Chile travel guide, including map of Chile, top Chilean travel experiences, tips for travel in Chile, plus mountain hiking and whalewatching
Skinny Chile, squashed between the Pacific and the Andes, is one giant playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Its landscape embraces glacial wilderness and moonscapes, lakes and volcanoes, beaches, salt flats and the burnt colours of the desert. In one day you can scale a snow-capped mountain, soak off the exhaustion in a thermal bath and rest beneath the desert stars.
Chile’s capital, Santiago, is a great place to see Chileans at play. The nearby port of Valparaíso shouldn’t be missed – a warren of narrow streets, brightly coloured houses perched perilously on steep hills and ageing bars frequented by sailors.
In the north of Chile, San Pedro de Atacama is an unlikely oasis set among the geysers, volcanoes and salt flats of the world's driest desert.
Heading south, forests, lakes and conical snow-capped volcanoes make up Chile's Lake District, with clear air perfect for hikes to small towns and villages topped by high-spired, clean-cut churches. The mysterious archipelago of Chiloé is the place to spot penguins and gorge on freshly dug oysters.
In the far south lies the awe-inspiring Torres del Paine National Park, a Unesco Biosphere Reserve and Mecca for trekkers and wildlife enthusiasts. Throughout the year, the park offers constantly changing views of the glaciers, peaks and the iconic granite towers which overlook vividly coloured lakes and quiet green valleys filled with carpets of wild flowers.
Don’t call pisco a Peruvian drink – Chileans claim the hooch as its own. You can spot the world’s largest-ever creature, the blue whale, on a whalewatching trip from Punta Arenas.
You can explore Chile’s south anytime between November and April but unless you're there for the skiing avoid midwinter – some southern areas are almost impenetrable between June and September. The middle of Chile is best in spring (November to December) and autumn (March to April) while the desert in the north can be explored year round. The capital, Santiago, can be smoggy during the winter (June to September) but for picture-postcard views of the snow-capped Andes, the city is never better than after the winter rain.
Santiago (SCL) 21 km from the city.
Getting around in Chile
Chile has an excellent long distance bus network with a fast and comfortable service between all major destinations. There are very few train services in Chile, aside from a newly modernised route between Santiago and Temuco in the south. Frequent domestic flights service the major towns. For cyclists and bikers, Chile is a joy, two wheels being a great way to access some of the more remote national parks. The Carretera Austral is a classic trip for pedal pushers.
Chile has accommodation to suit every pocket with plenty of hostels and guesthouses for budget travellers. Top-end hotels are often functional but rather uninspiring: for something different, try a rural homestay instead. Prices rocket from December to mid-March but it’s well worth asking for a discount out of high season. Chileans respond well to beaming smiles and polite requests. Camping is easy but bring gear with you – it’s expensive in Chile.
Market stalls groan under the weight of giant fruit and veg, steaks are almost as good as those in Argentina and everything can be washed down with world-class wines. Try paila marina, a stew crammed to bursting with shellfish, or cazuela de ave, a soupy chicken dish that keeps away the cold in the winter. Vegetarians should try humitas – delicious, filling corn tamales – or the divine porotos granados con mazamorra, a moreish bean, pumpkin and corn stew. Look out for Chilean brewed ales like the dark and fruity Austral Calafate, but beware of the pisco sour – this tart twist on the nation’s favourite drink produces a killer hangover.
Chile is prone to earthquakes and although buildings are constructed to withstand them and it’s very unlikely to happen while you’re there, make sure you know what to do if one hits. In San Pedro de Atacama and on higher peaks, altitude sickness can be a problem. Take it slow for the first few days and avoid alcohol. In summer months and in the desert, be sure to slap on plenty of sun cream and wear a hat if you’re going to be outside for long periods.
Adventures await in the wild windswept region of Patagonia. The intrepid explorer’s dilemma — which thrilling expedition should be tackled first? More
Off-season doesn’t necessarily mean bad season. Sometimes, it's worth putting up with less-than-perfect weather for low prices, unbelievable wildlife encounters and incredible natural phenomena... More
Tucked away in some of the most remote corners of the planet, from Ecuador to Cambodia, Australia to the Arctic - these beautiful, isolated hotels are the best way to truly get away from it all... More
From rock-hewn cities to Welsh castles; mountaintop temples to island prisons, we celebrate the UNESCO-listed wonders that make the world a more cultured place... More
Whether you want to trek through the Atacama Desert, take in the sights of Patagonia or revel in Santiago’s thriving foodie scene, these trips will show you every side of Chile at its very peak... More
Park guide Xabier Etxarri wrote the book on Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. Literally. To celebrate the park's 60th anniversary, here's his guide to seeing the park at its very best.. More
Whether you're into pumas and wild horses, or smaller, cuter penguins - these are the best, most diverse wildlife watching experiences in Chile's Patagonia, plus the best tour guides to help find them... More
For most travellers, Patagonia’s Torres del Paine is all about the hiking. But as efforts to preserve its native puma bear fruit, you can now join altogether toothier companions in the wild… More
Solar eclipses can be hard to catch, but are extraordinary natural phenomena you definitely want to experience. We've put together a guide so you know when, where and how to see the next solar eclipse... More
From a snow-capped gentle giant in Antarctica to a fire-spitting monster in Japan, these photos of the world's highest volcanoes will remind you of the power and beauty of these ancient landmarks... More
Forget the big street art capitals. The artists in these cities and towns have more fascinating tales to tell. And it shows in their stunning work... More
From kayaking alongside glaciers to sandboarding in the Atacama Desert, the list of outdoor adventures in Chile is as long and wild as its incredible coast... More
While exploring the secrets of the moai on Chile’s Easter Island, Phoebe Smith ponders a greater mystery – why haven’t we all heard of archaeologist Katherine Routledge? More
Cities are exciting and energising for solo travellers, especially on Valentine's Day. Author Stephanie Rosenbloom reveals her favourite cities to explore alone – where you'll always receive a warm welcome More
The destinations you love, the tour operators you trust, and the guidebooks you won’t leave home without: meet the Travel Awards winners, crowned by the best-journeyed bunch of all – Wanderlust readers... More
Rising above the landscape, these mighty geological formations are imposing and humbling. Often worshipped, they are sites of pilgrimage and wonder. Here are 7 of the most breathtaking More
Trek Croatia's crowd-free trails, embark on a classic road trip in USA, and cruise Italy's Aeolian Islands. There’s the perfect epic adventure for you out there – whether by foot, wheel, rail or sail... More
From photographing Japan and Nepal with the professionals, to getting great views of Chile's total eclipse – discover the planet’s most fascinating corners with help from those in the know… More
Patagonia is probably already on top of your bucket list. But the completion of a ‘Route of Parks’ on the Chilean side makes a trip to this stunning corner of the world even more compelling... More
Wanderlust subscribers now receive a free £50 voucher valid on trips from a great selection of top tour operators
And the best bit is, this isn't a one-off offer, you get one every time you renew as well!
The £50 discount can be redeemed against one trip booking with one of our tour operator partners, by the expiry date printed on the voucher. The £50 can even be redeemed on top of any discounts our partners are already offering, ensuring Wanderlust subscribers get the best deal possible.
Simply quote your unique voucher code when booking to claim the discount. This offer is only available to Wanderlust subscribers.
UK subscribers automatically receive the voucher each year. Overseas subscribers receive it upon request.
From: £2580.00More …
From: £7500.00More …
From: £2250.00More …
From: £7500.00More …
From: £19080.00More …
From: £8815.00More …
From: £19230.00More …
From: £10570.00More …
From: £20810.00More …
From: £6865.00More …
From: £4330.00More …
From: £10715.00More …
From: £3835.00More …
From: £7640.00More …
Sign up today for free and be the first to get notified of new articles, new competitions, new events and more!