Chile is a place of contrasts and spectacular beauty. Stretching from its border with southern Peru south along the coast of the Pacific Ocean to the tip of Patagonia, Chile contains an array of diverse landscapes from the Atacama Desert in the north, the driest desert in the world, through the rich fertile soil of Chile’s wine growing regions in the centre, to the ice caps of Torres del Paine in the south.
Of all the South American countries, Chile can be proud of having a prosperous economy, good infrastructure and excellent outdoor activities. This serves to consistently swell Chile tourism numbers year round. Most sporting activities and local festivities can be found most of the year. A predominantly Catholic country, religious celebrations like the Fiesta del Carmen in Los Loros attracts visitors from around the world. For summer activities like exploring the wine regions and crystal clear lakes of the mountains, tourists should visit between November-April. Also famed for great skiing, if you want to catch the ski slopes and blanket snow cover, June-October proves the best time to travel Chile.
The northern most region of Chile sits atop an altiplano, some 7,500 feet above sea level and stretches into Bolivia and Peru. You can enter neighboring Bolivia via this region by traveling across the vast salt plains of Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, full of sparkling salt crystals and mirror image lakes. This remote northern region of Chile contains a landscape not dissimilar to what you might find on the moon. As such, NASA uses this vast expanse to test their moon exploration vehicles. The diverse geography is brought into focus as large volcanic geysers and the arid dry Atacama Desert nestle alongside lagoons, springs and farmland with grazing llamas and alpaca’s. The region is set amongst a rich cultural heritage where ancient relics of indigenous human habitation are reflected by human and animal figures that have been carved out on barren hillsides. The gateway to exploring this fascinating geographic region is through San Pedro de Atacama and ecotourism friendly Lauca National Park. This part of Chile also contains the world’s largest open copper mine at Chuquicamata. At the Tres Cruces National Park located in the Chilean Andes, there are vast opportunities for mountain trekking and climbing. Exploration of the colorful vegetation will often end in an unexpected confrontation with pink flamingos.
The bustling capital of Santiago and surrounding wine producing valleys contain the country’s oldest and largest vineyard of Concha y Toro. This fertile region produces world famous wine is often one of the top tourist attractions in Chile. The region extends into the alpine lakes and volcanoes of what’s generally referred to as the Chilean Lake District. This middle region of Chile is dotted with Colonial townships and the popular national parks of Conguillio and Huerquehue.
Off the Pacific coastline of Chile, is the isolated yet intriguing spot of Easter Island, where you can visit ancient sculptures called Moai. Images of these mysterious images were carved out of stone and can be found dotted around the island. The enormous sculptures were made from the rocks of a now extinct volcano and are believed to honor the inhabitant’s ancestors. Those that make the long trip to the island rate these iconic sculptures as one the top tourist attractions in Chile. Set just off the coast from Valparaiso is Robin Crusoe Island for the ultimate cast away experience. Between 1704-1709, the real life historic figure lived on the island in complete isolation.
Further south, the natural beauty and purity of Patagonia is another top Chile tourism destination. This region offers the best of hiking, kayaking, rafting, horseback riding and photographic opportunities to be found anywhere. In the winter, northern Patagonia is a great destination for skiers and glacier climbs. There are also a multitude of national parks, rivers and lakes to explore. Travel Chile to south Patagonia and you will be confronted by unsurpassed natural beauty. Extending out to the Antarctic, the snow capped mountain ranges and mirror image waters around Torres del Paine will give you a sense of privilege and immense respect for this stunning region. You can also take Patagonia cruises to explore the archipelagos, fjords and glaciers of the Chilean-Antarctic waters. Tours are served by a number of passenger cruise operators offering cruises from 4-7 days and longer. The Patagonia region is rich with marine wildlife including dolphins, killer whales, penguins and sea lions.