Visitors to Chile were up 26 percent in 2016 to 5.64 million. European travelers, in particular—with Italians leading the way (+24 percent)—are boosting tourism to the country.
From the various volcanoes scattered across this South American country—which stretches more than 2,600 miles from north to south—to the arid Atacama desert and its salty scenery, Chile promises stunning natural scenery and unforgettable travel experiences.
1. Mysterious Easter Island
More than 2,000 miles off the Chilean coast, one of the world’s most remote inhabited islands intrigues travelers with its mysterious stone statues. Whether arriving on Easter Island by plane from Santiago or by boat, visitors are curious to find out how these monumental statues, known as “moai”, ended up on this isolated island. With a total area of just 63.2 square miles the island can be easily explored by scooter, for example. It has a selection of hotels, most of which require a comfortable budget, but lower-cost campsites are also available.
2. Sunset at the Salar d’Atacama
Starting from San Pedro de Atacama, adventurers can enjoy a day filled with amazing sights as they head off to discover one of Chile’s most iconic natural attractions. This salt flat, which is one of the world’s largest sources of lithium, is at its most stunning at sunset. The landscape seems unreal and otherworldly, with salty deposits that look almost like snow. Pink flamingoes are the star attraction, often seen strolling around the lagoon.
3. Climbing the Villarrica volcano
Look out for organized hiking and trekking trips to the summit of one of Chile’s most active volcanoes, rising to an altitude of 2,847 meters. Accompanied by a professional guide, travelers can get an up-close look at the volcanic crater. The summit is reached by ski lift or on cross-country skis. In winter, it’s possible to descend by snowboard or sledge. Once at the summit, visitors are rewarded with incredible views, looking out over the region’s lakes and volcanoes.
4. Chilean wine tasting in the Colchagua Valley
The Colchagua Valley is a great place to combine wine-tasting with a scenic excursion. Chilean wine is recognized for its quality all around the world, and the Colchagua Valley—a two-hour drive from the capital, Santiago—is a perfect place to sample the county’s delights. Day trips take visitors around the region’s cellars, sampling its renowned cabernet sauvignon.
5. Experience the El Tatio geyser field
San Pedro de Atacama, which shares its name with the famous Chilean desert, is also the starting point for excursions to another of Chile’s sensational natural sights: its geysers. In general, tourists arrive before sunrise to admire the columns of steam rising from the geysers in the cool morning air. The steam plumes then disappear as the air warms up. Visitors can even take a dip in a thermal pool of hot geyser water.