Traveling to Chile? Here are Five Places You Can’t Miss
Chile poses a conundrum for the eager traveler. It’s easy to take an eyes-bigger-than-stomach approach to planning, as the country offers a veritable buffet of attractions with its diverse wine regions, cities, and other-worldly landscapes. The solution: narrow down your itinerary to these five highlights and commit to returning.
1. Tour the Devil’s Cellar of Concha y Toro Winery
Nestled in the Maipo Valley gleams the celebrated Concha y Toro winery. A founder and leader of the Chilean wine industry, a visit to its facilities is a must-stop for wine lovers. While there, join a Devil’s Cellar tour. Legend has it, Don Melchor de Concha y Toro kept thieves at bay by spreading a tale of the devil taking up residence in his cellar. Today, visitors leave the 21st century behind as they descend into the original, 100-year-old stone cellar that stored his wines. Afterwards, sip through the award-winning wines of Casillero del Diablo in homage to Don Melchor’s legacy. Less than an hour’s drive from Santiago, Concha y Toro makes for an easy-day trip.
2. Stargaze in the Elqui Valley
Near Chile’s dry Atacama Desert, Elqui Valley was deemed a Dark Sky Sanctuary in 2015. While the secret’s out on this astro-tourism hub, its distance from cities limits crowds. Those who make the five-hour drive from Santiago (or one hour from La Serena), will discover the region is more than just a pretty night sky. In fact, it’s considered a wellspring of spiritual energy for its strong magnetic force. Healers and mystics abound in the tiny town of Pisco Elqui. To stargaze, head to a touristic or scientific observatory, or book an after-dark tour operator who handles the arrangements.
3. Explore Graffiti and Seafood in Valparaiso
South of Santiago, this coastal city sports a grittiness typical of port towns. But Valpo’s rough edges are part of its allure. Colorful houses brighten bohemian neighborhoods, while provocative street art splashed across buildings has earned acclaim as the best in South America. A rich tradition of seafood makes dining out in low-key restaurants tucked down tiny streets a treat.
4. Marvel at Torres del Paine
Though visiting this famous park at the southern tip of Chile requires a commitment of time and money, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime endeavor. Rugged mountain peaks, glacial blue lakes and lagoons, and a windswept landscape still traversed by ranchers on horseback, evokes the wild west. Indeed, it is one of the world’s most remote places, and yet this UNESCO Reserve attracts 250,000 visitors per year. Translation: book lodges, refuges, or campsites far in advance, especially in summer months.
5. Stroll Santiago’s Old Town
All flights pass through Santiago, so it’s inevitable visitors will spend time in this modern city. To make the most of a stopover, head to old town. The Bellas Artes/Lastarria and Bellavista neighborhoods (called barrios) serve as Santiago’s vibrant heart. Traces of the city’s halcyon days of art and literature linger in its museums and galleries, street musicians, and European sensibility. By day, check out the Fine Arts Museum, pause to people watch in the plazas, and break for shade in the Parque Forestal. At night, boho Bellavista entices with upscale restaurants and bars.