My Chile Bucket List
I went on a six month trip around South America, and one of the countries that I visited was Chile. Before I went, I researched places to go and things to see and created an Chile Bucket List. I didn’t end up making it to everywhere on this list but I thought I’d share the whole thing for anybody else planning a similar holiday! For further details of what I ended up seeing and doing in Chile, check out my travel diary.
Torres del Paine
This gorgeous national park is accessed from the town of Puerto Natales. While you can visit some areas of the park as day trips, the best way to experience this place is to hike the 4-5 day “W” trek, or the longer “O” or “Q” treks. These multi-day adventures involve camping or staying in refugios along the way. The W trek was one of the absolute highlights of our holiday.
Patagonian weather is unpredictable even in the summer, but in the winter months (May-August) it will be a lot colder and some areas may be inaccessible. Generally the advice is that the best weather is December-February, and at this time you should expect the park to be busier. The shoulder seasons (October-November and March-April) are a little cooler than the summer but are less busy as a result.
Chiloé IslandChiloé Island lies just off the coast of southern Chile. From Santiago, it is around a two hour flight, or 14 hour car journey plus a ferry. The closest mainland city is Puerto Montt. Chiloé is famous for its houses on stilts, and its many pretty wooden Jesuit churches (UNESCO World Heritage sites). Chiloé National Park is good for hiking or horse riding, and you can also go kayaking in Chiloé lake. To the north of the island is a colony of penguins that you can take a boat ride to see.
Santiago is Chile’s capital, and sits in the shadow of the Andes. You can wander round the historical Plaza de Armas, hike up to the top of Cerro San Cristobel for a panoramic view of the city, go souvenir shopping in the city’s multiple markets, and explore the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. Around 1-2 hours outside of Santiago is the beautiful Maipo Canyon. It’s a gorgeous area for hiking and includes a large reservoir nestled in the mountains. You can get there on a tour, or you can hire a car. The city is also close to a number of vineyards, and you can book onto day tours and tastings.
ValparaísoAround two hours from Santiago is the hillside port of Valparaíso. This colourful town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to its historical significance and industrial age architecture – in the 19th century it was an important sea port for ships rounding Cape Horn, prior to the creation of the Panama canal. Today, Valparaíso is famous for its street art, its multi-coloured buildings and its artistic ‘bohemian’ vibe.
San Pedro de Atacama
The Atacama Desert is the driest non-polar desert on earth, for many scientific reasons that I don’t entirely understand. (The most basic concept I can grasp is that the high mountains on either side of it block any clouds from reaching it.) On average it receives 15mm rainfall per year, although this varies across the desert and some places receive less than 1mm a year!
All of this makes for some very dramatic landscapes. There is the Valley de la Luna (Valley of the Moon), large salt flats, sand dunes, and volcanic geysers. You might even get to see flamingos at Laguna Chaxa, a salt flat that is part of the Los Flamencos National Reserve. The main town to base yourself at for these excursions is San Pedro de Atacama.
With virtually no clouds or light pollution, the Atacama is supposed to be one of the best places in the world to stargaze, so much so that there are a number of observatories here, including the ALMA Observatory (a hugely powerful Observatory for studying the universe). You can arrange to visit this Observatory if you’re interested, but you have to book in advance. You can also book onto stargazing night tours, where an astronomer with a telescope will point out the wonders of the night sky.
Pucón and Villarrica
Pucón is an area of lakes, mountains and volcanoes! It’s paradise for outdoor enthusiasts with opportunities for rafting, kayaking, swimming, hiking, and canyoning. King of the area is Villarrica volcano. If you’re feeling adventurous you can hike to the summit – be aware it involves walking with crampons on a glacier, and tobogganing down!
Easter Island (Rapa Nui)
Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands on earth. It is most famous for its iconic stone heads (moai), carved by the early Rapa Nui people. There is so much interesting history on this island, and its worth visiting the museums there to learn all about it. As well as visiting Ahu Tongariki (pictured above), you can enjoy the beaches, go surfing, and hike up the extinct volcanic craters.
Easter Island is over 3,500km from Santiago, so if you choose to visit be prepared for a five hour flight!
What do you think? Have I missed anywhere? Let me know in the comments below! Also this is my first foray into blog writing, so please let me know how I’m doing. 🙂