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More than 2,500 miles long but, on average, a mere 100 miles in width, Chile offers a vast array of landscapes and experiences.

You’ll find cosmopolitan cities, dramatic scenery, the jagged spine of the Andes, and the wildlife wonders of whales, penguins, and condors.

In central Chile, the landscape is lush, with rolling vineyards. Puerto Montt, meanwhile, is the gateway to the glorious Lake District, all shimmering water and snow-capped volcanoes.

Further south, the wilds of Patagonia beckon. Punta Arenas, one of the world’s most southerly towns, is a base for exploring the savage beauty of Tierra del Fuego, Magdalena Island, and the windswept point of Cape Horn.

Here are 14 of the best things to do in Chile.

See the Penguins on Magdalena Island, Punta Arenas

Magellanic penguins in Magdalena Island, Punta Arenas

Magellanic penguins

Magdalena Island, close to Punta Arenas in the far south, has the largest penguin colony in southern Chile. From November through March, the spring and summer here, 60,000 pairs gather to mate.

These Magellanic penguins normally pair for life and it’s amazing they can find each other amid a horde of seemingly identical birds. The island is barren and featureless, apart from a lonely lighthouse, but they return to the same burrow year after year.

Penguins wandering around Los Pingüinos Natural Monument

Los Pingüinos Natural Monument, Punta Arenas

To see Los Pingüinos Natural Monument, you will have to join a guided tour as the penguins are protected. The boat trip out and back is a chance to look out for whales and dolphins as well.

While you’re on the island, follow the marked trails and give way to the penguins as they bustle about, squabbling, tending their burrow, and feeding their chicks.

Read: Where to See Penguins in South America

Join a Street Art Tour of Valparaiso

Quaint town of Valparaiso


The hills ringing Valparaiso’s bay are covered in houses painted in bright colors. Cobbled alleys and steep steps up the hillside sport even brighter shades, and striking murals for which the city has become famous.

The murals are the chief draw for visitors. Their themes range from social or political issues through scenic to others that seem just pure fun. One thing’s for sure, though: this is one of the finest displays of street art you’ll find anywhere in the world.

View from the funicular in Valparaiso


One of the best things to do in Valparaiso is to take a guided tour that will show off some of the best art, while you learn more about the city. Its famous funiculars take much of the work out of climbing and bring you to wonderful viewpoints.

Trek Magallanes National Reserve, Punta Arenas

Visit Magallanes National Reserve, one of the best things to do in Chile

Magallanes National Reserve, Punta Arenas Photo by Natalia Reyes Escobar on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Just a short drive from Punta Arenas, this large reserve is a can’t-miss destination when you visit Patagonia, notable for its atmospheric, moss-covered, native trees, and unusual birdlife. You might even see puma tracks, or a fox.

Birdwatchers will want to tick off some of the most intriguing animals in Patagonia, such as the austral pygmy owl, Patagonian sierra finch or chimango caracara.

Austral pygmy owl spotted in Chile

Austral pygmy owl

Although there are some 35 miles of trails, the reserve is split into many smaller walks. A “reduced mobility” option is even available, and its many information signs make it a good choice for anybody.

Being this far south, you can expect rain and cool temperatures, so dress accordingly. There is not much elevation gain on most walks but where there is—such as Mount Fenton—you will have great views of Punta Arenas, the Strait of Magellan, and the island of Tierra del Fuego.

Get Active in Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, Puerto Montt

Visit Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, one of the best things to do in Chile

Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, Puerto Montt

The oldest park in the country, near Puerto Montt, protects a land of volcanoes, lakes and forest. Together with Puyehue National Park and two adjacent parks in Argentina, it preserves 6,000 square miles of the Andes and its foothills on both sides.

River in Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, Puerto Montt

Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, Puerto Montt

This makes it a refuge for those who love hiking, skiing, horseback riding, fishing, and boating, ideal for couples on a South American honeymoon. The fish are mainly imported species such as salmon and trout, as erratic volcanic activity allowed few indigenous fish to thrive.

For less active visitors, or those relaxing afterwards, hot springs are another treat. Birdwatchers will also enjoy the 80 species to be seen, while other unusual plants and mammals thrive in the native forests.

Take in the View from Cerro de la Cruz, Punta Arenas

View from Cerro de la Cruz, Punta Arenas

Cerro de la Cruz, Punta Arenas

This mirador (lookout) is on a hill overlooking the rooftops of Punta Arenas. More than that, of course, it is the view from the end of a continent.

View from Cerro de la Cruz, Punta Arenas

Cerro de la Cruz, Punta Arenas

You can climb the stairs to the mirador, or take a taxi. On a rainy day, the view can be obscured, so check the weather.

Photographers will love the collection of colorful signposts here, pointing to various places around the world. A small group of artisans also ensure there is a shopping opportunity for local crafts.

Out to sea is the Strait of Magellan, and Tierra Del Fuego. Beyond is wherever your imagination soars: Cape Horn, the deep Southern Ocean, and Antarctica.

Round Cape Horn

Round Cape Horn, one of the best things to do in Chile

Cape Horn

Cape Horn looms large in the history of human exploration. Sailing around it, you are following in the wakes of Magellan, Drake, and generations of sailors for whom this was the ultimate challenge.

Sailing ships preferred the open seas of the Drake Passage to the rocks of the Strait of Magellan. But that meant facing currents that could run around the hemisphere without hitting land.

View of Cape Horn from the water

Cape Horn

Books from the great age of sail describe howling winds and shattering waves. In modern ships, the passage has become routine but it will hopefully never lose its emotional impact on all who go “down to the sea in ships”.

Wander Through Museo Maggiorino Borgatello, Punta Arenas

View inside Museo Maggiorino Borgatello, Punta Arenas

Museo Maggiorino Borgatello, Punta Arenas Photo by Balou46 on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

This museum in Punta Arenas is a labor of love from the Catholic Salesian missionaries who first arrived here in 1887. It is based on their accumulated ethnological, historical and biological knowledge.

The museum has expanded from its earliest days into the four-story building it is now. Dry history is brought to life with many unique artifacts, including tools and costumes.

Historic site of Cave of the Hands in Patagonia

Cave of the Hands

One highlight is the recreation of the Cave of the Hands in Patagonia. Dating back between 3,000 and 9,000 years ago, these colorful paintings of hands and animals were done by the very first people to live here.

Equally fascinating are the personal belongings and photos of Father Alberto De Agostini. He mapped the region in the early 1900s, and his haunting photos are the last shadow of a vanished way of life.

Visit Viña del Mar, Valparaiso

Quaint town of Viña del Mar, Valparaiso

Viña del Mar

If you have visited Valparaiso before, why not explore further afield in the nearby resort of Vina del Mar? Well known for great South American beaches, it’s also called “Garden City” for its parks and greenery.

View inside Parque Quinta Vergara, del Mar

Parque Quinta Vergara, Viña del Mar

To see why, visit Parque Quinta Vergara with its gardens laid out around the neo-Gothic-style Palacio Vergara. If you like flowers, then also check out the colorful Reloj de Flores (Flower Clock), built along the seafront for the 1962 World Cup.

While most visitors head straight for the beach, it’s worth seeing the elegant Casino, the oldest in the country. Another must-see is the Easter Island moai statue outside Museo Fonck, an archaeological museum with some fascinating exhibits.

Spend a Day on a Sheep Farm, Punta Arenas

Sheep in Chile


Estancia Olga Teresa is a farm that has been family owned since the 1920s. The present generation has opened it to visitors for a unique experience.

Sheep herding and sheep shearing demonstrations help you understand the skills involved in the “huaso” way of life. A huaso is the Chilean equivalent of the better-known Argentine gaucho, or cowboy.

The common bond of these skilled horsemen is to their horses. The estancia has a fine stable of Chilean criollo, a breed descended from horses brought to the Americas by the first Spanish Conquistadors.

Plate of Patagonian lamb

Patagonian lamb

A shared meal of Patagonian lamb, roasted on the barbecue, highlights the best of Chilean cuisine. Local dances and music also illustrate the self-contained entertainment of these remote farms.

Condor spotted in Chile


The estancia is also home to a large colony of condors, so you may be lucky enough to see these magnificent South American birds. Other species, such as caranchos, Magallan geese, or black-chested eagles can also be spotted.

Go Sightseeing in Santiago

Plaza in Santiago


Any visitor to Valparaiso with the time to spare will enjoy the drive to Santiago. Passing through the beautiful vineyards of the Casablanca Valley, it’s a chance to see much of Chile’s variety in a short distance.

Street view of Metropolitan Cathedral, Santiago

Metropolitan Cathedral, Santiago

In the capital itself, highlights include the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art and the Metropolitan Cathedral. Nobel-winning poet Pablo Neruda’s home of La Chascona is now a museum dedicated to his life and work.

Cousiño Palace is an opulent house inspired by Versailles and built in 1878. Its gardens and beautifully restored interiors are best appreciated on a guided tour.

Street view of La Alameda, Santiago

La Alameda, Santiago

Orientate yourself on the east-west line of the Avenida Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins, better known as La Alameda. Line 1 of the Santiago Metro runs under it, connecting its many impressive buildings and monuments.

Cable car in Santiago


The gleaming statue of the Virgin Mary atop Cerro San Cristobal is visible from all over the city. Take the cable car to the top of this central hill to take in the panoramic views of some of the best places in Chile.

Go Aboard at the Museo Nao Victoria, Punta Arenas

Nao Victoria ship in Museo Nao Victoria, Punta Arenas

Museo Nao Victoria, Punta Arenas

This private museum is a tiny gem for its faithful replicas of some very historic ships. These include Ferdinand Magellan’s “Nao Victoria”, and Ernest Shackleton’s “James Caird” lifeboat.

“Nao Victoria” was the only ship of Magellan’s fleet to complete the circumnavigation of the globe for the first time. The “James Caird” undertook an 800-mile voyage that is considered one of the greatest feats of navigation in history.

Replica of HMS Beagle in Museo Nao Victoria, Punta Arenas

Museo Nao Victoria, Punta Arenas Photo by Wolfgang Fricke on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY 3.0

“HMS Beagle”, the ship that first carried naturalist Charles Darwin around the world, is another notable replica. All these vessels accomplished feats that seem even more remarkable when you see how small they actually are.

Apart from its ships, the museum has costumes, artifacts and paintings that bring history to life. You will leave with a real sense of how hard life was for those early sailors.

Taste the Wines of Casablanca Valley, Valparaiso

Lush vineyard of Casablanca Valley

Indomita Vineyard, Casablanca Valley

The wine-growing Casablanca Valley is an hour inland from Valparaiso. Famed for sauvignon blancs and chardonnays, its Pacific Coast climate is similar to California’s Sonoma Valley.

A good place to start is the Indomita Vineyard. Looking like a very modern white castle on a hill, this winery immediately lets you know it’s a bit out of the ordinary.

Wine tasting in Casablanca Valley

Wine tasting in Casablanca Valley

On a wine tasting tour, you can sample all the region has to offer. Pairings will also introduce you to the best of Chilean cuisine, including its fine cheeses.

As the Chilean wine industry has blossomed on the world stage, so have its producers grown in confidence and diversity. You will discover that, no matter how good you think Chilean wine is abroad, they sensibly keep some of the best for themselves.

Explore Fort Bulnes, Punta Arenas

Historical site of Fort Bulnes

Fort Bulnes, Punta Arenas

Looking like the sort of wooden U.S. Cavalry fort you might see in a Western movie, Fuerte Bulnes was built in 1843 to guard the Strait of Magellan. A planned settlement around it never materialized due to the harsh conditions and it was soon abandoned in favor of Punta Arenas.

Old church in Fort Bulnes, Punta Arenas

Fort Bulnes, Punta Arenas

This reconstruction from a century later allows you to understand the difficulties those pioneers faced here. There’s a church, housing, stables, jail and powder magazine.

For Chileans, this fort has deep significance as the place where their country first established the rule of government this far south. It is also where the newly independent nation’s first children were born in this region.

Enjoy Todos Los Santos Lake, Puerto Montt

Visit Todos Los Santos Lake, one of the best things to do in Chile

Todos Los Santos Lake, Puerto Montt

Protected within the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park near Puerto Montt, this vast lake was once a vital ferry link to Argentina. That connection is now a scenic tourism route, but the lake’s beauty makes it a destination in its own right.

Its emerald-green hue means it is still often called by the former name of Lake Esmeralda, given to it by 16th-century colonists. The color comes from rock powder, the result of glacial erosion, suspended in the water.

View of Todos Los Santos Lake, Puerto Montt with Osorno Volcano

Todos Los Santos Lake, Puerto Montt

Surrounded by steep, snow-peaked mountains, the lake has some lovely walking paths around it. The still-active volcanoes of Osorno and Puntiagudo, both over 8,000 feet tall, add to the striking panoramas.

Read: Best Countries in South America to Visit

Skyline of Puerto Montt

Puerto Montt

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