Don’t let the size and shape of this country deceive you. With a 2,700 mile coastline, Chile contains an immense variety of climates and geographies and deserves a spot on the top of any travel radar.
With bustling cities, internationally acclaimed vineyards, an incredibly varied landscape, adventure activities, archaeological elements, and a booming culinary scene, Chile is a country that has something for everyone.
What to do in Chile
It’s easy to be overwhelmed with all the options for things to do and places to visit in this country, so meeting someone that can help you explore the best spots is a good way to start. Local guide Patricia has been doing exactly that for many years now, and it’s been a great way to combine her passion for wine and history with the love for her home country of Chile. Patricia, ultimately, narrowed down her choices to a tour through the Aconcagua valley which includes a trek to the petroglyphs, Chilean wine tasting and hanging out with penguins.
Her other favorite? A tour that visits the seaside cities of San Antonio and Cartagena where you can enjoy coastal views of the Pacific Ocean. After a city visit, the tour takes you to experience the art of Mapuche weavers, which is an exclusive textile technique by the Mapuche women. This creation of intricate and colorful textiles is one of the best-known arts of the Mapuche culture and incredible to see.
These tours, for Patricia, are her favorite because they combine the extraordinary Chilean nature, indigenous culture, local wine and are just an overall fun outing.
One sensational way to immerse yourself in the Chilean culture is tasting the local food. From the traditional pastel de choclo to the ever popular completo sandwich, Chile is basking in the modern culinary scene.
The bustling city of Santiago is becoming densely populated with five-star restaurants and is experiencing its own “culinary renaissance”. Our food recommendations in Santiago that won’t break the bank? Try José Ramón 277 for some classic Chilean sandwiches or the hip Chipe Libre which has one of the best pisco sour and ceviche combos in town!
If you need more culinary options, check out Decanter’s list of the 10 best restaurants in Santiago.
If cultural history is more of a draw for you, Chile is brimming with ancient dwellings. If you want history, you can visit the Mapuche villages of Southern Chile, explore the streets of the historic port city of Valparaiso, or tour the intriguing moai statues on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in the Pacific Ocean.
The Chug Chug geoglyphs in the Atacama Desert are the most important of their kind in Chile. Geoglyphs are “figures etched on the earth” and have been dated back to 900-1550 A.D. Because of the “favorable geological and climatic conditions” these fragile glyphs have been naturally maintained and kept in good condition. If you want to read more about the Chug Chug geoglyphs, the World Monument Fund has great information here.
The Mapuche are the largest indigenous culture in Chile and located in the southern regions of the country – especially the La Araucanía region – about 700 km south of Santiago. Mapuche, the name, actually encompasses many indigenous groups throughout Chile and Argentina, the majority are located in Chile’s south-central zone.
The traditional practice of natural medicine is one of the most prevalent and visible aspects of the Mapuche culture that can still be found in present-day Chile. Weaving is also a vital practice to the Mapuche women and the techniques and patterns have been passed down to younger generations for centuries.
If you are interested in the Mapuche culture, there are many opportunities to interact with them in an ethnotour. These tours make it possible to visit a traditional Mapuche ruka or house, learn their language, watch their weavers make exquisite textiles and just better understand their culture and beliefs.
The diverse landscape of Chile will have you exploring every corner of this country. From the north where the driest desert in the world is to the of the volcanoes of Patagonia (where 10% of the world’s active volcanoes are located), this country truly holds beauty for everyone.
Below you can find a summary of the best landscapes and views to see while visiting this fantastic country.
- The Atacama Desert is located south of the Peruvian border and stretches 600 miles south along Chile and is known to be the driest place on earth.
- If you keep traveling south from here you will hit the Central Valley which holds Chileans renowned wine regions. Our recommendation is to take the Pan-American Highways which takes you through lovely colonial villages contained adobe houses and rural areas that celebrate the Chilean cowboy culture.
- From Central Valley, you can travel further south where you can experience the Araucanía Region where lakes, volcanoes, rainforests, and views of the Andes run rampant.
- After this, you should find yourself in the immensely popular (and for good reason) Patagonia region. Glacial fjords, arid steppes, grasslands and the pinnacles of Fitz Roy are only some of the highlights that await you here.
If these scenic options don’t strike your fancy, you can check out the islands of Rapa Nui in Oceania where you are bound to get history, scenic views, and incredible experiences.
Exploring Chile like a local
As you can see, there are many ways to discover the true Chilean culture. Whether it’s tasting the famous culinary scene, learning from the indigenous population or traveling through Patagonia, you’ll be blown away by the beauty in every corner.
If we’ve convinced you of visiting Chile on your next vacation, take advantage of every minute there and let a local, like Patricia, show you around. After all, who better to help you make the best of the experience than someone who’s passionate about their country? And who knows, you may get more than a guide – you may make a friend.
Written by Ashley Winder