Chile Travel Guide
Chile is one of the most slender countries in the world – just 150 miles across at its widest point but don’t let it’s thin size fool you. From the snow-capped volcanoes of Patagonia and blistering heights of the Andes to world-class wineries and Maoi sculptures of Easter Island, there are a lot of wonderful things to see in Chile. It’s one of the most developed South American countries and is developing quickly as it tries to become the tech hub of the region. Use this travel guide to plan your trip to a country in transition. It’s one of the most unique in the region.
Accommodation – Dorms in a youth hostel start at $9 USD and private rooms come in at around $20 USD. Budget hotels are also inexpensive with prices from $25 USD.
Food – $11 USD will get you a meal in a good sit down restaurant, but for snacks and hawker food, expect to pay less than $5 USD. Most places in the country offer a set menu for lunch with a starter, main, dessert and drink for about $5 USD, which is a good way to fill up and experience local culture. Stopping at a grocery store can also help you stick to your budget, with food supplies averaging between $5-13 USD per day.
Transportation – A taxi around most cities will cost a maximum of $7 USD, while a bus ticket costs around $0.70 USD. Public transportation, especially in Santiago, is reliable and affordable, about $1.20 USD per ride. For travel between cities, expect to pay around $8 USD for a 150 mile journey. If possible, buy your bus ticket in advance and save at least $0.50 USD per ride.
Activities – Skiing or diving are going to be the most expensive activities you’ll take part in. Lift passes cost around $50 USD, and day’s diving comes in at $60 USD. Entrance to National Parks and museums can vary from around $5-35 USD for Torres del Paine Park.
Money Saving Tips
Buy wine at the supermarkets – Surprisingly, buying wine from the vineyards can be slightly more expensive than in supermarkets. You can pick up nice a bottle of wine for just $3 USD in most stores.
Take the bus – Bus service is inexpensive and efficient here. Night buses are quite comfortable and also a good way to save on a night’s accommodation. With such vast distances, you’ll have to take one at least once.
Top Things to See and Do in Chile
Santiago – Chile’s capital is a thriving city and home to a third of the country’s entire population. There are quite a few must-see attractions in the city, like the Parque Metropolitano and the Festival del Barrio Brasil.
San Marcos Cathedral – San Marcos was designed by the same architect who was responsible for the Eiffel tower, Alexandre Gustav Eiffel. The cathedral is found in Arica, Chile’s northernmost city, and was built to replace the original cathedral which was destroyed in an earthquake in 1888. This place is a beautiful and rare example of Gothic architecture in South America.
Wine tours – Chile’s vineyards have been producing world-class wine for over 400 years. There are plenty of tours which you can go on, as the vineyards stretch the entire length of the country. Most of the best wineries are located near to Santiago and are quite easily accessible.
Easter Island – Easter Island is the most isolated inhabited island on earth. The island lies 2200 miles off the coast of western Chile and is famous for its Moai sculptures (the big faces dotted all over the island). However, there is so much more to the island, including thousands of archaeological sites, volcanic craters, pristine beaches, and excellent diving.
Valparaiso – In 2002, Valaparaiso was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This city is a mesh of bohemian bars and Victorian architecture that lines the streets along the coastline of sheer cliffs. The laid back atmosphere and beauty of the area have inspired generations of writers and poets, including the Nobel Peace-winning poet Pablo Neruda.
Torres del Paine National Park – The 450,000 acres of this national park were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Torres del Paine lies between the Andes and Patagonian steppe and is made up of snow-clad mountains, glacier lakes, and some of the best hiking tours that Chile has to offer. It also happens to be one of the most beautiful and desolate regions on the planet.
San Pedro de Atacama – Located in Chile’s Norte Chico northern region, San Pedro de Atacama is one of Chile’s hottest tourist towns. Literally. The town is found in the driest desert in the world (it reportedly hasn’t seen rain since 1870), but the rock formations here are stunning, and it’s the perfect place to stargaze.
Volcanoes – Chile is home to the world’s tallest active volcano, Ojos del Salado, which lies in the Andes on the border with Argentina. Villarica and Osorno are also popular with visitors and both lie close to lakes. Most volcanoes have thermal spas at the base of them for you to relax in.
Valle de la Muerte – Also known as Death Valley, this is an awesome place to go on a hike, go horseback riding, or even sand boarding. There are guided moonlight walks as well.
Moon Valley National Park – This is an interesting area with stones and sand formations that have developed an extraordinary texture due to thousands of years of winds and flooding. The rock formations look a lot like the surface of the moon, giving rise to the park’s name.
El Tatio geysers – A very popular tourist spot, these geysers are beautiful. You have to get up around 4am in order to catch the tour, but it is worth it. Remember to take a swim suit as there are many thermal pools in which to take a dip.
“Meteorite” Pit – This vertical pit is carved into the salty walled hillside of the northeast end of Cordillera de la Sal. The cave runs 10 miles deep and was originally said to be created by a meteorite impact. However, it was actually carved by an ancient river.
Museo de Bellas Artes – This museum is the second best in all of Chile – there is a wide display of ‘Fine Arts’, from sculptures, photography, and paintings to new media. The building is somewhat small, but the architecture is equally as impressive as the collection within.
Mingle among the wealthy in Viña del Mar – Considered a Chilean Miami, this city next to Valparaiso serves as a hot spot for casinos, upscale cafes, and seaside restaurants. Even if you don’t have money to burn, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon wandering down the beach promenade, taking in the sights and smells of the ocean. There is plenty of people-watching to be done here, and a variety of food to keep you satisfied while doing so.
Tour Pablo Neruda’s Homes – One of the world’s most famous poets used to call Chile home, but yet he couldn’t seem to decide on just one residence. With homes in Valparaiso, Santiago, and Isla Negra, this Chilean icon stuffed a lifetime of knick-knacks, literature, and interesting maritime architectural pieces into his three pads. All of them are open to the public. Even if you’re not a huge fan of his work, his homes alone are an interesting glimpse into Chilean culture.