So, you want to come to Chile! Awesome! But with so many geographically and culturally diverse places to visit in such a long country, how do you pick the best spots so you get the most out of your trip? From all of us here at Cascada Expediciones – all seasoned adventurers who’ve traveled and lived all over this amazing country – here are our top 25 recommendations for adventurous destinations in and around Chile.
1. Torres del Paine National Park – Voted the eighth wonder of the world, Torres del Paine is one of Chile’s crown jewels, with never-ending opportunities for adventure and discovery. The park’s 935 square miles encompass mountains, glaciers, rivers, lakes, and wind-swept plains, crawling with the park’s diverse wildlife and plantlife. Find out all the ways you can experience the park here.
2. The W Trek – If you’re traveling to Torres del Paine, chances are you’ve heard of the W Trek. This traditional trekking path winds around in a “W” shape around and through the Paine Massif and takes backpackers through the park’s “Best of” list, including the Grey Glacier, the Towers, French Valley, and more. Experience EcoCamp’s unique spin on this trekking classic here.
3. Base of the Towers – They’re the towers that gave the national park its name. They’re three striking granite spires that tower overhead, piercing the blue sky. They’re the eponymous “Las Torres” or “Towers” of Torres del Paine. This hike is an essential part of the classic W Trek, but can also be done on its own. Find out more here about how you can visit this iconic natural masterwork of nature.
4. Grey Glacier – It’s the purest blue you’ve ever seen. A blue that defies description; a deep, rich iridescence. It’s humbling. It’s awe-inspiring. And to see it in person…is a treasure. The Grey Glacier is just one of Patagonia’s many beautiful ice flows, jetting out from the colossal Southern Patagonia Ice Field, but coming face to face with its immense, front wall of compacted snow and ice in dazzling shades of white and blue is an unmissable experience. See the Grey Glacier for yourself on one of these trips here.
5. Valle del France – Surrounded by the stately mountains of the incredible Paine Massif, the French Valley is an essential part of the classic W Trek or as a solo hike in Torres del Paine National Park. Hike through forests, past rivers and streams, and gaze upwards at towering mountain peaks.
6. Los Glaciares National Park – Located in Argentine Patagonia, Los Glaciares National Park is most famous for being the home of Mount Fitz Roy and the Perito Moreno Glacier. But its many treks, other glaciers, valleys, and hills offer a wide variety of exciting outdoor opportunities.
7. Mount Fitz Roy – This iconic peak is recognizable to many adventure buffs as the outline for the logo for the popular outdoor clothing company, Patagonia. Renowned for its dynamic shape and stately appearance, it’s one of the most popular attractions in all of Patagonia. Located in Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, there are several popular treks and hikes that offer unique perspectives and views of the mountain. Find out more here!
8. Perito Moreno Glacier – The first time you see a glacier is something you will never forget. The feeling of being faced with a mammoth wall of blue and white ice, the culmination of millions of years of snow and water fusing together to form this landscape-shaping mass, is an honor and a thrill. Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier is an astounding sight, popular because of its accessibility and size. For the uber-adventurous, there are even ways to go hiking on the glacier itself! Learn more here.
End of the World
9. Tierra del Fuego – The curling tip of the South American continent, the Tierra del Fuego archipelago is a treasure trove of pristine nature and cultural surprises. Go whale watching, walk amongst penguins, follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, visit the southernmost city in the world, and explore the wooded mountains and ecologically abundant waterways of this far-flung realm. Click here to find out more about how to visit Tierra del Fuego.
10. Navarino Island – Looming just across the Beagle Channel from the great island of Tierra del Fuego, Navarino Island is home to one of the most spectacular but under-appreciated treks in South America: the Dientes Circuit. Backpackers venture through valleys and forests under a skyline dominated by the craggy peaks of the Dientes Massif, rewarded with stunning views of Cape Horn and surrounding Tierra del Fuego at the trek’s summit. But one of the best ways to see the wilds of Navarino Island? A fly-over in a small plane! Learn more about the Dientes Trek and how to take a plane over Navarino Island here.
11. The Magellan Strait – Ever wanted to come face to face with penguins? See a humpback whale? Boat alongside sea lions? The Magellan Strait in Tierra del Fuego is a spectacular place for marine wildlife viewing, as well as encountering unforgettable vistas of Tierra del Fuego’s magnificent islands, covered in mountains and forests. Ply the waters of the Magellan Strait on the tours here.
12. Antarctica – Ah, the Great, White Continent. That frozen, icy terra incognita that has haunted the minds of explorers and scientists for centuries. But the gateway to Antarctica is now open and waiting to be explored. Visit Chile’s civilian base on King George Island, see the Collins glacier, and witness a testament to the perseverance of man at the artful Russian Orthodox Church located at Bellingshausen Station. Cross Antarctica off your bucket list here.
Chile's Gateway to Patagonia
13. The Lakes District – Chile’s version of Arcadian paradise, the “Los Lagos” region is a haven of lush woods and tranquil lakes, a land of water, volcanoes, and infinite opportunities for exploring. Not only a fun place for outdoor activities, the Lakes region is also a great spot for gastronomy and culture, especially to witness and understand the influence of German immigrants to southern Chile.
14. Huilo Huilo Rainforest – Located in the Lakes District of Chile, the Huilo Huilo rainforest and Biological Reserve is a wonderland of raging rivers and ancient forests coated in luscious mosses – the perfect place for lovers of hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking!
Northern Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia
15. Atacama Desert – It’s the driest desert in the world, but a hotbed of fascinating culture, history, and unexpected natural formations. In addition to housing the popular tourist attractions of Valle de Luna and the El Tatio Geyser Field, the Atacama is renowned for its crystal-clear night skies, perfect for star-gazers or just about anyone who enjoys looking at a starry sky. Find out all the ways you can experience the Atacama here.
16. Valle del Luna – It’s just one small step for man to this otherworldly lunarscape in Chile’s Atacama Desert. A mesmerizing conglomeration of craggy valley walls, sun-bleached desert expanses, and martian rock formations have given this place a fitting name – Moon Valley. Plan your trip to the moon here.
17. El Tatio Geyser Field – Great gushing geysers! In the altiplano of the Atacama Desert lies the Tatio Geyser Field, one of the largest in the world. With over 80 active geysers, most people love to visit in the morning, when the steam from the erupting geysers fills the air and lends an aura of mystique and enchantment to the area. Check out how to visit them here.
18. Salar de Uyuni – Located in Bolivia, the Uyuni Salt Flats are as trippy as they are beautiful. In the rainy season, heavy rainstorms swamp the vast plains in water, turning the salt flats into an endless, sheer mirror. Visit them here on our Bolivia extension program.
19. Humahuaca, Argentina – Visit the painted desert hills of the Quebrada de Humahuaca in northern Argentina, a mountainous valley delegated as a UNESCO World Heritage area thanks to its cultural relevancy following the Camino Inca. Visit it with our Northern Argentina adventure here!
20. Santiago de Chile – The beating heart of the country, Santiago is Chile’s central hub: the best place from which any adventure around Chile can begin. Home to an eclectic mix of modern and historical, new and old, past and present, there’s something for everyone, be it art, theater, gastronomy, museums, nightlife, or easy access to the surrounding wilderness for hikes, skiing, and more.
21. Valparaiso and Vina del Mar – Flush with vibrant street art, mouth-watering seafood, and colorful houses that cling to the steep hillsides, Valparaiso is South America’s San Francisco: a place for the artists, the free-spirits, the rebels, the dreamers. Its next-door neighbor, Vina del Mar, offers the perfect complement to Valparaiso's chaos: sun-drenched sandy beaches, wide, shaded boulevards for strolling, museums and shopping, and just a short drive away, a group of massive sand dunes with stunning views of the harbor. Visit "The Jewel of the Pacific" and the "Garden by the Sea" here.
22. Maipo and Colchagua Valleys – Just a short drive from Santiago, the Maipo and Colchagua Valleys sit nestled between rolling mountains, their fields patterned with miles upon miles of some of South America’s best vineyards. Famous for their red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, a trip to the vineyards for tastings and tours is great for wine enthusiasts and casual drinkers alike. We’ll raise a glass to that! Uncork a wine getaway here.
23. Skiing in the Andes Mountains – As the longest mountain range on the planet, the Andes are ripe with opportunities for all types of outdoor sports, especially skiing and snowboarding! Running from Santiago down to the south, people from all over the world come to famous ski resorts such as Portillo, Chillan, and Valle Nevado to shred Chile’s exciting slopes!
24. Hiking in the Andes Mountains – Just as the Andes are great for skiing, there are plenty of beautiful treks and hikes. Just outside Santiago, El Colorado and El Morado are popular amongst hikers, delving into the heart of the mountains to find remote valleys, glaciers, and peace and quiet from the rush of Santiago.
25. Easter Island – A perfect place to explore on foot or by bike, Easter Island is a must-visit destination on most people’s travel bucket lists – and for good reason. Home to the famous Moai statues that have perplexed and fascinated anthropologists since their discovery and other evidence of the traditions and history of the Rapa Nui people, the island is a treasure trove for cultural enthusiasts.