Like a long, thin strip stretching across the Pacific Ocean, Chile is a country with surprisingly diverse terrain, from the snow-capped Andes and colossal glaciers to a wave-battered coastline and desolate desert. In the midst of these mind-boggling geographic extremes lie a plethora of urban centers, each one more attractive than the last; you can find everything from bustling places that mix with activity to laid-back beach resorts for bohemian living. Here are the top 10 recommendations from Patagonline.
Surrounded by the snow-capped Andes and the Chilean Coastal Range, Chile’s cosmopolitan epicenter presides over a vast valley filled with suburban parks, fine-dining restaurants, sprawling museums and wild nightlife hotspots. Visitors zigzag between the neoclassical landmarks of its colonial heart and the lively bars and cafes of its bohemian Barrio Bellavista. Very close to the resorts and the ski slopes, the Chilean capital is also an excellent base to explore the natural treasures of its perimeters.
Northwest of Santiago, Valparaíso has a rugged charm that makes it by far the most captivating coastal city in Chile. The city is famous for its jumble of quaint multi-colored clifftop houses, its rugged vernacular and bohemian art scene that has been flourishing ever since Chilean poet Pablo Neruda drew inspiration from the port city while living here. The best way to get to know the place is by wandering the narrow streets that wind down the hillsides before ending up in the hodgepodge of old-fashioned bars that stay open until the wee hours.
Located on the side of a hill at 3,500 meters and backed by the peaks of the Taapaca volcano, Putré is an attractive Aymara settlement. The fresh mountain air, charming colonial buildings, and tranquility of the town make the place an attractive stopover for many who need to acclimatize to the altitude here before setting off for the dizzying elevation of Lauca National Park.
This quaint and tranquil Northeast haven sits within the world’s driest desert, enjoying a leisurely pace of life and a healthy influx of visitors to its dusty streets lined with adobe buildings. If San Pedro doesn’t tempt you, then the spectacular scenery that surrounds it certainly will: salt pans, volcanoes, geysers and hot springs at your fingertips.
The northern port city of Arica benefits from year-round sunshine and a relaxed pace of life that suits its seaside location and contributes to its name as the “City of Eternal Spring.” Locals and visitors stroll through its center in flip-flops before heading to the various surrounding beaches on foot to surf and sunbathe. Stay a day or two before visiting the Azapa Valley, home to some of the world’s oldest mummies, or the nearby Lauca National Park.
Adrenaline junkies flock to Pucón, recognized worldwide as the capital of Chile for adventure sports due to its location next to the impressive Lake Villarica and the fiery volcano of the same name. There are a multitude of exciting outdoor activities on offer year-round (rafting, hiking, skiing, canyoning, and fly-fishing), but also more laid-back feats like hiking and visiting hot springs. The town itself is adorned with wood-carved restaurants, cafes and hotels in perfect harmony with the wooded surroundings.
Capital of the northern region of Coquimbo, La Serena was founded in 1544 and is the second oldest city in Chile after Santiago. Its appeal lies in its wonderful colonial and neo-colonial architecture and its wide sandy coastline: the perfect combination for those seeking culture and relaxation. The streets in the city center are blessed with pretty churches, tree-lined avenues, and picture-perfect plazas, while beyond its perimeters you’ll find pretty towns and sprawling vineyards offering pisco-tasting tours.
This place in Patagonian Chile is located on the shores of the beautiful Última Esperanza fjord. Enjoy stunning views of colossal mountains. As the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park, the city is a starting point for nature lovers who come and enjoy its modern luxuries, cozy cafes, trendy bistros, bookstores and bars, before venturing out into the amazing wilderness. patagonic.
Viña del Mar
On Chile’s Pacific coast, Viña del Mar is often referred to as ‘ The Garden City’ due to its series of beautiful sprawling parks and palm-lined boulevards, despite its official name meaning ‘vineyard of the sea’ which comes from of the colonial era. Its sleek, clean and tidy appearance contrasts sharply with neighboring Valparaíso, making it a popular vacation destination for wealthy Chileans who come for the beaches and weekend parties.
Head to the waterfront to enjoy the best view of Puerto Varas, from where you can see the tremendous peaks of two snow-capped volcanoes, Osorno and Calbuco, as a backdrop. Known as ‘The City of Roses’ due to its many flower-bedecked streets, the pretty town of Puerto Varas curves around the southern shore of Lake Llanquihue and enjoys stunning views and a welcoming atmosphere. While it’s not overrun with tourists, there’s still plenty to do: you’ll find a good range of hotels and restaurants, while the town’s agencies provide access to water sports, rock climbing, fishing, and even skiing.