreme adventures, this country has it all, ensuring unforgettable experiences and trip that will exceed your expectations.

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