16 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Chile
Boasting one of the planet’s most diverse landscapes, Chile has in recent years become an increasingly popular travel destination, particularly among nature lovers and adventure seekers. Here in this long, narrow nation on the west coast of South America, travelers will find an array of stunning sightseeing opportunities, from the tall peaks of the Andes and endless beaches to lush temperate forests, ancient volcanoes, and a dramatic coastline such as that found at Cape Horn.
Chile is also blessed with an abundance of superb national parks and conservation areas, many of them popular destinations for those into trekking and hiking, as well as those who enjoy adventurous things to do such as climbing, river rafting, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
But Chile is not without its cultural attractions, too, with cities such as the capital of Santiago offering many fine museums and art galleries, and stunning Easter Island with its famous stone figures. Whatever your travel preferences, you’ll find no shortage of beautiful places to visit and photograph in Chile.
To ensure you see the best points of interest in this amazing South American country, be sure to read our list of the top things to do on Chile.
1. Torres Del Paine National Park
Torres Del Paine National Park
One of Chile’s most important natural areas and an increasingly popular travel destination is the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park. Situated more than 100 kilometers north of the city of Puerto Natales in southern Patagonia, this stunningly beautiful area encompasses mountains, glaciers, and countless lakes and rivers.
The most important region of the park is the Cordillera del Paine, an area that marks the transition from the Patagonia steppe to the subpolar forests of the north. Perhaps the most notable of its many wonderful features are the three 2,850-meter-tall granite peaks of the Paine Massif, which dominate this already breathtaking scenery.
Hiking is one of the park’s most popular activities, with numerous well-marked trails, many offering overnight shelters (refugios) with the basics needed for longer treks that circle the mountains. If you’re planning on anything more than a day’s hiking, professional guides are recommended and, in some areas, mandatory.
One of the top guided tours of the park is the five-day W Trek, one of the top hikes in Patagonia. This 71-kilometer route takes in some of the top points of interest in Patagonia, including the massive Glacier Grey and the mountains of Paine Grande.
Address: Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena Region
2. Valle de la Luna and the Atacama Desert
Valle de la Luna and the Atacama Desert
Valle de la Luna, which literally translates as “Valley of the Moon,” lies 13 kilometers west of San Pedro de Atacama at the north end of the country, near its border with Bolivia. It can be accessed via well-marked bike trails, tour buses, or self-drive car rentals.
This rugged, inhospitable looking landscape in the heart of the Atacama Desert attracts many visitors for its eerie resemblance to the surface of the moon, an effect caused by the erosion of its sand and stone features by wind and water over countless millennia. Despite its remoteness, though, this surprisingly beautiful landscape has sustained life for centuries, both human as well as that of numerous species of flora and fauna.
Among its most interesting features are its dry lake beds-this is, after all, one of the driest places on the planet-which are dazzlingly white due to deposited salt, and prone to producing fascinating natural saline outcrops.
Other notable features of the Atacama Desert are the region’s many caverns, some containing evidence of pictographs created by early man and where some of the world’s oldest mummies, preserved by the area’s aridity, were found. The most famous of these, the Chinchorro mummies, are now on display at the archaeological museum in San Miguel de Azapa.
Also of interest is the Laguna Cejar sinkhole, famous for its turquoise water.
Address: San Pedro de Atacama, Antofagasta Region
3. Easter Island & Rapa Nui National Park
First visited by Europeans in 1722, the magnificent yet remote Easter Island – so named by a Dutch Explorer who first set eyes on it on Easter Sunday – has been inhabited for thousands of years by Polynesians. Despite being more than 3,500 kilometers away from mainland Chile, this fascinating island with its remarkable stone sculptures remains the country’s most recognizable attraction.
All told, 887 of these statues, known as Moai – created by the island’s early Rapa Nui population – have been identified, most of them now protected by Rapa Nui National Park (the island itself has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The most impressive collection is at Ahu Tongariki where 15 of them have been re-erected on the island’s largest Moai platform, or “ahu.”
Rapa Nui is also where you’ll find one of the country’s best beaches, Anakena. This beautiful yet short stretch of white coral sand is the perfect spot for a break from hiking.
Also of interest are the many “hare paenga” ruins near ahu sites consisting of stones that once formed the foundation of boat-shaped houses. Other highlights include the Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum in Hanga Roa, the island’s main community, notable for its exhibits relating to the history of the Polynesian islanders and their traditions.
Hot Tip: Visiting Easter Island is best done as part of a Chilean vacation, with regular flights available from Santiago or Tahiti. Flight times are approximately five hours, so expect to stay at least a couple of days.
4. Santiago: Chile’s Cultural Capital
Santiago: Chile’s Cultural Capital
Santiago is not only the financial and business capital of Chile, it also serves as the country’s cultural and entertainment center. Consequently, it’s home to endless fun things to do, including visiting its best museums and galleries, along with excellent shopping, dining, and hotel options.
Centrally located and the country’s main transportation hub, Santiago is where most visitors begin their Chilean travels before heading to the Andes or other areas of outstanding natural beauty, such as Easter Island. The smartest travelers, though, will allow time in their Chile travel itinerary to get to know Santiago.
Founded in 1541 and relatively crowd-free, the city features points of interest such as the Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda, a state-of-the-art cultural center occupying part of the impressive Palacio de la Moneda, and the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes). Established in the 1880s, it focuses on Chilean artists, and boasts a large permanent collection of paintings, sculptures, and photos.
Other must-sees are the excellent Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino), featuring collections relating to the country’s native people, and the Museum of Memory and Human Rights (Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos). The latter commemorates those who suffered under the Pinochet regime.
A highlight of any visit to Santiago is taking the aerial tramway to San Cristóbal Hill for its stunning views over this most hospitable of cities. There are also some interesting attractions here, including an observatory, a 22-meter-tall statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and an amphitheater.
Be sure to also spend time enjoying Santiago Metropolitan Park (Parque Metropolitano de Santiago), a huge urban green space. Here, you’ll find a botanical garden, the Chilean National Zoo, and a funicular railway.
5. The Chilean Lake District
Puerto Varas on the shores of Lake Llanquihue in the Chilean Lake District
Stretching for more than 330 kilometers from Temuco to Puerto Montt and resembling the alpine regions of Europe, the Chilean Lake District (Zona Sur) is well worth exploring. Like its alpine cousin, this beautiful region of the Andean foothills boasts rich farmland at the base of its many snowcapped volcanoes, ringed by thick forests and the kind of deep lakes that water sports enthusiasts drool over.
And the connection to Europe doesn’t end here. After the forced resettlement of the region’s indigenous people, the Mapuche, farmers from Switzerland, Austria, and Germany arrived, bringing with them aspects of their own culture that can still be seen in the architecture of towns like Osorno and Valdivia, as well as in the region’s customs and festivals.
For adventure seekers, a typical Chilean Lake District itinerary includes endless hiking and biking potential, along with other fun activities such as volcano climbing; white water rafting; kayaking; canoeing; horseback riding; and, come winter, skiing. Road trips to the region are also extremely popular.
6. Cape Horn
Cape Horn Memorial Sculpture
Considered something of a Holy Grail for travelers – and the equivalent of Mount Everest for yachting types – Cape Horn is, if you can get here, well worth the effort, if not the bragging rights.
The last stop before Antarctica and the world’s southernmost tip, Cape Horn has for centuries been known as a sailor’s graveyard for its remoteness, its hazardous coastline, and the rough seas that prevail here. While less important as a trade route now thanks to the Panama Canal, it has seen an increase in popularity among serious sailing enthusiasts, and features in a number of exciting races.
For the rest of us, it can, with careful planning, still be visited. There are, however, only a few ways to get to Cape Horn (apart from having your own yacht, of course). An increasingly popular option is via helicopter from the Chilean town of Puerto Toro. A day-long adventure, it can be expensive, so you may want to seek travel companions on the adventure. Alternatively, charter sailboats can get you here, but it’s a long haul and often rough.
Cruise ships are, perhaps, the best option. A number of cruises in fact pass by Cape Horn on their way to Antarctica and will, weather and seas permitting, stop here for an hour. Passengers disembark via inflatable boats, so this part of the journey can be rough, too.
Once ashore, passengers can make the short cliff-top climb to what is perhaps the ultimate tourist selfie spot: the Cape Horn Memorial Sculpture. This breathtaking monument and its incredible views welcome you to the bottom of the world.
Chile’s third largest city, Valparaíso, is nestled between the sea and the coastal mountain range about 112 kilometers northwest of Santiago and makes for an excellent day trip. As popular for its many old cobbled streets and unique architecture as it is for its lovely harbor and beaches, the city offers a great deal of fun things to do.
Many tourist attractions focus on the country’s rich maritime heritage, including Lord Cochrane’s Museum (Museo Lord Cochrane), located in a lovely old colonial home built in 1842. Another must-visit tourist attraction is the superb Naval and Maritime Museum (Museo Naval Y Maritimo) with its displays dealing with the War of the Pacific of 1879 between Chile and allied Peru and Bolivia, with particular emphasis on the contributions of Chile’s war heroes.
A related attraction is the Ironclad Huáscar located in the Port of Talcahuano, some 600 kilometers south of Santiago. Talcahuano’s beautiful harbor – home to Chile’s navy – is the base for this immaculately restored historic vessel built in 1865 in Britain and one of the only surviving such battleships of her kind.
8. Lauca National Park
Lauca National Park
Located in the far north of Chile, just 140 kilometers east of the city of Arica, Lauca National Park (Parque Nacional Lauca) covers an area of 1,300 square kilometers and consists largely of high plains and mountain ranges, many of the latter comprised of large volcanoes.
Highlights include hiking around its many pristine mountain lakes, most notably Cotacotani and Chungara, which reflect the scenery around them to stunning effect. The park also features a number of important archaeological sites, as well as evidence of the early European settlers who left their mark in the region’s many fine old colonial churches and buildings.
It’s also especially popular for bird-watchers and is home to more than 140 species, including Andean geese, crested ducks, Chilean flamingos, and the massive Andean condor. Another beautiful area popular with nature lovers is Conguillío National Park (Parque Nacional Conguillío), also in the Araucanía Region of the Andes.
Address: Putre, Arica y Parinacota Region
9. Pumalín Park
Although only established as a nature sanctuary in 2005, Pumalín Park has become one of Chile’s most important and popular conservation areas. Covering a vast area of more than 988,000 acres stretching from the Andes to the Pacific, the area boasts some of the country’s most pristine coastline and forests and is notable for being almost entirely untouched by human development.
In addition to protecting the area’s rich flora and fauna, including the Alerce, the world’s oldest tree species, the park is easily accessible to visitors and provides one of the country’s best wilderness experiences. It’s owned and operated by the US-based Conservation Land Trust.
Thanks to its extensive network of trails, campgrounds, and visitor facilities, Pumalín Park is a delight to explore, whether for a short nature hike or as part of a longer ecotourism adventure. These often include a stay at rustic cabin-style accommodations overlooking one of the world’s most beautiful, unspoiled backdrops.
Address: Sector Río Amarillo S/N Chaitén, Chaiten, Chaitén, Región de los Lagos
10. Los Pingüinos Natural Monument
Penguins at Los Pingüinos Natural Monument
In addition to its national parks, more of Chile’s important conservation efforts can be seen in its many natural monuments. One of the most popular is Los Pingüinos Natural Monument (Monumento natural Los Pingüinos), just 35 kilometers northeast of the city of Punta Arenas at the southern tip of the island and incorporating the beautiful Magdalena and Marta Islands.
As its name suggests (pingüinos is Spanish for penguins), the monument is home to one of Chile’s largest penguin colonies, consisting of some 60,000 breeding pairs of Magellanic penguins. Accessible only by guided boat tours, the islands are also home to large colonies of seals and sea lions.
Another of Chile’s important natural monuments is El Morado, an easy drive from Santiago and site of the San Francisco Glacier and the 4,674-meter-tall Cerro El Morado mountain.
Address: Punta Arenas, Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena Region
11. The Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works
The Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works
Situated near the northern port city of Iquique in the remote Pampa Desert and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, this fascinating ghost town was once home to a bustling community.
For more than 60 years from about 1880, thousands of Chilean, Bolivian, and Peruvian workers toiled in the Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (Salitreras Humberstone y Santa Laura), a hostile environment that included some 200 saltpeter mines. In the process, these workers formed a distinct culture and way of life that has been preserved here.
Although derelict since 1960, the site offers a fascinating glimpse into the tough conditions faced by these “pampinos,” with many of the site’s larger structures still standing and able to be explored. Professional guides are recommended given the area’s remoteness and harsh climate.
Address: km 47 A-16, Pozo Almonte, Región de Tarapacá
12. Chiloé Island & Chiloé National Park
Traditional palafitos on Chiloé Island
Situated on Chiloé Island, the country’s second largest island, Chiloé National Park is well worth adding to your travel itinerary. While not as rugged as the majority of the country’s most striking scenery, Chiloé Island is nevertheless quite unique.
In places, it looks not unlike the kind of rural topography you’d expect to find in parts of Europe – Germany immediately springs to mind – and it’s a delight to explore.
In addition to the island’s numerous old iconic wooden churches, remnants of the communities established by Jesuit missionaries who settled here in the 1600s, you’ll see plenty of attractive, colorful old homes. Known as “palafitos,” they snuggle along the shoreline in places and are raised out of the water on stilts. Many of the island’s old churches, too, are painted brightly and should be visited.
Chiloé National Park itself has become increasingly popular among tourists in recent years. A highlight of a visit to this area of outstanding natural beauty is the chance to observe wildlife as diverse as blue whales and dolphins (sightseeing excursions are available), and the large penguin breeding grounds on the nearby Islotes de Puñihuil Natural Monument. Available adventures include sea kayaking, hiking, and eco-tourism.
Address: Los Lagos Region
13. Valle Nevado
Valle Nevado ski resort
Once a well-kept secret, the fact that Chile is home to some of the world’s best skiing is now common knowledge among skiers. By far the most popular ski area in South America, the Valle Nevado (Snowy Valley) resort region in the El Plomo foothills of the Andes is well-served by public transit from the country’s capital of Santiago, located just 46 kilometers west of the slopes. Established in 1988, the ski resort covers a vast area and has grown rapidly in the time since.
Boasting mostly clear skies and great snow thanks to its high elevation 3,000 meters above sea level. It’s skiable 112 days a year, and the resort features 37 trails and 11 lifts. It’s as popular with beginner families as it is with seasoned skiers and snowboarders.
In addition to its three hotels, a variety of rental chalets and condos are available, suitable for short and long stays, and the resort also features eight restaurants. A snow school is located on-site, along with a ski shop and a tour company featuring heli-skiing adventures. Other notable Chilean ski resorts close to Santiago include La Parva and El Colorado.
Address: Avenida Vitacura 5250 of. 304, Vitacura, Región Metropolitana
14. Mylodon Cave Natural Monument
Mylodon Cave National Monument
As popular with sightseers as it is with nature lovers, the Mylodon Cave Natural Monument (El Monumento Natural Cueva del Milodón) is situated in the heart of the Patagonia area of Chile a short distance from Puerto Natales.
Highlights of this fascinating natural wonder – part of the popular End of the World scenic drive – include a number of easy-to-access caves set around a formidable rock formation known as the Devil’s Chair (Silla del Diablo).
The main cave, known as the Milodón Cave, was where, in 1895, the well-preserved remains of a prehistoric Mylodon were discovered (a tall statue of this long-extinct creature marks the spot where the discovery was made), along with remnants of other ancient animals and even human bones.
This impressive cave is some 200 meters deep, and it’s fun to explore. If you’ve got time, take the marked trail that leads to the top of the cave, where you’ll enjoy spectacular views over the nearby Eberhard fjord.
Other fun things to do include exploring the park’s many other hiking trails, which include a number of raised sections at tree height that are fun to walk.
Address: Y-290 8, Natales, Región de Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena
15. Cochamó Valley
Giant rock face in the Cochamó Valley
Known as the “Yosemite of Chile,” the beautiful Cochamó Valley region of Chile is a delightful area to explore. Situated in the Los Lagos region of the Andes and named after the Cochamó river, it’s a region that, like Yosemite, has become extremely popular among hikers and rock climbers, the latter drawn here for the chance to tackle its many 1,000-meter-plus granite walls.
Hikers, for their part, can choose from a variety of trails of varying degrees of difficulty, most of them taking you directly to popular sightseeing spots. These include the many beautiful waterfalls that dot the region.
You’ll definitely want to tackle the 10-kilometer-long “Cowboy Trail,” so named for its 100-plus-year history as a cattle trail (it was also used by the infamous bank robbers, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, after fleeing the US). This fun six-hour hike starts in the village of Cochamó and leads to La Junta, a rocky outpost with a number of campsites should you wish to bed down for the night.
In addition to the varied flora and fauna here, people are also drawn for the great fly fishing.
16. Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park
Petrohué Falls in Vincente Perez Rosales National Park
Established in 1926 and the first of the country’s now numerous national parks, Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park (Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales) is located in the heart of the Chilean Lake District, and provides the perfect excuse to at least get a taster of this beautiful region.
Easily accessible from the city of Puerto Montt, the big tourist attraction here is the spectacular Petrohué Falls (Saltos del Petrohué). Here, the fast flowing Petrohué River plummets down a volcanic rock chute to Todos los Santos Lake, an especially impressive sight during the rainy season. After descending the falls and rapids, the water settles in the crystal clear lake, a popular fishing and bird-watching spot.
The area is also known for its diverse wildlife, including deer and pumas, as well as its thermal springs. Add to this picture-perfect location a backdrop of snowcapped volcanos, and you’ve got the perfect selfie spot to snap that memento of your vacation in Chile.
10 Best Places to Visit in Chile
This Patagonian country is a rich tapestry of mountain and plain, jungle and ocean. Chile’s unusual long shape has given it a varied climate with one of the world’s driest desert in the north, while its southern tip is home to cold-weather creatures like penguins. Chile is one of the closest nations, along with Argentina and New Zealand, to Antarctica.
The South has a strong history of visiting explorers, as everyone who sailed around the world before the Panama Canal was built needed to pass its tip. The country also has a well-known wine region that attracts many oenophiles each year. Here is a look at some of the best places to visit in Chile:
10. La Serena [SEE MAP]
Antifama / Flickr
This northern Chilean town is the second oldest in the nation. It boasts a city full of lovely architecture and a warm golden beach. La Serena has a reputation as an intellectual town, and has a number of great sights that fit this description, like an archaeological museum and astronomical observatory. Outdoor enthusiasts will love to bike through the Elqui Valley, swim, snorkel, dive and/or hike through Isla Damas, and visit the national park at Fray Jorge.
9. Santiago [SEE MAP]
fahrenheit75 / Flickr
The capital city is the political and cultural heart of Chile. From the high mountain views of the Cerro San Cristobal Park to the secluded history of poet Pablo Neruda’s writing retreat, there is much to see in Santiago. Top picks include skiing Valle Nevado or Portillo, wine tasting at Vina Aquitania, or visits to one of several top museums like Museo Chile de Arte Precolumbio or Museo de la Moda. For those who don’t want to spend all of their time in the city, there are amazing hiking opportunities like the steep slopes of Cajon de Maipo.
8. Chiloe Island [SEE MAP]
Chiloé Island is the largest island of the Chiloé Archipelago in the Los Lagos Region and the second-largest island in South America after Tierra del Fuego. In part because of its physical isolation from the rest of Chile, Chiloé has a very special architecture and local culture.
The Spanish who arrived in the 16th century, and Jesuit missionaries who followed, constructed hundreds of unique wooden churches in an attempt to bring Christianity to the archipelago. The result was a mixing of Catholicism and indigenous Chilean beliefs.
7. Iquique [SEE MAP]
James Byrum / Flickr
This beautiful beach and casino town offers a vibrant boardwalk and gorgeous 19th century Georgian architecture like the Aztoreca Palace. Iquique is the Monte Carlo of Chile, and has much to offer for anyone who loves free-spirited fun.
During the day, guests here can participate in world-famous surfing waves, paraglide or sand-board on the golden coast. A stroll down the wooden sidewalks of the historic mining town, or the cobbled Baquedano street, gives a look into an older economic boom time. Finally, the spectacular nightlife offers glitzy gambling, excellent cuisine, and shopping in the duty-free district.
6. Chilean Fjords [SEE MAP]
Traveloscopy / Flickr
The southern coast of Chile presents a large number of fjords and channels that provide the only access to this part of Patagonia. Sailing through this region can be an unforgettable experience. Most of the trips start from Puerto Montt and travel towards Carretera Austral, Laguna San Rafael and Puerto Natales. The journey takes visitors through days of uninhabited fjords, close encounter with glaciers and views of orange sunsets over the Pacific. To the south, the channels become narrower. Along the way, travelers might spot whales, many birds and sea lions.
5. Valparaiso [SEE MAP]
This hard-working economic port town on the coast of Central Chile was loved by the poet Pablo Neruda for its beautiful chaos. It boasts some of the first urban innovations in Latin America, like the first volunteer fire department.
In addition to its working class roots, Valparaiso has a reputation for an underground street art movement. Instead of specific tourist attractions, Valparaiso is best known for its brightly colored houses, a vibrant nightlife and beautiful seaside views.
4. Chilean Lake District [SEE MAP]
martingarri / Flickr
This long, lush volcanic valley region stretches from Puerto Montt in the South to Temuco in the North. It is home to dense forests, crystal-clear lakes, and snowcapped volcanoes. Before the introduction of Europeans, the lake district was thickly forested, and inhabited by the Mapuche, one of the few South American tribes to avoid being swallowed into the Incan nations.
Today, there are still some beautiful untouched lands, like Los Alerces National Park, known as Chile’s Yosemite. Mountains here are very young, only two thousand years old, which makes them higher and more jagged than anything in North America, and well worth the trip all by themselves.
3. San Pedro de Atacama [SEE MAP]
Trodel / Flickr
Set high on a plateau, San Pedro de Atacama lies in the Antofagasta Region of Chile, surrounded by countless mountains, lakes, and rock formations. Due to its awe-inspiring landscapes and scenery, the small town is a very popular destination among Chilean tourists and international visitors alike and can be found not far from the Bolivian border.
While San Pedro is pleasant and picturesque to visit, with a laidback vibe and lively cafes, most people just use it as a base from which to explore the surrounding area. From the center of town, you can easily arrange to visit the incredible Atacama Desert or any one of the impressive pre-Columbian archaeological sites and ruins that lie nearby.
Among the region’s many highlights are the otherworldly Valle de la Luna which looks very lunar-like in appearance and the El Tatio Geysers which spurt up so high into the air. In addition to this, there are also the pink flamingos at Laguna Chaxa to visit as well as the ancient petroglyphs at rainbow valley. The nightlife here is a little different- the big draw is star tours, as it is one of the darkest places in the world, and an opportunity to see the night sky undiluted.
2. Torres del Paine [SEE MAP]
The “towers of blue” national park constitutes a glaciated region on the Southern tip of Chile. Three large pillars in the park give it its name, and it is also home to a number of “horns”, or other mountains, and glaciated lakes. Exploration through this park can be done via mini van tours, multi-day treks, or catamaran trips.
There are a few services who will also offer horseback tours to some of the sites. Much of the park is foot-only, and there are a number of excellent guide companies who can help carry gear and cook meals on five to seven day treks.
1. Easter Island [SEE MAP]
Located more than 3,500 km (2,000 miles) form central Chile, Easter Island continues to be one of the world’s great mysteries. This treeless island of hundreds of giant, hollow-eyed statues carved by its Polynesian visitors is an eerie yet beautiful example of human artistry and achievement.
Besides visiting these statues from a respectful distance to avoid immense fines and hiking the rocky plains, guests here can enjoy two white sand beaches with off-coast diving, an extinct cinder cone, and a number of native-run tours that offer views of things that are unique and well worth it.
Map of Chile
© OpenStreetMap © MapTiler © Touropia
10 Amazing Places to Visit Near Santiago, Chile
Santiago dips its feet in the Pacific Ocean and keeps its head high in the Andes mountain ranges. It’s a cultural hub, the nerve center of the longest country on the South American continent.
You could easily spend weeks in Chile’s capital, enjoying its modern vibes, its cultural offers, its safety. But the reason Santiago charms many foreigners and Chileans alike is its proximity to a really diverse set of landscapes and activities.
In a country so stretched that it can take up to a whole day to travel from one place to the other, it’s good to know that there are a whole bunch of amazing places to visit near Santiago de Chile.
The first item in this list of places to visit near Santiago is also the closest. The Bahá’í Temple is only a short walk or bike ride from the outskirts of Santiago, east of the city. It’s a place of worship for a minor Persian religion, which promotes unity and equality. If you’re interested in learning more about it, visit their website.
Besides the religious aspect, the Bahá’í Temple is interesting for its architecture and for its location. It’s a modern dome with a very peculiar design, open to everyone. Remember, it’s important to enter respectfully. The temple is situated on top of a hill overlooking Santiago, giving one of the best views on its skyline.
What to do there:
- get rid of that greasy street food by riding a bike up the hill
- visit the temple and its gardens
How to get there from Santiago:
Depending on the traffic and where you depart from, a car ride can take between 20 minutes to 1 hour; that’s probably not the best option. By bus, you must take one that goes to Avenida Grecia – it can take between 30 minutes and 2 hours. Alternatively, rent a bike; I swear that the way back down is worth every effort!
This is a gorgeous landscape of mountains, forest, and river, with a volcano as a background; perhaps the most stunning piece of nature around Santiago. Even better, it is close by!
The Maipo Canyon “Cajón del Maipo” is a beloved weekend gateway of many a Santiaguino (people from Santiago). It caters to many visitors with a range of activities to enjoy a day out in nature. In winter (June to August), snow falls and covers the mountains, allowing refreshing ski sessions.
If you want to spend more than a day in these surroundings, there are accommodations and camping places.
What to do there:
- hiking, horse riding
- rafting, bungee jumping, canyoning
- skiing and other snow activities (only in winter)
- thermal baths
Note: Bring sunscreen, a hat, and a wind jacket, as it can be quite hot in the sun and turn very cold in the shade.
How to get there from Santiago:
There’s a direct shuttle bus leaving from outside the metro stations Bellavista de la Florida, Las Mercedes, and Plaza de Puente Alto. By car, it’s a bit more than 1 hour to the closest hamlet called El Melocotón; the road itself is worth sightseeing so it will take longer than that. You can also book a day tour from a professional agency.
Altos de Cantillana
One of the many nature reserves around Santiago is the Cantillana mountain, 70 km to the south. It offers a trek we heard much about but couldn’t do ourselves, for lack of time. From up there, you have a 360º panorama on the valleys and the Andes. Our Chilean friends told us that the best time to visit is in May when the oak trees turn the landscape to red.
It’s a fairly easy hike, without particular skills needed and at no great altitude. It requires two days and a tent if you want to do the whole 40 km circuit (20 km to the top, and another 20 km back). If you have only one day, it’s also possible to go and simply turn back whenever you want part way along the track.
If you decide to go for it, this very precise description will come in handy.
What to do there:
Note: There is an entrance fee and an additional charge for camping inside. To visit, you need to book by email or telephone: contact page . There’s no shop, no accommodation and it’s forbidden to make fires.
How to get there from Santiago:
The trek starts near Laguna de Aculeo and brings you to the summit. To get there by bus, take the one saying “Aculeo-Rangue” in San Borja bus terminal. They leave every 30 minutes and should take around 90 minutes. By car, it takes 1 hour along Route 5; turn right on G-546 south of Paine.
Much could be said about Valparaiso, Chile’s main harbor and one of its trendiest towns. It would certainly deserve its own article and more than one day to visit. Having said that, it’s so close to Santiago that you can certainly go and come back on the same day; as it’s only a 2 hour bus ride.
Valparaíso, “la ciudad de los 1000 colores”, is indeed a colorful town built on the hills directly overlooking the sea. Its historic quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage site, however, the modern part of the center is buzzing with such life that it might have you considering to live there.
Famous for its colourful murals that will please all street art fans, “Valpo” (as it is known in Chile) is a university town that offers many cool eating and going-out options.
What to do there:
- Walk up the hills to amazing sea views or take century-old funiculars
- Fill your memory card with street art shots
- Watch the sea lions on the oceanfront
- Attend an event in one of the abandoned factories
- Enjoy a vegetarian, vegan or simply sustainable meal at one of the community-based eateries
- Visit Palacio Baburizza, a very good fine arts museum on Paseo Yugoslavo
How to get there from Santiago:
As we’ve said, it’s only a 2 hour bus ride from Santiago to Valparaíso. There are buses leaving every 10-20 minutes from the bus terminal Pajaritos. The bus terminal in Valparaíso is at a walking distance from the town center. By car, it’s a 90 minute drive on Route 68.
Viña del Mar
Viña del Mar
The seaside town of Viña del Mar is only a stone’s throw from Valparaíso; in fact, it lies in its direct continuity along the coast and you can go from one to the other without noticing it. It’s the usual beach town for locals and it can get crowded at the weekends.
Despite being so close to each other, Viña del Mar and Valparaíso have a completely different aura. While Valpo is “raw” and colorful, Viña is clean, tidy, and even a bit posh in parts. The oceanfront is a swirl of flâneurs and street vendors and is lined with bars, restaurants and night clubs. The main street, Avenida Libertad, has a more local feel, with many small shops and eating places.
The best is to explore both Valparaíso and Viña del Mar together while you’re in the area. However, it would be a mistake to dedicate only one day of your travels for both: one day in each is really a minimum.
What to do there:
- Sunbathe at El Sol beach
- Have a stroll on the seaside
- Relax at the Quinta Vergara city park
- Take a selfie at the flower clock, or alternatively…
- …Have fun at people taking a selfie at the flower clock
- Observe the fishermen and -women at the Vergara pier in the evening
How to get there from Santiago:
Same as for Valparaíso, there are frequent buses going from Santiago to Viña del Mar. Buses depart Santiago from the same Pajaritos bus terminal. By car, it’s a 90 minute drive on the Route 68.
Chilean wines have reached worldwide fame and are ranked among the best “new world” wines. We certainly like them! But fair play, we’re not very fussy with our wines. Why not indulge in some wine tasting during your stay in Santiago?
There are several wine regions around Santiago: the Maipo valley near Puente Alto, only 30 km to the south of the capital’s center; the Aconcagua valley near Los Andes, 80 km to the north; and the valley around Casablanca, 80 km to the west. Some of the vineyards can be visited independently, others require a day tour with an agency.
If you’re at a loss to decide, we recommend the Casablanca region. There are more producers there, including the world’s biggest organic and biodynamic vineyard.
There’s a wide variety of beaches in a country that has 6,435 km of coastline. If the liveliness of Viña del Mar’s city beach isn’t for you, try the more secluded ones in the area.
An easy option is Laguna Verde, a mere 30 minute ride south of Valparaíso, and 90 minute trip by car from Santiago. We say it is easy because it’s very accessible, however, still usually not crowded.
Laguna Verde is a small-town beach with small-town flair. It is very relaxing after the hubbub of Santiago, but not a wild adventure either.
What to do there:
- chill at the beach
- eat a humita at one of the local eateries
- have a stroll along the El Sauce estuary
How to get there from Santiago:
By bus, you will first need to reach Valparaíso (see above); then take the local bus number 520 in direction of Laguna Verde – Playa Ancha. Take that 2nd bus opposite Plaza O’Higgins (right next to the bus terminal). The whole route should take around 3 hours. Of course, it’s faster by car – about 90 minutes along the routes 68 and 60.
Playa las Docas
Playa las Docas
If you want to escape the city buzz, then one of the best places to visit near Santiago is called Playas las Docs. This is a very secluded beach that attracts a fair amount of Santiaguinos and Porteños (people of Valparaíso). You can get there only by car along a narrow curvy path that brings you directly to the ocean. There are a few shops on the way and one on the beach that closes in the evening.
People’s favorite activity on Playa Las Docas is wild camping. It’s allowed, as long as you don’t litter or damage the environment. The beach isn’t very large, but there’s a second part behind the rocks on the right, where few people go. A stroll at night, with the sound of the waves, the shadows of all the tents, a couple of dying fires and the voices of people… it’s a sight to behold!
Note: There is a parking fee but no fee to camp. Nearby shops tend to be pricey so bring your own stuff from the city.
What to do there:
- Bathe, sunbathe, wild camp, cook on the fire
How to get there from Santiago:
There is no public transportation to reach the beach. By car, it’s a 90 minute drive until Laguna Verde (see above), then 30 minutes more on route F-98. It’s a good idea to use a GPS as there’s no main road. Be careful! The way to the beach is steep, curvy and narrow, and has no asphalt.
The Aconcagua mountain is a massive jewel. Towering at 6,960.8 meters, it’s the highest peak in the Americas, in fact, it’s the planet’s highest outside of Asia. A nature provincial park has been established at its feet, offering several kinds of treks for all levels.
Experienced mountaineers can revel in 15-20 days hiking up and back. From what we heard, the ascent isn’t particularly difficult but requires essential acclimatisation to the altitude.
Casual hikers like us can still enjoy a day hike in the Aconcagua Provincial Park. You have the choice between a 4-hour flat stroll on moon-like terrain around a lake nestled between the mountains; and a 7-hour cozy hike past that lake and deeper into the mountain range. Considering the price to enter the park, we highly recommend the second option, which is fairly accessible.
Note: Keep in mind that you’re crossing a border; don’t forget your passport and be ready to wait, especially on the way back into Chile.
What to do there:
- 1-day trek around the Horcones lake
- 1-day trek to the Confluencia base camp
- camping at Confluencia for more days hiking in the park
- 15-day trek to the summit
- see the hot springs and the rock formation at Puente del Inca
How to get there from Santiago:
To get to the Aconcagua Provincial Park, you have to reach Puente del Inca, the closest town to the entrance.
Although there are buses going all the way to Mendoza, Argentina in 7 hours, we’re not sure if it’s possible to buy a ticket for Puente del Inca and get off mid-way. By car, it’s a 3 hour head-spinning drive to the park’s entrance, through the Andes mountain range. The road itself is worth the journey! It’s also possible to book a 1-day tour from Santiago with an agency.
Pichilemu – Laguna Petrel and the sea on the left
The somnolent seaside town of Pichilemu wakes up in the summer (December to February) to welcome national and international surfers. It’s a small town with not much to offer except perfect surf spots for all levels; several lakes where many species of birds gather; and the best seafood of the region.
Pichilemu is one of the best spots in South America to learn to surf. Many surfers love the nearby Punta de Lobos beach, but there are several schools in town too. If you play your cards well, you could even volunteer in a hostel in exchange for surf lessons for free!
What to do there:
- surf, mainly
- have a stroll around Laguna Petrel, right next to the town
- bird watching at Laguna El Ancho
- hitchhike to the beach of Punta de Lobos (20 minutes South of Pichilemu)
How to get there from Santiago:
There are frequent buses leaving Santiago from Terminal Alameda; the journey takes about 4 hours. By car, the longest but fastest way takes about 3 hours; follow Route 5 until San Fernando, then turn right on Route 90.
We’re sure there are still many more places to visit near Santiago. Surrounded by such diverse nature, there’s probably enough to get you going a lifetime. We hope this list will be a good inspiration for your stay in the heart of Chile.
Considering you will be jumping from mountains to beaches you will need to pack a whole range of clothes for both cold and hot weather. I highly recommend checking out this tried and trusted South America packing list so that your luggage doesn’t go hugely oversize.
This is a guest post contributed by Anna and Anthony who are long-time travelers, polyglots and all-kinds-of-art aficionados. They write about eco travels, nature hikes and cultural discoveries for backpackers to South America, on their travel blog Green Mochila . Be sure to follow them on Facebook , Twitter , and Instagram for regular travel tips and updates.