Chile is a country famously known for its gorgeous landscapes, rich culture and incredible food. It is often described as the land of contrasting landscapes so much that the country divides into 5 geographical zones featuring arid deserts, volcanoes, beaches, lakes, forests, snow-capped mountains and so much more including glaciers and icefields. These sights and much more make Chile a tourist’s favourite South American destination, especially for photographers and adventure seekers.
Chile is home to various distinctive landmarks that serve to enrich your time in the country. You can take a walk in the driest place in the world: The Atacama Desert where scientists theorize parts of it have never seen rain ever. You could travel underground in the largest open pit copper mine in the world. You could peer out from the tallest building in South America named the Grand Tower Santiago.
Extreme adventurers from far and wide attempt to climb the world’s tallest volcano: Ojos del Salado (Eye of the Salty One) or you can just view it from the bottom for those of us who are less adventurous.
Some more reputed landmarks are the Christ the Redeemer of the Andes and on a level with the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge in England the mysterious statues on Rapa Nui, popularly known as Easter Island. To date, no one has truly discovered how these stone monoliths that watch over the island landscape were constructed all those years ago.
#2. Chilean Gastronomy
The cuisine of Chile is a rich melting pot of old ingredients and ancient traditions that is used by the natives. You can feast on an array of seafood which is available in abundance due to the country’s extensive Pacific coastline.
You can treat yourself to some Chilean specialities like Charquican which is a type of beef stew that you can eat with squash and potatoes, topped with an egg. Then there is Pastel de Choclo: which is basically a corn casserole that is stuffed with meat, or Cazuela: which is a big bowl of beef or chicken stew typically eaten with rice, corn and potatoes. You can also try out Choripan which is a sandwich made with sausage or chorizo. It can be found on almost any street in Chile as an appetizer usually loaded with condiments like Pebre or green sauce, chimichurri and mayonnaise.
If you’re someone who enjoys cooking or experimenting with different cuisines, you can even join a cooking class where you and your group will work together to recreate simple Chilean dishes. You even get to head to the market to shop for your menu before cooking, giving you an authentic experience of the food scene in Chile.
#3. Sippin’ Chile
You can’t complete a delightful Chilean meal without a glass of wine. The country is host to many wine valleys and excursions that take you deep into the history and beauty of the different wine routes. There are 11 of them: Aconcagua, Curico, Elqui, Limari, Itata, Maipo Alto, Cachapoal, Leyda, Colchagua, Maule and the infamous Casablanca Valley known for its Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay white wines.
Since wine is one of Chile’s biggest industries, you shouldn’t miss out on the wine tasting and tours offered in these regions. Chile is also the leading manufacturer of the long-lost Carmenere wine. The grape originated in France but was abandoned until farmers brought it to Santiago where it was cultivated and brought back to life.
Santiago Metropolitan has a vibrant nightlife where you can sip some of the finest craft beers in South America. The bar scene ranges from old-school favourites like Liguira to the satirical bar: Bar The Clinic owned by the infamous cheeky magazine, The Clinic.
You can also explore the Asian-themed speakeasy, Ky or the Tramonto Bar and Terrace which tends to attract the upper level of Chilean society. If you’re looking for exciting music scenes, the Opera-Catedral bar is the place to be with live acts on most nights. You don’t want to miss out on Chile’s most patriotic drink: Terremoto (translates to an earthquake in Spanish). And the best place to try it out has to be the city’s oldest dive bar: La Piojera.
#4. Adventure sports
Chile offers a variety of activities and sports for you to try while in the country. But one of the main attractions is adventure sports. You can go Sandboarding in Death Valley or Hiking in Moon valley. You can explore the lake district or go Scuba diving on Robinson Crusoe Island or face an active volcano and then toboggan back down (Pucon). You can Trek through gorgeous Patagonia for its breathtaking scenery or go Kayaking at Lago Gral Carrera, the biggest lake in Chile. The options are endless and so worth it!
Chile has some of the planet’s clearest skies with over 300 clear nights a year and very slight light pollution in the Atacama Desert. Due to these incredible atmospheric conditions, it is home to one of the world’s largest astronomical centers. It also houses the largest radio telescope in the world: ALMA (Atacama Large Military Array). The observatories here operate throughout the year and quite a few of them offer stargazing tours for you to experience the universe through a different lens, literally speaking.
You can visit the Valle del Elqui which is a great spot for stargazing. You can even take the opportunity to spend the night in a private dome where you can watch the stars through one the hatch. This hotel is called Elqui Domos.
#6. Museums and History
The history and culture of Chile are one of the many interesting things to learn about as you make your way through the country. You can learn about the Pinochet regime at the Museo de Derechos Humanos. This museum has carefully curated the 17-year rule of their regime and pays tribute to the thousands of lives lost during this time. It is a chilling experience but one that enlightens you about the somber history of this country.
For literary buffs, your trip to Santiago would not be complete without visiting Casa Museo de La Chascona, the former residence of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. It was named La Chascona (the Woman with Tousled Hair) for Neruda’s third wife due to her wavy red strands. There is a highly recommended audio-guided tour that you can make use of while visiting this museum.
Other sites you can go to are the wooden Churches of Chiloe: to learn about the mestizo culture, Humberstone & Santa Laura Saltpeter works: to observe an abandoned saltpeter refinery described as an eerie ghost town, as well as the Settlement and Artificial Mummification of the Chinchorro Culture: to see the world’s oldest mummies which predates even the Egyptian ones!
#7. Cool Hotel Stays
A first-class way to spend your time in Chile would be a few nights at these eccentric hotels. You can spend the night in WineBox Valparaiso which is a container hotel with its own wine store. The Torres del Paine has Ecocamp where you can experience comfort, good service and fine dining in the beautiful national park. You can sleep in the Montana Magica hotel which is shaped like a volcano with eruptions happening every day, or try out the Reino Fungi hotel shaped like fungus.
#8. Mesmerizing Patagonia
This region is one of the most popular in Chile. Complete with gorgeous lakes and rivers, its undomesticated nature attracts explorers of all kinds who wish to experience nature in its truest form. 4 national parks protect the wildlife, glaciers and mountains: Torres del Paine, Laguna San Rafael, Alberto de Agostini, and Bernardo O’Higgins. You can enjoy the famous visuals of the deep oceans below the snow-capped Chile mountains and white glaciers.
#9. Urban Life
The Chilean day-to-day life is truly underrated with its bustling nightlife, modern shopping malls and typical Chilean textile. If you are a fan of local products, you can visit the arts and crafts fairs that offer handmade works from every area in Chile.
There is also a local market known as La Vega Central. You can take a trip down Valparaiso street for a street art tour like no other. Don’t miss luxury boutiques if you love fashion and design as well.
For some much-needed family recreation, you can visit the condor and the puma at the Metropolitan Zoo. Or for more direct contact with animals, the Safari Park in Rancagua or the Granjaventura are good options. There are several amusement parks too like Fantasilandia.
#10. Unique Chilean Experiences
While in Chile you are bound to come across some experiences that aren’t on your usual tourist list. You could check out Valle de Elqui for a bicycle tour. Give yourself a break on Chile’s very own Miami: Vina del Mar. You could experience the famous Lollapalooza Chile for some entertainment.
Find your way around the city by local transport like the Metro at Santiago. You can even sharpen your photography skills on a photo tour of Santiago. Don’t forget to head down south to visit more than 120,000 penguins at Los Pinguinos Natural Monument.
Chile is a country of great history and picturesque nature. You will find the people to be friendly and welcoming. The lifestyle and culture of this charming country will make it very hard for you to get on a plane returning home. So go and book those tickets to Chile!
Author Bio: Danielle D’silva