Running along South America’s western coast between the continent’s Andean spine and the Pacific Ocean, Chile stretches a long and narrow 2,672 miles from Peru down to the southernmost tip of the Americas. With the country’s extensive coastline, awe-inspiring glaciers, jagged fjords, a sun-scorched desert, and numerous volcanoes, Chile boasts a number of world-class travel destinations. Here are the top ten:
10. Los Pingüinos Natural Monument
Located in southern Chile on Magdelena Island, the Natural Monument is home to over 120,000 Magellanic penguins. The birds return to the island every September or October to find their mate, and are back to the sea by the end of March.
9. San Rafael Glacier
Accessible only by boat or plane, the journey to the San Rafael Glacier is as spectacular as the giant ice fields themselves, passing through narrow channels of the Aisen region.
8. Valle de la Luna
The Valle de la Luna – or “Valley of the Moon” – features massive sand and rock formations. Located where the Atacama Desert meets the Andes, the Valle de la Luna’s otherworldly landscape lends itself to stunningly colourful sunrises and sunsets.
7. Central Coast Beaches
Chile’s beaches are a major attraction for international tourists as well as a popular vacation spot for Chilean families. The low-key coast towns near Vina del Mar and Valparaiso are perfect for relaxing and enjoying the picturesque views.
6. Pablo Neruda’s Houses
The literary-minded might be interested in checking out Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda’s houses, located in Isla Negra near Valparaiso. Each of the three houses – Isla Negra, La Sebastiana, and La Chascona – has a distinctive character and interesting collections of various objects.
5. Volcán Villarrica
This cone-shaped volcano is near the resort town of Pucón. Adventurous – and fearless – visitors can hike to the rim and peer down at the lakes of lava below.
4. Cerro San Cristóbal
Just outside the city of Santiago, Cerro San Cristóbal is a hill that provides a panoramic view of the city and the nearby Andes. The peak, which can be reached by cable car, has a 72-foot statue of the Virgin Mary as well as a botanical garden and zoo.
3. Torres del Paine
The Torres del Paine National Park, located in Patagonian Chile, boasts grandiose granite landscapes sculpted by glaciers. The centerpiece of the park is the three Towers of Paine – granite peaks reaching dizzying heights of 8,200 feet.
2. Lauca National Park
Located in north Chile’s Andean Range, Luaca National Park features one of the world’s highest lakes and several snow-capped dormant volcanoes. The incredible scope and scale of the views makes the area one of the country’s top tourist attractions.
1. Easter Island
While Easter Island is a territory of Chile, it lies far into the Pacific Ocean, roughly halfway to Tahiti. While the Island is well-known for its 887 giant statues, called moai, its other attractions include spectacular diving, surfing, two volcanic craters and a number of sandy beaches.
Even beyond these top 10, there are dozens and dozens more destinations within Chile worth visiting – get out, explore, and discover your own path! With the fantastic variety of destinations and incredible array of natural beauty, a visit to Chile is sure to be full of memories that will last a lifetime.
Angie Picardo is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance and travel site dedicated to helping people master the art of money management, from planning a vacation budget to understanding the principles of credit card debt forgiveness.