15 Top Tourist attractions in Chile

15 Top Tourist Attractions in Chile

15 Top Tourist Attractions in Chile

Chile boasts some of the world’s most diverse landscapes, making it a rising star among travel destinations, especially for nature lovers and adventure seekers. In this long, narrow country on the west coast of South America, tourists will find a variety of breathtaking sights. From the towering Andes mountains and endless beaches to lush temperate forests, ancient volcanoes, and the dramatic coastline at Cape Horn, Chile’s natural beauty is unrivaled.

The country is home to numerous exceptional national parks and conservation areas, making it a hotspot for trekking and hiking enthusiasts. Adventure activities such as climbing, river rafting, mountain biking, and horseback riding are also abundant.

Chile’s cultural attractions are equally remarkable. Santiago, the capital, features many fine museums and art galleries, while the iconic stone statues of Easter Island are world-renowned. Regardless of your travel interests, you’ll find no shortage of stunning tourist attractions in Chile to visit and photograph.

To make sure you experience the best this amazing South American country has to offer, be sure to check out our list of the 15 top tourist attractions in Chile.

1. Lauca National Park

Situated in the far north of Chile, about 140 kilometers east of Arica, Lauca National Park spans 1,300 square kilometers. This park is predominantly composed of high plains and mountain ranges, featuring numerous large volcanoes.

Visitors can enjoy hiking around the park’s pristine mountain lakes, particularly Cotacotani and Chungara, which beautifully reflect the surrounding landscapes. Lauca National Park is also rich in archaeological sites and showcases the legacy of early European settlers through its well-preserved colonial churches and buildings.

Bird watchers will find Lauca National Park especially appealing, as it is home to over 140 bird species, including Andean geese, crested ducks, Chilean flamingos, and the majestic Andean condor. Another stunning destination for nature enthusiasts is Conguillío National Park, located in the Araucanía Region of the Andes.

Lauca National Park

2. Torres del Paine National Park

With its crystal lakes, snow-capped mountains, and icy glaciers, it’s no wonder that Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most visited attractions in Chile. While fully exploring the park would take several weeks, focusing on a few key sights can make your trip memorable.

You can hike through the dense forests of the Valley Frances, kayak on the sparkling blue waters of the Rio Serrano, or navigate the icy terrain of the Grey Glacier. If you prefer a more relaxed experience, take a leisurely walk along the trails and admire the park’s iconic features, such as the towering granite peaks of the Paine mountains.

Torres del Paine national park

3. Valparaiso

Valparaíso, Chile’s third-largest city, is situated between the sea and the coastal mountain range, about 112 kilometers northwest of Santiago, making it a perfect destination for a day trip. Renowned for its charming cobblestone streets, distinctive architecture, and scenic harbor and beaches, Valparaíso offers a variety of enjoyable activities.

The city features numerous attractions that celebrate Chile’s maritime heritage. One prominent site is Lord Cochrane’s Museum (Museo Lord Cochrane), located in a beautiful colonial house built in 1842. Another essential visit is the Naval and Maritime Museum (Museo Naval y Marítimo), which presents exhibits on the War of the Pacific in 1879 involving Chile, Peru, and Bolivia, highlighting the contributions of Chilean war heroes.

Additionally, the Ironclad Huáscar, found in the Port of Talcahuano around 600 kilometers south of Santiago, is a related attraction. This meticulously restored historic vessel, built in Britain in 1865, is housed in Talcahuano’s picturesque harbor, which serves as the base for Chile’s navy and is one of the few surviving ironclad label battleships of its kind.

valparaiso

4. Chilean Lake District

Stretching over 330 kilometers from Temuco to Puerto Montt, the Chilean Lake District (Zona Sur) is reminiscent of Europe’s alpine regions and is a must-see destination. This stunning area in the Andean foothills features fertile farmland at the base of numerous snowcapped volcanoes, surrounded by dense forests and deep lakes that attract water sports enthusiasts.

The European influence in the region is notable. Following the forced resettlement of the indigenous Mapuche people, farmers from Switzerland, Austria, and Germany settled in the area, bringing cultural elements that are still evident today in the architecture of towns like Osorno and Valdivia, as well as in local customs and festivals.

For adventure enthusiasts, the Chilean Lake District offers an array of activities, including extensive hiking and biking trails, volcano climbing, white-water rafting, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, and skiing in the winter. Road trips through this scenic region are also very popular.

chilean lake district

5. Cape Horn

Considered a Holy Grail for travelers and a Mount Everest for yachting enthusiasts, Cape Horn is a destination well worth the journey, if not just for the bragging rights.

Situated as the last stop before Antarctica and marking the world’s southernmost tip, Cape Horn has earned a reputation over centuries as a sailor’s graveyard due to its remoteness, treacherous coastline, and rough seas. Although less vital as a trade route today, thanks to the Panama Canal, it has garnered popularity among serious sailing enthusiasts and is featured in thrilling races.

For those of us not sailing, visiting Cape Horn is still possible with careful planning. However, there are limited options for reaching it (unless you own a yacht, of course). One increasingly favored choice is a helicopter ride from the Chilean town of Puerto Toro, albeit a costly day-long adventure that may benefit from shared expenses. Alternatively, chartering sailboats is an option, though it can be a lengthy and challenging journey.

Cruise ships offer perhaps the most accessible route. Many cruises passing by Cape Horn en route to Antarctica will, weather and sea conditions permitting, make a brief stop for about an hour. Disembarking via inflatable boats can be rough, but once ashore, passengers can embark on a short cliff-top climb to the Cape Horn Memorial Sculpture, offering an unparalleled tourist selfie spot and breathtaking views of the bottom of the world.

cape horn

6. Pumalin Park

Established as a nature sanctuary relatively recently, in 2005, Pumalín Park has swiftly risen to become one of Chile’s foremost and beloved conservation areas. Encompassing a vast expanse of over 988,000 acres from the Andes to the Pacific, it showcases some of the nation’s most pristine coastline and forests, remaining largely untouched by human development.

Aside from safeguarding the area’s diverse flora and fauna, which includes the Alerce, the world’s oldest tree species, the park offers easy access to visitors and promises one of Chile’s premier wilderness experiences.

Operated and owned by the US-based Conservation Land Trust, Pumalín Park boasts an extensive network of trails, campgrounds, and visitor facilities, making exploration a joy, whether for a short nature hike or as part of an extended ecotourism journey. Many visitors opt for rustic cabin-style accommodations, providing a cozy stay amidst one of the world’s most breathtaking and unspoiled natural settings.

pumalin park

7. Valle de la Luna

Established as a nature sanctuary relatively recently, in 2005, Pumalín Park has swiftly risen to become one of Chile’s foremost and beloved conservation areas. Encompassing a vast expanse of over 988,000 acres from the Andes to the Pacific, it showcases some of the nation’s most pristine coastline and forests, remaining largely untouched by human development.

Aside from safeguarding the area’s diverse flora and fauna, which includes the Alerce, the world’s oldest tree species, the park offers easy access to visitors and promises one of Chile’s premier wilderness experiences.

Operated and owned by the US-based Conservation Land Trust, Pumalín Park boasts an extensive network of trails, campgrounds, and visitor facilities, making exploration a joy, whether for a short nature hike or as part of an extended ecotourism journey. Many visitors opt for rustic cabin-style accommodations, providing a cozy stay amidst one of the world’s most breathtaking and unspoiled natural settings.

valle de la luna

8. Cerro San Cristobal

Though established as a nature sanctuary only in 2005, Pumalín Park has quickly become one of Chile’s most cherished conservation areas. Spanning over 988,000 acres from the Andes to the Pacific, it showcases some of the country’s most pristine coastline and forests, remaining largely untouched by human development.

In addition to safeguarding the area’s rich flora and fauna, including the ancient Alerce trees, the park offers accessible wilderness experiences for visitors. Owned and operated by the US-based Conservation Land Trust, Pumalín Park provides extensive trails, campgrounds, and visitor facilities, making it ideal for short nature hikes or longer ecotourism adventures. Many visitors choose to stay in rustic cabin-style accommodations, allowing them to immerse themselves in one of the world’s most beautiful and unspoiled natural environments.

cerro san cristobal

9. Cochamo Valley

Dubbed the “Yosemite of Chile,” the picturesque Cochamó Valley region offers a delightful exploration opportunity. Nestled in the Andes’ Los Lagos region and named after the Cochamó River, it has gained immense popularity among hikers and rock climbers, akin to Yosemite. Climbers flock here for the chance to conquer its numerous 1,000-meter-plus granite walls.

Hikers, on the other hand, can select from a range of trails with varying difficulty levels, many leading to popular scenic spots, including the numerous enchanting waterfalls that adorn the region.

One must-try trail is the 10-kilometer-long “Cowboy Trail,” renowned for its century-old history as a cattle route (it was also frequented by the infamous bank robbers, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, when fleeing the US). This enjoyable six-hour hike commences in the village of Cochamó and winds its way to La Junta, a rocky outpost boasting several campsites for overnight stays.

Apart from the diverse flora and fauna, visitors are also attracted to the excellent fly fishing opportunities available here.

cochamo valley

10. Surfing in Pichilemu

The charming beach town of Pichilemu is a haven for surfers. Though the water might not be as warm as in some tropical destinations, the crashing waves create ideal conditions for surfers of all levels.

Beginners can kick off their surfing journey at Playa Principal de Pichilemu. With its gentle, shallow waves and vigilant lifeguards, it’s the perfect spot to master the basics. Meanwhile, experienced surfers flock to Infernillo or Punta de Lobos for a thrilling ride. These spots are renowned for waves that can soar up to 50 feet high, offering an adrenaline-pumping challenge for seasoned surfers.

surfing in pichilemu

11. Los Pingüinos Natural Monument

In addition to its national parks, Chile’s significant conservation efforts are also evident in its numerous natural monuments. One of the most renowned is the Los Pingüinos Natural Monument (Monumento Natural Los Pingüinos), located just 35 kilometers northeast of Punta Arenas at the southern end of the island. This monument encompasses the picturesque Magdalena and Marta Islands.

As indicated by its name (pingüinos means penguins in Spanish), this monument hosts one of the largest penguin colonies in Chile, with around 60,000 breeding pairs of Magellanic penguins. Accessible only through guided boat tours, the islands also feature substantial colonies of seals and sea lions.

Another notable natural monument in Chile is El Morado, which is an easy drive from Santiago. This site includes the San Francisco Glacier and the towering Cerro El Morado mountain, standing at 4,674 meters.

los pinguinos natural monument

12. Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park

Established in 1926, Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park (Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales) was the first of Chile’s many national parks. Situated in the heart of the Chilean Lake District, it offers an excellent opportunity to experience the beauty of this region.

Easily accessible from Puerto Montt, the park’s main attraction is the stunning Petrohué Falls (Saltos del Petrohué). The Petrohué River rushes through a volcanic rock chute, plunging into Todos los Santos Lake. This site is particularly impressive during the rainy season. After the falls and rapids, the river calms into the clear lake, which is popular for fishing and bird-watching.

The park is also renowned for its diverse wildlife, including deer and pumas, as well as its thermal springs. With the picturesque backdrop of snow-capped volcanoes, it’s the perfect spot to capture a memorable photo of your visit to Chile.

vicente peraz rosales national park

13. Easter Island Rapa Nui National Park

First visited by Europeans in 1722, the remote and majestic Easter Island was named by a Dutch explorer who arrived on Easter Sunday. Inhabited for thousands of years by Polynesians, this island lies over 3,500 kilometers from mainland Chile and remains the country’s most famous landmark.

Easter Island is renowned for its 887 Moai statues, created by the early Rapa Nui people. These statues are primarily protected by Rapa Nui National Park, with the island itself designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most impressive collection is found at Ahu Tongariki, where 15 statues have been re-erected on the island’s largest Moai platform, or “ahu.”

The island is also home to one of Chile’s best beaches, Anakena, a beautiful stretch of white coral sand ideal for relaxation after a hike.

Near the ahu sites, you can explore the “hare paenga” ruins, the stone foundations of ancient boat-shaped houses. Another highlight is the Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum in Hanga Roa, the island’s main community, showcasing exhibits on the Polynesian inhabitants’ history and traditions. For the best experience, visit Easter Island as part of a broader Chilean vacation. Regular flights are available from Santiago or Tahiti, with a flight time of about five hours. Plan to explore the island for at least a few days fully.

easter island papa nui national park

14. Mylodon Cave Natural Monument

The Mylodon Cave Natural Monument (El Monumento Natural Cueva del Milodón) is a favorite spot for tourists and nature enthusiasts alike. Located in the heart of Patagonia, Chile, it is a short distance from Puerto Natales.

This captivating natural landmark, which is part of the famous End of the World scenic route, features several easily accessible caves around an impressive rock formation called the Devil’s Chair (Silla del Diablo).

The main attraction, the Milodon Cave, became famous in 1895 when the well-preserved remains of a prehistoric Mylodon were found there. A tall statue of this extinct creature marks the spot where the discovery was made. The site also revealed remains of other ancient animals and human bones.

The cave extends about 200 meters deep, offering a fun exploration experience. If you have time, take the marked trail leading to the top of the cave for stunning views over the nearby Eberhard fjord.

mylodon cave natural monument

15. Chiloe Island

The Mylodon Cave Natural Monument (El Monumento Natural Cueva del Milodón) is a beloved destination for both tourists and nature lovers. Nestled in the heart of Patagonia, Chile, it’s just a short drive from Puerto Natales.

This remarkable site, part of the famous End of the World scenic route, boasts several easily accessible caves surrounding an impressive rock formation known as the Devil’s Chair (Silla del Diablo).

The main highlight is the Milodon Cave, which gained fame in 1895 when the well-preserved remains of a prehistoric Mylodon were discovered. A tall statue of this extinct creature marks the discovery spot. The cave also yielded remains of other ancient animals and human bones.

The cave itself extends about 200 meters deep, making it an exciting place to explore. If you have time, follow the marked trail to the top of the cave for breathtaking views of the nearby Eberhard fjord.

chiloe Island

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