Discover the best things to do in Chile’s national parks, from hot springs to rainforests
Framed by jagged Andes peaks and dramatic Pacific coastline, Chile is a long, slender country renowned for its dynamic cities and abundance of unforgettable outdoor adventures. The country’s buzzing capital, Santiago, is home to hip neighborhoods like Bellavista and Lastarria, packed with striking street-art murals and overflowing with trendy bars and eateries that dish up both traditional ceviche and modern Chilean cuisine. On the coast, colorfully painted homes cling to cliffsides in the port city of Valparaíso, home of 20th-century Nobel-prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. The neighboring resorts of Viña del Mar and Concón fill up in summer thanks to miles of sandy beaches, local seafood restaurants, and prime surf spots.
In the Mediterranean-like Central Valley, you can hop between wineries for cellar tours and tastings followed by countryside barbecues and lunches. In winter, ski powder less than two hours’ drive from Santiago in Valle Nevado Ski Resort or hit the snowy slopes of Osorno, a massive active volcano in Chile’s Lake District. A vast network of national parks preserves Chile’s natural landscapes, particularly in the south, where the rugged terrain includes gigantic fjords, remote islands, and colossal glaciers that tumble into the sea.
Easy-to-reach national parks in Chile:
- Puyehue National Park: Soak in hot springs, and then hike amid waterfalls and thick rainforest in this picturesque area of snowcapped volcanoes and tranquil lakes. Base yourself in Puerto Varas, a charming nearby town that’s situated on the shore of Lake Llanquihue and known for its German-influenced architecture.
- Alerce Andino National Park: Trek among ancient alerce (fitzroya) trees, a towering species native to the Andes Mountains, and keep an eye out for black-necked swans and mallards in the park’s lakes. Birdlife includes the large Magellanic woodpecker, whose males are identifiable by their distinctive crimson heads.
- La Campana National Park: Wander in a forest of native Chilean palm trees and climb to the summit of the park’s namesake hill for panoramic views. Located less than 90 minutes’ drive east of Concón, this park is also home to dozens of animal species, including chinchillas and foxes.
- Siete Tazas National Park: Drive less than two hours south of Curicó to cool off with a dip in the “seven cups,” a series of turquoise-hued natural rock pools connected by small waterfalls. Alternatively, navigate the pools by kayak and then hike through groves of hazelnut and oak trees, where you might spot Tricahue parrots.
- Llanos de Challe National Park: Home to a serene desert landscape, this coastal park is dotted with spiky cacti and splashes of color from vibrant blooms like pink and red añañuca flowers. Look out for ambling, llama-like guanacos and then return to your hotel in the laid-back nearby town of Vallenar.
When to go
The best time to visit the southern part of the country, especially Patagonia, is during the warmer months of November to March. Santiago, the Central Valley, and the Atacama Desert are year-round destinations, though a great time to experience the capital is in summer (December to February), when the city tends to be quieter.
If you’re making a side trip to see the moai statues of Easter Island, March is often a less busy time to go. Want to slalom your way down a mountain? Chile’s ski season typically runs from June through October.
When you’re ready to visit Chile, book with Radisson Hotels to discover the country’s exciting cities, breathtaking beaches, and alluring national parks.