An Overview of the Top Sights in Chile
Chile has one of the most diverse landscapes and is slowly becoming a popular destination for adventurers and nature lovers. Tourists can find a multitude of wonderful landscapes, from the high peaks of the Andes and old volcanos to lush forests, dramatic coasts and beaches. Moreover, Chile is blessed with an abundance of breathtaking national parks and nature reserves. These are popular places for trekking and hiking, as well as mountain biking, rock climbing, horseback riding, and river rafting. The cities also offer numerous museums and art galleries. Some top sights in Chile that you have to see are listed down below.
1. Lauca National Park
First up on our list of “Top Sights in Chile”, is Lauca National Park. This national park is located in the north of Chile, 40 km east of Arica. One of Chile’s best attractions, it boasts 1,300 square kilometers of highlands and mountain ranges with large volcanos. Some highlights are the untouched mountain lakes such as Cotacotani Lake and Chungará Lake. The park is also home to various important archaeological sites and evidence of early European settlers in the form of old colonial churches and other buildings. Additionally, it is famous for bird watching as it is home to more than 140 species such as: the crested duck, Andean goose, Chilean flamingo and the huge Andean condor.
2. Cajon del Maipo
This is a broad canyon in the metropolitan region of Santiago de Chile through which multiple rivers flow: the Maipo, El Volcan, Yeso, and Colorado rivers, in addition to other smaller streams. Many travel agencies organize day trips to this place and lead you through the valley. The ravine and the panorama view of the surrounding mountains are absolutely stunning. Some of the best things to do here are trekking, horseback riding, swimming in hot springs, and cycling.
3. Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts
Founded in 1880, the Chilean National Museum is South America’s oldest museum of fine arts. It is administered by the Artists’ Union, one of the leading centers for Chilean and South American art. The museum is one of the most important attractions of Chile and is located in the Palace of Fine Arts. The building itself is a work by the Chilean architect Emile Jequier and some of its highlights are the “Traffic on our Earth” and “Another Way to View Infinity”.
4. Chilean National Zoo
Opened in 1925, this zoo is found in the Metropolitan Park at the San Cristóbal Hill. Overall, the12-hectare territory is home to more than 158 species. Here, you will find numerous Chilean native animals, as well as other rare and endangered species. Some animals you can see here are: guanacos, lemurs, jaguars, condors, Chilean penguins, elephants, lions, emus, kangaroos, and rare Chilean frogs. The zoo is a family friendly place which you could visit in the evening. There are even numerous plant species in the different conservations and research projects.
5. La Moneda Palace
La Moneda Palace, also known as the Palace of the Mint, is another one of the top sights in Chile and is where the president of the Republic of Chile resides. It is located in the city center of Santiago and is home to the offices of the three cabinet ministers. Just seeing the magnificent neoclassical architecture with its Roman-Doric influences alone are worth the visit. Locals used to see it as Latin America’s only building built in an authentic Italian neoclassical way. Some other notable places to visit are the Citizenry Square and the Palacio de La Moneda Cultural Center, which hosts cultural and historical exhibitions throughout the year.
6. Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpetre Works
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located near the port city of Iquique in the remote pampa desert. It is an interesting ghost city which was once home to a bustling community. The city was filled with thousands of Chilean, Peruvian, and Bolivian people who worked in the hostile setting of the saltpetre mines. On your trip to this area, you will gain insight into the difficult circumstances under which the locals endured. The site’s larger structures are still in good conditions and, thus, are ready for your exploration. Due to the remoteness and harsh climate, it is best to visit the place with a professional tour guide.
7. La Portada
La Portada is a protected area and one of Chile’s 15 natural monuments. This natural arch is located 18 kilometers off Chile’s coast and consists of black andesitic rock, yellow sandstone, sedimentary rocks and layers of fossilicious garnets. Formed by sea erosion, this monument is one of Chile’s most beautiful attractions. La Portada is a great place for nature lovers and gives you the opportunity to watch birds like the Inca tern, seagull, pelican, Peruvian booby, and guanay cormorant.
8. The Marble Caves of Chile Chico
These caves formed by waves crashing onto calcium carbonate in the Patagonian Andes over a time span of 6,000 years. They are located on a peninsula on the verge of the Lake General Carrera. You will be impressed by the swirling blue pattern of the cave walls – a marvelous reflection of the glacier lake’s blue water. The caves can be easily reached by boat. What’s more, there are plenty of tour guides who can lead you through the caves’ connecting tunnels.
9. Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino
Founded in 1981, this museum is a perfect place for families and art lovers. It holds exhibits of pre-Columbian artifacts and artworks from Middle and South America. The museum is dedicated to preservation, as well as, study and presentation for the public. Located in the Palacio de la Real Aduana in the capital, Santiago de Chile, it is home to 10,000-year-old collections. Highlights here include masks and copper figurines from the Central Andes, modern pieces from the San Pedro Culture, and pottery from Valdivia.
10. Plaza de Armas
This is Santiago’s main square and the heart of the capital’s square grid. Here, you can stroll around, enjoy the sunny weather and explore different historical buildings. Some of the best attractions to visit are the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, the Central Post Office Building and the Palacio de la Real Audiencia de Santiago. The square’s highlight are entertainers such as comedians, pantomimes and artists.
11. San Cristóbal Hill
San Cristóbal Hill is a popular landmark of Santiago, which rises above the city. Spanish conquerors named the hill St. Christopher. It has a shrine and a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary on top of the hill, as well as an amphitheatre and a chapel to enjoy. The highlight of the hill is the 22 m high statue of the Virgin Mary and is one of Chile’s most visited attractions. Additionally, you can explore the foot of San Cristóbal Hill, where you will find a Japanese-style garden and the Chilean National Zoo
12. The Moai on Easter Island
This is one of the most popular choices for top sights in Chile and is perfect for a day trip. The island consists of a collection of monolith human figures, which were carved by the Rapa Nui between 1250 and 1500. One of the largest stone sculptures on the island is El Gigante which stands at 22 meters high and weighs 182 tons. There are even more, equally incredible statues spread all over the hillside.
13. Wulff Castle
This castle was built in 1906 for the Wulff family in Viña del Mar with a sea view. Home to the family for many years, the castle was to the city in 1959 and became the Chilean Navy Forces Museum. Previously filled with a collection of objects that belonged to the writer, Salvador Reyes Figueroa, it now serves as a national historical monument and as a seat of the city’s cultural heritage. The museum is open to the public and for all who appreciate the medieval features of the castle. Not to mention, there is also the opportunity to enjoy the magnificent view of the coast. There is a specific part of the castle in which you can see temporary art exhibitions that consist of sculptures, paintings, and photographs.
Chile has a multi-faceted culture and offers a wonderful mix of attractions. It is suitable for all kinds of tourists; be it adventurer, history buff, or nature lover. With these top sights in Chile, your time here will be chill and far away from the stress of life.