Where are the best places to visit in Chile?
Known by the Polynesian inhabitants as Rapa Nui, Easter Island offers more than just the intriguing and impressive Moai stone statues – it’s bursting with green countryside, sandy shores and plenty of outdoor activities. Firstly, make the most of the UNESCO World Heritage Site by visiting as many of the Moai as you can. Bikes are a great way to get around the island but pack good walking shoes too as many sights are close together. If there were ever a place for Instagram, Ahu Tongariki is it. Set up the tripod (or selfie stick) and get in the frame with the neat but imposing line of 15 statues and their serene backdrop of bright blue sea. Look out for the carved stone turtle petroglyphs too. For some downtime, swing by Anakena beach to take in the beautiful white sand and see the seven statues of Ahu Nau Nau with their top knots. If the weather turns cloudy, head into the Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum in Hanga Roa to learn more about the history of the island and its inhabitants. Afterwards, take the pleasant 30-minute stroll through the town to grab the best traditional arts and crafts at the Mercado Artesanal. After all that sightseeing, you’ll have worked up an appetite. Try Te Moana, a Polynesian restaurant with sea views and typical furnishings – it serves the best ceviche on the island.
A short drive from Santiago, the Maipo Valley is home to the country’s oldest and largest wineries, such as Vina Concho y Toro in Pirque. You can get there by public transport – ideal if you plan to sample the produce. However, hiring a car (with a designated driver) is a good way to reach the somewhat spread-out smaller wineries in the Colchagua and Millahue valleys. Fans of Sauvignon Blanc shouldn’t miss the Casablanca region.
Lake District From snow-dusted volcanoes to dense green forests, crystalline lakes to fertile farmland, Chile’s Lake District serves up a feast of thrills and breathtaking sights. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled into a lakeside town in Germany in picturesque Puerto Varas. You’d be partially right too, as the town was built by German settlers. In summer, enjoy water sports in the glacial lakes or head to the peaks to ski. Bed down for the night at Cabana del Lago hotel and book an hour in the hot tub overlooking beautiful Lake Llanquihue. Sample the German-Chilean fusion menu at Cafe Dane’s, including giant meat empanadas and apple strudel.
Castro, on Chiloe Island, is another great spot in the region. You can’t miss its glorious brightly painted houses standing on stilts on the waterfront or Chiloe National Park with its coastal dunes, lush forests and colony of sea lions. Situated at the foot of a volcano, next to a lake and close to two national parks, Villarrica might just be the most perfect spot in the Lake District. Activity junkies will be in their element here, with everything from skiing and hiking to water sports. If you’re more in the mood for rest and relaxation with just a hint of mystery and magic, take a trip to the Termas Geometricas. These Japanese-inspired natural hot springs offer a tranquil maze of red wooden walkways rising from the steam surrounded by lush green forest.
The driest place on earth (apart from the poles), the Atacama Desert is wedged between the expansive Pacific Ocean and the majestic Andes. Base yourself in San Pedro to have access to most sights while allowing yourself a little luxury. Nearby you’ll find salt flats and mountains, Moon Valley with its lunar landscape, and the Tatio Geysers. Don’t miss the infamous Death Valley and be sure to try your hand at sand surfing before waiting for night to fall and the sky to light up – with 300 nights of clear skies a year, the Atacama is one of the best stargazing destinations in the world.
The Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia has it all: giant glaciers, lagoons, waterfalls, forests, and soaring peaks including the three famous granite towers that give their name to the park. In this UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve indigenous species abound such as the llama-like guanaco and the Chilean huemul, an endangered deer. There are several popular routes that will take you through a range of diverse landscapes. When it starts to get chilly or rainy, pop by Restaurante Hosteria Rio Serrano for the best pisco cocktail and stunning views.