Chile is one of the world’s longest countries, with seven distinct climates. As you travel from north to south, you will witness the change in landscapes from dry desert, to green forests, savannah and glaciers. Sometimes it is hard to imagine all these different terrains, all in one country! Due to this drastic change in climate, each region in Chile has its unique cuisine, lifestyle and attractions.
The dry north
The north of Chile is a vast, dry desert. The highway sticks out of endless flat desert sand, with the Andes mountains far out in the distance. The lack of rain also meant extremely clear skies and perfect shots of the dense Milky Way every night. Star-gazing is amazing in the north of Chile. I could literally watch the Milky Way float across the sky as the night continued. The luminescence of the stars was so intense that the sky seemed so close, so close that I thought I could reach out for it.
The populated centre
Most of Chile’s population live in the centre of the country. Santiago, the country’s capital, is just an hour away from other cities such as Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. This is an area that is full of art, people and city culture. I really enjoyed staying at the UNESCO World Heritage city of Valparaiso. Built on the hilly cliffs overlooking the pacific ocean, Valparaiso is indeed a paradise. The city is proud of its graffiti façade, which can be seen almost all over the centre. Every house, wall or staircase is decorated in beautiful graffiti art, some of which carry significant messages. Valparaiso has something to offer every tourist, from art and beaches to food and architecture.
The volcanic northern Patagonia
Since Chile is so long, the Chilean Patagonia needs to be divided into smaller parts for easier reference. The northern Patagonia is where Chile’s many volcanoes are found. The German-influenced town of Puerto Varas is absolutely beautiful. Built along a serene lake, the town directly faces the majestic Osorno volcano. From many spots in town, you can enjoy a beautiful postcard picture of the German architecture in town, the massive lake and the ever-so-gorgeous Osorno volcano. Of course, such beautiful cannot go to waste without a hike or two. Thankfully there are many amazing hikes in that area, which is worth doing especially on a rare sunny day.
The stormy island of Chiloe
Yes it is Chiloe, not Chile. Although the island of Chiloe lies in Chile, many people are proud of their Chiloean roots and would consider themselves Chiloean first before Chilean. The island is almost always under some kind of storm all year round, as such the local people have built their homes on stilts to protect themselves against flooding. Wood in Chiloe is also of exceptional quality, as such almost every house is built of wood. It is only in the island of Chiloe that you can find beautiful churches made entirely out of wood and without the use of nails. If anything, Chiloe looks nothing like the rest of Chile, maybe with the exception of its name.
The carretera austral
The carretera austral is a famous road built in the centre of the Chilean Patagonia. It was built during the dictatorship of Pinochet in order to link all of the small villages within the central Chilean Patagonia. At 1240km, the carretera austral is still mostly preserved in its original state. That means a full gravel road that kicks up a smoke bomb each time a car passes by. Yet, this area could arguably be the most beautiful part of the Chilean Patagonia. There are endless opportunities to hike, camp and kayak in this area. If you are a lover of unimaginably beautiful lakes, glaciers, snow-capped mountains and rivers, then this will be your most memorable memory of Chile.
The windy southern Patagonia
One of the windiest cities in the world is located here, in the southern Chilean Patagonia. Punta Arenas, the capital of Chile’s southern Patagonia sure is a windy, windy city. There are even ropes in the city for people to hold onto should the wind be too strong. I remembered once standing outside the city, wanting to catch a ride. The wind was so strong that I could not stand properly and wind almost ripped my jacket off. However, windy is not all there is to this part of the Chilean Patagonia. It is also home to the famous Torres del Paine national park, which is the most visited national park in Chile. Towering snow-mountains, beautiful lakes and amazing greenery; hiking the Torres del Paine is definitely a must-do for every passionate hiker.
Nature in Chile is just amazing. More than 25% of Chile’s land is protected with a national park status. That means a lot when it comes to the diversity of unspoilt nature that you can find in Chile. You can find all types of nature in Chile, from the blazing hot deserts to the icy cold glaciers and windswept mountains. If you are a fan of hiking and nature, then Chile will be your best choice in South America.
This is a map of all the places I have been in Chile. Check out the various places that I have been to, from the deserts in the north to the frigid south.