Within moments of arriving in Chile, it becomes clear why it was awarded the prestigious title of “South America’s Leading Adventure Tourism Destination” in the 2016 World Travel Awards. The mountain fringe that overlooks Santiago – otherwise known as the Andes Mountains – is a quick hint at how Chile holidays are synonymous with adventure.
Extending from 17° south to 56° at Cape Horn, Chile hosts seven distinct climatic subtypes – from desert in the north, to alpine tundra and glaciers in the south, to Mediterranean climates in the center. It’s for this very reason that the conditions for adventurous Chile holidays are second to none, and visitors will quickly find an activity to suit their holiday style.
Planning Chile holidays to explore the country’s most adventurous sights
An extensive tourism infrastructure, including a glut of high-quality Chile vacation tour operators and a well-connected network of flights and buses, make this country easy to traverse. Holidaymakers to Chile will find a range of adventurous activities from all of its regions at their feet.
Explore Chile’s rivers and coasts
From vibrant glacial lakes, roaring rivers, calm fjords and the stormy seas of the ocean, there is a whole choice of waters for experiencing an adventure vacation in Chile. The top locations for water activities are:
- Rafting: The undisputed rafting capital of the Americas, Futaleufú in the Los Lagos Region is home to Class V, globally-renowned whitewater rafting and kayaking.
- Cruise ships: Various boats and tour agencies follow in the watery footsteps of some of the most historically-significant journeys of all time either by rounding the dangerous seas of Cape Horn at the very southern point of Chile, or exploring the calmer waters of the Chilean fjords and channels which are replete with opportunities for viewing wildlife.
- Surfing: Pichilemu, a beach located south west of Santiago, is considered by local surfers to be one of the best destinations for surfing holidays in Chile. With regular waves (but freezing waters), it’s popular for surfers of all levels, and is located near to Punta de Lobos, which holds the National Surfing Competition annually.
Trekking through virgin rainforest and snow-capped peaks
Although the Circuit and ‘W’ trek of the Torres del Paine National Parks are the most famous, Chile is home to a whole host of trekking trails for guided and self-guided Chile holidays, including:
Parque Nacional Huerquehue near Pucón has multiple-day hikes to explore sensational waterfalls and views towards the dominating cone of Volcán Villarica. Nearby hot springs also provide welcome relief from a day’s walking.
Parque Nacional Conguillío, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is home to Chile’s most active volcano, Volcán Llaima and a series of hiking trails.
Villa Cerro Castillo is the start of a multi-day hike up to the impressive Cerro Castillo, with views of a hanging glacier and the Carretera Austral.
Parque Nacional Radal Siete Tazas has a good infrastructure of tourist cabins and a network of trails through the park, including a short day-hike to visit the seven water-eroded “cups” (and subsequent waterfalls) that make up the name of the park.
Alongside the famous trails through the Torres del Paine National Park, trekkers can take organized ice walks across Glacier Grey and enjoy views of the park from an entirely different perspective.
Volcano ascents to see molten lava
If conventional mountains don’t appeal, adventure seekers on holiday in Chile should book themselves onto a volcano ascent.
Volcán Villarica: one of the most popular in all of Chile, Volcán Villarrica is accessible from Pucón in the Araucanía Region. This challenging hike requires a guide to reach the summit, where the open crater offers views of molten lava. The way down is much faster than the ascent: the 4-6 hour climb becomes a 1-2 hour slide – on your behind.
Ojos del Salado: the highest active volcano in the world, this 22,615 ft. (6,900 m) monster borders Argentina and Chile, but is more easily climbed from the Chilean side in the Atacama Region. Although not considered too strenuous a hike, the altitude can certainly add to the challenge, so altitude acclimatization before attempting the summit is recommended.