Running long and narrow in the Pacific Ocean, Chile is a nature nirvana, with glaciers in the south, desert in the north and the Andes and Chilean Coast Range mountains sweeping right through. This means that, aside from needing to pack your winter boots as well as your flip-flops, Chile is the perfect destination for once in a lifetime experiences.
These phenomenal landscapes, unique to this skinny mini of a country, mean there’s a huge amount of fun to be had. If you need to narrow it down, here are seven unmissable things to do in Chile.
1. Trying the vino
Chileans are connoisseurs when it comes to wine, and Casillero del Diablo is Chile’s most famous wine, having made its way to more than 140 countries. It originated in the Concha y Toro winery in Santiago and you can visit the actual vineyard and taste the wine right at its source.
Other places worth visiting for the grapes alone include Casablanca, Santa Cruz and San Javier. They have some of Chile’s best vineyards and tend to offer daily tours so you can sip, slurp and gulp your way to dizzying times.
2. Bathe in the forest
Everybody loves a hot spring, and most backpackers love a jungle adventure – Chile is one place where you can combine your love of the two.
Termas Geometricas is based in a forest canyon in Panguipulli and is an Asian-inspired labyrinth of red walkways, grass covered huts and dreamy mist hovering between the 17 naturally heated pools. You can undress, submerge and feel at one with nature as you watch the forest surroundings and relax in the bubbles.
3. Explore the world’s largest swimming pool
From springs to swimming pools, Chileans love basking in water and the San Alfonso del Mar resort in Algarrobo holds the Guinness World Record for the largest swimming pool at 3,324 feet long!
It’s so big you may not want to attempt a lap but instead opt for kayaking or paddle boarding your way around this mammoth of a pool.
4. Fly over the driest desert in the world
The city of Iquique lies on Chile’s northern coast and is flanked by the sands of the Atacama Desert on one side and some of Chile’s most beautiful beaches on the other. While the beaches offer enough of a draw for a visit to Iquique, along with the surf and casinos, the best activity to do here is to paraglide over the sand dunes.
Atacama only sees, on average, 1mm of rain per year, which means that your flight is unlikely to ever be cancelled – there’s a reason they call it the paragliding paradise of South America. It’s also pretty much the only way of exploring Dragon Hill, the largest urban sand dune in the world and one of Chile’s most amazing sights.
5. Eat authentic curanto
As the national dish of Chile, you’d expect that it be made with love, not with dirt in a hole in the ground. But when it comes to curanto, that’s the traditional way of making the dish.
Mixing seafood and meat along with some leaves and a few dumplings, the locals then pile it all into the hole and heat it up with hot stones. It’s best to try this dish in the Chiloe archipelago, just south of Puerto Montt, where the dish originated.
6. Get up close to guanacos
A guanaco is a little like a llama and is part of the same family as the camel. A rare creature, they’re native to South American countries like Chile. At the Torres del Paine National Park, the southern tip of the Andes in the Patagonia region, you can see them up close as they roam the rugged, grassy grounds.
Aside from spotting the guanaco, you might also spot other Chile wildlife like pumas or Andean condor birds, the largest land birds in the world.
7. Stay on Easter Island
Known as Rapa Nui by locals, Easter Island is one of the world’s most mysterious islands, shrouded in history blurred by legend. Being so close to mainland Chile, you couldn’t not take the five-hour flight to discover what all the fuss is about. Of course, seeing the 900 famous, eerie statues created between the 13th and 19th centuries are the biggest things to do, but once you’ve seen the moai there’s lots more to discover.
Explore the island on foot, bike or even on horseback before sprawling out on the dreamy beach expanses. From there, venture into the waters where there are perfect places for surfing, snorkelling and diving. You can stay in one of the island’s many eco villages and get yourself a fix of the magic behind this ancient landscape.