Chile Travel Guide

By Admin | Last Updated August 27, 2019

Chile, also called the Republic of Chile, is a country located in South America. The Andes Mountains is on the eastern side and the Pacific Ocean is to its west. It is surrounded by Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and the Drake Passage. The Pacific Islands, Juan Fernandez, Salas y Gomez, Easter Island and Desventuradas are also part of Chile.

Chile is amongst the longest countries in the world, 4300 km from north to south. The main attractions are the long coast, Andes, ski resorts, mountains, volcanoes, archipelagos and islands. The country boasts of 14 natural monuments, 10 biosphere reserves, 36 National parks, 39 sanctuaries, 12 wetlands and 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Atacama in 2015 was selected amongst the top ten destinations by Lonely Planet. It is truly a destination with all forms of natural landscapes.

Chile was the eight popular destinations in the Americas in 2010. In 2017, it had ranked 18th in the worlds tourism powerhouse. It has also seen a fast growth in international tourist spending. 6449993 tourists entered the country in 2017, while 2018 saw a slight decrease with 5722900 tourists. Argentinian tourists visited Chile the most followed by the Brazilians and Europeans.

The top places to be visited in Chile include Valparaiso, Atacama and Chilean Patagonia. Chile offers diverse climatic conditions, variety of landforms, active volcanoes, wide range of food (from beef to sea food), art & culture and serenity.

Chile is lovingly known as “pais del poetas” i.e. “country of poets”. Two of the reputed literary figures belong to Chile, Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda.

Chile – Quick Facts

  1. Measuring 2,653 miles from north to south, Chile has distinction of being the longest country in the world.
  2. As per, 2017 census Chile had a population of 17,574, 003 inhabitants. The population includes native Mapuches, apart from immigrants like Austrians and Dutch.
  3. Christianity is the major religion in the country, with 55% belonging to Roman Catholicism, 13% Evangelical and 7% of others.
  4. Chilean Spanish is spoken in Chile apart from other indigenous languages like Mapudungun, Quechua, Aymara and Rapa Nui.
  5. Chilean Peso is the official currency with CLP$ as symbol.
  6. Santiago is the capital city.
  7. There are almost 90 active volcanoes in Chile. It is also home to the highest live volcano, namely Ojos del Salado. It stands at a height of 6,893 meters.
  8. Chile celebrates Independence Day every year with Fiestas Patrias, on the 18th and 19th of September.
  9. The driest place on the earth is located in Chile. It is none other than Atacama Desert. It is also the oldest desert on earth, as believed.
  10. The biggest swimming pool is located in Chile. It is in Algarrobo city in the Pacific coast.
  11. Chile is a founding member of the United Nations.
  12. The history of Chile and its original inhabitants goes back to 18,000 years.
  13. Penguins have been spotted all over in Chile, unlike other places.
  14. Chile is one of the few countries, which has a government backed UFO research centre.
  15. Easter Island, famous for its Moai statues, is geographically in Polynesia but officially belongs to Chile.

The oldest mummy in the world is Chilean and not Egyptian. The child mummy found at Camarones valley is supposed to date back to 5050 B.C.

Top Reasons to Visit Chile

Diverse Topography If you want to encounter the largest variety of landforms and life forms, Chile it is. It stretches from the northern mountains in Chile till Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia and finally finishes in Venezuela. Chile has nine climatic zones and experiencing each one of them, is a thrilling journey on its own. The diverse landscapes range from the driest Atacama to the tundra in the Chilean Antarctica zone.
Gastronomy If you are a gastronomy hunter, Chile should be on your must-visit destinations. It is a haven for meat and fish lovers. There are a good number of beef farms in the country. Sea food is another specialty in the geographically diverse zone. Chilean wine is popular around the world. You can find many breweries in the country. Pisco Liquor is another top draw of the Chile.
Serenity If you are in love with nature and serenity, then you should visit Chile. The country is sparsely populated, hence there are no crowds in certain areas. So, you can lap up the virgin place in its entire entirety.
Wildlife If you are a wildlife lover, you can find the best of them in Chile. The Chilean Guanaco, a distant relative of the llamas calls it their home. Condors, the largest flying birds of prey are also quite common in Chile. Both arctic and desert animals can be found in the country.
History If you are historically inclined, there is plenty in the form of art palaces and museums to satiate your hunger. You will find old buildings and monuments in Santiago and Valparaiso.
Art & Culture It has a rich film, theatre and literature culture. The most famous Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda called Chile home. He has written some of the best love poems and literature. There are many films of international repute that have been produced in Chile. Some famous Chilean actors are doing great movies. One of them being, Pedro Pascal.
Volcanoes If you are in love with volcanoes, Chile is for you. You can find almost 90 active volcanoes in Chile. Some of them are Cerro Arul, Cerro Hudson and Villarrica. These are almost always active, hence very closely monitored. Pucon, the small town in Southern Chile, is home to the Villarrica Volcano. You can ski, snowboard and engage in other snow sports there.
Photography Chile is every photographer’s top draw. This is one of the best places, in the world to practice photography. The varying landscapes, indigenous people and wild life add to the enigma. Snow covered volcanoes, dry deserts and snowy glaciers are top backgrounds that photographers dream about.

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UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Chile

Chile has 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites. The five sites are Churches of Chiloe, the Historic Quarter of the Seaport City of Valparaiso, Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works, Sewell Mining Town and Rapa Nui National Park. These are cultural hotspots woven into the very threads of the natural landscapes in Chile.

Visa & Customs

Chile visa is convenient to get and can be applied for online, However, you need to collect it in person. Chile issues short-term visas for up to 90 days. Visa fee depends, on the country of origin. Visitors from Australia and China have to pay reciprocity fee for visas.  There are many countries which are visa exempt as well, like Albania, Germany, Portugal, Ireland and many more. Tourists from Chile’s neighboring countries like Argentina, Brazil and others can enter into Chile by their ID Cards only.

The following can be imported by passengers arriving in Chile for free:

  • 400 cigarettes, 500 grams of pipe tobacco and 50 large or small cigars
  • Perfume for personal use of reasonable quantity
  • Alcoholic beverages - 2 1/2 liters
  • Gifts of value of US$ 300 or equivalent

Pets should conform to a number of tests, treatments, and certifications.

There are no restrictions on both local and foreign currencies though declaration is must if you are carrying more than US$10000.

  • Airport Tax – There is no airport tax in Chile.

Getting In and Around in Chile

Airports

Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez Airport is the main airport in Santiago that welcomes guests from all over the world into the country. It has some 20 odd carriers connecting Chile to the other parts of the globe. The main airline is LAN, that flies to some major cities like Madrid, Lima, Buenos Aires, San Paulo, to name a few. American Airlines also operates regular flights from Dallas, Texas and New York in the U.S.

The second largest airport in Chile is Carriel Sur International Airport, in Concepcion. LAN and Sky are the main airlines operating flights, though mainly domestic.

Flights operate between major cities and the prices are reasonable. Chile has 125 airports in total which connects the whole country. Even the remote corners of Chile are connected by air. There are airports at Antofagasta, Arica, Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas, well adept at handling both international and domestic flights. There is also one Mataveri International Airport in Easter Island that caters to flights to Santiago and Lima. There are low cost domestic carriers.

Buses

You can crossover from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru by bus service. Buses depart on regular basis from cities of these countries. But be aware that many of these buses travel through high altitude and bad road conditions. The Andean route sometimes remains closed during winter months.

Buses are the most convenient way to get around Chile. Buses travel frequently and have regular routes and are quite cheap. They are punctual too. For long distance journeys buses are preferred as well. Bus trips can be 24 hours – 40 hours in duration for long routes. The ticket prices vary with demand. 

Other Means of Transport

Taxis are also quite convenient and safe, if you know where to go. Car rentals offer better convenience and can be pre-booked. You can self drive or get a driver. Trains connect Santiago to a few cities too within Chile. Uber is found in big towns and you can share your rides too.

Santiago, which is the capital city, has underground metro system. It is a little expensive compared to buses.

Another way to travel in Chile for the adventurous is hitchhiking. If you have time and patience, you can save a lot of money and travel to different destinations in Chile.

Chile by Regions

Central Chile: Consisting of the main cities of Santiago and Valparaiso, this region is famous for seas, beaches, hills, gardens, vineyards, lakes, valleys and ski resorts. Located in the middle part of Chile, this part is known as the heart of Chile. The ski resorts are some of the best. Algarrobo (largest swimming pool), Pichilemu, Rancagua, O’Higgins are some of the tourist places in this region.

Easter Island: Known also as Isla de Pascua, the island in Pacific Ocean lying at about 3700 km from Chile mainland, is one of the most isolated island in the world. The UNESCO World heritage site of Rapa Nui National Park is on Easter Island. The island is famous for the Moai (monolithic figures of humans carved out of stone by the indigenous Rapa Nui people) and the Ahu (ceremonial platforms).

Extreme South: The Chilean Patagonia, Chilean Antartica and Magallanes make up this part of Chile in the southern most part of the country. Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, Torres del Paine National Park, Tierra del Fuego are the tourist places. Lakes, forest, ice-caps, fjords and the Patagonia are the main tourist attractions.

Northern Chile: The area of contrasts in Chile, the northern part has the Atacama Desert (the driest place in the world), Calle de Luna, El Tatio Geysers, the highest point in Chilean Andes in Nevado Ojos del Salado, archaeological ruins, and a few national parks like Lauca National Park. Arica, Antofagasta and Caldera are some of the cities here.

Southern Chile: Chile’s second biggest city Concepcion is in this region. Other places of interest are Pucon, Puerto Varas, Puerto Montt, Valdivia and Pumalin Park. Beaches, lakes, rivers, glacier (San Rafael) and Chiloe Island are the main attraction. This is the land of the Mapuches. Kayaking & rafting are for the adventurous.

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The Moai and Ahu are lawfully protected and damages to them could lead to severe punishment.

Tips for First-time Travelers to Chile

  • Chile is one of the easiest countries to navigate in South America. You might have to make a dozen visits to cover the country entirely. The weather is as diverse, so pack your clothes accordingly. At some places, it can be dry and some tundra-like conditions can prevail.
  • You need to brush up on the language, Chilean Spanish. The Spanish influence is such, that most of the population is into using cult words in the language.
  • Your daily budget might rise, if you are travelling to northern Chile. Restaurants, grocery stores etc. are quite expensive.
  • You need to carry an active passport, to travel and navigate through the cities. You need to carry a passport with six months, minimum validity. Fruits, veggies and open food are not allowed cross-border.
  • The currency Chilean Peso is a bit tricky. You need a currency converter app on your phone, to get your calculations right.
  • Tip is expected in Chile. They simply add 10 % to the bill and ask for your permission. 
  • Buses should be your primary option to commute across Chile.

Chile Weather

There are a number of microclimates in Chile. The climate is desert-like in the north, Mediterranean in the central, oceanic in the south and chilly in the Andes. The country is longitudinal in shape, hence this unique variation. The coastal regions have moderate climate, with land and sea breezes. The mountainous zones are chilly and arid all year around.

Most of the country has four seasons. The country experiences spring and summer from October to March. The weather is generally mild and pleasant at that time. Fall and winter brings along chilly winds and precipitation. However, making an exact projection for the area as a whole may be quite difficult, given the variation in landscape.

Northern Chile has dry temperatures. Central Chile has Mediterranean type of climate. The southern part is colder than the rest of the country. There tends to be a lot of precipitation. And, further south, land becomes inhospitable.

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Dine & Wine

The Chilean cuisine is a combination of local and Spanish influences. Germany, Italy and France also have an influence on Chilean cuisine. Fish, mollusks and algae form an important part of the food habits for those staying near the coasts. Some popular dishes worth trying are Completo, Pebre, Chilean Empanadas, Granados and many more. Chile is also one of the largest producers of wine in the region. Chile produces fine and quality wine, that too free of phylloxera.

How to Travel to Chile on a Budget

  • Travel in buses and shuttle from the airport to the hotel. This is far cheaper than the car or taxi on hire.
  • You can travel on a bike to save on unnecessary expenses. Many people travel on bikes.
  • Try to purchase package tours, as many attractions in Chile are in remote corners. Do, not try to navigate alone. And, by booking packages, you also get discounts.
  • If you are a wine connoisseur, buy Chilean wines by the bottles. Do not go for wine tasting sessions.
  • Choose road-side eateries over restaurants. Famous street foods that can leave you feeling happy at lesser prices are Empanadas de Pino, Chorrillana, Mote Con Huesillo, Completos and more.
  • Book the flights a month in advance. The places are pretty far away from each other, so other modes of transportation will take longer.
  • There are hotels, hostels, homes, camps and cabanas in Chile. Avoid travelling in January and February. If you are travelling in off season, ask for discounts. You get rooms by the hour in Motels.