Stretching along South America’s Pacific coast, the expansive length of Chile gifts the nation with a diverse beauty that entrances travelers of all types. Just to name a few geographic characteristics, Chile is blessed with the imposing Andes, a curious desert dotted with colorful lagoons, rushing waterfalls, remote islands and a southernmost archipelago commonly referred to as “the end of the world.”
Sounds like a lot to pack into just one trip? With Kuoda’s help, you can get the best out of your Chile vacation on a customized itinerary that suits your travel pace and interests. Continue reading our Chile bucket list to discover the top things for you to do and see on a bespoke journey to one of South America’s wildest destinations.
1. Hike in Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park
The crown jewel of Chile’s Patagonia, the Torres del Paine National Park is an unequaled natural beauty that’s a must on any Chile travel itinerary. Spanning nearly 450,000 acres in southernmost Chile, the Torres del Paine National Park encompasses the breathtaking Cordillera del Paine mountain chain, glaciers, sparkling blue lakes and a diverse set of wildlife. In short, the protected natural area is a trekker’s paradise.
Three distinctive granite peaks tower into the park’s skyline and can be admired from nearly any hike or circuit within Torres del Paine. On a personalized journey with Kuoda, you can trek iconic routes suited to your preferred pace and style.
One of our travel team’s favorite hikes is through the French Valley, a picturesque outing that can become a full-day adventure deep and high into the lake-laden valley—just as well, a half-day hike followed by a cocktail in a cozy lodge may be the best fit for luxury travelers.
2. Visit all three of Pablo Neruda’s homes
The poems of Nobel-prize winner Pablo Neruda are at the forefront of the famed Chilean’s legacy, though his eccentric homes are nothing short of unforgettable for the lucky travelers who catch a peek. Since his passing in 1973, Neruda’s one-of-a-kind homes have been restored and maintained and can be toured on a curated Chile travel experience with Kuoda.
In the colorful port city of Valparaiso lies one of Neruda’s first homes, La Sebastiana. Satisfying the poet’s hunt for a dwelling that “seems like it floats in the air,” La Sebastiana is today considered a National Monument and serves as a museum. Jet to the capital city to muse over the unique lovenest La Chascona, built for Neruda’s lover and later wife, Matilde Urrutia.
Only have time to see one of Neruda’s quirky homes? Prioritize a visit to Isla Negra, where Neruda’s favorite and most isolated home operates as a museum yet carries the tranquility that the poet so savored.
3. Get a rush of adrenaline in Cajón del Maipo
Just 15 miles southeast of the capital city Santiago, Cajón del Maipo can take a traveler’s breath away with its offering of adrenaline-inducing activities. Leave city life behind and reunite with your adventurous side as you bungee jump, zipline and white water raft your way through this stunning gorge.
Seeking a more subtle and relaxing escape to Santiago’s so-called green lung? Horseback rides and fly fishing excursions can be included in your personalized itinerary by your Kuoda travel designer. Take advantage of the impeccably fresh air and the site’s natural beauty by setting up camp and sleeping beneath the stars.
Whether on a family vacation or a romantic getaway, refuel with an empanada, freshly baked in a roadside woodfire oven as you head back to the big city to continue forth on your Chile vacation.
4. Stay at Ecocamp Patagonia in Torres del Paine National Park
How do you make an adventure to the scenic Torres del Paine National Park even more epic? We at Kuoda would recommend a stay at the sustainable and eco-friendly EcoCamp Patagonia. Proclaimed to be the world’s first geodesic dome hotel, this property is more than just a comfortable place to rest your head after a day spent outdoors; EcoCamp Patagonia offers guests an intimacy to the surrounding landscapes and wildlife that is lost in traditional lodges and hotels.
Get off the beaten path in southern Chile’s Patagonia region as the hotel’s specialists lead you on treks and multi-sport excursions. Play your part in having a positive impact through travel by supporting EcoCamp Patagonia’s pursuit to protect the natural area through green technology, eco-friendly practices, preservation of indigenous cultures and inclusive employment opportunities.
For responsible travelers, the luxurious suite dome with a loft and fireplace is simply the cherry on top.
5. Kayak through Marble Caves
Chile’s Patagonia is remarkably smaller than that of Argentina and yet it boasts countless noteworthy experiences that we find ourselves circling back to the region once again on our Chile bucket list.
Towering mountains and glacial lakes are synonymous with the famed outdoor destination, but have you heard of Chile’s Marble Caves?
Formed over thousands of years by wind-driven waves, the Capillas de Marmol are tucked away in the turquoise waters of General Carrera Lake. Reflecting the blue hues of the freshwater below, the solid marble walls of the caves appear to be a mesmerizing swirl of paint that only Mother Nature could achieve.
Located near the small town of Puerto Rio Tranquilo, the Marble Caves are best visited alongside a safe and experienced tour guide, which Kuoda can help arrange.
6. Step foot upon otherworldly landscapes in the Atacama Desert
From rainbow valleys to salt-rimmed lakes, the views witnessed in the expansive Atacama Desert are nothing short of dramatic— and far from what you would expect from a typical desert. To truly soak in the natural beauty, consider a hot air balloon ride over the Atacama Desert!
Valle del Arcoiris (Rainbow Valley) is a series of multicolored hills far off the beaten path that will wow you with its natural shades of green, red and white. Along the way you can check out petroglyphs depicting camelids, foxes and men. Nearby the Salar de Talar salt flats are two lakes rimmed by salt, beautifully juxtaposed by barren land. Surely you’ll catch the reflection of your hot air balloon ride in the gleaming water!
Finally, no trip to the Atacama Desert is complete without a proper stargazing experience. Just a few miles outside of San Pedro de Atacama town the night sky is clear enough to see twinkling stars with the naked eye— but allow Kuoda to customize a stargazing tour with telescopes for a jaw-dropping nocturnal viewing.
7. Delight your foodie and adventurous side in Pucón
A hub for adventure tourism, the mountain town of Pucón is located in the heart of the Lake District in central Chile. Visitors will be drawn to the Villarrica volcano, one of the most active in the South American nation. From Pucón’s ski center it is a four-hour walk up to the crater—but you can certainly shave an hour off the trip by taking a chairlift. After soaking up the unparalleled views overlooking Villarrica and Pucón, venture down a snowy volcano side in a toboggan.
If gaining proximity to bubbling molten rock is unappealing, opt for a hike in the remote forests of Huerquehue National Park. Hugged by lush mountains in the foothills of the Andes, the park covers 27,500 acres of pristine landscapes dotted with crystalline lakes and lagoons.
After a day spent traversing mountainsides or navigating the rapids of Rio Trancura, laze away the afternoon at the black lava lake La Poza. Just as well, the streets of Pucón are lined with restaurants and bars for those seeking a local nightlife experience and a taste of indigenous Mapuche cuisine.
8. Take a ferry to Chiloé, South America’s second-largest island
The largest island in its namesake archipelago, Chiloe is located off the coast of southern Chile and is revered for its tranquil landscapes and 17th-century wooden architecture. Chiloe, also referred to as Isla Grande, is the second-largest island in South America and is believed to be the remnant of a mountain range that sank during the Ice Age.
The slow pace of island life lingers in Chiloe, whose indigenous communities resisted Spanish influence and maintained the cultural destination’s relative isolation from the mainland until the end of the 20th century. Over 30 islands make up this archipelago, but before sailing about, check out what the big island has to offer.
Tour the wooden churches built by Jesuit missionaries four centuries ago, 16 of which are considered UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Hike or kayak your way through two national parks, the Chiloé and Tantauco, both of which will delight your eyes with their enduring shades of green.
9. Cross Easter Island off your international bucket list
Better known by its English name than its original Polynesian name, Rapa Nui, the mystical Easter Island continues to fascinate globetrotters despite having been well photographed. Located 2,200 miles off the coast of mainland Chile, Easter Island is a remote destination renowned for hosting iconic and mysterious moai statues. Often referred to as the ‘Easter Island heads,’ these towering statues were carved from volcanic ash.
Take a full-day bike tour to navigate your way around the tiny island, stopping at various archeological and cultural sites along the way. In between, soft sand beaches lure you to hop off your two wheels to spend a relaxing moment seaside or to take a scuba diving session. One of Kuoda’s favorite stops is the stunning white coral beach, Anakena, where warm and calm waters welcome travelers throughout the year.
10. Discover your favorite waterfall in Chilean Patagonia
Southern Chile harbors numerous cascades that are worth adding to your customized travel itinerary with Kuoda. In the Torres del Paine National Park specifically, Kuoda can point out a handful of jaw-dropping waterfalls that any nature lover will not want to miss.
With powder blue water from the Paine River rushing forth and dropping nearly 60 feet, Salto Grande (Big Jump) is the largest waterfall in Chile. You can hike to the top and look out over the brink for an exciting view of the glacier-fed cascade. Keep your eyes out for guanacos (a wild camelid) frolicking in the area.
In the same park, travelers can feast their eyes on a two-tier waterfall, Cascada del Leon (Lion Waterfall). Surrounded by dense vegetation, the chilly pools at the base of the cascade can be a refreshing welcome to the nearby city of Puerto Aysen.
11. Porvenir and Tierra del Fuego National Park
How many travelers can say they have been to the world’s southernmost national park? Add an excursion to the Tierra del Fuego National Park to your customized Chile travel itinerary. Though it is technically in the Argentine section of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, the park borders Chile and is therefore accessible.
Learn about the living indigenous cultures that not only populate this region but controlled it up until a few decades short of the 20th century. Take a short boat ride to visit penguin colonies, witness soaring eagles upon a hike or canoe alongside a southern river otter.
Though Porvenir is the most populated town in Tierra del Fuego, it is a tranquil destination to host your stay at the so-called ‘end of the world.’ Located just 25 miles from Punta Arenas, this isolated town is the ideal place to jot down your travel notes and prepare for the next adventure.
12. Experience vibrant urban culture and art in Valparaiso
Known for its colorful bohemian vibe and steep funiculars, Chile’s trendiest port city, Valparaiso, is an inescapable ‘must’ on any traveler’s bucket list. Known as the ‘Jewel of the Pacific,’ Valparaiso is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with spirited surprises around every corner.
Catch a ride on a funicular to reach Cerro Alegre, a neighborhood packed with cafes, bars, galleries and street art. Tour La Sebastiana, one of famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s, quirky homes. Dine at one of the city’s best restaurants in the historic Cerro Concepcion neighborhood. Wind down with a sunset walk along the Paseo Ruben Dario, a green pathway honoring the Nicaraguan poet who lived a creative and prolific life in Chile.
Rich in culture, history and style, Valparaiso is an exciting destination for travelers of all ages and interests!