Chile

The land of extremes

At over 4300km in length but only 170km wide, Chile is sandwiched between the lofty Andes and the Pacific Ocean. With a climate that ranges from the driest deserts to some of the most imposing glaciers in the world, its unique biosphere makes it an ideal home for unusual wildlife and hundreds of species of flowers. From trekking through the salt flats of San Pedro de Atacama to launching off the ski slopes of Santiago, Chile’s diverse landscape has the potential to offer a year of seasons within a single day.

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Chile travel guides

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Things to do in Chile

Our recommended experiences and activities

Decode the statues of Rapa Nui (Easter Island)

A speck of land cast some 3,500km from the mainland, the story of the rise and fall of the Rapa Nui civilisation is fascinating and tragic in equal measures. Best known for its enigmatic statues (Moai) and stunning beaches, Easter Island is perfectly scaled for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

Typical stay: 2 days

Colchagua wine route

Spend a day touring the scenic Colchagua Valley, at the heart of Chile’s wine industry. There are around 12 wineries that are open to the public, offering tastings of the country’s best Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots and Malbecs.

Typical stay: 3 days

Explore life on Mars

Catch sunset (or sunrise) over Valle de la Luna, photograph pink flamingos contrasting against the deep blue Atacama sky, witness geysers angrily erupting, or just warm your bones in idyllic thermal springs.

Typical stay: 3 days

Cultural Santiago

Not as unruly as other Latin American capitals, what Santiago lacks in boisterousness it more than makes up for with understated charm. Take a couple of days to explore the city’s museums, galleries and restaurants for an inside view on contemporary Chilean culture.

Typical stay: 2 days

Meander the Lakes District

As distinctive for its conical volcanoes as its shimmering lakes, this region of central Chile offers accessible and easy-going hiking with spectacular views, quiet villages and a laid back pace of life.

Typical stay: 2 days

Get lost in Valparaiso

The chaotic counterweight to Santiago’s orderly vibe, Valparaiso is a colourful mess of winding streets, ramshackle houses and sweeping coastal views.

Typical stay: 2 days

Kayak the Marble Caves

Variously called the Marble Caves, Chapel or Cathedral, these spectacular turquoise formations on the shores of Lake General Carrera can be explored by boat or kayak from the frontier town of Puerto Río Tranquilo. The area is also great for hiking and mountain biking far from the tourist crowds.

Typical stay: 1 day

Photo safari in Chacabuco

Head to the hills of Valle Chacabuco for unrivalled wildlife spotting and nature photography. In abundance are the skittish guanaco (a cousin of the more famous llama), Chilean flamingo, and Andean condor. Look more closely and you might spot a puma or an armadillo!

Typical stay: 3 days

Hiking Torres del Paine

Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park is renowned for its trekking and hiking, with excellent infrastructure for day hikes and multi-day treks. While the popular W and Circuit treks steal all the glory, other lesser-trafficked routes are available.

Typical stay: 4 days

Birdwatching in Patagonia

What Patagonia lacks in megafauna it more than makes up for in rare bird life. There are Magellanic penguins on the Valdes Peninsula, Andean Condors soaring above Torres del Paine, flamingos in Tierra del Fuego, and much more everywhere else. Bring your binoculars!

Typical stay: 3 days

Pisco tasting in the Elqui Valley

Set in lush green vineyards at the foot of the Andes, the Elqui Valley is one of the finest places in Chile to try pisco, a local high-proof brandy. Given its remote location and lack of light pollution, it’s also one of the best stargazing spots in the country.

Typical stay: 2 days

When to visit Chile

Seasons & climate

Chile’s unique shape and vast length (it measures 4,300km from north to south) makes it hard to pinpoint the best time to travel to Chile. The north is mild with very little rainfall in the desert, the centre has a temperate, Mediterranean style climate and the south cold near the Andes mountains.

For those visiting Patagonia in the south, October and November offer clear skies and fewer crowds than the peak months of December and January. Santiago and central regions are at their coldest and wettest between May and August, while the Atacama desert region to the north is a year-round destination.

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Month-by-month

December and January are the best -- and most popular -- months to visit Patagonia in the south of Chile. Accommodation in Torres del Paine gets booked up well in advance, so instead visit the central regions and Santiago, which is quieter as residents head out of the city on holidays. Be aware that the Atacama desert in the north has experienced freak heavy rainfall between January and February in recent years.

March to April sees crowds dwindle in the south and temperatures ease in central regions. This can be an excellent time to visit central Chile’s wine regions or to go hiking.

Winter hits Chile hardest between May and August when it can get cold and wet. For the adventurous, this can be an exciting time to visit Chilean Patagonia, with Torres del Paine remaining open to visitors -- look out for elusive pumas. Alternatively, head to the northern regions, which are accessible year round.

Spring sets in around October, with the Lake District awash with flowers and new blooms and temperatures rising in Torres del Paine. This is one of the best times to visit Chile if you want fair weather from north to south.

Events and holidays

The start of the year is peak summer season, with Chileans flocking to beaches and celebrating with music festivals and special feasts across the country. Brotes de Chile, the country’s biggest folk festival takes place in the second week of January, while the religious Fiesta de la Candelaria (early February) sees thousands of pilgrims converge on Copiapo in the north. Look out for the two-week Tapati Rapa Nui festival on Easter Island, which sees dancers, music and cultural events.

Late February to early May sees several Fiestas de la Vendimia (grape-picking harvests). These celebrations include grape stomping, wine tasting and folk dances across Chile’s wine-producing regions.

Chile’s winter sees the ski resorts gearing up, with music festivals common off-piste. Travellers in northern Chile in July can experience the Festival de la Virgen del Carmen, when 40,000 pilgrims take to La Tirana’s streets to pay homage to Chile’s virgin. Expect street dancing, parades and lots of fireworks.

September 18th is Chilean Independence Day, with the week-long Fiestas Patrias revelry including barbecues, wine-drinking and parties all over Chile.

Chile recommended routes

Chile trip ideas

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