Six completely unique things to do in Chile

With a country that stretches more than 2,500 miles from the Atacama Desert in the north to the icebergs of Cape Horn in the south, it’s no surprise that Chile has some very special experiences. You can conquer the foothills of an Andean stratovolcano and paddle past glaciers on the same holiday.

Incredibly, it remains one of South America’s least discovered destinations; so whether you are joining NASA scientists to stare at the stars in the world’s darkest skies or watching exploding geysers in the world’s driest landscapes, you’ll mostly have the country all to yourself.

Read on to see our pick of the most unique things to do in Chile. 

Stand in the shadow of an iceberg in Patagonia

The tip of Chile is a little over 650km from Antarctica and the landscape is just as frozen and just as spectacular. Known as Patagonia, this remote land of ice stretches across the mountains and massifs of southern Chile and Argentina. There are endless ways to explore the region, but few are more exhilarating than paddling your own kayak through a glacial lake and dodging icebergs. Join Patagonia Camp on their half day excursions into Grey Lake. Banked by 30ft jagged walls of ice, from here you’ll be able to see a hundred miles of retreating glacier.  

Discover monstrous glaciers on our splendours of Patagonia tour.

Explore the driest place on earth on the Atacama salt plains

It’s said that there are parts of the Atacama Desert where rain has never fallen.  From rusty red canyons and milky lagoons to simmering thermal lakes and smoking volcanoes, this burnt landscape is one of the world’s most unique ecosystems.  The best base for adventures into the desert is the pretty town of San Pedro de Atacama and the Tierra Atacama hotel and spa. Their 4x4 tours will take you to the Atacama’s best landscapes, including the barren salt flats, the explosive Taito geysers and Moon Valley, where NASA puts its off world equipment to the test. 

See this lunar landscape on our Essence of Chile tour

Climb a stratovolcano in Villaricca

There are volcanoes around every corner in Chile – dormant, extinct and still spewing out lava. Apart from lending themselves to some scene stealing photos, the volcanoes have become bases for adventure sports and exploration. At 2800m, Villarrica Volcano is one of the biggest and best. Come in summer to hike the black rocks and peer into the caldera or head here in winter when you can ski down the slopes. The nearby Vira Vira Hacienda and Hotel will even let you jump on a plane and get a blockbuster view of the charred trees and smoking craters below.   

[Photo: Stephen Chip/CC]

Taste the world's original potatoes on Chiloe

Windswept and interesting, the Chiloe archipelago has its own distinct customs and heritage, as well as unique architecture in its wooden built stilt houses. It’s also home to the potato. 90% of the world’s potatoes trace their origins here and you’ll find more than 400 hundred varieties on the island served up in everything from fantastic stews to bread. Stay at the Tierra Chiloe hotel and spa to taste some of the region’s classic dishes, or travel in February to see hot potato juggling during the Festival Costumbrista. 

Enjoy Chiloe's potato dishes on our Chile lakes and volcanoes tour

See the stars (all the stars) in the Atacama Desert

There really is nowhere better on the planet to stare at the stars than Chile’s Atacama Desert. The lack of light pollution and almost perpetually cloudless skies allow you to see the stars in perfect clarity. Several international observatories are based here, including Alma, one of the most powerful telescopes in the world. But you don’t need fancy equipment to see the sky twinkle. Stay with Alto Atacama during a full moon and you can join their night time trek through the Valley of Mars to see the celestial heavens in all their glory. 

Grab blockbuster seats for the light show on our ultimate stargazing tour

[Photo: European Southern Observatory/CC]

Saddle up with the cowboys in Torres del Paine

Named after the Tower of Paine Mountains that loom over the park, the 1000 square miles of fjords, lakes and mountains are a frontier that still hasn’t been fully conquered – even the country’s main road doesn’t make it through here. The land has long been the home of Chile’s baqueanos, or cowboys, and their sprawling ranches. Stay with Explora in the heart of the park and you can sample this frontier life by joining their horseback tours. They offer a dozen rides of different difficulty across the Black Lagoon, Serrano Plains and Paine River. Or they can take you across to a working ranch where you can share a cup of mate with the baqueanos. 

Play cowboy on our Torres del Paine holidays

[Main photo: Noel Portugal/CC] 

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