Five Things First Time Travellers To Chile Should Know
- Restaurants open late. In Chile, you won't be able to find a place open for lunch at 12:00 p.m. This is because mealtimes happen much later with restaurants only opening their doors after 1:00 p.m.
- Earthquakes happen all the time. While the first time can be nerve-racking for tourists, take your cues from the locals. If they aren't bothered by the tremors, then you know it's nothing serious to worry about it.
- Tips are optional. At the end of your meal, your bill will have two quotes. It's up to you if you want to pay the one that includes a 10% service charge. You can also leave a few coins for your barista if you order a coffee to go.
- Be prepared for altitude sickness. If you're travelling to areas like the Andes, this is a common ailment if your body hasn't climatised to the altitude. But it can also be fatal. Listen to your body and head back down if you start noticing symptoms.
- Learn some Spanish. Not many locals speak English, creating a bit of a language barrier. Pick up a few essential words and phrases and your trip to Chile will be easier and your experiences richer.
Best Time To Visit Chile
The best time to go to Chile all depends on what you want to do. Home to an array of different climates and landscapes, it's a destination with something to offer all year round.
If you want to tackle Chile's famous slopes, book your trip during the low season. From June to August, the ski resorts are at their best with some of the top rated conditions near the base of the Aconcagua Mountain range.
The busiest time of year to go to Chile is from November to February. With the Patagonia region at its best, tourists flock down to explore its natural beauty. If you plan on visiting during this period, make sure you book ahead and be prepared for prices to skyrocket.
The exception is Santiago. During these summer months, most of the locals go away for vacation, reducing traffic in the city and making hotel rates drop.
For wine lovers and budget travellers, the best time to visit is from April to August. The Winelands are beautifully decorated with the autumn leaves, and prices for hotels are considerably lower. One thing to keep in mind is that many places do close for this low season. But one of Chile's biggest attractions Torres del Paine stays open, and wildlife viewings are at their best.
Located near the snow-capped Andes, Santiago is one of the largest cities in Chile. It's known for its cosmopolitan city centre, overflowing with restaurants, boutique hotels and nightlife hot spots.
But there are also plenty of cultural attractions worth checking out in the capital city. Visit the art galleries, explore the museums or spend an evening at the opera or ballet.
Valparaiso is a firm favourite on the Chilean backpacking trail. Its historic quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city is renowned for its colourful clifftop houses, art scene and live music.
Spend your days strolling through the narrow streets, drinking sundowners at the bars and admiring the sprawling walls of street art. It's by far one of the most captivating cities in the country.
If you're an adrenaline junkie, make a beeline for Pucon. The city is famous around the world for its outdoor adventure sports. Located by the stunning Villarrica Lake, there's more than enough to do here to keep you busy.
Choose from thrilling activities like canyoning, skiing, rafting and more. Once you've tired yourself out, head back into town and explore the growing foodie scene.
Top Attractions in Chile
Located off the coast of Chile, lies the ancient Easter Island. Inhabited for thousands of years by Polynesians, it's one of the most remote destinations in the world.
Despite being 3,500 km away, it's one of Chile's most popular tourist attractions. Each year, thousands of people travel here to visit the Maoi - 887 gigantic sculptures of heads dotted around the landscape.
Their discovery and mystery turned the entire island into a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most impressive collection is found at Ahu Tongariki, and there are many "hare paenga" ruins to explore as well.
Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine is one of the best places to visit for adventure lovers. Located in southern Patagonia, it's easy to spend a few weeks hiking, climbing, and kayaking around the mountains and glacier lakes.
With very little development, it's a haven for those who want to escape the cities and get lost in the wild.
Even if you aren't an adventure enthusiast, you can still appreciate the region's natural beauty with the many day hiking routes available.
The best place to base yourself to explore this region is in Puerto Natales. But keep in mind that during high season (October to April) hotel rooms are scarce, so you'll need to book well in advance.
Los Pinguinos Natural Monument
Los Pinguinos is one of the most popular natural monuments in Chile. Located on Magdalena Island, it's home to 120,000 Magellanic penguins, the country's largest penguin colony.
The best time to see the birds is from September to February. The penguins migrate back here for the breeding season before returning to the ocean by the end of March.
If you want to visit the penguins, your only option is to join a guided boat tour. Also, keep a lookout for the island's other inhabitants such as the large colonies of seals and sea lions.
Lauca National Park
Lauca National Park covers an area of 1,300 square kilometres. While it's not the most accessible, it's worth the visit. The landscape is awash with enormous volcanoes, pristine lakes and a number of important archaeological sites.
It's home to more than 140 different species of birds, making it a top attraction for bird watchers around the world.
But its most impressive feature is Lago Chungara. Formed over 8,000 years ago, it's one of the world's height lakes with an altitude of 4500 metres above sea level. Over the lake, stand two dormant volcanoes Volcan Parinacota and its twin brother Volcan Pomerape which create some of the park's most dramatic scenery.
Valle de la Luna and the Atacama Desert
Near the border of Bolivia, lies Valle de la Luna or Moon Valley. It's one of the driest places on the planet, with a landscape that looks like the surface of the moon.
Despite its arid climate, the Valle de la Luna has sustained life for centuries, proven in its many caverns. It's here where some of the world's oldest mummies were discovered as well as pictographs created by early man.
One of the best ways to experience this unique landscape is to wake up early and arrive for sunrise. Or if that's too early, you can visit for sunset, but you'll be sharing the view with busloads of day trippers.
Major International Airports in Chile
- Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport
- Diego Aracena International Airport
- Andrés Sabella Gálvez International Airport
- Chacalluta International Airport
- Mataveri International Airport