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Home > Chile's Regions


Chile is a wonderful yet still little known country. This thin stretch of land of almost 4,300 km in length, spreading under a pure sky riddled with stars, offers many assets. How amazing is it that Chile is home to the driest (the Atacama Desert) and the wettest (Chiloe Island) places on earth? And the Easter Island is just the icing on the cake!

We invite you to discover and travel through regions that we love and know like the back of our hands. With its unique geography, Chile will offer you the many facets of a nature that has remained wild and intact.

The Chilean Altiplano

The Altiplano, which stretches over four countries, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Chile, is a must-see in South America. Its name comes from the fact that it is composed of very high flat plateaus, about 3,300 m above sea level, which means that it is only slightly lower than Tibet!

Even though the biggest part on the Altiplano is in Bolivia, Chile has no reason to envy its neighbor: between the village of Chungara, perched at an altitude of 4,500 m, the Surire salt flat, San Pedro de Atacama, enchanting oasis in the middle of the desert or the Lauca National Park.

This region offers a wide variety of landscapes that you will find nowhere else in the world and combines two distinct environments: the Altiplano and the Atacama Desert. The extreme northlands of Chile used to belong to Bolivia and Peru and were annexed during the Pacific War in 1898. Located at the mouth of the Azapa River, the city of Arica is the gateway to the country.

This is an area of extreme contrasts in which the dryness of the desert perfectly complements the fertile valleys and the oasis of the Altiplano. This climate gave rise to wonderful landscapes. For example, around San Pedro de Atacama, you can visit the Moon Valley and its incredible rock formations, the Atacama salt flat, which spreads over more than 300,000 hectares, or the Tatio Geysers as well as many hot springs like those of Mamiña and Puritama.

This area boasts a rich level of biodiversity, and the most representative species are protected in the parks and national reserves like the Lauca Park, Isluga Park or the Surire salt flat.

The nicest tours start with an excursion in the Azapa Valley, before taking you to the río Lluta Valley. This area is filled with archaeological treasures, geoglyphs, petroglyphs, paintings and other types of rock art, which remind us the high level of development of the prehistoric people of the region.

The principal city of the far north, Iquique, today known for its port but most of all for its Free Zone, used to make a living from the saltpeter industry. You can still go back in time by visiting the ghost towns of Humberstone and Santa Laura. Still in the mining sector, you can find the Chuquicamata mine, near Calama, considered the largest open pit copper mine in the world.

In this arid region, you will fortunately come across some oasis, like Pica, a paradise where mangos, guavas, oranges and grapefruits grow. Who could guess this is the driest region on earth?

Atacama, burning desert

It is said to be the driest place on earth…

The Atacama Desert evokes quite correctly an absolute aridity, an imperturbable blue sky and a scorching heat. Deprived of the ocean breeze by the Domeyko cordillera to the west, and isolated from the melting Andean glaciers by the pre-altiplanic cordillera to the east, the region barely experiences any rainfall. Have you ever met people that have only seen rain on TV? In the Atacama Desert, you will!

San Pedro de Atacama, oasis located 2,450 m above see level, is named after the Atacama people who settled there more than 10,000 years ago. Originally, they made their living from the gathering, crafts and agriculture but always managed to adapt to their hostile environment. Visit the Paige Museum to learn more about their civilization.

Discover this unique region, its incredible fauna (vicunas, flamingos, viscache…), the most beautiful lagoons (Cejar, Miscanti-Miñiques), the secret Moon Valley and the Tatio Geysers.

Want to do a little sport? Go on a horseback ride, sandboard down slopes of a sand dune or climb a volcano to more than 6,000 m of altitude.

Want to relax? Spend the day soaking in the hot springs or taste the famous Pisco Sour in the middle of a salt flat.

Want to do something unusual? Fly over the desert on a ULM or spend the night observing the clearest sly in the world with professional astronomers in one of the numerous observatories of the region.

Want to visit another country/region? This region is the starting point to the Chilean Altiplano, the Argentinean Northwest and the Bolivian Sur Lipez.

Adventurers, explorers, photographs or sightseers, get ready for an unforgettable stay in the desert!

The Near North

From La Serena to Antofagasta

The desert ends here and nature and vegetation take back their rights.

This territory is composed of the regions of Atacama and Coquimbo. It is considered a transition zone between the desert of the Far North and the lush valleys of the central region. The contrasts are impressive: the green terraced olive tree fields and vineyards fit perfectly with the dry land of the area.

In fact, a unique phenomenon happens hardly ever in the Atacama Desert: the blossoming of a wide variety of flowers between the months of September and November in years when rainfall is unusually high.

A large number of rivers (Limarí, Elqui, Choapa, Huasco, Copiapó) flow from the Andes and provide irrigation to the land, which is then more suitable for agriculture.

The natural attractions of the region are numerous: the Nevado de Tres Cruces National Park, the Llanos de Challe Park (2 protected zones), El Mensanoso, highest sand dune in the world, or the Ojos del Salado, highest active volcano in the world. Near Chañaral, the Pan de Azúcar National Park is another charm of the region: it’s ideal for camping and observation of marina wildlife.

The nicest spot of the region is a little further south, in La Serena, Chile’s second historic city, founded shortly after Santiago in 1544. Holiday destination of the inhabitants of the capital, it is the starting point towards the Elqui Valley, where the arboricultural and winemaking activities are in full swing. It actually has a reputation for producing the famous Pisco, the national beverage. Charming little villages dot this tour among vines and astronomical observatories open to public.

The exceptionally clear sky is perfect for the astronomy lovers: this is why a multitude of observatories have opened in the region, including those of La Silla and Tololo, which are the most important in the world. For amateur or experienced astronomers of the northern hemisphere, Chile’s sky is a godsend since it presents completely different constellation from those they are used to observing.

Finally, numerous small coastal villages, like Bahia Inglesa, will allow you to enjoy their excellent fish and seafood restaurants.

Santiago de Chile and its region

Located in a valley between the Andes and the Coastal Cordillera, Santiago de Chile and its 7 million inhabitants is one of the largest capitals in South America.

Founded on February 12, 1541 by the Spanish governor Pedro de Valdivia, the city has since then known many changes. Santiago is easy to discover and doesn’t match the idea of a large South-American urban area.

Let yourself be charmed by the historical center of the city, the Bellavista neighborhood, the view from the Cerro Cristobal or by the discovery of the surrounding vineyards or Cajon del Maipo.

Santiago is also the starting point to reach the cities of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar.

Valparaiso, literally “Valley of Paradise”, whose historical center was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 2003, is one of the most beautiful and picturesque places in central Chile. Surrounded by 42 hills, the Valparaiso bay forms a natural amphitheater open towards the Pacific Ocean. You can access the city’s high Cerros (neighborhoods) with 16 funicular.

Viña del Mar is located a few kilometers from Valparaiso and is one of South America’s most popular beach resorts.

Around Concepción

The Maule Valley, south of Talca, has a large number of wineries receiving, for most of them, the visitors warmly. The landscapes of the Area de Protección Radal Siete Tazas are breathtaking, and the Altos del Lircay National Reserve has amazing hiking trails.

Other not-to-be-missed attractions of the area include a train ride on narrow tracks, a museum dedicated to the Mapuche traditions and a multitude of cultural monuments.

The Chillán hot springs are also a must-do, with their thermal waters and their ski slopes, a combination that you can find in other touristic centers. On the coast, several small beach resorts are waiting for you. The most important city of the region is Concepción, Chile’s third biggest metropolitan area with more than half-a-million inhabitants.

The Lake and Volcano District

From Araucania to the Carretera Austral

This journey starts in Araucania, more precisely in Temuco, capital of the region, 700 km from Santiago. The other important cities are Valdivia and Osorno and, further south, Puerto Montt that is the gateway to the Carretera Austral.

Historical and cultural places, these cities have known diverse influences over the centuries. The German culture predominates and is still visible in the houses and architecture or in the physical features of the inhabitants.

Territory of the Mapuche people, this is where the last Indians managed to repel the invaders to the Biobío River.

But it is above all a region dominated by the volcanoes of the Andes, natural border with Argentina. The numerous rivers (Valdivia, Maullin, Petrohué, Reloncaví, Puelo, Palena) flowing on the slopes contributed to the formation of countless lakes in the valley like Lake Llanquihue or Lake Ranco, particularly in the Panquipulli area where you can hit the Road of the Seven Lakes.

In the middle of the Andes, in what is called the Pacific Ring of Fire, stand the Osorno, Carran, Riñnahue, Puyehue and Calbuco volcanoes, still active, as well as a few extinct ones like the Casablanca and the Puntiagudo. This last one is a very old volcano that, due to the rain erosion, presents a pointed summit made of hardened lava. The most active volcanoes of the past decades were the Riñinahue and the Carran. A Mapuche legend explains the existence of the Osorno: when the world was created, an old, powerful and villain spirit called “Peripillán” was imprisoned in the deepest part of the earth. The Osorno Volcano and its eruptions would be the result of its violent attempts to come back to the surface.

This region offers a very wide and diverse range of activities: volcano climbing, trout fishing, horseback riding, skiing, rafting or you can just relax in one of the numerous hot springs or lakes of the region.

Principal attractions: Huerquehue Park, Villarrica National Park and its volcano, the villages of Pucón, Puerto Varas and Frutillar, the crossing of the lakes to Bariloche (Argentina).

Huerquehue National Park is located in the Valdivian temperate rainforest and encompasses 12,5000 Ha. It is home to a native vegetation of Araucarias, hualles, lingues and tepas, and to protected species like the condor or the pudú. It lies 32 km east of Pucón, and its 20 small lagoon make it the perfect place for hiking (fairly easy trails).

The Villarrica National Park, located in the Andes, is characterized by its volcanoes, its forests, its caves, rivers and lagoons. The Villarrica Volcano, the principal attraction, rises to 2,860 m and is well known for being the most active in South America.

The villages of Pucón, Puerto Varas or Frutillar are perfect spots to relax. They are small beach resorts along lakes where you can spend the night at the casino after an intense day of sporting activities.

The crossing of the lake to Bariloche in Argentina is a great way to cross the border at this point in your journey.

Islands of the Pacific

Among the countless islands doting the Chilean coast, three of them in particular attract the visitors seeking to travel in all simplicity: the Easter Island, the Robinson Crusoe Island and the Chiloe Island. The first two are far away from the continent, lost in the Pacific, respectively 3,700 km and 500 km off the Chilean coast.

Chiloe, on the other hand, is way bigger than the other two, encompassing more than 8,000 square kilometers, and is located only a 20 min ferry-ride away from Puerto Montt, the principal port of the Lake District.

The Easter Island, or Hanga Roa in Rapa Nui (term designing the island as well as the language), is one of the most exotic places of the country. The Rapa Nui culture, of Polynesian origin, has always been a source of admiration, particularly for its spectacular monolithic stone statues, the Moais, these famous monuments that have been standing on this volcanic island for more than 800 years. This culture and language remain alive and attract every year thousands of visitors coming to appreciate this incredible island and try to unveil the mysteries of the “navel of the world”. The island’s infrastructure has nothing to envy to the continent’s. Many hotels and restaurants offer all categories of services.

The Robinson Crusoe Island, which is part of the Juan Fernandez archipelago, was severely hit by the 2010 tsunami. A large part of its city and hotel infrastructure is being rebuilt. However, you’ll be able to enjoy the warm welcome of its 500 inhabitants, descendants of those who colonized the island a century ago. There, you can taste delicious crayfish, usually the main course. The endemic species of the island are even more diverse than in the Galapagos, particularly the flora and the countless birds. The Robinson Crusoe novel is based on two shipwrecks and one of them was experienced by the Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk, who was found in 1709, after having spent four years on this then desert island that today wears its name, in reference to the book.

The Chiloe Archipelago, southwest of Puerto Montt, is a group of 20 islands a 20-minute ferry-ride away from the continent, whose cities like Ancud, Castro or Quellón serve as ambassadors of the Chilote culture. Halfway between the rural and the fishing influences, it’s a culture full of myths, culinary traditions, solidarity and a blend of architectural styles that you will have the opportunity to discover. With a beautiful National Park and churches listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, Chiloe will captivate you with its authenticity. You can also visit a penguins reserve north of the island, but make sure you bring a waterproof jacket with you because in Chiloe, it rains a lot.

The Carretera Austral

The end of the Pan-American Highway

The Carretera Austral in Chile is parallel to Road 40 in Argentina and is the continuation of the Pan-American Highway, which connects Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. This road is very new. The first portion was inaugurated in 1986, at the request of the General Pinochet, then at the head of the country, who took the decision to build a road connecting the towns and villages of the south of Chile.

At that time, those villages were completely isolated from the rest of the country: some of them could only access the territory by the ocean, unless they went all the way to Argentina to catch the Road 40. Most of them seemed to have stopped in time.

The narrow Chilean territory around Puerto Montt, between the Andes and the ocean, is caved by numerous fjords, formed during the last ice age. The terrain is very steep and lined with volcanoes, lava fields, lakes, rivers and the thick Andean forest of Patagonia. In this region, it is possible to visit the Pumalin Natural Reserve and the Hornopirén National Park.

The Pumalin Park is the largest private nature reserve in the world (320,000 Ha). After the 2008 eruption of the Chaitén Volcano, the park was temporarily closed to visitors; it reopened in December 2010.

On the way, you will follow the Futaleufú River, known worldwide for the practice of kayak and rafting. You will also find many hot springs along the road, the most famous being the Puyuhuapi springs. It is also a paradise for recreational fishing and an area of intense salmon fishing.

Coyhaique, capital of the region, is the starting point of the excursion on Laguna San Rafael.

Around Lake General Carrera, a must-see of the Carretera Austral, nature is exuberant, contrasting with a few areas of “bosque muerto” (a forest that died due to a major fire that destroyed the region 30 years ago). The lake, located across the Chilean and Argentinian border, is Chile’s biggest lake and South America’s third biggest lake, with a total area of 978.12 square kilometers and a length of 200 kilometers.

Since the beginning of the 90’, Lake General Carrera has opened its main town, Chile Chico, to tourism. From there, you can take a boat or a kayak trip to go discover the marble chapels, a group of rocky islets the color of marble created by the water erosion on the cliff.

To end your tour, you can take a boat between Cochrane and Villa O’Higgins, the southernmost point of the road. You will then have to cross the Argentinian border to take a boat or a plane to continue your journey.

Patagonia, the end of the road

Patagonia, literally “the land of big feet”, is an immense territory south of the American continent that used to be a major cause of discord between Argentina and Chile. Today, the portioning of the borders is still unclear in some areas.

Due to the unique characteristics of its ecosystem, the region has generated a great ecologic, scientific and touristic interest. Visiting Patagonia is not only a feast for the eyes, it’s also breathing a new air, listening to the wind and feelings like immersed in a dream, embark on a journey through landscapes where human activities have only had little impact.

The glaciers, mountains, rivers, lakes, fjords, island but also forests, steppes and damp zones that compose this region make it one of the largest supply of fresh water in the world and a natural heritage, not only of Chile but of Humanity.

Punta Arenas is the administrative center of the Magellan region. City of 120,000 inhabitants, it has an airport but most of all an important fishing port, which is also a free zone. The rest of the population makes its living from the oil industry. Tourism has only developed recently but the activities are expanding rapidly, and, since it’s a required stop, you might as well take the opportunity to visit the penguins reserves and enjoy the wide range of hotel accommodation offered in the area.

The city of Puerto Natales is the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park, wich is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful parks in South America. Located 2,000 meters above the Patagonian steppe, the Torres (towers del Paine), monumental granite blocks, offer a spectacular view. The Park, created in 1959, used to be occupied by an estancia specialized in sheep breeding. In 1978, it joints the list of UNESCO’s biosphere reserves. Its wildlife is very diverse and you will find Andean ñandús, guanacos and condors. Encompassing 181,000 Ha, its beauty is impressive and the variety of its landscapes exceptional: you will go from green and abrupt valleys to seas of ice falling into crystal-clear water lakes. This unique place has something to offer to every hiker, no matter their level. The lovers of wide open spaces can plan multi-days excursions alternating catamaran tours, horseback rides and hikes along thousand-year old lakes.

Further south is Tierra del Fuego and its most famous town, Ushuaia, on the Argentinian side. In Chile, the southernmost town is Puerto Williams. You can hike there in the summer, but above all, it’s the best place to take a cruise: embark on a boat to Cape Horn or to Antarctica, what an adventure!


This is the wildest and most extreme of all continents, but also the less affected by man. Since the signature of the Antarctic Treaty, the territory has been divided between 12 countries, including Chile.

Just like the North Pole, this region of the world lives in the dark half of the year, experiencing what is called the Long Polar Night. The temperatures are extreme too: the average annual temperature is -50°C/-58°F but it can go down to -90°C/-130°F.

Located on the South Pole, it is surrounded by the Austral Ocean or Antarctic Ocean. It is also bordered with the Ross Sea and the Weddel Sea. With a total area of 14 millions square kilometers, Antarctica is smaller than Asia, Africa, North America and South America. Only Europe and Oceania are smaller. 98 % of its surface is covered with an ice sheet of an average thickness of 1.6 km.

It only rains very occasionally over there, except on the coasts. The inside of the continent is technically the largest desert in the world. There is no permanent human population and Antarctica was never home to any aboriginal peoples. Only the plants and the animals adapted to the freezing cold can survive, like penguins, seals, mosses, lichen, and many types of seaweed. During the austral summer, wildlife comes to reproduce, find food or rest. Many penguins nest in the Antarctic Peninsula or in the South Shetlands.

Over there, everything is superlative. Surrounded by a gigantic ice floe, covered with an ice cap a few kilometers thick, Antarctica is a continent of beauty, mysteries, dream, travel and adventure. Until recently only visited by scientists, the dream of a journey to Antarctica is today accessible thanks to specialized cruises.

The principal objective of Antarctica’s tourism is the discovery of the life of endemic marine wildlife, and offers an insight on a very fragile ecosystem that only very few people have had the chance to observe. Because of this fragility, it is indispensable to follow the rules of the Protocol on Environmental Protection established by the Antarctic Treaty.

Embark on an adventure to those frozen territories. Observe the wildlife of the Antarctic like the emperor penguins, the whales as well as an incredible concentration of birds (petrels, albatrosses…), a privileged encountering.

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