Posts tagged chile

Things To Do in Chile – 50 Incredible Experiences

My List of top things to do in Chile.

Table of Content.

  1. Best Things To Do in the North of Chile
  2. Best Things To Do in the Central Valley of Chile
  3. Best Things To Do in the Lake region, known as Los Lagos in Chile
  4. Best Things To Do in the South of Chile, known as Patagonia
  5. Some General Top Things To Do in Chile.

 

I spent six months in Chile that were spread across July 2016 to April 2017.

Here I am sipping coconut water and writing about the best things to do in Chile, but a few years ago, I didn’t know much about Chile. I just decided to travel to Chile and teach English there on an instinct.

After I had been to Chile, an artist in Pushkar told me that Chile is like a long river, flowing on the edge of the American continent. And Pablo Neruda describes Chile as a long, thin ship. Running from the Atacama desert in the North to almost into Antarctica in the West, every corner of Chile has been well-planned by nature to surprises its residents and travelers alike. 

Though you might think that Chile is a long but small country, let me warn you that there are an unprecedented number of things to do and beautiful places in Chile. From watching the penguins ganging up on the glaciers to hiking in fjords, from participating in a community activity minga to eating mussels steamed underground, from exploring a cavernous moony landscape to stargazing at night — you can do something new in all the many places to visit in Chile.  

If you are going to Chile for two to three weeks, you should have a rough or an exact Chile itinerary. Otherwise, you would get confused about choosing between the plethora of the fun things to do in Chile at the last minute. But if you are visiting Chile for longer, you can wing your trip a little bit.

When in Chile, leave all the worries behind. Por tienes que disfrutas – You have to make the best of it!

 

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Let me get started now. 

I have described the geography of Chile in detail in the Chile travel guide, and you can read it here. To summarize — Though Chile is divided into sixteen administrative regions, I have divided Chile into four main geographical regions for the narrational ease. These regions are The North, the Central Valley, The Lake region also known as Los Lagos, and the South that is known as Patagonia. 

 

Best Things To Do in the North of Chile

The highlight of the North is the dry Atacama desert that is a perfect setting for any Hollywood or Hindi drama. Nature dons a surreal robe in the Atacama. 

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1. Start your journey with San Pedro de Atacama village

This tiny adobe town is the gateway to the Atacama desert. Frozen in time, San Pedro is the perfect place to slow down, explore a fairly laid-back Chilean lifestyle, visit adobe houses and adobe church, and see the surrounding desert. 

San Pedro is a bit more expensive than the rest of Chile, so pay attention to your expenditure.

Accommodation: Stay at the eco-friendly La Casa EcoExplor that is 200 meters away from the bus stand and offers budget dorms, private rooms, and a kitchen. 

How to go: Take a bus from Santiago to Arica and then another one to San Pedro. Or fly from Santiago to Arica and then continue by road. 

 

2. Visit the Miscanti and Miñiques lagoon, Piedra Rojas, and Chaxa lake in the Atacama desert

Start your Atacama expedition with these lagoons and the red rocks(Piedra Rojas in Spanish) as they make a comfortable day trip. These out-of-the-world destinations are bound to overwhelm you. 

The blue lagoons of Miscanti and Miñiques are surrounded by amber grass and backdropped by copper mountains. The volcanic red rocks lead up to a flamingo-studded emerald lake circumscribed by smooth peaks. The Chaxa lake is the perfect reflection of the purplish volcanoes that rise like gigantic ice-cream cones in the dry desert. If you get dizzy because of the high altitude, flamingoes feeding in the lake could be misconstrued as strolling between the upturned volcanoes. 

How to go: Either take this GetYourGuide tour or rent a car and drive. Download the offline Google maps and have a hard copy of the map in case your phone runs out of battery (which is often not the case now for we all carry power banks). Many travel companies in San Pedro also arrange regular tours to these destinations. 

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Surreal. Ain’t it?

3. Walk in the Moon Valley (Valle de La Luna) in the Atacama

About 13 km from San Pedro, the Moon Valley of the Atacama gets its name from its moon-like surface. Various sand and stone formations have been formed in the valley by the continuous wind and water action. 

The cavernous valley is fringed by volcanoes, and one can get a good view of a sunset over a volcano by sitting on the high rocky hills or the sand dunes. The best time to go is the sunset when the color of the sky changes from pink to purple to finally dark. 

How to go: Either go for an all inclusive tour or drive yourself

 

4. Float in the Natural Salt Lake (the Laguna Sejar)

The natural salt lake Laguna Sejar lies in the Cordillera de el Sal (mountain range of salt). Floating in this lake is one of the most fun activities to do in the Atacama — you float effortlessly under a clear blue sky in the middle of this vast desert while gazing over the volcanoes and mountains in the distance. 

Combine the trip with Ojos del Salar and Tebinquinche lake. If you are on a tour, you would be served pisco sour, a popular Chilean drink, at sunset over Tebinquinche.

How to go: Take this all-inclusive GetYourGuide tour or drive yourself. 

 

5. Stargaze all you want under the clear Atacama sky – One of the best things to do in Chile

Due to less air pollution, dry air, and a lot of cloudless nights, Chile is a perfect place for astronomers. And due to less light pollution, Atacama is the best even in Chile. 

Make sure you keep one extra night or more for stargazing in the desert. Many travel companies arrange stargazing activities. You can also camp on the roof of your hotel to get some sky action. 

How to go: Take a stargazing tour or camp in the desert with a local’s help.

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Tip: Some of my other favorite things to do in the Atacama were visiting the hot Geysers del Tatio and relaxing in natural hot pools. Here is the hot pool to and fro transfer I took. You can get a tour of the geysers or drive there early morning to see steam shooting out of the geysers and into the sky. 

 

6. Take a Uyuni Salt Flats tour from San Pedro

Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats are one of the world’s most bizarre landscapes. This vast salt desert is close to the border of Chile. 

Most people go for a 3-4 day salt flats tour that could either begin in San Pedro or the Uyuni town of Bolivia and end in either one of these. On the cross-country tour, you would see many natural reserves of Chile, geysers, blue lagoons, flamingo colonies, and the salt flats of Bolivia. If you take a salt desert tour, you can skip the geysers and the other lagoons I mentioned above for you would see similar landscapes on the tour. 

Here is a GetYourGuide tour that starts from San Pedro and goes to Uyuni in Bolivia.

 

7. Gape at the Hand of the Desert – Mano del Desierto 

This giant structure constructed by the artist Mario Irarrazabal who depicts humans’ helplessness and vulnerability in the hand is 70 km away from the Antofagasta city. If you are around, pay a visit. 

 

**What not to miss in the North: My favorite places in the desert were the Chaxa lake and the Moon Valley. Oh, do try quinoa ice cream in San Pedro and the delicious Chilean wines in the village plaza. 

The Atacama is poetry. Won’t you agree?

 

 

Best Things To Do in the Central Valley of Chile

The Central Valley of Chile might not be as surreal as the North but it has its beaches, velvety countryside, vineyards, artists, graffiti, and colorful residential hills to flaunt. 

Central Valley is known for its big cities: Santiago, Valparaiso, Viña del Mar,  Valdivia, and Concepcion. All of these are connected to each other by bus, flight, and road. 

 

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The view of the Andes over Santiago.

8. Keep a few days for Santiago

Although I might have been looted in Santiago once, I would recommend traveling in Santiago for a few days because trying to understand a country without seeing its capital is like drawing a map without the North. 

Chile might be about its deserts, beaches, and glaciers, but it is also about its cosmopolitan capital where you feel unsafe as soon as you step out of the center, and even in the center sometimes. My (and about hundred other Santiago local friends’) best safety tips for Santiago are: find a hotel in a safe neighborhood, stay inside at night, hold your bags and mobiles closer especially in the metro, bus, and crowded or empty places, keep an eye on people around you, and carry limited cash. 

Some of the best things to see in Santiago are: Plaza del Armas (the main square), Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral (the main church), Santa Lucia hill (remains of a 15-million-year-old volcano), National Astronomical Observatory of Chile at Cerro Calán (you might have to contact the observatory in advance), San Cristobal Hill (for good views), Santiago Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts(for us art lovers), Museum of Memory and Human Rights(to know more about the Pinochet rule), Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino(another museum), Palacio de La Moneda, and the Bahá’í Temple of South America. 

How to commute: Use metro, bus, and Uber(still illegal but functional). Prebook a pickup from the airport to your hotel if you are arriving in Santiago for the first time. If you are going to stay in Santiago a bit longer, consider this introductory tour to Santiago with a local guide.  

Where to stay in Santiago: I have handpicked the below accommodations from throughout Santiago as per safety, locality, reviews, experiences, prices, and services provided.

Guest House Mery, Barrio Brasil – Run by a Chilean family, in downtown Santiago, close to historical places and metro, amazing reviews, kind staff, beautiful rooms, and patio, and pick up and drop from the airport at reasonable prices. Best for solo or couple travelers.

Book the hotel here on Booking. This place gets sold out well in advance.

Amistar Apartments – In downtown Santiago near Santa Lucia hill, entire apartment for 3/4/5 people, clean accommodation, kind owners, great reviews, and pick up and drop service from the airport. Best for a group of friends or families. Browse the apartments here on Booking.

And now for the hostel lovers.

Hostal Rio Amazonas: In central Santiago near Baquedano Metro Station, boutique hotel, gorgeous interiors and paintings, comfortable rooms with private bathrooms, friendly staff, inhouse bar, and wifi. Best for couples, family, and solo travelers.

Click here to see the availability and book Hostal Rio Amazonas.

 

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Santiago’s main plaza.

9. Soak poetry in Pablo Neruda’s houses – One of the best places to visit in Chile

 

Neruda is one of the most loved poets of Chile who is not only known for his love poems but for his odes to things like socks and vegetables. His three homes: La Chascona in Santiago, La Sebastiana in Valparaíso, and the one in the Isla Negra are all open for public on all days of the week except Monday. 

If you haven’t read Pablo’s poetry, let me first recite a few verses to raise your curiosity,

It pleased me to grow with the morning,

to bathe in the sun, in the great joy

of sun, salt, sea-light, and wave,

and in that unwinding of the foam

my heart began to move,

growing in that essential spasm,

and dying away as it seeped into the sand. 

From October Fullness, The Essential Neruda

 

These words are only a drop in Pablo’s ocean of poetry. The Essential Neruda poetry book I have linked above is a collection of some of his best poems in both their English and Spanish versions. His poetry can only beckon good things, I promise.

La Chascona: Fernando Márquez de la Plata 0192, Barrio Bellavista, Providencia, Santiago, 56-2-2777-8741; fundacionneruda.org. Named after Pablo’s secret lover, this house is at the foot of Cerro San Cristóbal. Pablo bought this house for his secret lover and himself. 

La Sebastiana: Ferrari 692, Valparaíso, 56-32-225-6606; fundacionneruda.org. Sits on a Valparaíso hill overlooking the city. 

Isla Negra: Poeta Neruda s/n, Isla Negra, El Quisco, 56-35-2461284; fundacionneruda.org: This house is on the coastline about an hour away from Valparaíso. Pablo is buried here along with his third wife. On the way to the house, you can visit many vineyards and fine restaurants some of which still serve Pablo’s favorite food. 

If you want to go with a tour, this one goes to the Isla Negra house, explores the beach, and then takes the tourists for wine tasking in Casablanca valley.

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10. Lose yourself in the Central Market of Santiago (Mercado Central)

One of my dear friends introduced me to Mercado Central. Abundant seafood, typical Chilean preparations, fresh fruits and vegetables, pulses and porotos(read beans), everything can be found in this market. I do remember eating in the dingy backside of the market but it has a great food court where you can get fresh seafood preparations. 

Mercado Central is one of the most interesting places in Chile to understand the Chilean culture. Don’t miss it.

How to go: Take this bike tour that also goes to the market amongst other things or visit on your own. The nearest metro station to the market is Puente Cal y Canto. You can also take a bus and get down near the market. Though illegally, Ubers, also work in Santiago.

Must-try dishes: Porotos(red beans), pasta del choclo(corn preparation), seafood, humitas(another corn preparation) along with some Cusquena beer or wine

 

11. Hike in Maipo Valley (Cajon del Maipo)

Cajon del Maipo is a canyon in the Santiago Metropolitan Region of Chile.

Many rivers including the el Maipo River, El Volcan River, Colorado River, and Yeso River merge in this valley. The turquoise rivers circumscribed by the tall Andes make the canyon a perfect hub for adventure.

Cajon del Maipo offers a potpourri of activities ranging from hiking in the canyon, skiing, river rafting, hiking a volcano and visiting hot springs, exploring the national park, and relaxing with beautiful views. The trails in the Maipo Valley are both tough and easy, so choose yours as per your fitness level and comfort. Mostly, travelers head to Cajon del Maipo for a day or a weekend, but you can even book one of the cabins there and stay for long. 

Look for a place to stay here, and I have linked to the tours with the activities above. 

 

12. Gaze over the Pacific from the Wulff Castle, Viña del Mar

About 120 km from Santiago, Viña del Mar is a coastal city that is close to another popular coastal destination called Valparaíso.

Located right opposite the Cerro Castillo (Castillo hill), the Wulff castle was built by the Wulff family, first as their home, and then the home was remodeled into a castle. The castle doesn’t have an entrance fee, has beautiful art exhibitions as now it is a government heritage center, and the view of the Pacific from the castle is stunning. 

Viña del Mar: Browse through Viña’s accommodations here.

 

13. Ride the squeaky funicular elevators of Valparaíso

Only 120 km away from Santiago, Valparaíso (or lovingly known as Valpo amongst the locals) is a colorful city built over steep hills on the shores of the Pacific. Like other port cities, it is a bit random and unstructured, and thus colorful. Valparaíso is the only Chilean city where street art is legal so you can imagine why I call it colorful. 

People reside on the hills of Valparaíso, and these elevators, or cable cars, were built to carry people up and down on the steep hills. Although once there were about 31 elevators, now only about 14 of these are functional. 

 

How to go: The two most popular and easy to access funiculars are the Acensor Reina Victoria (connecting Avenida Cumming with Paseo Dimalow) and the Acensor El Peral (connecting Plaza Sotomayor with Paseo Yugoslavo.) Carry some cash or coins for the ticket price is about 100-200 pesos.

If you are short of time, take a tour from Santiago to Vina del Mar and Valparaíso that goes through the main sites of both the cities.

Tip: While in Valparaíso, you can check out the Botica Salcobrand medical shop on Plaza Aníbal Pinto where the pharmacy is ready to take you for a spin in the past. 

Where to stay: Click here to see and book accommodations in Valparaíso

 

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14. Tour vineyards when in the Central Valley – One of the cool things in Chile

The Central region of Chile has the perfect temperature and most accommodative soil for grapes. Viña del Mar, Valparaíso, Santiago, and Casablanca, a white wine city between Santiago and Valparaiso, are stuffed with vineyards that encourage tourists to visit. And travelers go for Chilean wine is one of the best wines in the world.

How to go: Here are some brilliant winery tours you can take: Concha y Toro official winery tour (one of the most popular and the oldest in Latin America), Undurraga vineyard in Maipo, or visit the wineries of Casablanca from Santiago. You can also hire a car and drive around yourself.

 

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15. Immerse in the graffitis of Valparaíso

Valparaiso started becoming an art center when Pablo Neruda, a resident of the city, invited his Mexican friends and painters to the city. Soon the city’s walls, steep staircases, cobbled streets, dainty shops, and open roofs all were covered in graffiti. In no time, locals joined the artists, too.

During the dictatorship in Chile, the wall art of Valparaiso was one of the most effective ways for revolutionaries to communicate and to encourage people to keep fighting for freedom. Now the city has legalized street art, and property owners argue over who would get the best artist to paint their garages and roofs. 

Valparaiso is dense with these wall paintings, and you would find them in the most obscure places. Go up a narrow street or stroll in the back lanes or peek behind a dusty car, if you will, and you are bound to run into some heartening display of color. 

The best places to see the local art are the hills of Carcel, Miraflores, Alegre, Pateon, Concepcíon, and Bellavista. You should also go to the open-air museum that holds the art of more than 70 artists who put their art together after the dictatorship. 

Be careful while roaming in Valparaiso for the place is known for delinquents who love snatching off bags and phones. Walk in the city in daylight, be with a friend or group preferably, keep your belongings close to you, and don’t wander in a deserted street even in daylight. 

Valparaiso is one of the most important places in Chile to understand the country’s artistic growth. So be cautious, but do visit. 

How to go: The safest and most informative way to explore Valpo’s art would be to take a tour with the locals

 

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16. Celebrate the New Year eve in Valparaíso by watching firecrackers put on a colorful show over the Pacific – One of the most unique and best things to see in Chile

For about half an hour, the sky above the Pacific shore near Valparaiso dazzles with colors as hundreds of firecrackers are busted there at midnight. People gather over their rooftops, in balconies, and on the beaches to see the celebration with champagne spilling out of their glasses and empanadas spilling out of their tables. 

Don’t miss this experience if you are in Chile around the new year.

How to go: Book a hotel in Valparaiso and get to the roof or your balcony in time. Don’t forget to bring some of that delicious Chilean wine. 

 

**What’s not to miss in Central Valley: Wine, art, and poetry.

 

 

Valdivia is neither part of the Central Valley nor of the Los Lagos region of the South. So I am putting it here in between the two.

17. Visit the Mercado Fluvial in Valdivia

Valdivia is an old city set at the junction of the Calle-Calle and Cau-Cau rivers and is slightly above the lake region. 

Valdivia’s vibrant local grocery market Mercado Fluvial sells a myriad of fish, mussels, prawns, street food, vegetables, fruits, handicraft, and wooden artifacts. The market is on the shores of the Valdivia River, and sea lions resting on the wooden planks behind the market behold the sight of the visitors rather than the trouts and the avocados. And while the shop keepers get distracted with customers, the seagulls fly off with a few anchovies now and then.

On a sunny afternoon, the market is a great place to eat, buy a handmade souvenir, or you can also start a boat tour through the interconnected network of canals and rivers from the market. 

Where to stay in Valdivia?

Airesbuenos Hostel y Permacultura, Valdivia– I stayed at Airesbuenos (350 m away from the bus terminal) for about 2 nights. Great affordable place for solo or couple travelers. Wifi, breakfast, and a shared kitchen included. Find the availability of Airesbuenos on Booking here.

And if you don’t like this hostel, then feel free to browse through other options in Valdivia.

 

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18. Cruise through the Valdivian rivers visiting old forts

As the fourth settlement founded by the Spanish, Valdivia has many forts and castles that are spread around the city. 

Mercado Fluvial is the starting point of a boat ride through the network of waterways that go through the many Valdivian rivers. Along with a pleasant ride, you will also visit the historical places and forts on the way. Fort Niebla is one of those popular forts and flaunts its own beach(playa) and a local market (feria).

 

19. While in Valdivia, don’t miss the Kunstmann brewery

Chileans love their wine, but they are no less a fan of beer. 

Kunstmann, one of the oldest and popular Chilean beer, has a big brewery in Valdivia. Understanding the brewing process while sipping honey or cinnamon Kunstmann could be a fun thing to do on a windy evening in Valdivia. 

 

Best Things To Do in the Lake region, known as Los Lagos in Chile

 

The lake region marks the beginning of Patagonia, the South of Chile, and from here you enter the zone of some of the world’s most beautiful places. 

Los Lagos is known for its deep blue lakes, azure rivers, active volcanoes, lush national parks, and scattered islands. Some of the main towns of the region are Puerto Varas, Osorno, Puerto Montt, and Pucon. 

 

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20. Chill in the Chiloé island or the Isla Grande – One of Chile’s best places to visit

I stayed in Castro, the capital of Chiloé, for five months and taught English to government school students as part of a volunteer program. So its only natural that I talk about this island far more fondly than the rest of the places to go in Chile.

Rolling countryside hills of the island houses colorful stilt homes(palafitos), wooden heritage churches, and apple fields. The windy beaches of the island aren’t very busy for the water is cold throughout the year. The only known attempt of someone swimming there was of a friend who was dissuaded after his first attempt as he almost froze while dipping in, shouted for help, and was driven home in his swimming trunks by a stranger.

Chiloé and the people of Chiloé, who are lovingly called Chilotes, are known for their signature seafood and folklore. The homes here are covered with bright multi-colored shinglings of various shapes and sizes. 

 

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My host mother Cecilia in the picture. Notice the blue shinglings.

 

Chiloé is a place to slow down in Chile — Wake up in a stilt house or in a wooden cabin, eat bread and cheese or algae soup for breakfast, stroll in the countryside, pluck a peach or two, walk by the beach, eat as much seafood as you like at a cocineria (food court where locals make almost home food), visit a World Heritage wooden church, and then go to another local restaurant for a hearty meal with wine. 

 

Where to stay in Chiloé?

Let me recommend some places in and around Castro for you will start your island trip from there.

I highly recommend these private domes in Castro(on Airbnb) that are owned by a lovely Chilean couple and my best friends. Veronica and Marco are the warmest hosts who don’t let their guests leave without serving them amazing pisco sours and homemade seafood preparations. This could be one of the best places to stay in Chile for location, comfort, and hospitality. Do try. And if you do, tell Vero and Marco that you read my blog. You would definitely get a few extra piscos.

 

But if you are not on Airbnb or don’t like this place, here are some other good stay options.

Palafito WaIwen – Located by the Gamboa river and only about .6 miles from the Castro center, double rooms and dorms with heating, ocean and city views, wifi, kind staff, complimentary breakfast, shared kitchen, and a terrace overlooking the ocean. Best for couples and solo travelers.

Click here to book this stilt house.

 

Casa Chilota B&B – In downtown Castro, a typical Chilote home with wooden flooring, friendly and kind Chilean owners, and clean rooms with a complimentary breakfast spread. Best for families, couples and solo travelers.

Look at the pictures and see Casa Chilota on Booking.

Cabañas Lomas de Ten Ten– Located in Ten Ten, a small countryside area about 4-5 km away from Castro downtown, beautiful wooden cottage, kitchen included, and ocean view from the cabin. Ideal for families or a group of friends. Book these cabins on Booking here.

Apart from these, do look for cabins and wooden cottages out in the countryside. Chiloé has some beautiful and secluded scenic accommodations and you should get one for yourself. Find some here.

 

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Castro’s purple and yellow church. Very high amongst the traveler’s places of interest in Chile.

Here are some of the specific things to do in Chiloé.

21. Spend a day or two in Castro, the capital of Chiloé (One of the most famous places in Chile but for the right reasons)

Walk around the main plaza, admire the purple and yellow San Francisco Church there, eat at the seafood restaurants, buy fresh fish or eat ceviches in the Mercado Municipal near the harbor, look for some souvenirs in the market, drink wine at the cozy bars(43 was my favorite), and participate in a minga or get invited to a party and see the locals’ way of celebration. 

Oh, stroll around the viewpoint Gamboa, walk along the harbor in the direction of ten-ten, and eat in one of the palafitos there while looking over the ocean. 

 

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Palafitos (stilt houses) of Castro.

22. Visit the Cocineria of Dalcahue (food court where locals make home food)

The quiet Dalcahue serves as a boarding point for the ferry of Achao(another island I would suggest you visit), but Dalcahue can be visited for just its cocineria. 

The several restaurants of the food court run by eight local families sit in a small wooden house that overlooks the ocean and serves homemade preparations of Chilote’s best-known dishes. 

Find seafood preparations here, casuellas(soups), algae and potato preparations, porotos granados(red beans), and the famous colorful Chilote potatoes. 

Carry cash as cards wouldn’t be accepted.

Insider tip: Another great place to visit in Dalcahue is the artisan fair that happens twice every week where artisans from all over Chiloé come to Dalcahue to showcase and sell their products. 

 

23. See the heritage wooden churches of Chiloé – One of the unique things about Chile

When the missionary Jesuits arrived in Chile in the 17th century, the building techniques of Spain were merged with the local Chilote wooden boat construction techniques. One thing led to another and nailless churches emerged. 

Chiloé had 51 of these larch and cypress wood churches out of which only 15 remain now. But, less is more couldn’t be more true than in the case of these heritage churches as they stand timeless, some even earthquake safe, and keeping the people inside them warm (such is the wooden insulation) from the fierce cold in Chiloé. 

Achao has the largest wooden church on the Chiloé archipelago, Curaco de Velez has the oldest, Tenaúm’s church is gorgeous, and Castro’s is colorful. And there are more. 

 

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Nercón Church.

PC: Srikanth_Jandy, under CC BY 2.0

 

24. Buy Chilote artisanal souvenirs and wooden artifacts 

I wish I could share the picture of that handwritten wooden chai mug that I bought for my father from the Mercado Municipal in Castro, but he has the mug. But not just mugs, you can buy handpainted or handwritten wooden pocket mirrors, pen, hairpins, spatulas, cutting boards, and other paraphernalia, too.

As Chiloé is cold and wet for a large part of the year, locals knit and sell woolen sweaters, hats, socksponchos, and other cute warm clothing. Oh, there is copper handmade jewelry, too, of which I have a few pieces. 

Walk around the artisanal markets in the many towns and villages of Chiloé for the sake of friends back home. 

 

25. Eat typical Chilote food

I lived with a Chilean family for five months and that implies I mostly ate at home. I wish I had tried more restaurants, but the home food was great, and eating with a bunch of crazy Chileans, British, and Americans(volunteers who also taught English) won over outside food every time. 

I was soon introduced to the greasy milcao — potato patty stuffed with pork and deep-fried(this was store-bought), colorful red, purple, and black potatoes that are local to the island, empanadas — pastries stuffed with potato or chicken or beef or seafood, and curanto — mussels and seashells steamed with potato and/or pork underground over coal. These are all unique to the island(except empanadas) so do try.

Chiloé is especially known for its seafood preparations such as casuella(soups)- they even have algae casuella, grilled fish, ceviche, etc. And oh, the portions increase in Chiloé without warning.

 

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Chicken casuella(soup) made at home. I can’t have this delicacy now. No more chicken for me.

 

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You do see a long purple Chilote potato on this plate of curanto: clams, pork, and potatoes cooked underground. I don’t eat pork or other meat now (I am a pescatarian) but I did want to show you how curanto looks and that is why this picture that I find slightly disturbing now.

26. Go island-hopping on Chiloé archipelago

From Chiloé, take a ferry to the many nearby islands of the archipelago such as Lemuy, Caucahué, Quinchao, and explore the churches and the countryside of these places. 

How to go: Getting to another island is as easy as taking a bus that directly goes to the island or walking to the ferry point and taking the ferry to the other island. Have coins or smaller notes to pay. 

Where to stay: Either stay in the Castro area and make a day trip to other islands. Or look for some cool accommodation on the destination island. Booking is my friend for this task.

 

27. Kayak around the Chiloé archipelago

Kayaking in the rivers and in the inland water around the Chiloé archipelago could be a lot of fun on a bright day. Ask your hotel or homestay for more information. 

 

kayaking chiloe island landscapes.jpg

Photo by jeffreywarren (CC BY 2.0)

 

28. Visit the regional museum (Museo regional) in Ancud, Chiloé

Though Ancud, the former capital of Chiloé, is now a mundane town with regular buildings and docks, Museo Regional de Ancud (Ancud’s Regional Museum) is a good place to know more about the Chilote culture and mythology. 

 

29. Take a ferry to the Penguineria Islands near Ancud (Monumento Natural Islotes de Puñihuil)

From Ancud, a ferry goes to a collection of islands that penguins have unabashedly colonized. The best time to see the friendly creatures is December. 

How to go: My plan to visit these penguin colonies failed three times due to unexpected earthquakes, strikes, and so on. But finding that bus stand in Ancud from where a bus goes to the ferry point wasn’t easy. You would have to ask the locals or confirm at your hotel. You need to take a bus from Ancud to a ferry point and then you board a ferry or a small boat that takes you to the colonies. If you don’t want to arrange the trip by yourself, here is a GetYourGuide tour that first explores parts of Chiloé and then goes to the Caulin and Puñihuil Penguins Colony.

 

30. Go to the Dock of Souls, known as Muelle de Las Almas in Spanish.

Muelle de Las Almas is a popular wooden pier in the Chiloé National Park near the village of Cucao. 

The popularity of the dock is attributed to the local legend where a boatman Tempilkahue used to carry souls over the river into eternal rest. These souls would wail for the boatman to take them but Tempilkahue didn’t carry them all. If they couldn’t pay him, the souls would linger on in the surrounding cliffs. 

When the Chilean wood sculptor and art professor from Santiago designed a long wooden bridge, a pier, at the cliff, the place was named as the Muelle de la Almas. 

Stories say that the wails of the dead can still be heard at the pier. This quirky pier is one of the best places to go in Chile for the gorgeous viewpoint and the adventurous hike to the bridge. Don’t let a few ghosts scare you off.

How to get there:

Rent a car to drive or get a local bus, known as micro(pronounced as mee-crow), to Cucao. After about a 1.5 hour drive, the bus will drop you outside a restaurant called Terrasa de Cucao, and then from there another bus drop at the beginning point of the hike, or you can say the parking lot, in about 30 minutes. The last bus to the hike leaves from the restaurant at 3 pm. 

After the bus ride, hike for about 45 minutes to one hour through the undulating hills and pastures of the national park to get to the dock. Get there in the morning to get bright views over the ocean and to make the most of the day. 

Remember that the last bus from the pickup point (to the restaurant) leaves at 5:30 pm. In case you miss this one, like we did because someone forgot her phone at the top of a hill, walk for an hour or hitchhike to get back to the restaurant for the next bus.

muelles de las almas cucao chiloe.jpg

Photo by f3nc0r3. (CC BY 2.0)

 

31. Visit the Pablo Fierro Museum in Puerto Varas, Chile

Pablo Fierro museum would be a great stop before Chiloé to understand how the Germans, who entered the island in 1850, influenced the Chilote culture.

How to go: The Museum is free to enter and is a short stroll along the waterfront from the Plaza de Armas of Puerto Varas on the 225 Road heading towards Ensenada.

 

32. Take a ferry to Hornophiren – One of the best places in Chile for nature lovers

Hornophiren is a beautiful town in the lake region. Most backpackers and travelers miss this beauty on their Chile trip for it is not on a typical travel route. 

But as if it is out of a fairy tale, Horniphiren has misty volcanoes, deep blue lakes, huge national parks, hot thermal pools, solitary mountains, white rivers, open pastures studded with birds and horses, amongst other things that can lure any adventurer. 

Hornopirén’s national park is easily accessible, and we biked up the Andes in the park and then came down flying, all safe. The rivers have good viewpoints, too. There are volcanoes to be hiked, but you would need good weather to climb. 

Oh, don’t forget to try the yerba mate and cheese empanadas at the local artisanal joint near the square.

How to go: Get a bus or drive there but remember you would have to get up on ferries a few times.

Where to stay: Have a look at the wooden cabins of Hornopirén here

hornopiren+los+lagos+lake+region+travel+in+chile.jpg
A typical day in Hornophiren.

 

33. Hike active Volcano Villarica, Pucon

Climbing up hiking Villarrica is the goal of many travelers when they travel to Pucon, the adventure hub of Los Lagos. 

Originally known as Rucapillán or House of the Pillan — home of a powerful disastrous spirit, the volcano hasn’t erupted for many years now. For a hiker, climbing up Volcan Villarica would be one of the top 10 things to do in Chile. Plan your trip to have a few days in Pucon so that at least one of them has favorable weather for the hike. 

My Villarica hiking experience can be read here.

How to go: Take a guided tour to go up the volcano as you can’t do this on your won. The hike would take your entire day. 

Where to stay in Pucon? I stayed at the Chilli kiwi hostel which was comfortable and had ample double rooms and dorms. You can also book any of the adventure activities, hikes, or tours from Chilli Kiwi. Click here to find the availability in the hostel and to book it.

Insider Tip: In the winter, you can ski in the Centro de Ski Pucon (ski center of Pucon). 

 

volcano villarrica in chiloe chile.jpg
Villarrica, with its ever famous smoke whirling into the blue sky.

34. Chill at the Caburga lake beach in Pucon

Relaxing at the Caburgua lake beach after climbing the volcano would be a smart thing to do. 

35. Kayak in the quiet Villarrica lake and find remote beaches

Borrow or rent Kayaks from the hotel and explore the lake. You are bound to find some empty beaches. Make sure you aren’t intruding in anyone’s private property and jump in. 

 

36. Hitchhike to the deserted Salto del Claro waterfalls near Pucon.

This waterfall is mostly deserted, and you might want to start early from Pucon as it takes about 4-5 hours of walking to reach there.

The waterfall is about six kilometers out of Pucon, so you can either hike all way or bike or take a taxi and walk or hitchhike. 

Make sure that you carry enough water, snacks, a towel, and keep your phones charged as there are no shops or restaurants near the waterfall. If you are lucky, you would be able to hitchhike back to the town. 

 

**What not to miss in the Lake Region: People, food, beautiful landscapes, adventure activities, and the unique culture.

 

Best Things To Do in the South of Chile, known as Patagonia

In the South of Chile, Andes rise on the mainland to form Patagonia. This no man’s land is nothing but icy peaks with glaciers suspended atop, deep blue and turquoise rivers, labyrinthine fjords, gorgeous lakes, and natural caves. Patagonia is mostly uninhabited because of the crazy climatic conditions. 

The Carretera Austral or the Southern highway runs along this nomad’s land from Chaiten till the Tierra del Fuego or the land of fire which culminates in Cape Horn, the last stop before Antarctic Peninsula — Patagonia leads our way into the end of the world. 

range-andes-chile-mountain-snow.jpg
Woah!

37. Hike in Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most sought-after parts of Patagonia. Even though thousands of people trek in this park every year, such is the park’s wilderness, that most of them never run into each other.

Though Torres’s terrain is difficult, it has all levels of hiking trails: easy, moderate, and high difficulty level for enthusiasts and hikers to choose from. From 4-9 multi-day circuits to a day-long hike, one can find them all. One of the longer hikes known as the W trek is one of the most beautiful trails of the park and extends over 8-9 days. Sleeping in pre-booked camps and eating packed meals throughout the trek makes the hike challenging but thrilling. You can also book the W trek and get all the arrangements done. 

Or take a full-day tour from the city of Puerto Natales to see the park’s main viewpoints and walk a little and then decide what would you like to do there.

How to go: Frequent flights are available from the major Chilean airports to the two main cities Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas of Patagonia.

Where to stay in Puerto Natales: Browse through hotels and check the prices here.

Where to stay in Punta Arenas: Find a comfortable accommodation in Punta Arenas here.

-torres-del-paine-patagonia-chile.jpg
Hiking in Torres del Paine is one of the top ones on the Chile things to do for adventurers and nature lovers.

38. Take a boat trip to Glacier Grey 

Part of the Torres del Paine National Park, Glacier Grey is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field –one of the largest ice stretches on the planet. 

The boat takes up to a point near the glacier from where you can admire the 40-meter high river of ice.

 

glacier-patagonia-chile-ice-4788112-.jpg

39. Visit the Mylodon Cave located outside Torres del Paine National Park

The Milodon Caves are said to be formed at the end of the ice age from the erosion of a glacier. Excavations have found animal bones, old tools, and even hints of humans. 

A boat ride to the cave definitely adds to the fun. 

 

40. Sail through the Magellan Strait

Ferdinand Magellan discovered this strait when he sailed from Europe to America while making his way around South America through the rough Pacific waters. 

How to go: Boat tours for the Magellan Strait leave from Puntas Arenas, one of the two major inhabited towns of Patagonia. Here is one tour that sails through the Strait of Magellan to go to the Magdalena and Marta Islands to observe Magellanic penguins, Patagonian sea lions, and other marine life.

Watching the penguins play around on a remote Southern island could be one of the most interesting things in Chile, or in the world. Go. 

chile-south-america-patagonia magdalena strait

41. Go for white river rating in the Futaleufú river

 

42. Visit the Marble Caves

Cuevas de Marmol or the Marble caves are carved into the Patagonian Andes by 6000 years of wave washing up against the calcium carbonate. Marble caves are located in the General Carrera lake, which spans the border between Chile and Argentina. 

The smooth, swirling blues that you see in photos on the cave are reflections of the lake’s azure water on the marble. To get the best colors, visit during September and February when the water is turquoise. Early mornings are the best for the perfect lighting. 

How to go: Take a ferry from Puerto Río Tranquilo village. In spite of the remoteness, Marble caves is one of the most tourists places in Chile so you should not have a hard time making a trip to them.

 

marble caves patagonia.jpg
One of the most unique amongst Chile places to visit.

Photo by jvieras  (CC BY 2.0)

 

43. Robinson Crusoe Island — Juan Fernández archipelago, Chile (400 miles west of South America in the South Pacific Ocean)

Named after the DeFoe novel Robinson Crusoe inspired by a sailor stranded on this same island for four years with a musket, gunpowder, a knife, a Bible, and carpenter’s tools, the island is an endemic hub of rare plants and extreme beauty. 

The island is inhabited by only about 500-600 people most of whom make a simple living by selling lobsters.  

Robinson Crusoe island houses beautiful coral reefs, white-sand beaches, blue lagoon, palm trees, traditional thatched huts, tropical fruits, and abundant seafood. Activities such as hiking, horseback riding, birdwatching, snorkeling, sport fishing, and scuba diving are available on the island.

How to go: During the prime season, small planes of up to ten passengers leave Los Cerrillos and Tobalaba airports in Santiago daily. After a two and a half hour flight, a boat ride from La Punta would take you to the island. Carry cash as there are no ATMs on the island.

Where to stay: I can’t seem to find any Robinson Crusoe hotels on Booking. I would update this post when I find more credible information.

 

**What not to miss in Patagonia: The feeling that you are almost at the end of the world.

 

 

Now some general fun things to do in Chile.

 

44. When in Chile, ski

Valle Nevado resort is one of the best ski resorts in Chile. Located on the foothills of the Andes Mountains, this is just one ski option but the country is full of ski resorts and icy slopes. 

Or consider this tour that goes skiing in the Andes.

 

45. Fly off to the Easter island, known as Rapa Nui or Isla de Pascua

While the Easter island is one of the most remote places in Chile, thousands of travelers and Chileans visit Easter island every year for its clear natural beauty. 

When on the island, see more than the moai statues. The Ana Kai Tangata (Cannibal Cave) is also a visit. This half-day archaeology tour is a good option to understand the history of the island from locals.

How to go: You can fly to the Easter island from Santiago.

Where to stay: Check out these properties in Hanga Roa, the capital of the Isla de Pascua.

 

chile-easter-island-moai-rapa-nui.jpg 

46. When in Chile, drink Pisco Sour

Specific to Chile and Peru, Pisco is a liquor made of grapes. Both countries fight on Pisco’s origin and make it with egg white, lime juice, and sugar syrup. Pisco is one delicious drink and goes well with Chilean food. 

Don’t miss it.

 

pisco sour in making in chile
Drinking Pisco. Just one of the regular things to do Chile.

47. Take a Chilean cooking class

Even though Chilean cuisine isn’t the most respected or loved around the world, its empanadas, casuellas, choclo con queso, and other seafood preparations are special. If you think you would want to make any of these back home, get into a cooking class and learn a few of these while sipping up some pisco.

Your best bet would be to take a course in a small city or island such as Chiloé for an authentic and personalized class. 

This food tour in Santiago might interest you if you are a foodie. 

 

48. Learn Spanish in Chile

Chileans speak superfast slang-studded Spanish so Chile isn’t the best place to learn Spanish. But if you start understanding Chilean Spanish, you can converse in any kind of Spanish. So give it a chance. 

If I can do it, you can, too. And here are my best language guides to help you:

 

49. Teach English in Chile

If you are looking for a paid volunteer program to teach English while traveling, the English Open Doors program in Chile is the answer.

I taught English to government-school students on Chiloé island for five months. The experience was challenging but well worth the efforts. The program provides food and accommodation and a basic stipend for the entire duration. Read all about the application process and the program here

 

volunteer+live+in+chile+castro+chiloe+eodp+chile.jpg

50. Last but not the least, hang out with the sweet Chileans

Chileans are the nicest people I have met who are ready to help out at any cost. Do accept when Chileans invite you to their homes, which they would. Oh, but do remember that Chileans are as punctual as Italian trains. I talk more about the Chilean people and Chile’s culture here

 

marina a chilean lady in cauquenes

 

Phew! Now go have fun.

 

Would you love to see Chile? Which of these top places to visit in Chile intrigued you the most? Tell me in the comments.

Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links to products I love. If you choose to click through and make a purchase, I will earn a little bit at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Te Quiero, Chiloé

The island of Chiloé in South Chile will be marked in my memories forever. When I applied to the English Open Doors program in Chile, I didn’t realize that the program would give me some of the best times of my life.

Run by the government of Chile and the United Nations, English Open Doors invites international volunteers to teach English to government school students in Chile. As a near-native English speaker, I could apply for the volunteer program.

Until I landed in Santiago, I didn’t know that I would be placed in Chiloé. When the program coordinator told me that I had to teach students in Castro, the capital of Chiloé, I ran back to my room and Googled Castro.

Rainbow-like stilt houses lined up against an azure shore. Velvety-green hills filled my screen. Stout lambs grazed over those hillocks in groups. Steam smoked out of a chimney in a hut-shaped roof.

Wooden churches were flaunted in abundance. Legendary and mythical were the keywords on-screen.

Azure rivers, dense national parks, fresh seafood brought a grin to my face.

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How I Survived the Villarrica Volcano Hike

The alarm rang at 3:30 at night. I peeked out of my blanket into the dark dorm room and wondered why I had decided to hike the 2,800-meter high volcano. Just then Alison, my Canadian friend, who was sleeping on the lowest bunk bed opposite me, snoozed the alarm on her iPhone, mumbled something, opened her eyes for a second, and then pulled the blanket over her head again. She was the one who made me signup for the Villarrica Volcano hike, the active volcano that had erupted a year ago.

I shut the alarm and got out of bed. Alison followed me. Though November is a summer month in Chile, Pucon, a city in the lake region, wasn’t that warm, especially at that early hour of the day. After barely washing our faces with the cold water, we walked to the cherry tree in the hostel where ten other hikers were following the directions of the Volcan Villarrica tour guides. We wore a pair of waterproof trousers over our track pants and strapped our rucksack in which we carried the rest of the gear on our backs. Then the twelve of us walked to the minivan that was to drive us to Villarrica 30 kilometers out of town.

I don’t know if I felt secured or alarmed when Alejandro, one of our three tour guides, told us that after the eruption in 2015 the government had mandated that there should be a guide accompanying every four trekkers.

After driving for an hour, we reached the base of Villarrica. Even at that wee hour, the area was flooded with minivans and travelers who wanted to climb the volcano. Until then I didn’t know that climbing volcano Villarrica is the sole reason for some of the tourists to visit Pucon, the city which Lonely Planet refers to as the mecca for adventure sports. And why wouldn’t it be? You can do river rafting, kayaking, hiking, skiing, horseback riding, and so much more in the bustling lake town of Pucon.

Recommended Read: My experiential travel guide to Chile

I craned my neck to look up to the summit. The twilight was dissolving away the darkness of the night. A rotund moon watched us from above. From its base, Rucapillán, or the house of the Pillán, (the Mapuche name of Volcano Villarrica) indeed looked like a superpower, an undefeatable giant.

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My Chilean Host Mother Took Her Broken Heart and Said to Life Vamos (Let’s Go).

We were in September, and the sun had been hiding away for many days from Chiloé, a southern island of petite Chile. Rain thudded the brick-tiled roof unabashedly. I shivered after a shower on a cold evening in Castro. To avoid getting scolded by my host mother for not drying my hair well, I walked down to warm my head near the kitchen fire.

My host mother, who was already sitting at the round, wooden dining and sipping mate from her cup, called me to join her while patting the thick sofa cushion on her left. Perched on her right, the British volunteer, who was also teaching English to Chilean students with English Open Doors, rolled his eyes as he saw me accepting her invitation and approaching them. Respecting our usual friendly banter and rekindling the Indo-British feud, I threw some bad words in his direction. 

Then as the three of us huddled at the dining and sipped tea in the cozy kitchen of our uninsulated home, my host mother told us that her brother had just come home to request some wine, and then she warned us not to trust him as he was an alcoholic. 

Though I had seen her brother visit us every day, eat bread and cheese at the dining, drink wine, of which she kept a big bottle in her kitchen especially for him, I never realized that he was an alcoholic. Maybe I was focusing on cracking the heavy Spanish that darted to and fro between the siblings.

But his alcoholism was not the devastating part of the story. 

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Teach English in Chile – All About English Open Doors Volunteer Program

What does this Teach English in Chile guide contain?

  1. What is the English Open Doors Program?
  2. What is the duration of the English Open Doors program?
  3. Who can apply to the English Open Doors program?
  4. What is the application process?
  5. But English Open Doors is a volunteer program. How well-organized would it be?
  6. Do I have to pay to volunteer for the English Open Doors program?
  7. Does the program pay the volunteers to teach English in Chile?
  8. What all does the English Open doors program provide?
  9. Which visa do I have to take to teach English in Chile?
  10. Do I need to know any Spanish if I travel to Chile?
  11. Which grades does a volunteer teach?
  12. Would the program train me to teach English in Chile?
  13. What is the English level of the students whom the volunteers would teach in Chile?
  14. How did a regular week of teaching English in Chile look like?
  15. Is teaching English to Latin-American students hard? How was your teaching experience in Chile?
  16. How was your living experience in Chile?
  17. Do you think your classes helped the students or made any impact?
  18. What do I do when the English Open Doors program finishes?
  19. Would you recommend the English Open Doors program and teaching English in Chile?
  20. I am still not convinced if the English Open Doors program is good?
  21. How do I contact the English Open Doors program?

 

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How to Score Chile Visa on an Indian Passport – From India and South America

Chile gives free ninety-day entry to most of the countries. But, of course, India doesn’t get free access, and we have to apply for a Chile visa. I was once stuck on the Chile-Bolivia border because I didn’t have any tourist visa for Chile as I had thought that India was also in the list of those fortunate countries. How wrong I was! 

Having paid more than what I should have for this mistake, I decided I would be more sincere while doing visa research and would also help other travelers by updating them with my knowledge on the world visas.

A Really Helpful Read: My experiential and well-researched guide to world visas for Indians

 

[Update 2019] : Since April 1 2019, Chile allows all Indians holding a valid US visa into Chile. So if you have a valid US visa, you don’t have to apply for a tourist visa. 

Please read the official message of the Consulate of Chile:

***

Please note that the below message was an old notification on a page of Chile website that doesn’t even work anymore.

The Consular Section of the Embassy of Chile in India states that henceforth all Indian travelers holding B1/B2 Visa or Residence Permit (Green Card) from the USA, with current validity of six months, do not require a Chilean tourist visa (either Simple Tourism or Multiple Tourism or Multiple-Business). This came into effect from the 1st April 2019.

This is the new information that Chile provides-

The Consular Section of the Embassy of Chile in India states that henceforth all Indian travelers holding a valid US Visa, with current validity of six months, do not require a Chilean tourist visa (either Simple Tourism or Multiple Tourism or Multiple-Business). This came into effect from the 1st April 2019.

NOTE

– All travellers to Chile need to have a valid passport for at least six months from the date of entrance into the country.

– Tourist travellers should have enough financial support for their stay in Chile.

– The period of stay in Chile for tourists is up to 90 days.

– Not applicable to USA Transit Visa (Visa C).

***

You can read more about the change here on the official website of the Chilean government.

Now as I read this message I understand that all the travelers having a valid US visa can travel to Chile without applying for a separate Chilean tourist visa. The only exemption seems to be where the Indian travelers have a USA transit visa. But if you are in doubt, please email the Chilean Consulate in New Delhi @[email protected] and confirm.

 

If you do not have a valid US visa, please keep reading for the Chile visa application process.

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Chile Travel Guide: Tips From My 6-Month Solo Chile Trip

What does this Chile Travel Guide contain?

  1.  Where is Chile?
  2. How did I decide to travel to Chile? What inspired me to visit Chile?
  3. What is English Open Doors program? – Volunteering in Chile.
  4. But why should you travel to Chile or South America? What is so special about Chile?
  5. How is the landscape of Chile?
  6. What are the natural disasters of Chile that you should be worried about while traveling in Chile?
  7. The Geography of Chile (Along with the things to do in Chile).
    1. The North of Chile.
    2. The Central Valley of Chile.
    3.  The Lake region of Chile.
    4.  The South of Chile
  8. Chile is far. What about the long flights and the insane timezone shifts?
  9. How to stay connected with family?
  10. Didn’t I feel homesick or lonely that far away from my home country and friends?
  11. What about the rough Latin American Spanish? What language do Chileans speak?
  12. Why do I say that Chile people are the nicest?
  13. Is Chile expensive on a traveler’s budget? What is the cost of travel in Chile?
  14. How much did the tickets cost for the flight to Chile?
  15. What about the tourist visa for Chile?
  16. What is the best time to travel to Chile?
  17. What to pack for Chile?
  18. How to move around in Chile?
  19. How should you carry money when you travel to Chile?
  20. Is Chile Safe? This Backpacking Chile guide is updated for the current uproar in Chile. 
  21. How is Chilean food?
  22. Now let’s get real – the drinking scene of Chile.
  23. Some closing FAQs and tips.

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Chilean Culture– 13 Chilean Conventions To Know Before You Visit Chile

While we strolled through the artistic arcades of the magnificent Angkor Wat temple, my Chilean friend Valentina, whom I had run into on a train from Bangkok to Siem Reap a month before my trip to Chile, asked me if I knew how Chileans greeted each other. I shook my head expressing my ignorance of the question and the Chilean culture.

I didn’t know anything about South America or Chile in that hot month of June, even though I was flying to Chile in July, if my visa went through, which I hadn’t applied for by then. Without noticing my obliviousness, Valentina went on telling me about Chilean traditions, greetings, and other customs I should have known before going to her country.

While traveling in Chile, her insights on the Chile culture helped me throughout my six-month-long solo adventure through the passionate land. Returning the kindness, I am aggregating all those unique conventions that left an impression on me so that you are prepared to visit this beautiful land of some even more beautiful people.

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A Memoir of Chile Independence Day – Or As The Chileans Call It, Fiestas Patrias.

Today is the independence day of Chile, which is also called Fiestas Patrias or dieciocho, the 18th. Having celebrated this grand day in its mother country, I promise you that the one week of celebrations preceding the independence day and on the day itself are unmatchable. And why shouldn’t they be?

On this date in 1820, Chile overthrew Spain and freed herself from 300-year-long captivity.

Chileans are thrilled around their independence day and celebrate it with honesty, love, and passion. Children, students, adults, grandparents all dress up, decorate, cook, visit their families, talk, celebrate, drink, host barbeques, dance, sing, and act.

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How I was Mesmerized by Atacama, the Driest Desert of the World – And You Would be Too

They say that the Atacama is the driest desert, but I disagree.

 

The blue lagoons quenched my interminable thirst for beauty,

the flamingos still fly right through my dreams, 

the imposing mountains showed me how high we could reach, 

and the deep valleys let me look so beyond that I didn’t even know existed.

Come, let’s ride this journey together, 

because my friend, 

you would need someone to hold onto,

when you are not sure if what you gape at is the reality,

or it is just another dream you behold. 

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San Pedro de Atacama – A Quaint Gateway to the Atacama Desert, Chile

 

Sleeping on the semi-sleeper first seat in front of the wide glass window on the second floor of the bus, which was driving from Santiago to Calama, I woke up to find ourselves driving next to the Pacific under a star-studded, deep-blue sky which was complemented by a shimmering rotund moon. Even the contour of the immortal rabbit that Ruskin Bond says was dropped on the moon was difficult to trace on the bright moon. It was like a painting.

Having admired the scenery, I dozed off again and kept waking up intermittently until we arrived in Calama. That was when I pulled myself out of hibernation and, an hour later, I was riding on another bus to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. At the end of this blended twenty-five-hour journey, I stumbled out of the bus like a zombie and the glowering February sun focused all its anger on the first-time visitor. Luckily, my hostel was a five-minute walk from the bus terminal. I strapped on my blue backpack and strode as I had loaded the directions to the hostel in Google maps.

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My Worst Travel Experience – When Two Teenage Boys Snatched my Phone and Ran Away in the Delinquent Santiago

I donned my white formal dress, put on my red matte lipstick, lined my eyes with Kajal, brushed my hair and let them fall loose, strapped my G-Shock on my right wrist, checked if I had Chilean pesos, hung my black leather purse on my shoulder, picked up my black Lenovo phone and earphones, launched Google maps, and walked out of the Airbnb to go for my interview at the English teaching center located in downtown Santiago. I had had to visit the center a few times to secure an interview with the English owner of the promising institute.

I took the lift to the ground floor of the building and having exchanged pleasantries with the joyful guard, walked out, and found myself face-to-face with the glowering January sun. I strode through the almost-empty roads towards the closest bus stand which was frequented by the bus that would have directly taken me to the cosmopolitan center of the town.

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