South America

My favourite places in Chile – tips from a local!

Viva Expeditions  |  28 June 2020

All you need to know about visiting Chile.

I am from Chile, the country of big mountains, desert and a beautiful variety of seafood! Chile is an absolute must-see destination in South America, because it is one of the world's most diverse and beautiful countries, allowing every single traveller to find their favourite and unforgettable spot.

Let’s start from the top, moving down the long country, to the bottom - We will therefore start with one of my favourite places in the world - the Atacama Desert.

The Atacama Desert - the driest place on the earth.

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 Salt mountain range, Atacama Desert

There is a little town which welcomes tourists, San Pedro de Atacama, located in the middle of the Atacama Desert. From here you can take a range of day tours which will show you places that are truly out of this world: the Tatio Geysers, Valley of the Moon, watch the pink flamingos, and much more. If you are an active traveller, San Pedro is your place; hiking or biking around the moon valley are incredible options for enjoying a unique sunset and the diversity of colours on the mountains.  

 If you are a traveller who likes luxury or sophistication, the Atacama Desert is also a great option for you. There are some amazing all-inclusive hotels and lodges which offer activities, private guides, and also the most exclusive products and ingredients from the area, which are cooked for you. Therefore, you not only enjoy the landscape, but also unique Chilean gastronomy.

 San Pedro de Atacama is also well-known around the world as an astronomer's paradise. Chile and especially the Atacama desert may be the best place on earth to enjoy a starry sky. The options for night tours are from a party in the middle of the desert watching the unique sky to a visit to the Alma observatory, one of the biggest in the world. 

Atacama desert Starry Sky

Click HERE to see our Atacama Tours

Elqui Valley

Located around 6-7 hours north of Santiago, next to the beautiful city of La Serena.  I absolutely loved my times in the Elqui Valley and I always hope to return . According to the locals, there is a beautiful and magical river crossing the valley. This water allows the locals to grow the most crunchy and juicy grapes which create our delicious national spirit called pisco. You cannot leave the Elqui Valley without having a cold Pisco Sour in one of the restaurants by the river.

Along the valley there are a few small towns which offer a variety of activities, from gastronomy, to alternative medicine. Most locals think that this area has a special energy, therefore it is the best place for meditation or yoga lovers.

Valparaiso

Valparaiso 

This is the main port in Chile known as "Jewel of the Pacific". It is a lively city full of activities, multicultural and bohemian vibe. Valparaiso is known for its colourful hills, street art, funky walkways and steep windy streets, which a fun to explore.

If you visit Valparaiso, you can not miss the "noche portena", which means the port night. The nights are literally converted into days where the streets are full of locals and tourists going from bar to bar. The "noche portena" also offers amazing gastronomy, live music and is a real Chilean party for every single traveller. It does not matter your age, Valparaiso will suit you.

Easter Island  (Isla de Pascua)

 

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One of the most remote places in the world, the UNESCO world heritage Easter Island sits in the middle of the south Pacific Ocean, and is home to the indigenous Rapa Nui people and the world famous Moai - giant statues around the island that are more than 500 years old. The warmth and hospitality of the Rapa Nui Polynesian culture is a great reason to visit, couple this with the isolation in the middle of the ocean, and it makes for a unique destination.

Anakena is one of the main destinations of Easter Island, this beach is known for its beautiful white and palm trees, the water is a spectacular blue green. 

One of the most popular things to do in Rapa Nui is to watch the sunrise over the 15 moai in at Ahu Tongariki. This unique location holds the best restored moais on the entire island .

Another " must do activity " is scuba dive with the underwater Moai. The amazing experience of diving in this turquoise to see a Moai laying on the ocean floor, talking to the locals about their magic stories about spirits and traditions will be a unique experience.

Easter island is a great place for surfers. With no other landmass for thousands of kilometres around, Easter Island’s north shore gets hammered with some intense swell that has become the stuff of legend.

In the first weeks of February, there is a very important Festival called Tapati. This party is mainly focused on traditional competitions where locals can perform their skills on music, sculpture, sports, body painting, fishing and much more. This party is performed by families from the island. 

Santiago

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Daniella exploring the street of Santiago

Click HERE to see our Santiago Tours

Well, what can I say, a massive city (7 million people), a mix of colonial architecture with skyscrapers. Hills in the middle of the city allows visitors to have an amazing view of the capital of Chile. Santiago is a city of cultural events, parties, many museums and top restaurants.

This city offers a big range of options for accommodation from boutique to 5 star hotels. The locations also vary from the core of the city like "Lastarria" neighbourhood which is close to the Art Museum, to forest park and great bars and restaurants. 

Chile is next to a wide range of mountains and that means snow! From the CBD, it will take less than an hour to be in one of the most amazing skiing fields of South America. Farellones, and El Colorado are the most popular ones.

Santiago is also known by its huge variety of sandwiches which are a meal by itself. Places like "Fuente Alemana '' or "Dominos" are highly recommended for tourists who are interested in experiencing a real Chilean "sandwicheria". Chile is the place to eat seafood " El Mercado Central'' (central market) is widely known by the variety of fresh seafood and the most beautiful recipes such as ''Caldillo de Congrio'' (sea chowder) or Machas a la Parmesana (Parmesan Clams). Santiago is a lively city, a wonderful city!

Colchagua Valley

Colchagua Valley

 

Clos Apalta accomodation

Located in central Chile, this is one of South America's most promising wine regions. The wineries vary from colonial architectural style to the most modern buildings One example of the former is Clos Apalta which has an ultra-modern building inspired on a bird's nest, and it is set up on top of a hill, offering a beautiful view of the vineyards below from the terrace on top of the building. 

The wineries offer different types of activities such as horse riding, hot air ballooning, cableway, etc. Without any doubt the most important part of your visit will be wine tasting and I would highly recommend to spend at least one night at one of the winery hotels. 

The restaurants offer classic Chilean dishes with a range of wines. Chilean cuisine includes amazing abalone, oysters and beautiful meats mixed with the fresh vegetables harvested from the area. A few classic dishes are pastel de choclo (corn pie), locos with mayonesa (abalone with mayonnaise) and obviously empanadas (kind of pie).

Pucon and Villarrica

Pucon and Villarrica are located on opposite sides of Villarica lake. This big lake offers a variety of activities such as water sports. From this beautiful town, you can see the majesty of Volcan Villarrica ( Villarrica Volcano ), in winter tourists can enjoy amazing skiing fields and in summer beautiful hiking activities, even hiking to the top of the volcano. Around this area there are four beautiful National Parks; Huerquehue, Ojos del Caburga, Villarrica and Santuario el Cani.

Pucon is also famous for white-water rafting, the options are diverse and for all different levels, including those who are not brave or adventurous at all – that is,people like me!

These two towns are very popular places for Chileans to go on holidays, mainly in January and February. Over the summer, there are plenty of other activities like famous Pucon Ironman, craft and food markets and festivals.

Chiloe

Chiloe tour

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When you think about Chiloe, there are four ideas that come into your mind; mythology, iconic architecture (Stilt houses or palafitos), cuisine and amazing landscapes. 

The island is full of stories about a ghost ship " El Caleuche", a deformed man " El Trauco" or a beautiful woman " La Pincoya". The interesting point about these legends is that the locals truly believe in them and, to be honest, after a few days you will believe in them as well. Something strange is definitely happening in this magic island. 

One feature that draws the attention in the architecture of Chiloe, especially in Castro, is the presence of the Palafitos, a special type of houses mounted on luma wood stilts along the seashore. They used to be houses built by fishermen but now they are mainly hotels, shops and restaurants.

If you visit Chiloe you have to try "Curanto”, this is the typical dish of the island which consists of seafood, meat and vegetables traditionally prepared in a hole. owever, curanto is not only about the food, it is also about the atmosphere, the people, the moment and obviously the environment. 

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Frutillar

A fantastic way to learn about the influence of other cultures in Chile is visiting Frutillar. This beautiful small village is located next to the Llanquihue lake and is surrounded by Volcanoes. If you think about Frutillar, there are three main concepts; music, architecture and Kuchen (tarts and cakes).

Frutillar is famous for being the music city of Chile. Internationally known, the artistic centre, Teatro del Lago (lake theatre), hosts classical concerts named "Music weeks" from the beginning of January to the middle of February. 

Besides the cute wooden houses boarding the lake which are highly influenced by German "colonos", one of the highlights of Frutillar is its pier. Stretching out into the lake, it offers another fantastic perspective of Volcan Osorno and is definitely a photo to keep.

Finally, as far as we are concerned, we would add Kuchen to the list. It is a typical German cake that is absolutely delicious and cannot be missed in Frutillar. The best one can be found at the German club.

Torres del Paine

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Click HERE to see our Torres del Paine Tours

Chile is not short on mountainous areas, but accessibility and also the beautiful lakes, peaks, and valleys of the Torres Del Paine National Park mean this is a must do. A short distance from the quaint and interesting town of Puerto Natales, Torres del Paine has so many key natural wonders to visit: waterfalls, glaciers, floating icebergs, beautiful streams and rivers, large numbers of stunningly beautiful lakes, valleys to walk up between mountain ranges, for example French Valley near the Horns of Paine (these are the iconic tall peaks which are reminiscent of something out of a Lord of the Rings movie). There are multiple accommodation options, for example you can do eco camping, or glamping, or simply stay in one of the incredible hotels in the middle of the wilderness, such as the Tierra Patagonia hotel. I highly recommend this destination, for hikers and also for those that just enjoy the peace, enjoy nature, and a nice drink surrounded by an incredible view. Without any doubt, Torres Del Paine is a place from a different planet.

 

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