The 8 Most Popular Destinations in Chile

If you're planning a trip to South America, do not miss the most popular cities in Chile. While Brazil, Argentina, Peru, and Colombia get most of the attention from travelers, there are so many things to do and see in Chile. 

Each of the cities below showcase Chile's varied geography from the serene Atacama Desert in the north, through the lush central zone to the lakes and fjords of the far south, with a side trip to an isolated island in the Pacific. It may appear that Chile is a long thin slip of land that can be skipped but these cities prove otherwise.

  • 01 of 08

    Santiago

    City aerial view
    Pablo Rogat/Getty Images

    The capital of Chile, Santiago is a cosmopolitan city, with ample restaurants, bars, hotels, and shopping from tiny boutique and craft fairs to giant shopping malls.

    There are cultural attractions such as art galleries, museums, theaters, opera and ballet, lively nightlife, plus parks, tree-lined streets, and distinct neighborhoods.

  • 02 of 08
    Coast of Vina Del Mar in Chile
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    Chile's premiere resort on the Chilean "Riviera" attracts Chileans and international visitors to the beaches, the casino, the elegant hotels and restaurants, the museums, and spritely nightlife.

  • 03 of 08
    Lone Moai at Tongariki
    Marko Stavric Photography/Getty Images

    Explore Rapa Nui, the mystery of the moais, the BirdMan petroglyphs, and Easter Island, past and present.

    This ancient indigenous island is located several hundred miles off the coast of Chile and is on many bucket lists because of the Moai, large sculptures of heads that dot the landscape. These gigantic figures continue to be a mystery from the Polynesian population that once inhabited this island.

    While it is a bit more difficult to reach Rapa Nui, it is well worth it for the once in a life opportunity.

  • 04 of 08
    Small Adobe Church
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    Called the City of Eternal Spring, Arica is Chile's northernmost city, a duty-free oasis, and the gateway to archaeological and natural wonders in Lauca National Park, the geoglyphs at Putre, and the high altitude Lake Chungara.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08
    Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church (Iglesia Sagrado Corazon de Jesus) with Llanquihue Lake and Osorno Volcano behind, Puerto Varas, Chile Lake District, Chile, South America
    Matthew Williams-Ellis/Getty Images

    Chile's Osorno Volcano has been called the Mt. Fuji of South America. The Lake District has been likened to Switzerland, but Chile's spectacular arrangement of lakes, volcanos, rivers, and waterfalls stand completely on their own.

  • 06 of 08

    Valparaiso

    Valparaiso
    (c)Sharon Hanh Darlin

    In general, port cities tend to be ugly, industrial cities, but this is not the case with Valparaiso, making it one of the best day trips from Santiago.

    Sometimes called the South American San Francisco, the city is built on steep hills with colonial architecture overlooking the waterfront. Street art is alive and thriving in Valparaiso, but unfortunately so is petty crime, so keep an eye on your valuables.

  • 07 of 08

    San Pedro de Atacama

    Dirt Road By Mountains
    Jesse Kraft / EyeEm/Getty Images

    Chile is a land of extremes and while it's most often known for Patagonia in the south, it also has a vast desert in the north. 

    Here you can find unique regions like Valle de la Luna, flamingo populations, and sand dunes. For one of the most spectacular places to spend a sunset, do not skip the desert.

    If death-defying feats are more up your alley you may want to try sandboarding in San Pedro's Death Valley. It seems quite easy to slide down the steep sand slopes but falling off into the hot sand can be quite unpleasant.

  • 08 of 08

    Torres del Paine

    Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine National Park
    Michele Falzone/Getty Images

    This last entry is a bit of a stretch as Torres del Paine isn't a city in Chile but a national park.

    Located in southern Patagonia, this is a haven for adventure travelers who want to hike, climb, and kayak through Chile's snow-tipped mountains and stunning glacier lakes. It's one of the last few places on earth that remains largely wild.

    You don't need to be an extreme adventure lover to enjoy Torres del Paine as the circuit includes easy day walks as well as the "W" route which takes more than five days to complete.

Updated September 29, 2016 by Ayngelina Brogan