Chile is famous for its spectacular landscapes, including Patagonia and the Atacama Desert, fertile wine-producing valleys and Santiago, the cosmopolitan capital.
Chile is a long, slender ribbon of land that runs through every imaginable kind of landscape. It’s set between the majestic Andes and the rugged Pacific coast, stretching more than 4,000km from the desolate Atacama Desert in the north to the granite peaks and glacier fields of Patagonia in the south.
In between these extremes, the country offers snow-capped volcanoes, crystal-clear lakes, dramatic fjords, ancient forests and verdant valleys dotted with vineyards.
Travellers may also encounter remnants of ancient civilisations, indigenous communities, bustling city culture, excellent restaurants and superb local wines.
When to go
Chile is best to visit from October to March, during the South American summer. But the climatic diversity of the country means that there is something to visit all year round.
The Atacama Desert can be visited at any time of the year, as days are invariably warm, nights are always cold and it almost never rains. Santiago and Valparaíso in the centre of the country have a Mediterranean climate and are at their best in the summer months.
Santiago and the coast
Santiago, the cosmopolitan capital of Chile, is set against the spectacular backdrop of the Andes. Its historical attractions include the elaborately decorated cathedral and the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. While Chile is not known for it’s beaches, you can take a bus journey from Santiago the turquoise waters of Playa la Virgen and Bahía Inglesa.
Chile’s wine country
the fertile valleys around Santiago, set between the snow-capped Andes and the coast, are home to some of the oldest and most renowned wineries in Chile. Some estates offer you the opportunity to stay in a colonial hacienda.
Stretching across southern Chile and Argentina, Patagonia is a land of rugged and untamed wilderness. The remote Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most visually distinctive and unspoilt places in this region, with soaring granite towers surrounded by shimmering lagoons, glaciers and forests.
The Atacama Desert
The Atacama Desert, surrounded by arid mountain ranges, offers extraordinary landscapes of sand dunes, purple-shaded volcanoes, salt flats, geysers, green oases and turquoise lakes.
The mysterious and remote Easter Island lies in the middle of the South Pacific, a five-hour flight from the mainland.
This small patch of grass-covered volcanic rock is an extraordinary open-air museum of hundreds of moai (gigantic stone statues) that are scattered throughout the island.
Chile’s far north
Northern Chile is renowned for its clear skies and attracts astronomers from all over the world. The region is dotted with the remains of pre-Columbian cultures, including mysterious rock carvings.
On the border with Bolivia lies Lauca National Park, with snow-capped volcanoes overlooking the emerald-green Lake Chungara.
The Lake District
Towering volcanoes, vast rivers and deep blue lakes dominate the scenery of the Chilean Lake District. The northern area is covered in forests and is home to the indigenous Mapuche people.
Self-drive trips through Chile offer flexibility and freedom to explore the stunning scenery. With wide-open roads and little traffic, it is possible to wind your way across the Andes into Argentina and back. The largely unpaved Carretera Austral offers one of the most challenging and rewarding self-drive journeys on the continent.