The Best Places to Visit in Chile

Spanning nearly 40 degrees of latitude where the Pacific Coast meets the steady rise of the Andes, Chile is a 2,670-mile-long layer cake of landscapes. Sitting at the bottom is windswept Cap Horn; in the middle are wine valleys, volcanoes, and Valdivian temperate rainforest; the lunar-like Atacama Desert is the cherry on top.  

For travelers, Chile’s diverse landscapes are an alluring proposition: the possibility of combining vastly different experiences on a single memorable trip. On a luxury Chile vacation it’s possible to gaze upon Easter Island’s mysterious stone moai, stargaze under a diamond-dusted Atacama Desert sky, and track elusive puma in Torres del Paine.  

If you’re new to this destination, these are the regions and cities that Extraordinary Journeys South America experts consider the best places to visit in Chile.  


Low cloud cloaks Santiago on a winter day

Flanked by the Andes Mountains on one side and winelands on the other, Santiago is the best place to get oriented—and the most common gateway for international arrivals.  

Modern-meets-colonial architecture, funky stores, grand theaters, and convivial nightlife mingle to create the dynamic cultural powerhouse that is Santiago. Check out the street art in Barrio Yungay, shop for curio and treasures in Barrio Italia, dine in the lively restaurants of Vitacura, and dance well into the night in Bellavista. 

The Atacama Desert

A trio of children walk along a road deep in the Atacama Desert

Immerse yourself in the out-of-this-world landscapes of the Atacama Desert. This is the driest non-polar desert on Earth and its rugged salt flats and dramatic dunes look like they belong on another planet. Fun fact: the area often stands in for Mars-set movies.  

Start your journey by exploring the cobbled streets of San Pedro de Atacama town. As the gateway to some of the desert’s most remarkable attractions—including the ethereal Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) and the otherworldly geysers of El Tatio—this laidback oasis is a magnet for outdoor adventurers.  

Far and away, the Atacama Desert is considered one of the best places to visit in Chile.  

The Eqlui Valley

The bright greens of vineyards and trees contrast against Elqui Valley's blue skies and arid mountains.

Located 300 miles north of Santiago, the Elqui Valley is famous for stargazing, winemaking, and pisco. Situated within arid mountain valley walls and carpeted by vineyards it’s an incredibly scenic place to settle into some stargazing and wine tasting.

Thanks to more than 320 days of sunshine each year, grapes thrive in this sunbaked pocket of Chile, and while much of the production will become wine, some is reserved for pisco—Chile’s national drink. Pass splendid days wine touring—perhaps by bike—and be sure to sample a pisco sour cocktail.  As day turns into night, turn your attention to the heavens. Abundantly cloud-fere night skies make this a superb destination for stargazing. But don’t just take our word for it; The Elqui Valley was designated the world’s first International Dark Sky Sanctuary in 2015.  


The colorful facades of Valparaíso, Chile

Soak up the bohemian vibe of the port town of Valparaíso, the “Jewel of the Pacific.” Amble through its narrow, multicolor, winding streets; check out the street art scene with a local graffiti artist(then try your hand at it); take a stroll around grand Plaza Sotomayor; hop aboard the El Perla funicular to see Baburizza Palace—home of the city’s impressive Municipal Museum of Fine Arts; and at the end of the day sample local craft beer or an expertly mixed pisco sour as you bar-hop down buzzing Calle Cumming. 

Chilean Wine Country

Vineyards blanket Chilean Wine Country

Head into Chile’s picturesque central valleys to arrive in Chilean Wine Country—an agricultural heartland that produces vintages that adorn the tables of restaurants across the globe. For foodies and wine-lovers, it’s hands-down, one of the best places to visit in Chile. 

Sample crisp, coastal whites in Casablanca, where the Bodegas RE and Veramonte boutique wineries are well worth a visit. Or head to the Colchagua Valley to sample award-winning cabernet sauvignon, carménère, syrah, and malbec.  

Or head to the sweeping valleys of the Millahue region to sample old world-style blends. Between tastings, go horseback riding, cycling or hiking. 

The Chilean Ski Resorts

A sk8i run at Valle Nevado in Chile

Question: What’s the best way to have fun at more than 6,000 feet above sea level in Chile? Answer: Grab a pair of skis or a snowboard and hit one of the country’s world class slopes.  

The Andes are a wonderland of powder-blanketed runs that boast some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the southern hemisphere. Ski the legendary side-country runs that plunge down towards the gleaming waters of Laguna del Inca at Portillo; experience the excitement of heli-skiing in Valle Nevado; or treat yourself to a blissful soak in the hot springs at Nevados de Chillán. 

Chile’s Lake District

Chilean Lake District

With its magical mix of glassy glacial lakes, temperate rainforests, natural hot springs, snow-capped volcanoes, and hidden waterfalls, Chile’s Lake District is pretty to look at, but even more thrilling to explore. The area’s trails and waterways are splendid for hiking, mountain biking, river rafting, swimming, and more. There’s also an intriguing blend of cultures to be found here, with indigenous Mapuche people living alongside the inhabitants of traditional fishing villages—all mixed up with the architecture and the cuisine of the region’s 19th century central European settlers, which gives the region a surprisingly alpine vibe.  

Tip: Puerto Varas offers easy access to three of the region’s national parks: Vicente Pérez National Park, Alerce Andino National Park, and Hornopirén National Park. 

Chile’s Lake District can be a fly-over destination for some travelers, but if time allows, we think it’s one of the best places to visit in Chile.  


Candy-colored stilted palafitos (houses) on Chiloé Island.

Chiloé is the second-largest island in South America after Tierra del Fuego, and it has developed a unique culture all its own. Candy-colored stilted palafitos (houses) rise above the island’s tides, farmers still use cattle-drawn carts to transport their produce, and quaint wooden pastel churches are scattered across the rugged landscape.  

Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the church of San Francisco in Castro; go hiking through the Valdivian rainforests of Chiloé National Park, and observe the Magellanic and Humboldt penguins at the Islets of Puñihuil.  

Aysén Region

Hikers stand near a river in Patagonia National Park

If you yearn to go off the beaten track in Patagonia, make a beeline for the relatively untouched Aysén Region. This is one of the best places to visit in Chile if you want to throw yourself into a surprisingly-crowd-free playground of glistening glaciers, mighty mountains, deep fjords, and pristine rainforests.  

Stand in awe at the foot of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field; go river rafting on the Baker River; or hit the road on the remote Carretera Austral—one of the world’s greatest road trips. Along the way, make a pitstop at the small town of Puerto Tranquilo, where you’ll find the Marble Caves, which were formed more than 6,000 years ago.  

Home to flamingo, guanaco, huemul, puma, viscacha, condor, and ñandú—to name but a few—Patagonia National Park is a 1,000-square-mile wonderland of steppe, forest, mountains, lakes, lagoons, glaciers, and icebergs. Compared to the region’s more famous parks, it receives far fewer visitors. Anchor your stay in Valle Chacabuco (Chacabuco Valley) at a luxury property like Explora Lodge, and pass days hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Or, spend a day traveling the 46-mile-long scenic drive that cuts through the park.  

Torres del Paine

A cyclist rides near water with Torres del Paine in the background.

Surround yourself in some of the most spectacular scenic beauty the planet has to offer in Torres del Paine National Park. A jaw-dropping mix of glaciers, mountains, pampas, lakes, forests, and waterfalls, this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve insists upon taking your breath away at every turn. 

Hike along the famous five-day W Trek; go puma-tracking in the Laguna Amarga region; traverse the Grey and Serrano rivers in a kayak; hike on the ice of Grey Glacier; or take in the iconic vistas from the Los Torres Base Viewpoint. The area is home to some of the best glamping in South America, too. 

Isla Magdalena

Penguins stand in the foreground of a lighthouse on Isla Magdalena

Few places on the face of the earth provide a better opportunity to view Magellanic penguins than the Monumento Natural Los Pingüinos on Isla Magdalena and Isla Marta. Take a boat tour across the Strait of Magellan from Punta Arenas to arrive at one of the largest penguin colonies in South America. This eco-sanctuary is one of the best places to visit in Chile for wildlife viewing, as it’s home to more than 60,000 pairs of adorable penguins, and a whole host of elephant seals, dolphins, cormorants, and sea lions.  

Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

Stone moai statues at Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island

This tiny little volcanic outcrop in the South Pacific Ocean captivates travelers with its blend of archaeological wonders, blissful beaches, and vivid sunsets.  

Known to the locals as Rapu Nui, Easter Island is one of the most isolated places on Earth, which only adds to its spellbinding feel. Look upon the mysterious stone moai statues at Ahu Tongariki in wonder; hike along the crater of the Ranu Kao volcano; stretch out on the white sands of Playa de Anakena; and go petroglyph-hunting at Orongo.  

Close each day with a sublime sunset, watching the sky erupt in broad strokes of pink and orange—a dramatic backdrop to the silhouettes of the island’s famous moai statues. 

Chile travel FAQs

A hiker stands in front of Torres Del Pain's famous granite spires

How many days do you need to travel Chile?  

Chile’s star destinations are spread out.  Flying from Santiago to Punta Arenas (gateway to Chilean southern Patagonia) takes three-and-a-half-hours. Getting from Santiago to the Atacama Desert requires a two-hour flight to Calama and then a one-and-a-half-hour drive to San Pedro de Atacama. As such, you’ll want at least a week in Chille, but 10-12 days is better. Effectively, the longer the better if your luxury itinerary includes Patagonia.  

What’s does Chile trip itinerary commonly look like?  

A typical luxury Chile itinerary might include the Atacama Desert, Torres del Paine, Chilean Lake District, Easter Island, and/or the Aysén Region.  

Most trips have a strong anchor: Patagonia or Easter Island. Since you’ll be passing through Santiago, travelers can easily spend a few days in the capital, in the nearby Chilean Wine Country or oceanside, in Valparaiso. It’s also possible to combine Chile and Argentina.  

When is the best time to visit Chile?  

High season in Chile runs from late October to early April. (Seasons run opposite to North America), but it peaks in January and February (“summer”). Our experts recommend fall (March, April, and May), and spring (September, October, and November) as the best time to visit Chile; that’s when the weather is most pleasant and crowds are thinner.  

Explore Chile on a map

Atacama Desert

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Chilean Wine Country

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Easter Island

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Lake District and Chiloé

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Aysén Region, Northern Patagonia

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Torres del Paine

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Chilean Fjords

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