With a length of 4,300 miles (7,000 kilometers), the vast Andes Mountains are the longest exposed mountain range on the planet. The range stretches along the western coast of South America and crosses through seven countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. The Chilean Andes are part of the Southern Andes and run almost the entire length of the country, forming much of Chile's border with Argentina. With steep slopes, snowy mountains, and deep valleys, the Andes in Chile offer stunningly beautiful vistas and are an excellent addition to any Chile vacation itinerary.
The western Andes began developing some 190 million years ago. In the past 10,000 years, the Chilean Andes have not significantly changed, though some volcanic eruptions and changes occur. In northern Chile, the heights of the peaks generally range between 16,500 and 19,500 feet (5,000 to 6,000 meters). Higher summits in the Andes Mountains Chile include extinct volcanoes, such as Llullaillaco, Licancábur, and Ojos del Salado. Further south are more volcanoes, such as Copahue, Llaima, Osorno, and Mount Tronador. In Chile's Lake District, you'll find beautiful reflections of such volcanoes on the glassy lake surfaces. Even farther south is the Chilean Patagonia, with peaks such as Mount San Valentín and Mount Darwin in Tierra del Fuego. In this icy southern region, reminders of the last ice age are present, from the some 7,000 square miles of continental ice masses to the U-shaped glacial troughs, sharply pointed peaks, and chilly Andean lakes.
One part of the Chilean Andes well worth a visit is Torres del Paine National Park. This Chilean national park features mountains, glaciers, lakes, and rivers, and it draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. A major attraction of the park is the Cordillera del Paine mountain range, a part of the Andes in Chile, which includes beautiful peaks such as Cuernos del Paine. This a common place for hiking, with well-marked paths (which hikers are not permitted to stray from), and refugios that provide basic services and shelter. The popular "W" route takes about five days and a full circle can be done in eight to nine days. Of course, day trips are also possible, and no matter what distance visitors trek, they are rewarded with stunning views. The best time to visit this park is during the region's summer season, in late December through late February, when there are more daylight hours and better weather.
Another place to visit in the Andes Mountains Chile is the El Tatio Geyser Field, known locally as Los Géiseres del Tatio. Located in the northern part of the Andes in Chile, this is commonly visited by tourists to the nearby Atacama Desert and San Pedro de Atacama. There are more than 80 active geysers, though the eruptions are not very high. The best time to see geysers is at sunrise. Be sure to ask your guide what areas are safe: Parts of the El Tatio Geyser field are dangerous, with only a thin crust covering near boiling mud.
Because Chile is such a long and narrow country and the Andes stretch along the country's length, Andes travel in Chile is easy no matter what cities or other destinations you plan to visit while in the country. Whether you're visiting Santiago or Patagonia, the Andes Mountains Chile are an accessible attraction, and one that will not disappoint.