Chile, from Patagonia to the valleys of Maipo. Traveltips
Chile, from Patagonia to the valleys of Maipo, an amazing country to visit.
Chile in South America, totally reflects the possible beauty of nature. The country is very well known for its extreme nature. It has an unusual geography of extreme areas which means geysers, mountains, beaches, forests, and volcanoes.
Each region of this country has its beauty from the icebergs and turquoise lakes of Patagonia through the scenery of chocolate boxes of the lake district and the fertile valleys of the wine region, up to the dramatic deserts of the north. All this against the background of the imposing Andes and the gigantic volcanoes to the east and the infinite Pacific to the west.
Chile is the perfect destination for those in search of wildlands and pure nature. In general, this country is considered a natural wonderland.
What to do in Chile
There so many things to do and see in Chile. Let´s take a look at where to begin.
Wineries in the Central Valley
You will be spoiled for choice among the wine regions of the Central Valley of Chile: choose among the vineyards in the steep Andes mountains or looking over the windy ocean, or stay in the middle with the warm and fertile valley bottom in between. In the heart of the Central Valley of Chile is Colchagua, where you can visit all three terroirs in a region: Andes, Costa and Entre Cordilleras (“in the mountains”).
This terroir diversity is what makes Chilean wine unique and the wine region is the best place to taste it. Jump between the traditional family cellars (Laura Hartwig, Bouchon) or the modern showcase cellars, which are an architect’s dream (VIK, Lapostolle, Montes). You can even see a horse-drawn carriage and a rodeo show in some cellars (Casa Silva, Viu Manent).
Maipo Valley is one of Chile’s most important wine-producing regions. Located just south of the capital, Santiago, Maipo Valley is home to some of the country’s most prestigious wines. It is often described as the ‘Bordeaux of South America’, and rich, fruit-driven Cabernet Sauvignon is its most celebrated wine style.
Maipo is at the very northern end of the extensive Central Valley, running from just north of the Rapel Valley up to where the countryside begins to give way to houses and roads in the southern suburbs of Santiago. The Coastal Range separates the area from the Pacific coast, and on the eastern side, the Andes Mountains rise suddenly and dramatically, separating Maipo from the Argentinean region of Mendoza.
The valley includes over 7,302 acres (2,955 ha) of vineyards, more than half of which are dedicated to producing Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet blends. It is a historic wine-producing region and the birthplace of the Chilean wine industry, with vines growing there for the past 150 years.
The Maipo Valley can be divided in three sub-regions: Alto Maipo, Central Maipo, and Pacific Maipo.
The Alto Maipo sub-region is located in the foothills of the Andes, rising from 400 m.a.s.l. to 800 m.a.s.l. (1,300 to 2,600 feet), and is strongly influenced by the mountainous climate. The mountains make the zone particularly good for viticulture because they produce a great variation in temperature between day and night. This is because the sun must first rise above the Argentinean side of the Andes before reaching the western Chilean slopes, creating cold mornings, and then sets on the western side, leading to hot, sunny afternoons. The climate, combined with the poor, porous and rocky soil, puts the vines under stress which in turn produces a characteristically bold, elegant Cabernet Sauvignon.
The area surrounding the Maipo River is one of the oldest winemaking areas in Chile and was the first part of the Maipo Valley to be settled. Cabernet Sauvignon dominates production, but the region has also started producing Carmenere wines. Central Maipo is the warmest and driest of the three Maipo Valley sub-regions, with rocky alluvial soils and less rainfall than the Alto Maipo and Pacific Maipo, requiring drip irrigation. Vineyards are often planted along the Maipo River, an area known for its alluvial soils.
Pacific Maipo is the youngest wine-producing area in the Maipo Valley and there are relatively few vineyards found in the vicinity of the Maipo River. Grapes grown in this region benefit from the coastal influence of the Pacific Ocean as well as the alluvial soils also found in the area. Red wines from Pacific Maipo have a refreshing, natural acidity from the influence of the ocean. The vineyards in this area tend to be tucked up against some of the smaller, low-lying hills that rise between the Andes and the Coastal Range so that they are protected from the harsh winds coming off the coast. Because of the region’s coastal influence, Pacific Maipo is also a popular place for experimentation with the country’s white varieties, most notably Sauvignon Blanc.
Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts
The Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts was established in 1880, making it the oldest museum of its kind in South America. The museum is managed by the artistic union and has grown to become one of the main centers for Chilean and South American art. Housed in the Palace of Fine Arts, the beaux-style building itself is an extraordinary work designed by the Chilean architect Emile Jequier. Some of the current exhibitions that visitors can appreciate include Il trait du seel, which is a photographic installation by Spanish photographer Xavier Ribas, Another Way of Looking at Infinity, which is a fractal set by Soledad Chadwick, and Draw the Limit, which includes a collection of videos, photographs and drawings by the artist Janet Toro.
Valle de la Luna
13 km west of San Pedro de Atacama, the Valle de la Luna is one of the most incredible places to visit in Chile. It is a large valley with beautiful formations of sand and stone carved by the wind and water. Some of them, like Tres Marias, have interesting shapes to the point that they seem made by man.
The colors and the terrain of the Valle de la Luna are so peculiar that walking there seems to walk on the moon. The best time to visit is in the late afternoon, when, climbing a sand dune, you can reach a viewpoint from where you can enjoy a spectacular sunset. Watching the sunset from the Valle de la Luna is one of the best things to do in Chile.
El Tatio Geyser
El Tatio is certainly one of the most interesting places to visit in Chile that can be accessed from Atacama. The geysers are located at over 4300 meters above sea level and are the highest geyser field in the world. They are a surreal show, best admired at dawn when they really seem to be walking through a giant steam bath. El Tatio tours usually include a dip in the hot thermal baths.
Hike the W
The W is often the real reason to come to Chile. If you are an avid hiker, this route around the Torres del Paine mountains must be on your wish list. A multi-day trek around the beautiful Paine massif, in less than a week (or longer if you wish) you will walk through mountains, lakes, lagoons, waterfalls, glaciers and forests sighting condors, guanacos, ñandús and maybe even lions mountain traveling.
This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is one of the most remote destinations in the world, yet it attracts over 250,000 visitors a year for its extraordinary beauty and unspoiled nature. Get ready for the jawache, as it will fall with every lap of the circuit.
Search for Churches and Wizards in Chiloé
This archipelago of 41 islands is something very special. The wild beaches and lush forests are splendid, but it is the cultural landscape of Chiloé that fascinates the most. Indigenous and colonial philosophies and religions clash in this picturesque archipelago that once housed over 150 wooden churches (only 70 remain today and are protected by UNESCO) and several magicians (a population that has not diminished according to local residents) . Whether or not you believe in magicians, a trip to Chiloé will make you shiver down your spine.
The marble caves
Hidden beneath a peninsula in the picturesque Lago Carrera General is the spectacular Cuevas de Mármol (marble caves). The aqua and turquoise waters bounce the sunlight on the roofs of the caves, creating an extraordinary reflection different from any other part of the earth.
Take a selfie with Rapa Nui’s Moai
If ever there was an extreme holiday selfie, this would be the case: with the oversized stone heads of the Moai at Rapa Nui (a.k.a. Easter Island). Launched at 2,300 miles off the coast of Chile, somewhere in the Polynesian triangle, Easter Island is full of myths and legends of the ancient population of Rapa Nui. What remains of the ancient tribes are 887 stone statues reminiscent of heads and torsos (and occasional thighs) sitting on stone platforms. Listen to the compelling stories of how they were built, transported and toppled angrily by the native population and enjoy the endless views of the Pacific Ocean.
La Portada is one of the 15 natural monuments of Chile considered a protected area of Chile. The natural arch can be seen 11 miles from the coast of Chile and is made of black andesite stone, sedimentary rock, yellow sandstone and layers of remaining shells fossils. Formed by marine erosion, the natural monument is a beautiful site to see. Visitors will also see much of Chile’s fauna as the monument is also considered an observation site for birds such as Inca terns, Peruvian boobys, gray seagulls, seaweed gulls, pelicans and Guanay cormorants.
Make A Journey to Cajon Del Maipo
This spectacular canyon, on the western edge of the Andes, about two hours south-east of Santiago, is a paradise for hikers, offering incredible mountain landscapes and breathtaking landscapes. Many locals come here for a weekend getaway and it’s easy to see why. Among its natural beauties you will also find the signs of man in the Embalse del Yeso reservoir, at 2,500 meters above sea level. An incredible engineering feat, which supplies water to Santiago and is surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery, is a popular tourist attraction. There are many activities available in the region, from hiking, horseback riding, skiing and even wine tasting, and its proximity to Santiago makes it easy to visit the canyon if you have your own transportation.
Witness The Magnificent Glacier Patagonia
When in Chile, especially in Patagonia, you can’t leave without visiting one or all of its amazing glaciers. Glaciers are among the most impressive natural phenomena in Chile and every year thousands of people flock to see them and take part in the carefully organized tourist trade that seeks to safeguard the rapid covering of the disappearing ice. There are many impressive glaciers that you can visit. The gray glacier, in the frozen southern Patagonia field, measuring over 270 square kilometers, 6 km wide and over 30 m high is an impressive sight. Further north, you will find the San Rafael Glacier, the tidal glacier closest to the equator, which covers an area of about 760 square kilometers. Unfortunately, due to human activity on the environment, glaciers continue to shrink every year, yet they remain an impressive site, the last remnants of the ice age between us.
Hand of the Desierto
Built by the Chilean artist Mario Irarrazabal, Mano del Desierto is a structure of a 36 foot high hand that seems to reach the stars from its sandy surroundings. It is located in the Atacama desert and is a popular sight to see for visitors traveling on the Pan-American highway. Constructed with concrete and iron, the artist stated that the exaggerated dimension of the hand is to emphasize impotence and human vulnerability. Many visitors enjoy stopping by the property and taking funny pictures with the big hand – if anything, the photo opportunity offers a great memory of a trip to Chile.
Plaza de Armas
Santiago’s main square, Plaza de Armas, is the centerpiece of the square grid layout of the capital. The square was sanctioned by the Spanish conqueror Pedro de Valdivia in 1541 and built by Pedro de Gamboa. Visitors can stroll around the square, enjoy the sunny climate of Chile and see the many historic buildings that surround it. Some of the nearby sites include the central post office, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago and the Palacio de la Real Audienca de Santiago. Visitors will see many animators in the Plaza de Armas; these include comedians, mimes, painters and other artists.
Punta Pite is a brilliant architectural masterpiece that stretches over 27 acres of the beautiful coast of Chile. The collection of winding paths, bridges and overhanging stairs carved out of the stony surroundings offers visitors the chance to see a unique side of Chile. Punta Pite is it was built between 2004 and 2006; since then the ocean trails have taken visitors on a journey through the waters. The outdoor experience is fun for the whole family, even if the young and the elderly may find it difficult to walk the winding paths. Many visitors discover that their surroundings offer an overview of the extraordinary beauty of Chile and that the panoramic photographs they take home prove them to be right.
Water activities in La Serena
A large number of beaches gives you the opportunity to spend time swimming, surfing or windsurfing. The best time to visit this area is during the summer. However, the beaches near La Serena can get very crowded, so if you want some peace, check out Playa Tongoy and Playa Totoralillo.
Where stay in Chile
Lastarria Boutique Hotel
A magnificently converted 1920s building. There are 14 large rooms with huge casement windows, dark and polished wood floors and luxurious bathrooms. There is also a swimming pool with a glamorous courtyard and an impressive panoramic terrace.
An elegant and contemporary boutique hotel in the heart of the city. The 18 rooms have parquet floors, white walls, plenty of natural light and huge beds. You’re within walking distance of many of the city’s major attractions and you’re surrounded by a good range of restaurants and bars.
Estancia Cerro Guido: a remote and typical Patagonian ranch on the edge of the Torres del Paine National Park. The rooms are simple and rustic, the restaurant is fantastic and the location is simply divine. A hiker’s paradise.
Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa is the newest hotel on Easter Island, located on top of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is located five minutes from Hanga Roa. The rooms are elegant and spacious, there are also two restaurants and a luxury spa. This is the ideal place to escape and relax.
Explora Rapa Nui on Easter Island is a super luxury property. The rooms are of a simple design with large windows that frame the scenery and the view. The hotel organizes guided tours and all-inclusive excursions. The restaurant offers the best of Chilean food and wine.
Aldea Naukana is a charming boutique hotel in Pucón. The rooms have a fantastic atmosphere with wood-paneled walls, warm fabrics and sheepskin rugs. There is also a cozy lounge with a fireplace and lovely views.
Countries to visit in South America
Complete travel information and travel inspiration
- Visit Chile
- Visit Argentina
- Visit Bolivia
- Visit Brazil
- Visit Chile
- Visit Colombia
- Visit Peru
- Visit Uruguay
- Visit Venezuela (Angel Falls, highest waterfall in the world)