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Recently I often get asked about the best places to visit in Chile. So I challenged myself and wrote down my personal top 10!
I have been backpacking in Chile 2 times already where I managed to visit 13 of 15 regions. The best time to travel Chile is from October till March – in Patagonia December till beginning of March. If you are planning your trip I highly recommend learning spanish beforehand.
This article is part of a whole series of free guides for Backpacking in South America.
3) Pucon & Villarrica
4) Puerto Varas & Osorno
8) Villa O'Higgins & Glacier
9) Torres del Paine
10) Punta Arenas & Isla Magdalena
11) Guided Tours
12) My Video
1) San Pedro de Atacama – Atacama DesertLet's start our trip in the north. The Atacama Desert is the driest desert in the world but has a lot to offer: the moon valley, flamingos at the colorful lagoons, sand boarding at the dunes, volcanos and an amazing view at the night sky.
San Pedro de Atacama was my starting point for backpacking the north of chile – checkout all possibilities and things to do in the atacama desert here.
2) ValparaisoI loved to wander the streets of this colorful port city which is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Believe it or not: I spent a whole week in Valparaiso photographing the fantastic street art and enjoying the views from the many hills :)
3) Pucón – Villarrica VolcanoIf you travel further south your next stop should be a city located next to a lake and a volcano: Pucón. After I made my way up to the Villarrica Volcano I was overwhelmed by the view and pretty sure that this spot is one of the best places to visit in Chile for outdoor lovers and adventure seekers!
For more information checkout another great guide I put together – Backpacking Chile: Top things to do in Pucon – where you also see more photographs taken there.
4) Puerto Varas – Osorno VolcanoOk…volcanos sparked our interest – another cool one can be found close to Puerto Varas and looks pretty much like the little brother of Mt. Fuji. Getting up there is even easier as there is a street which leads almost to the top – the view is different but also impressive.
5) Fjords of Chaiten / HornopirenThis and the following 3 best places to visit in Chile are for those who are up for real adventures due to the fact that those spots are located in the most remote area of the country – the Carretera Austral. Right at the beginning you have to cross the many Fjords between Puerto Montt and Chaiten with different ferries to make you way down and you will feel like being in Scandinavia.
6) FutaleufúRafting pro's mention this river as one of the world's best spots for white water rafting and this is what you should do there to experience the pure beauty of the Futaleufú river. I went on a multi day rafting adventure with Chris from ExChile, a former US Olympic team kayaker (video to follow).
7) Puerto Rio Tranquillo – Marble CavesYou have possibly seen those caves on pictures all over the internet in collections like “places to see before you die” or “natural wonders of the world”. The truth is: not many people have seen those caves in person as they are located at the southern part of the Carretera Austral inside the second largest lake of South America.
It took me a few days to get there by hitchhiking but it was worth all the efforts. On top of all my last lift owned a tour company and invited me to join 2 of his boat tours – lucky me! :)
8) Villa O'Higgins – O'Higgins Glacier & O'Higgins LakeThe last 3 spots have been hard to access – this one is the cream of the cake! It takes a lot of time to get there and get out from there which also means that you won't find many people doing it.
I made my way from El Chaltén to Candelario Mansilla and continued to Villa O'Higgins – a great trek itself with beautiful views to the lake!
9) Puerto Natales – Torres del PaineThis one shouldn't be missed when in South America as the national park Torres del Paine offers so much diversity in a comparably tiny area: glaciers, lagoons, impressive mountain ranges, grasslands and green forests.
I spent around one month in the area and put together one of the most detailed guides you can find online and produced a whole video series as well as a photo essay with more great pictures to convince you to go there!
10) Punta Arenas – Isla MagdalenaYou like penguins? This is a paradise for you! Close to Punta Arenas, the biggest city in the south of Chile you are able to go on an excursion to Isla Magdalena, an island which more than 50.000 penguins call home!
I took one of the daily ferries to visit the guys for around 30 minutes – my recommendation: hop of the ferry and make your way up as most of the tourists just take pictures first you have more penguins around you when you are the first to walk the path ;)
After Punta Arenas I recommended to make your way down to Ushuaia and with that start exploring the 10 Places to Visit in Argentina!
11) Guided Tours in Chile
If you like to see as much as possible but your time is limited or if it is your first trip to that part of the world and you feel a bit uncomfortable doing it completely on your own it makes sense to book a multi-day tour. This way you do not only leave the organization of the trip including all accommodation and transport to local experts but you get to learn so much about the country from your guides and you'll travel in a group of like-minded people. A multi-day tour can also be easily combined with an independent trip (e.g. you could start with a tour and afterwards go backpacking in Chile on your own).
After working with them in Peru, Cuba, Bhutan, Costa Rica and Tanzania I highly recommend the small group tours offered by G Adventures as their philosophy (working with small local businesses) and focus on sustainable, responsible travel are in line with my personal values. With many years of expertise you can expect well organized, fun trips in small groups:
- Highlights of Chile & Argentina – diverse 10 day lasting tour to some of the best places to visit in Chile mentioned in this article as well as some of the highlights in Argentina. From Santiago through Valparaiso, Pucon, Bariloche and a Gaucho experience to dancing tango in Buenos Aires. Included in the tour are meals, guides, transportation, hotels and some additional experiences.
- Explore Chile & Argentina – On this 9 day National Geographic tour you get to see the capital cities of both countries as well as the countryside. The program includes culinary experiences, excursions to lakes, waterfalls, some hiking and a tango course in Buenos Aires. Some Meals, local guides, hotels, domestic flights, minibus, ferry and exclusive NatGeo tours are included.
- Hike Patagonia in depth – active 14 day tour covering the highlights of Patagonia, including the Torres del Paine W trek, El Chaltén (Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre) and El Calafate (Perito Moreno glacier) including meals, guide, camps & tents, hotels, transport and porters
- Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego – active 14 day tour covering the highlights of Patagonia, including the Torres del Paine W trek, El Chaltén (Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre), El Calafate (Perito Moreno glacier) and Ushuaia. This also includes meals, guide, camps & tents, hotels, transport and porters.
- Discover Patagonia (NatGeo Tour) – complete 14 day Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego tour covering all the highlights in the north (Bariloche, Puerto Varas), the south (Torres del Paine – day tour, Calafate, Chalten) and Ushuaia including exclusive National Geographic expeditions and talks.
12) Video of my experience
I visited all places to visit in Chile mentioned in this guide during my time in South America. As always I also filmed a video about my time:
Best Places to Visit in Chile: your favorites?
Did I miss any important spot? Tell us your favorite spot in the comments below and feel free to share this article with your friends!