Chile Holiday Planning Guide
Squeezed between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, geographically diverse Chile is a long, thin stretch of land encompassing some of the world's driest deserts in the north, and some of its largest glacial fields in the south. Though most Chile holidays include some form of adventure in the vast wilderness areas, the country also contains charming cities providing plenty of urban things to do and see. Many tours of Chile include at least a brief visit to the country's lush wine regions, where backyard vineyards compete with sprawling estates producing some of the world's most respected whites and reds.
Places to Visit in Chile
Regions of ChileValparaiso Region
: Wedged between a mountain and the sea, Valparaiso Region offers hilltop scenery and rich culture of its diverse coastal ports.Los Lagos Region
: Travel south on your Chile vacation to Los Lagos Region and find extensive woodlands and world-renowned archaeological sites, patchworked between mountains, volcanoes, and lakes.Easter Island
: Voyage to the far reaches of the Pacific Ocean to Easter Island, one of most remote destinations in the world, bursting with Polynesian culture and history.Santiago Metropolitan Region
: Home to the country's main international airport and watched over by the snowy peaks of the Andes, this region is likely to be the first stop on your Chile holiday.Antofagasta Region
: A remote barren landscape known primarily for its copper mining operations, this area encompasses vast salt flats.
Cities in ChileSantiago
: Capital and largest city of the country, Santiago sprawls out of its valley, bursting with 19th-century architecture set against a buzzing commercial center.San Pedro de Atacama
: A remote town resting on a high plateau in the Andes, San Pedro de Atacama provides the perfect spot from which to explore the surrounding lunar-like landscape of hot springs, salt flats, and volcanoes.Valparaiso
: Colonial architecture meets modern nightlife in Valparaiso, a chaotic port city with a lively culinary scene.Vina del Mar
: Adding Vina del Mar to your Chile itinerary lets you discover a well-established resort city benefiting from a pleasant climate and family-friendly atmosphere.Puerto Varas
: Looking over both a lake and a volcano, Puerto Varas is not short of vistas, its German colonial architecture and culture only adding to its unique charm.
Things to Do in Chile
Popular Chile Tourist AttractionsCerro Santa Lucia
: Enjoy panoramic views of Santiago from the top of an ancient volcano, now blanketed with flourishing plant life and impressive monuments.Patio Bellavista
: Shop and dine at your leisure at Patio Bellavista, a trendy square packed with boutique stores, fashionable bars, and several tempting eateries.Valle de la Luna - Valle de la Muerte
: A trip to this moon-like landscape during your Chile vacation is an absolute must--the barren environment is covered with undulating sediment formations of every hue.Torres del Paine National Park
: Glacial mountains set against verdant green grasslands set the scene at this park, an ideal location to get out into nature during your Chile holiday. Cerro San Cristobal
: Superb views of Santiago from the capital's largest park attract many visitors--others come to stroll through Japanese gardens and see the Virgin Mary statue looking over the city.Costanera Center
: Prepare to shop until you drop at this mammoth shopping complex, with six floors of retail space topped with panoramic views of the city.Geyser del Tatio
: A breathtaking stop on any Chile itinerary, Geyser del Tatio boasts over 80 active geysers located high up in the Andes Mountains. La Chascona
: Step into the life and times of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda at this house-museum, preserved as it was when the artist occupied it.Valle Nevado - Ski Resort Chile
: Easily accessible from the capital, the slopes of this ski resort offer a multitude of trails catering to all skill and fitness level, along with spectacular views across the Andes.La Sebastiana (Pablo Neruda's House)
: Another former Pablo Neruda residence, this charming house is hard to miss, its eccentric exterior only hinting at the artistic treasures hidden inside.
Planning a Chile Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Chile with Kids
Often the first place on many Chile itineraries, Santiago
is packed with museums, malls, and other attractions to keep families entertained for days on end.
To slow down the pace a notch, head to nearby Vina del Mar
and unwind in the city's flourishing parks and along its golden coastline.
If outdoor adventures appeal more to your family, a ski holiday in Chile will not disappoint, with both Valle Nevado
offering access to top winter resorts.
For more outdoor adventure, travel south to Pucon
, where year-round activities in the rugged Chilean landscape include trekking, rafting, and fishing.
Alternatively, take the family to Puerto Natales
and let the kids explore the great wonders of the surrounding national park.
If you're looking for a little relaxation to top off your Chile holiday, stop in Zapallar
, a quaint resort town with mild Mediterranean weather.
Things to Do in Chile with Kids
While in the capital, you can visit Museo Artequin
or Museo Interactivo Mirador
for interactive, educational exhibits aimed at keeping the younger members of the family entertained.
To introduce the kids to local cuisine, explore Central Market (Mercado Central)
and fill your tummies and grocery bags with freshly made local delicacies.
In Vina del Mar, Playa Caleta Abarca
and Playa Canelo
offer a family-friendly beach setting, with convenient amenities and water-based activities.
If skiing is the reason for your Chile vacation, consider Valle Nevado - Ski Resort Chile
or Ski Portillo Centro de Esqui
. Both provide a wealth of slopes of varying difficulty set against the dramatic scenery of the Andes.
For an unforgettable experience in Puerto Natales, don't miss Glacier Grey
, a giant glacier flowing into a lake.
A trip to Chile would not be complete without seeing South American penguins, and you won't be able to miss them at Isla Los Pinguinos Cachagua
, conveniently located a short distance from the town of Zapallar.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Chile
Chile is a family-friendly destination, with children welcomed in most restaurants and hotels, and often given free admission at attractions.
There's plenty of adventure to keep the kids occupied on your Chile holiday, and packing a few essentials can make your trip a little easier. Bug repellant and toilet paper for public restrooms come in handy while out and about, and bottled water is recommended for anyone with a sensitive tummy.
Depending on your child's diet and allergies, you may want to avoid some street foods. If you're planning to head out into nature, don't forget plenty of sunscreen and comfortable walking shoes for varied and uneven terrain.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Chile
Cuisine of Chile
Chilean cuisine is considerably less spicy than some of its Latin American relatives, with an emphasis on meat, seafood, and savory dishes enriched by the country's high quality wines.
"Empanadas," stuffed pastries filled with cheese and meats, remain a top choice across the country, originating from the central region and found in abundance throughout Santiago
Head farther south and seafood becomes more plentiful, with indigenous Mapuche and Chilote cuisines having a strong influence on modern cooking.
"Pastel de pescado" (fish pie) and fish stews like "chupe de locos" and "cancato" are extremely common across Aisen Region
, home to one of the oldest dishes of Chile--"valdiviano," a jerky soup.
If you're in the mood for something sweet while on your Chile holiday, try "murta con membrillo," a mixture of boiled quince and guava berries mixed with sugar.
Shopping in ChileSantiago
is the shopping capital of Chile, with authentic food and crafts markets and modern shopping complexes pandering to your every need. Central Market (Mercado Central)
in the capital should be the first stop for any foodie on a Chile itinerary--it's chock-a-block with fresh fish, baked goods, and other tasty treats. Alto Las Condes
also provides a pleasant shopping experience in Santiago. It's smaller than some of its competitors, but home to a mixture of both national and international brands, along with a theater.
If you find yourself in neighboring Chillan, be sure to visit Mercado de Chillan
, where a mix of high-quality produce and artisan crafts will have you perusing the stalls for hours.
To find a perfect gift while in Valparaiso, don't miss Arte Vitro
, an artisan handicraft store full of charming local items to take home.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Chile
Interesting Facts About Chile
● Chile is home to the driest place on Earth--Atacama Desert experiences on average under 0.05 mm of rainfall a year
● Chile is the world's ninth largest producer of wine, with places like Concha y Toro vineyard
perfecting the art of wine production for over a century
● Chile has over 1,300 volcanoes, many of which are still active and found in the Andes mountains
● One of the world's largest swimming pools is found just north of Algarrobo
in Chile, covering 8 hectares (20 acres)
Things You Should NOT Do in Chile
Chileans are known for being a humble and relaxed bunch, and are usually forgiving of faux pas made by foreign visitors.
Despite this, with such a varied culture it's good form to get to grips with just a few common courtesies.
The dress code in many areas of Chile is often slightly more conservative than in Western countries, so if you're unsure and want to fit in, opt for longer shorts or skirts and avoid crop tops even in hot weather.
Pointing, especially with your index fingers, is usually considered rude, and beckoning with your hand is generally seen as discourteous.
If you intend on visiting anyone while on your Chile holiday, gift giving is common practice as a sign of gratitude and friendship--avoid giving yellow, black, or purple flowers as these can indicate disrespect or mourning.
Holidays & Festivals in Chile
Aside from Christmas and Easter, Chile hosts a wealth of festivals and public holidays, so find out what's on while you're in town to make the most of this country's vibrant culture.
February is a popular festival month across the country, with a music event in Vina del Mar
and "Carnaval Andino Con la Fuerza del Sol" in northern Arica
"Fiesta Tapati" on Easter Island
--also in February--is an exciting explosion of body paint, folklore, and physical strength.
If you vacation in Chile during September, you'll find it hard to miss "Fiestas Patrias," a nationwide public holiday and festival celebrating Chilean Independence.
Useful Chile Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Chile
Spanish is the first language of Chile, although those used to Castilian pronunciations may take some time to adapt to this distinctly different dialect.
"Hola" (hello) or "hola, que tal?" (hello, how are you?) are both acceptable ways of saying hello.
"Buenos dias" (good morning), "buenas tardes" (good afternoon), and "buenas noches" (good evening/night) will all also serve you well, especially in a more formal setting.
"Gracias" (thank you) and "por favor" (please) will also get you off to a good start.
Climate of Chile
Chile's climate is exceptionally diverse, with each region experiencing considerable fluctuations in seasonal temperatures.
Summer lasts from December to February, autumn March to May, winter June to August (ski season), and spring September to November.
Summer in the north can be extremely dry, with temperatures reaching 32 C (90 F). Central Chile, including the capital, experiences a more Mediterranean weather, with a wetter season in the winter and milder summers averaging around 20 C (68 F).
Plan your trip to Chile wisely if you're traveling to the southernmost regions of the country, as in the winter months many areas are inaccessible--making the best time to visit December through March.
Transportation in Chile
Buses and airplanes will likely serve as your main modes of transport while cross-country traveling on your Chile vacation. Trains are extremely limited and not usually worth the hassle.
If you plan to head to the more sparsely populated southern regions, rent your own vehicle for ease of travel. If you want to avoid long hours on the road, consider domestic flights for a quick, easy way to travel between cities.
When in the urban areas, buses and taxis provide a convenient way to go from site to site, with both Valparaiso
also boasting their own commuter rail.
Tipping in Chile
Tipping in Chile is commonplace, with most hotel and restaurant staff expecting some sort of reward for good service.
Restaurants will often include a 10 percent service charge on the bill, but feel free to add a bit more for excellent service.
Taxi drivers will not usually expect a tip, but may round up or down to the nearest thousand (pesos), as change is widely considered an inconvenience in Chile.
It's good practice to tip your concierge and bellhop in hotels. Guides will also expect tips, but the amount can vary considerably depending on the quality of their service and the length of time you employ them.