Chile is full of beauty and always ready to be explored
There’s more than enough beauty to go around for everyone travelling to Chile. Heritage sites and islands alike – make sure you include these destinations in your travel plans.
1. Cerro San Cristóbal
This hill in northern Santiago provides panoramic views over the city, and on a clear day, the Andes Mountain. The summit can be reached on foot (45 minute walk) or by car. The cable car that existed is now derelict and recently shut down. After a trip up the hill for a birds-eye view of the city, visitors make their way to Parque Metropolitano. This is Santiago’s largest park and includes a botanical garden, the National Zoo of China and two swimming pools.
2. Los Pingüinos Natural Monument
Located on the Magdalena Island in Southern Chile, this is home to around 120 000 penguins. The sanctuary was established to protect the species and provide shelter for these magnificent birds and many others who take advantage of the safe surroundings, such as the cormorant. There are very few other places in the world like it for bird and nature lovers. The island is small, only 1km² in total, and boasts a gorgeous red lighthouse.
Magdalena Island is close to Marta Island, another area these birds have made their home. In September or October each year, the birds migrate back to either one of these two islands to find their mate. By the end of March the penguins have returned to sea again.
3. Churches of Chiloé
The Chiloé archipelago is an isolated group of islands, best known for a number of unique churches that boast a particular architectural style called Chilota. This style is a very unique combination of aboriginal and European Jesuit influence. At least 150 wooden churches once stood along the coast and served to guide sailors around the contours of the island. Today only two dozen remain, the rest having fallen into disrepair.
The churches were constructed by local craftsmen using the techniques used by shipbuilders. They were built entirely out of wood and are characterised by a symmetrical tower façade and arched entrance. The Chiloé archipelago is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
Nicknamed “The Jewel of the Pacific”, it is the capital of Chile’s third most-populated administrative region and is located on the Pacific coast of the central region of Chile. It is much-loved for its brightly-coloured houses, bohemian culture and beautiful seaside views. An eclectic mix of homes cling to the sides of dozens of steep hillsides that overlook the Pacific Ocean. A labyrinth of streets and cobblestone alleyways embody a rich architectural and cultural legacy.
Valparaíso was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site based upon its urban design and unique architecture, and the fact that its unusual system of funicular lifts (steeply inclined carriages) is one of the world’s 100 most-endangered historical treasures.
5. San Rafael Glacier
Laguna San Rafael National Park is the largest protected park in Aysén and includes the entire Northern Patagonian Ice Fields. The ice field extends over this mountain and surrounding hills, giving birth to 19 glaciers. San Rafael Glacier is one of the most impressive in the lagoon, and is over 4km long and rears to a height of 70m out of the water. A spectacular sight is the blocks of ice breaking off the glaciers and falling into the lake with a thunderous roar.
What you can see from a boat cruise is in fact just the tip of the glacier’s ‘tongue’, which extends some 15km from its source. The glacier is retreating fast and is not nearly as impressive as it was in the days of early explorers who reported that it filled three-quarters of the lagoon.
6. Valle de la Luna
As the name suggests (Valley of the Moon), the valley is named after its lunar-like landforms eroded by eons of flood and wind. From the top of a giant sand dune, you can enjoy a breath-taking moment as the sun slips below the horizon and the valley transforms into a kaleidoscope of purples, pinks and golds.
Down below is the town of San Pedro, known for its scraggy cliff faces, waterfront and nautical attractions and its thriving arts community.
7. Torres del Paine
Granite pillars soar almost vertically more than 2 000m above the Patagonian steppe, making this one of South America’s finest national parks. The centrepiece of the park are three Towers of Paine; spectacular granite peaks shaped by the forces of glacial ice.
Over and above these wonders is a breath-taking combination of azure lakes, trails that meander through emerald forests, roaring rivers you cross on rickety bridges and one big, radiant-blue glacier. Plan a minimum stay of at least three to seven days if you want to do a ‘not-to-be-forgotten’ hike in the region.
Once the summer playground for the rich, Pucón is now firmly positioned on the global map as a mecca for adventure junkies. It is overrun by visitors in February, so this is possibly a month to avoid. It is a small touristy town but what is most impressive is its location on a beautiful lake, surrounded by imposing volcanic mountains. It’s a popular destination for avid hikers who arrive to climb the Villarrica volcano.
It does attract some visitors in winter who come to ski and snowboard, but it is most popular as a summer resort. If you’re not doing something active, find a spot on Pucón’s gorgeous black-sand beach for some well-earned relaxation or enjoy one of the natural hot springs in the area.
9. Lauca National Park
The park is located in the far north, in the Andean range, and is one of the top tourist destinations in Chile. It consists mainly of enormous volcanoes but is also known for its lush vegetation and abundance of bird life which includes the Andean flamingo, one of the rarest in the world.
The most spectacular feature is the beautiful Lago Chungará, one of the world’s highest lakes. Towering over it is Volcán Parinacota, a dormant volcano whose twin brother, Volcán Pomerape, sits just across the border in Bolivia.
What is interesting is about 200 members of the Aymara tribe continues to live in the park according to their traditional lifestyle, using the natural resources in a controlled and sustainable manner.
10. Easter Island
Located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile, Easter Island is considered to be the world’s most remote inhabited island. Many legends abound over what happened, but the general belief is the island was destroyed by the Polynesian tribe that settled there; they cut down all the trees and inadvertently introduced rats that soon overran the island.
Most tourists are drawn to the mystical moai, which are much more impressive than one can imagine from photos. There are some 900 moai, many as tall as 10 metres, buried or visible across the island. It is a breath-taking open-air museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearly all the moai are carved from the tough stone of the Rano Raraku volcano. Easter Island also offers some great diving and surfing, as well as two volcanic craters and several sandy beaches.
Experience the sights and sounds of Chile. Lekker Adventures specialises in providing you with the complete travelling experience to Chile. Click here to find out more about travelling to Chile with the assistance of Lekker Adventures.