Top 7 Places to See When Visiting in Chile

Having traveled a bit through Chile (though, admittedly, I missed some places I hear are worth exploring like Valdivia), I thought I’d share what I would recommend as a good itinerary for those with time (but not boundless time either).   I will either expand on some of the items below in other entries or they have been covered already in entries I already made (true for the Atacama and Patagonia bits).

Valley of the Moon, Valle de la Luna, Chile, Atacama, desert, desierto, mountain, color, purple, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

The Valle de la Luna is one of the key sights in the Atacama Desert

Chile offers a wide range of landscapes due to the fact that it runs a long way in the latitude dimension, therefore, the climates along the country vary significantly.  The presence of the Andes clearly has a major effect in the climate as well as provides a great backdrop to many of the places you should see (heck, sometimes it is not just the backdrop but part of what you will explore).

Cueva Milodón, Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile, travel, nature, outdoors, view, amazing, vista, mountains, clouds, snow, greem

View near the Cueva del Milodón near Torres del Paine

A trip to Chile typically starts of in Santiago, its capital, though one can enter the country from any of the neighboring countries in places like the Atacama, Pucon, the lake district, or Patagonia.

Valley of the Moon, Atacama, desert, Chile, desierto, San Pedro, landscape, nature

In the Atacama Desert, near the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon)

Here are my top 7 places to have in your itinerary to explore wonderful Chile (most of the items below have a hyperlink to posts I wrote about each place with plenty of photos!):

  1. Patagonia/Tierra del Fuego including Torres del Paine, fjords, glaciers, etc. (8-10 days).  Only reasonable way is to fly down from Santiago, about 4 hours.  The flight may be direct or may make a stop in Puerto Montt which means you could also spend a few days in the area around Puerto Montt!  I went and booked a series of tours at a local agency in Puerto Arenas once I arrived there – great way to do it as they explained what things there were to see and then they connected the dots for me in terms of transport and tickets.  As a solo traveler with only 4-5 days, it was a great way to maximize the visit.  The second time, 5 years later, I focused on hiking the ‘W’ circuit of the Torres del Paine, a 5-day endeavor with Puerto Natales being the starting point.
  2. San Pedro de Atacama and nearby sites in the Atacama desert (4-6 days).  If you go from Santiago, it is about a 2-hr flight to Calama and then catch a bus ride at the airport (about 1 hr or so to reach San Pedro).  The Atacama desert is the driest desert in the world which is mind-blowing as it is so close to the Pacific Ocean.  From seeing the salt lakes, the altiplano, the Valley of the Moon, and the geysers to watching the multiple types of flamingos fly by to enjoy what feels like (but really is not) a true frontier town, San Pedro and the vicinity is a spectacular place in this planet.  I only spent a 3-day holiday weekend there while working in Santiago and, while we saw the key sights, I was left wanting more time to chill and explore more.
  3. Puerto Montt, the Lake District, and Chiloé (4-7 days).  About a two hour flight from Santiago.  Endless amount of sights to see:  the town of Frutillar, crossing the Andes into Argentina by crossing the lakes, the charming island of Chiloé, etc.  Notice the German colonists’ influence in the area.  Driving around best but there are other ways to see it.
  4. Pucón and the Villarica area (3-6 days).  A long drive from Santiago (about 8 hours), it showcases nature at its best.  We went white water rafting down the Trancura and stayed at a lakeside hotel that felt like ‘peace’ personified.
  5. Valparaíso (2 days) A little less than an hour and a half’s drive from Santiago, it is charming and colorful.  Explore the various funiculars (“ascensores”) available so people do not have to climb MASSIVE staircases to reach the areas atop the hills of the city.  But do be careful:  some of the areas of town you get to with them are higher crime areas (we were warned by a local as we went up one of the funiculars!).  Some of the funiculars are more storied (some dated from the 1880s!) or peculiar than others so worth researching a little.  Add on next-door Viña del Mar and its beaches to the visit but they don’t rank up there in my book in terms of beaches.
  6. Santiago (2-4 days) A city is a city is a city – but I find it worth exploring.  It is not Paris but I love this city for its relative ‘calmness,’ its livability (I spent most of a year there with work), and its proximity to the amazing Andes.  Good food, and lovely and diverse neighborhoods make it worth the visit.  In the right season, ski resorts are really close (Valle Nevado being one of them) and the beach just an hour and a half away.  Wineries nearby too…  Do I need to say more?
  7. Mendoza (2-3 days minimum) OK, this is Argentina but it is almost in Chile (and seems more Chilean than Argentine in temperament…) and easier to get to from Santiago than from anywhere else!  It is a very short flight (less than an hour) from Santiago.  If you buy the ticket in Chile it is WAY cheaper than if you buy it abroad…

Puerto Natales, Chile, Patagonia, Canon EOS Rebel

A typical house in Puerto Natales, the closest town to Torres del Paine

A typical house in Puerto Natales, the closest town to Torres del Paine

Readers, please feel free to add or provide other perspectives.  I, by no means, saw EVERYTHING Chile has to offer!

Pin this to your travel board!top places see chile, exploring chile, what to see chile, suggested itinerary chile, best places to see chile

Þingvellir: Where History and Nature Meet in Iceland!

One of the key stops along the Golden Circle in Iceland (a nice day trip from Reykjavik) is Þingvellir (or “Thingvellir”, as the first letter is a “th”-ish sound), in the Þingvellir National Park.  It is a site of great importance both because of historic and geological reasons.  It was here than in the 10th century, Iceland’s parliament was set up less than 100 years after the island was populated by settlers from what is Norway today  And it stayed there until the very end of the 18th century!  Setting up this parliament was key in creating a unique Icelandic sense of nation.

The park is also the home of the largest lake in Iceland and it contains the crest of the rift valley in the mid-Atlantic.  As you walk in down a paved path, a large cliff wall on your left frames the scene.  It is an imposing wall!

Þingvellir, Parliament, Iceland, Golden Circle, history, signficant, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

As you walk down on it, you are shown to the spot where parliament was founded.  It is barely noticeable except for the flag pole and the framing put in place on the actual site – oh, and all the tourists!

Þingvellir, Parliament, Iceland, Golden Circle, history, signficant, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

See the flagpole in the distance?

Standing on the spot gives one a great view down to the valley.  But walk down to the water, perhaps the church and admire the cliff walls from below.

Þingvellir, Parliament, Iceland, Golden Circle, history, signficant, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Looking up to the site of the first parliament!

Þingvellir, Parliament, Iceland, Golden Circle, history, signficant, travel, photo, church

Church below the parliament site

But stop and admire the natural beauty of the site!Þingvellir, Parliament, Iceland, Golden Circle, history, signficant, travel, photo, nature

Þingvellir, Parliament, Iceland, Golden Circle, history, signficant, travel, photo, nature

Awesome land!

Þingvellir, Parliament, Iceland, Golden Circle, history, signficant, travel, photo, nature


Þingvellir, Parliament, Iceland, Golden Circle, history, signficant, travel, photo, nature, lava, rocks

The strata of lava point to the incredible geological uniqueness of Iceland

It was one of the first “sights” I visited in Iceland (after the Blue Lagoon) and it definitely help frame the country for me by marrying its history with its incredible landscapes!

——– More on Iceland ——–

My itinerary for my week visit to Iceland

A stroll around Reykjavik

Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik

Postcards from Iceland:  Dalvík

The Blue Lagoon

Goðafoss:  The Waterfalls of the Gods

A Northern Town:  Akureyri

Whale Watching

Iceland’s South Shore:  The Dyrhólaey Peninsula and Vik


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