A magnet for nature lovers, Chile has a little of everything, from ice-capped volcanoes to lush rain forests. The diversity of its landscapes and vast size offer limitless adventures: trekking past glaciers and soaring Patagonian peaks, watching sunsets over otherworldly desert valleys, and basking in mountain hot springs or on a white-sand beach after long days of exploring. The following is a list of the country’s top 10 regions to visit when traveling one of the world’s longest countries. 

Overview

Santiago is the international gateway to Chile and is located near the midpoint of the 2670-mile long country. North of the capital, you’ll find the Elqui Valley, the vast Atacama Desert, and the beaches and national parks of the country’s northern reaches. The south presents a dramatic contrast from the arid north, with fertile wine valleys, misty forests and thundering rivers winding through glacial valleys.    

From Santiago, you can catch handy flight connections to far-flung parts of Chile. If you’re just visiting the Central Coast, or are game for a very big road trip, you can get around by car.  Flying, however, is the best way to reach far-flung places, particularly in southern Patagonia, where it’s the only practical option. If you have limited time, a highlights tour is the best way to see the country’s most iconic landscapes.

Greater Santiago 

The cable car ride up to Cerro San Cristóbal offers magnificent views of the mountains. 

One of South America’s most captivating capitals, Santiago is a city of grand boulevards, picturesque colonial districts and fascinating museums. On a wander through Centro (downtown), you can explore pre-Columbian galleries, 18th-century churches, and massive markets.

By nightfall, head out to stylish neighborhoods like Barrio Lastarria and Bellavista for some of the city’s gastronomic highlights. There are also some great destinations just outside of Santiago. Good places for a day trip include the Main Valley, with its excellent wineries, and resorts like Valle Nevado, which has the country’s best skiing, plus hiking, horseback riding and other adventures in the summer. 

The Central Coast 

View over the hilltop neighborhoods of Valparaíso.

Near the middle of Chile, you’ll find enchanting coastlines, charming cities and lush vineyards. A 90-minute drive west of Santiago, Valparaíso is a seaside enclave famed for its hilltop neighborhoods and bohemian vibe. The meandering lanes are lined with some of the best urban art in the country. Nearby, the town of Viña del Mar has palm-lined boulevards, white-sand beaches and scintillating nightlife that make it a favorite summertime escape. This part of Chile also offers plenty for wine lovers, including the Casablanca and Colchagua Valleys, home to the country’s most celebrated vineyards.  

El Norte Chico

A star-filled night sky in the Elqui Valley. 

 The so-called ‘Little North’ has a surprising variety of attractions, from idyllic mountain valleys to gorgeous stretches of untouched coastline. Located about six hours’ drive north of Santiago, the Elqui Valley is famed for its sleepy villages set amid rolling hills and crisp mountain streams. You can go mountain biking and horseback riding by day, and spend the evening at an observatory taking in the star-filled skies.

Straight west of the valley is the buzzing city of La Serena, which has a small colonial center, a vibrant dining scene and picturesque Japanese-style gardens. Wide beaches dot this stretch of coast. 

The Far North 

Volcanoes and lagoons in the wild and rugged Parque Nacional Lauca.

The upper reaches of Chile are home to serene Andean villages, archeologically rich valleys and several majestic high-altitude national parks. Gateway to the region is Arica, a seaside city with pretty beaches and excellent surf breaks. Nearby, the Azapa Valley is home to massive geoglyphs as well as a museum housing the famed Chinchorro mummies — the world’s oldest preserved bodies. Further inland, you reach the edge of the Andes, with traditional Aymara villages. These are fine bases for exploring the breathtaking landscapes of Parque Nacional Lauca

The Atacama Desert

Cycling through dramatic rock formations outside of San Pedro de Atacama. 

The vast, sun-baked sands of the Atacama lure outdoor lovers with its high-altitude lakes, multi-hued valleys and jagged peaks. The best place to experience it all is in San Pedro de Atacama, a tiny village and travelers’ hub near the region’s most jaw-dropping wonders. You can spend weeks exploring sputtering geysers, surreal salt fields, mountain-backed topaz lakes where flamingos roam and Mars-like rock formations. Surprisingly, you can do it in comfort, with stylish inns and eclectic restaurants sprinkled around the buzzing desert village. 

The Lake District 

View of the smoldering Villarrica Volcano outside of Pucón. 

One of Chile’s most beautiful regions, the Lake District is packed with natural wonders. Soaring, snow-topped volcanoes, glacial lakes and old-growth forests set the stage for a dazzling range of outdoor adventures. Villages like Pucón put you in the heart of the action, with its access to stunning Villarrica National Park, where you can hike, ski or climb a volcano. Other appealing activities include white-water rafting, rock-climbing, visiting waterfalls or relaxing on a black-sand beach overlooking Lago Villarrica

Chiloé

Palafitos (stilt houses) along the shoreline of Chiloé Island. 

The fifth-largest island in South America has mist-covered forests, rugged shorelines and proud residents with a seafaring past and a strong independent streak. Villages here are a delight to explore with their buzzing markets, brightly painted palafitos (stilt houses) and photogenic wooden churches — including more than a dozen listed Unesco World Heritage Sites. This is also a fine place to explore Chile’s wild side, with island hopping on the Islotes de Puñihuil (home to a colony of penguins), and wildlife watching in the stunning Parque Nacional Chiloé.   

Northern Patagonia 

The Rio Futaleufú offers spectacular rafting as it winds through mist-shrouded forests.

Remote and rugged, northern Patagonia offers a vision of Chile’s great untouched wilderness. This sparsely inhabited region has sublime national parks, set amid rainforest, glaciers and mountain-filled horizons. There’s plenty of ways to get off the beaten track here, whether driving the famed Carretera Austral, a 770-mile gravel road that runs from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins or riding the world-class rapids of the Río Futaleufú.   

Southern Patagonia 

The soaring peaks of Torres del Paine set the stage for one of Chile's best treks. 

Carved by glaciers, the chiseled southern reaches of Patagonia form the backdrop to unforgettable adventures. This is the land of azure lakes, emerald forests and thick herds of guanaco grazing on the open steppe. The highlight here is Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, which offers Chile’s most spectacular multi-day treks. Another big draw is the Isla Magdalena, home to more than 50,000 breeding pairs of Magellanic penguins. It’s accessible by boat tours operating out of Puerto Arenas.  

Easter Island 

Moai statues on Easter Island. 

A world apart from mainland Chile, Easter Island has a mystical air thanks to its massive carved figures known as moai. These enigmatic figures, some of which stand over 30 feet (9.1 meters) tall, are sprinkled around the island, and provide a window into the fascinating Polynesian peoples who once flourished here.

Eco-friendly adventures are the name of the game here, with great coastal walks, horseback riding or simply basking on a white-sand beach. It’s also a fine place to disconnect: located 2300 miles (3700 km.) west of mainland Chile, Easter Island is one of the most isolated places on earth. 

Map

Map of Top 10 Regions in Chile: Where to Go & What to See
Map of Top 10 Regions in Chile: Where to Go & What to See

Recent Trip Reviews

Related trips planned by kimkim specialists

Top 10 regions in chile: where to go & what to see, Chile - Jan 19 - Jan 24, 2019

Traveler: Donna & Myles R. - Local specialist: Marie-Lou Goullieux

We are one couple that were from a group of 10 but we did not have any part of the planning we simply were part of the group, others in our group did the planning and therefore had all the interactions with the team.
We were greeted at the departure from the cruise ship by Mauricio Masserano and spent the majority of 4 days with him touring the wineries of Chile. His English is impeccable and he has a very broad understanding of the wineries. He took us to lots of wineries that had... read more

We are one couple that were from a group of 10 but we did not have any part of the planning we simply were part of the group, others in our group did the planning and therefore had all the interactions with the team.
We were greeted at the departure from the cruise ship by Mauricio Masserano and spent the majority of 4 days with him touring the wineries of Chile. His English is impeccable and he has a very broad understanding of the wineries. He took us to lots of wineries that had different and unique places for example each day would be at least three wineries that had totally different ways of making wines. We visited some really great wineries and Mauricio chose different luncheons at very unique places that were all very delicious.
He and the driver left us at our hotel and the next day we had a father and son that gave us a tour of Santiago and took us to the airport for our flights home. They were both very knowledgeable with the City of Santiago and we enjoyed our day immensely. They also chose a very unique restaurant that was truly a great experience.

Top 10 regions in chile: where to go & what to see, Chile - Jan 19 - Jan 24, 2019

Traveler: Luanne N. - Local specialist: Marie-Lou Goullieux

I found the web platform and payment method a bit challenging as I was travelling with a group. Marie-Lou was generally prompt in responding to me. It would have been better if we could have talked directly to Mauricio, our guide for the wine tours as he had a plan that would have involved less driving. We went the way I requested but that was because I really didn’t understand the driving times/traffic etc. However, we did enjoy driving up the coast from San Antonio to Valparaíso as we were... read more

I found the web platform and payment method a bit challenging as I was travelling with a group. Marie-Lou was generally prompt in responding to me. It would have been better if we could have talked directly to Mauricio, our guide for the wine tours as he had a plan that would have involved less driving. We went the way I requested but that was because I really didn’t understand the driving times/traffic etc. However, we did enjoy driving up the coast from San Antonio to Valparaíso as we were able to see where Chileans spend their summer holidays.
Mauricio was very good - he was always striving to give us a good experience. The wineries he chose were so diverse that we were always surprised that we were learning something new. Mateo and Leo were our guides for touring Santiago, were very good at answering questions and giving us options (such as walking or driving through the city center). Going up the gondola for the city view was a highlight.
The hotels - Hotel 17 in Valparaíso - great location, beautiful rooms with amazing views, Good breakfast, but a little run down and it could have been a little cleaner. Inca Hotel in Los Andes, Great pool area, good location, good breakfast, modern looking but moldy showers! Hotel Torremayor Lyon - nice neighbourhood, very good breakfast but this once very beautiful hotel needs renovations - it wouldn’t even look that bad if the floors were cleaner and stains removed from upholstery and carpets. The pool was very grubby.
Our guides and drivers definitely made this trip enjoyable and informative and I would recommend them to anyone. I would also use Kimkim in the future as it is a good way to find customized, unique travel experiences.