Most Beautiful Sights in Chile
Chile, the long country in South America, has colonial cities, wonderful coasts, gigantic mountains and lonely deserts. Here are the top 10 sights:
1- The Valle de La Luna in the Atacama Desert
The “Valley of the Moon,” as it translates into English, is only about 15 kilometers from the main town of the arid Atacama Desert, San Pedro de Atacama, and is therefore very easy to reach on a day trip. The rocky landscape encountered here resembles the surface of the moon, hence the catchy name. The valley is particularly impressive when you experience it at sunrise or sunset and the salt formations (most famous: Las Tres Marías) draw elongated shadows. For many travelers, the Atacama Desert is the perfect connecting point to the Salar de Uyuni, a vast salt desert in Bolivia.
2- The Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island
This remote island in the southeast Pacific is actually a top sight in its own right. Some 3,500 kilometers from the Chilean coast and 2,000 kilometers from the nearest inhabited island, Pitcairn, Isla de Pascua lies somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Due to its remoteness, the biodiversity of flora and fauna is very manageable, and there has never been a connection to the mainland. Nowadays you can get to Easter Island either by ship or by plane via Santiago de Chile or Tahiti (about 4,250 kilometers). Most interesting are the approximately 600 to 800 Moai stone statues erected by the indigenous people to guard the island. The purpose of their erection has not been elucidated to this day. It is believed that they were to provide a link between the living and the dead chiefs and ancestors they represent.
3- The Torres del Paine National Park
The Torres del Paine are three pointed rocky mountains that rise into the sky like needles (“paine” translated from Tehuelche means “sky blue”). Around them the national park was founded in 1959, which consists of mountains, forests, lakes, rivers and glaciers, so it has a lot to offer to the nature lover. The fauna is also very distinctive, with the resident guanacos and special bird species such as nandus and condors – so for hikers, mountaineers, climbers, birdwatchers and glacier tourists, it is a perfect paradise. To the north, the park borders its Argentine counterpart, Los Glaciares National Park.
4- The colonial city of Valparaíso on the Pacific Ocean
About 120 kilometers west of the capital Santiago de Chile, at the southern end of a large bay, lies the cultural capital of Chile: Valparaíso (“Paradise Valley”). Many painters, musicians, writers and other artists have settled in the old town, which is dotted with old colonial buildings. In the evenings, it’s best to spend time on Cerro Concepción and Cerro Alegre, two of the many hills in the city that attract mainly with student bars and a nice atmosphere.
5- Lauca National Park on the Bolivian Border
Lauca is the northernmost of Chile’s national parks, and one of the most beautiful. Located at an enormous altitude and surrounded by several volcanoes over 6,000 meters high, it offers beautiful panoramas to the nature lover. At one of the highest lakes in the world, Lago Chungará (trumped by the massive Parinacota volcano), one can observe flamingos, guanacos, vicuñas and condors. Pumas also live in this area. However, they are rarely seen and avoid contact with humans. After a strenuous exploration of this Andean region, a relaxing bath in the hot springs of Jurasi is suitable.
6- Lonely Tierra del Fuego and the southernmost city Punta Arenas
Opposite the island of Tierra del Fuego, on the Strait of Magellan, lies the southernmost major city in the world: Punta Arenas. A colorful mixture of cultures and peoples of the world have settled here, from British sheep farmers and Portuguese sailors to Croats, Russians and Jews. Sights of the city include the beautiful cemetery and the shipwrecks on the city beach. But the most spectacular is and remains the natural scenery that presents itself to the visitor to Tierra del Fuego: Dreamlike mountain ranges, channel islands inhabited by penguins, and forests and glaciers as far as the eye can see.
7- Villarrica Volcano in the Zona de los Lagos
Villarica, a 2,840 meter high volcano near the Argentine border, belongs to the Pacific Ring of Fire and is still active today. In the last 500 years, more than 50 eruptions have been recorded, and hundreds of people have lost their lives in eruptions and earthquakes in the region. Nowadays, graceful and triangular, it is one of the most visited sights in Chile. In the summer months, amateur mountaineers can hike to its crater rim on guided tours.
8- The island of Chiloé and its Churches
Chiloé Island is the second largest island in Chile after Tierra del Fuego, which is half part of Argentina. It is considered the place of origin of the potato, since the oldest known variety was found here. The indigenous people of Huilliche, who were heavily proselytized by the arriving Jesuits in the 17th century, are known for their distinct mythology (example: belief in ghost ships). But it is the emerging Catholicism that is the reason for the island’s main attractions: the well-preserved wooden churches, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
9- The capital Santiago de Chile
The huge city of Santiago is located in a valley between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. This location often creates inversion weather, so the smog lingers in the city and miserably pollutes the air we breathe. After a short rain shower, however, the air is pure again and the city is at its most beautiful. On such a day, one should climb (or be driven) to Cerro Santa Lucía or Cerro San Cristóbal to enjoy the clear view over the metropolitan area. Also worth seeing are the city’s theaters, museums and universities, the Plaza de Armas with its imposing cathedral, the Palacio de la Moneda (presidential residence), the Iglesia San Francisco, the Bellavista artists’ and nightlife district, and the shopping avenues in the Providencia district.
10- The cliffs of La Portada near Antofagasta
About 20 kilometers north of the beautiful city of Antofagasta, a beautiful cliff stretches along the ocean. At one point, the rocky coastline extends into the sea, where millions of years of erosion and weathering have created a natural rocky gateway that has been christened La Portada.