Follow South America's Andes Mountains way south to reach Chile, the world's longest country. Also home to the world's driest desert, Chile is known for its wine, stunning natural landscape, and dramatically contrasting climate -- and is growing in popularity as a top destination to visit.
Head to Chile for its adventure opportunities, rich culture, and year-round breathtaking scenery. Adventure travelers can admire the natural beauty of this geographically diverse country by backcountry trekking and camping. Those who want to get their toes wet can satisfy their needs scuba diving, surfing, or whitewater rafting. And history enthusiasts can experience Chilean traditions and culture with every turn.
Use this guide to get a better idea of the types of activities you can enjoy while visiting Chile, as well as how to plan for it all.
Go kayaking through glacial water, camping in wide, open spaces, skiing, horseback riding, and even whitewater rafting. Chile is filled with opportunities for adventurists who like to get their hearts pumping. Futaleufú River, for example, is located in Northern Chile and known throughout the rafting world for it's lush mountain scenery and challenging, Class IV drops.
Trekking isn't a walk in the park in Chile, and few trails are marked well -- if at all. If you don't have experience with backcountry trekking, tour guides can be hired.
Torres del Paine, for instance, is a national park filled with mountains, glaciers, rivers, and lakes. Each as astoundingly beautiful as the next, the various landscapes of the area will take your breath away. The straightforward trails here are among the most beautiful in the world.
Culture & Wine Tours
Chile is a bucket list destination for wine lovers. With conveniently located vineyards that offer word-class grapes and wineries, feel free to take advantage of the extremely low cost of bottled wine here. Don't leave the country without experiencing Chilean culture, though -- unique in so many ways, Chile has a number of well-preserved locations to explore.
Visit the moai statues on Easter Island for mystical history; a walking tour through the capital, Santiago for a taste of Chilean flavor and shopping; and the famous graffiti and murals painted throughout Valparaiso.
Beach & Sea Tours
Scuba diving is just starting to make its way up the tourism totem pole in Chile. This means that there won't be many divers around as you explore some incredible sites. The Northern region is known for warmer water and rich marine life, but the colder dives in the Southern region can be just as rewarding (provided you have a thick wetsuit).
Visit the vibrant coastal town of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar for fishing, surfing, and beach life or fly to Easter Island for superior diving and snorkel opportunities.
Planning Your Trip
With all there is to see and do in Chile, planning ahead of time is essential. Use this guide to help you plan the logistics for your Chile itinerary.
Best Time to Visit Chile
Because Chile covers so many degrees of latitude, the climate varies greatly. High season is usually December - March, with the low season during May through September. June and July tend to be the wettest months. Once you decide on where exactly you want to go, look into specific weather conditions for the region and time of year of your visit. High season books quickly, so plan ahead of time.
What to Look for in a Tour to Chile
Chile's hospitality industry is still getting used to the surge in tourism and planning requires a bit more effort. When booking a tour, check to see if the packages include meals and accommodation in high touristic destinations. This will greatly ease any stress accompanied by high demand and low supply. As always, double check tour reviews and cancellation policies before booking.
Typical Tour Costs
While some areas in Chile offer tip-based and low-cost day tours (frequently found in cities), most multi-day excursions run at a higher price -- especially outdoor activities. Average tour packages range from $1,000 - $5,000.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
It is important to pack for all seasons when visiting Chile. If planning on being outside, take care to pack for unexpected rain and winds, especially for adventure tours. Long sleeves, light colors, sun coverage, and repellent are all recommended. Many Chilean activities don't require much gear other than proper footwear and attire, so equipment can often be easily acquired through your tour provider.
Other Tips for Travel in Chile
- Budgeting & currency: Chile uses the Chilean peso. While weaker than the US dollar, prices in Chile are unexpectedly high in comparison to the rest of South America. Most locations in cities accept major credit cards. Smaller towns, however, more often require cash.
- Transportation: Domestic flights within Chile are quite low-cost if you book at least two months in advance. Thereafter, you'll find rates skyrocket. Traveling from north to south (or vice versa) via bus is a reliable, but time-consuming means of transport. Car rentals are also available.
- Accommodations: The hospitality industry is growing in Chile. Some towns have much more to offer than others, but most travelers will agree that the "hospitality" and cleanliness factor is lacking in many Chilean hotels and hostels. Rely heavily on reviews when booking accommodations, or book packages that arrange it for you.
Health & Safety
No vaccinations are required to travel in Chile, although it is recommended that routine immunizations (Hep A & B, diphtheria, tetanus, MMR and typhoid) be up to date. Bottled water is best for drinking in the north, but southern regions receive the benefit of drinking directly from Patagonia's glacial runoff (which is absolutely delicious).
Chile is among one of the safest countries in South America. Despite this, it is always important to be aware of your surroundings in big cities and among crowds.
Make sure you are physically able to partake in any activities and follow instructions and weather alerts closely when exploring and trekking without a guide. Lastly, if you plan to visit more remote countrysides, be sure to brush up on your Spanish as most locals don't speak English.