Chile is nature on a colossal scale, but travel here is surprisingly easy, if you don't rush it.
Meet a Land of Extremes
Preposterously thin and unreasonably long, Chile stretches from the belly of South America to its foot, reaching from the driest desert on earth to vast southern glacial fields. Diverse landscapes unfurl over a 4300km stretch: parched dunes, fertile valleys, volcanoes, ancient forests, massive glaciers and fjords. There's wonder in every detail and nature on a symphonic scale. For the traveler, it's mind-boggling to find this great wilderness so intact. The human quest for development could imperil these treasures sooner than we think. Yet for now, Chile guards some of the most pristine parts of our planet, and they shouldn't be missed.
La Buena Onda
In Chile, close borders foster backyard intimacy – bookended by the Andes and the Pacific, the country averages just 175km wide. No wonder you start greeting the same faces. Pause and it starts to feel like home. You've landed at the end of the continent, and one thing that stands out at this final frontier is hospitality. Buena onda (good vibes) means putting forth a welcoming attitude. Patagonians share round upon round of maté tea. The ritual of relating and relaxing is so integral to the fabric of local life, it’s hardly noticed. But they do say one thing: stay and let your guard down.
In Chile, adventure is what happens on the way to having an adventure. Pedal the chunky gravel of the Carretera Austral and end up sharing a ferry with SUVs and oxcarts, or take a wrong turn and find heaven in an anonymous orchard. Serendipity takes over. Plans may be made, but try being just as open to experience. Locals never rush, so maybe you shouldn’t either. 'Those who hurry waste their time,' is the Patagonian saying that would serve well as a traveler's mantra.
Before wine became an export commodity for the luxury set, humble casks had their place on every Chilean table and grandparents tended backyard orchards. Now Chile has become a worldwide producer catering to ever more sophisticated palates. Rich reds, crisp whites and floral rosés – there is a varietal that speaks to every mood and occasion. But at home, it's different. Chileans embrace the concept of la buena mesa. This is not about fancy. Beyond a good meal, it’s great company, the leisure of overlapping conversations with uncorkings, and the gaze that's met at the clink of two glasses. ¡Salud!
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National ParkParque Nacional Patagonia
Dubbed as the Serengeti of the Southern Cone, the 690-sq-km Parque Nacional Patagonia features Patagonian steppe, forests, mountains, lakes and lagoons…
AreaOrongo Ceremonial Village
Nearly covered in a bog of floating totora reeds, the crater lake of Rano Kau resembles a giant witch's cauldron and is a wild greenhouse of endemic…
MuseumCasa de Isla Negra
The spectacular setting on a windswept ocean headland makes it easy to understand why Isla Negra was Pablo Neruda’s favorite house. Built by the poet when…
Archaeological SiteRano Raraku
Known as 'the nursery,' the volcano of Rano Raraku, about 18km from Hanga Roa, is the quarry for the hard tuff from which the moai were cut. You'll feel…
Archaeological SiteAhu Tongariki
The monumental Ahu Tongariki has plenty to set your camera's flash popping. With 15 imposing statues, it is the largest ahu ever built. The statues gaze…
Arts CenterCentro Gabriela Mistral
This striking cultural and performing-arts center – named for Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize in…
Beach bums in search of a place to wallow will love this postcard-perfect, white-sand beach. It also forms a lovely backdrop for Ahu Nau Nau, which…
ParkCerro San Cristóbal
The best views over Santiago are from the peaks and viewpoints of the Parque Metropolitano, better known as Cerro San Cristóbal. At 722 hectares, the park…
MineMina San José
In 2010, 33 miners were trapped more than 700m underground after a devastating collapse within the mountain where they'd been working. Following a…
PierMuelle de las Almas
Shrouded in folklore and Huilliche mythology, Chiloé's 'Dock of Souls' was built in 2007 by architect Marcelo Orellana. The curved boardwalk spans 17m…
Historic BuildingLa Sebastiana
Bellavista's most famous resident writer was Pablo Neruda, who made a point of watching Valparaíso's annual New Year's fireworks from his house at the top…
ParkParque del Estrecho de Magallanes
The historic sites of Puerto Hambre (Port Hunger) and Fuerte Bulnes are the centerpiece of this privately managed park, an excellent introduction to…
Historic BuildingLa Chascona
When poet Pablo Neruda needed a secret hideaway to spend time with his mistress Matilde Urrutia, he built La Chascona (loosely translated as 'Messy Hair')…
MuseumMuseo de Sitio Colón 10
See the 32 excavated Chinchorro mummies in situ at this tiny museum below El Morro. They were discovered when an architect bought this former private home…
ChurchIglesia de Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio
The magnificent Unesco-listed church (1837), for which the town is named (Tenaún means 'three mounts') has been meticulously restored down to the last…
ChurchIglesia San Francisco de Castro
Italian Eduardo Provasoli chose a marriage of neo-Gothic and classical architecture in his design for the elaborate Iglesia San Francisco, one of Chiloé's…
Among South America’s most fascinating cemeteries, with both humble immigrant graves and flashy tombs, like that of wool baron José Menéndez, a scale…
ChurchIglesia Santa María de Loreto
Achao's 18th-century Jesuit church, on the south side of the Plaza de Armas, is Chiloé's oldest (1740). Crowned by a 25m tower, the World Heritage site…
MuseumMuseo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos
Opened in 2010, this striking museum isn't for the faint of heart: the exhibits expose the terrifying human rights violations and large-scale …
MuseumMuseo Chileno de Arte Precolombino
Exquisite pottery from most major pre-Columbian cultures is the backbone of Santiago's best museum, the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino. As well as…
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