Chile

From north to south, Chile is an extremely diverse and beautiful country. In the north of this coastal country is the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth, while the southern tip consists of the glaciers, icebergs, brilliant lakes, plummeting waterfalls and exotic wildlife. The Andes Mountains are located on the east with the Pacific Ocean lying to the west. Chile's coastline stretches approximately 2,700 miles long, is never more than 110 miles wide east to west, and shares its borders with Peru, Bolivia and Argentina.

Similar to its geography, Chile also has a wide variety of climatic conditions throughout its regions. The climate varies from hot desert in the north, to Mediterranean in the central portion, to cool and humid marine in the south. The desert in the north is practically rainless, while southern Chile receives precipitation throughout the year.

The Chilean people are very friendly and open minded, always welcoming to tourists. With a population of over 16 million, the majority of Chilean population is Mestizo, the product of intermarriage between Spanish settlers and indigenous inhabitants. Spanish is the country's official language. Many Chileans are also of German, Italian, Irish, British, or Yugoslav ancestry and three indigenous groups still flourish: the Araucanians of central Chile, the Changos of northern Chile, and the Fuegians of Tierra del Fuego.

Santiago is the capital and home to more than 5 million people. Although often overlooked by travelers, despite being your likely entry point into the country, it’s definitely worth exploring for a few days, especially during the spring and fall months.

Meanwhile, nature takes center stage in Patagonia, Chile’s southernmost region featuring snow-capped mountains, ancient petrified forests, fjords, and glaciers. High season ranges from early November through the end of March. 

What to Do

Chile downtown Santiago with tram

  • A Downtown Walking Tour - Santiago's central historic district features amazing cathedrals (like Catedral at Plaza de Armas), craft markets (Aldea de Vitacura), museums (Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino), and city parks. The grid-like street pattern makes it very easy to walk around. 

  • Bellavista and Parque Metropolitano (Santiago) - Home to Cerro San Cristobal, Santiago’s highest hill, featuring incredible 360-degree views after a short funicular ride. Also in the area: a beautiful botanical garden, zoo, and the home of famous poet Pablo Neruda.

  • Wine Time - Terrific wineries can easily be found in Valle de Maipo, just south the capital. Start your tour by visiting acclaimed spots such as Santa Rita, Concha y Toro, and Undurraga. 

  • Parque Nacional Torres del Paine - Home to massive granite peaks (known as the “towers”), turquoise waters, mountain lakes, and snow covered peaks. The area is full of boating, hiking, and incredible wildlife viewing opportunities. The park is also packed with some of the best hiking trails in the world. 

  • Parque Nacional de los Glaciares - This southern park just over the border in Argentina is perfect for hiking and boat trips on glacier-fed lakes. We recommend taking at least 2-3 days for full exploration. Drop your bags at Los Sauces Casa Patagonica, also noted in this guide. 

  • River Fun - Whitewater enthusiasts head straight to Rio Futaleufu, which boasts adrenaline-pumping Class V rapids. Grab a paddle and head down river with Earth River Expeditions.  

  • Horseback Riding - Believe it or not, horses are still the most common way for huasos (AKA Chilean cowboys) to get around. Head out to historic ranches like Estancia La Angostura for unforgettable trail rides that put you right in the lap of Patagonia’s extraordinary surroundings.

Where to Stay

Chile luxury boutique hotel

  • The Aubrey (Santiago) - A true urban retreat located in the trendy Bellavista neighborhood. The grounds, featuring a Beaux-Arts mansion, offer 15 well-appointed en-suite bedrooms, most with terraces featuring medieval stone arches. The heated outdoor swimming pool, free Wi-Fi, and piano lounge all round out this gorgeous property. 

  • W Santiago - A stylish and sophisticated property amid a fascinating neighborhood that’s home to cobblestone streets and luxury high-rises. This modern utopia boasts three restaurants, state-of-the-art spa and fitness center, and 21st floor rooftop infinity pool. 

  • The Rtiz-Carlton (Santiago) - This acclaimed luxury hotel, located in the prestigious El Golf neighborhood, is home to 205 spacious rooms, four fabulous restaurants and lounges, and a rooftop fitness center and pool with mountain views thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. 

  • Remota Hotel (Patagonia) - Located in Puerto Natales, considered the cultural and geographical center of Patagonia. All of Remota’s buildings have been designed to be in perfect harmony with the environment and local culture. King rooms offer a private bath area, daily breakfast, and views of the fjord of Ultima Esperanza. Also on site, a restaurant, bar, spa, and easy access to outdoor excursions. 

  • Los Sauces Casa Patagonica (Patagonia) - Features 38 suites with antique furniture, fireplaces, and extraordinary views of Mount Calafate. The property also has two fantastic dining options and a wonderful spa facility. If you’re heading over the border to Argentina to explore Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, this will be a perfect home base.

Where to Eat

Chile upscale restaurant

  • Bar Liguria (Santiago) - This immensely popular restaurant/bar (now with three locations across the city) is a hit with locals and visitors alike. The Liguria serves up excellent Chilean meat dishes and Italian specialties like lasagna and ravioli. With its terrific bar area, colorful decor, and overall bohemian vibe, this is a fabulous choice for a memorable honeymoon night out. 

  • Barandiaran (Santiago) - Truly a must-visit dining spot featuring more than 300 varieties of vino — with a particular emphasis on Chilean wine. Be sure to ask for a “Bocanariz Flight”, where a sommelier will pour your three glasses and guide you through the selections. On top of that, this hotspot serves up innovated cuisine highlighted by cheeses, hams, main courses, and small bites.

  • Zully (Santiago) - Historic and absolutely charming, this restaurant is spread out over four floors within the walls of a wonderfully restored mansion. Expect Chilean cuisine with a twist from items like Easter Island tuna or seafood risotto.

  • Mesita Grande (Patagonia) - This gem in Puerto Natales delights with wood-fired thin-crust pizza.

  • Berlina (Patagonia) - Berlina is a fine brewery near Bariloche producing three varieties of craft beer. The perfect detour after a long day exploring the great outdoors.

Getting There

Just 9 miles from the capital, Santiago’s Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL) is your best bet for arrival. The facility offers taxi service, buses, and major car rental companies such as Avis and Hertz. As for Patagonia, you’ll want to fly into Presidente Carlos Ibanez del Campo International Airport (PUQ) in Punta Arenas via Santiago or Buenos Aires.