South America was continent #5 for us but with so many different countries, amazing sites, and cultures to explore, we found it hard to choose a place where we could make the most of our 2 weeks of vacation time. We chose Chile because it seemed to offer a variety of unique natural landscapes, vibrant cities with great food & nightlife, and because we had always dreamed of visiting Patagonia.
Chile is not a big country but it is very narrow & long and many of the best sites are spread throughout the country which makes it hard to visit them all in a short period of time. We chose to fly between them & only spend a few days in each place but we would definitely recommend more than 2 weeks in Chile if you have the time.
If you are planning a visit to South America, we cannot recommend Chile enough & here are the TOP 5 places to see there:
1. Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia
This is the most beautiful place we have seen in the world. The park has amazing views no matter which way you turn and many long and short hiking trail options (ranging from 8 hours to 10 days). The best day hike is Mirador Las Torres which takes you up to the base of the Torres and offers a spectacular view of the Torres & the crystal blue glacial lake right below it. This place is very special to us because this is where Tony proposed after 7 years of dating!
2. Piedras Rojas, Atacama Desert
The Atacama desert is the driest non-arctic desert in the world & is home to many unique natural landscapes. Out of all of the unique landscapes to visit, we found the most beautiful to be Piedras Rojas. It is a valley filled with red rock formations surrounded by white sand, turquoise water & grey mountains that look like they were painted.
When you visit, you will either fly into or take a bus to San Pedro de Atacama, a small but cute town that is fueled by tourism. Tip: There are many tour operators here so make sure you shop around & ask your accommodation for the places with the best deals. We booked a 1 day tour that visited the salt lakes (which you can swim in), the Flamingoes National Reserve, Valley of the Moon, and Piedras Rojas which we would highly recommend because the drive & the stops along the way were amazing too. Also, make sure you bring layers because it does get cold & windy because of the high elevation.
Valparaiso is a small ocean side town just a 1.5 hour bus trip from Santiago that is filled with colored houses & bright and intricate street murals. Walls, utility boxes, lamp posts and alleys are covered in spectacular pieces of art which bring life to what would usually be a dark & dreary space. We spent a day and a half roaming the streets to see all the different murals and stopped in cute shops and restaurants for meals.
4. Vineyards near Santiago
Chile has some of the oldest vines in the world and there are plenty of vineyards to choose from right outside of Santiago. You can book a tour that takes you to different vineyards or you can do what we did which was take an uber or a bus to the vineyards right outside the city. We visited Vina Undurraga – not one of the biggest & most famous ones but charming & beautiful – where we took a tour of the property and got to sample many different wines. The guide was very friendly and informative & the wines were delicious!
5. Laguna Chaxa, Atacama Desert
Located in the Flamingo National Reserve, Laguna Chaxa is the perfect place to see flamingos in the wild. This was the first stop on our tour in the Atacama Desert and was a great place to see how animals survive & thrive in such a harsh environment.
These are the top 5 places to visit in Chile but if you have more time, there are many more sights to see and admire but this list will help you get started with planning your trip!
By Thera & Tony Messina from @messinaroundtheworld