Interesting Cities to Visit in Chile


Travelers looking to visit northern Chile and the Atacama Desert will most likely set foot in the small town of San Pedro de Atacama, known for its traditional adobe architecture. The town provides access to the diverse landscapes across the Atacama Desert, including “Valle de la Luna” or the Valley of the Moon, salt flats, active geysers, and lagoons. Visitors can explore by car or enjoy the natural landscapes by biking, hiking, and even mountaineering. Travelers can relax in the sulfur-rich Puritama Hot Springs and spend the evenings stargazing alongside the many observatories in the area.


Chile’s capital and largest city, Santiago, is named after the biblical figure Saint James, the Patron Saint of Spain. The city has a wide array of attractions, from historical monuments and churches reflecting the city’s colonial past, to museums, markets, cultural festivals and concerts. Travelers should not miss two popular LGBTQ+ friendly neighborhoods in Santiago: Barrio Bellavista and Parque Forestal/Bellas Artes.


Valparaiso is Chile’s third-largest city, sitting on the coast just north of Santiago. Its name derives from Spanish, meaning "Paradise Valley." It is the seat of the national legislature. The historic quarter of the city is a cultural property on the UNESCO World Heritage List, lauded as an extraordinary example of a vital seaport town and industry related to the international sea trade in the 19th century.


Concepción is located in southern Chile and is often referred to as the “capital of Chilean rock,” giving rise to many important Chilean musicians. Travelers should expect to discover a vibrant music and arts scene, especially in the city’s many museums, art galleries and festivals.


Temuco in southern Chile is in the heartlands of the indigenous Mapuche people. Travelers will discover the way the city has incorporated its history of indigenous identity and colonial settler development. It is also where national poet Pablo Nerudo (he/him) grew up. Temuco now serves as an urban center and transit hub for visitors who often make their way to Malalcahuello Natural Reserve, a world-class skiing destination from June - September and popular for fly fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, and kayaking in the summer months (December - February). There is also the Villarrica National Park nearby, containing one of the most active volcanoes in the world by the same name, Villarrica.


Puerto Natales is a small fishing town located in Last Hope Sound or "Seno Última Esperanza" in the southern Patagonian region of Chile. Described as a “gateway” to Torres del Paine National Park, many travelers use Puerto Natales as a base for their exploration of the park and its mountainous landscapes and wildlife. It was originally founded in the early 1900s as a port for the thriving sheep and wool trade. The Cueva del Milodón National Monument is also located near Puerto Natales, which contains a network of caves where the remains of an ancient giant sloth were discovered.


Punta Arenas is a city near the southern tip of Chile’s Patagonia region. It sits on the Strait of Magellan, which connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. In addition to the Andean Mountains and access to stunning natural landscapes including Antarctica, nearby attractions include the penguin colonies on Magdalena Island and whale watching in the strait.

Interesting Attractions to Visit in Chile


One of the driest places in the world, the Atacama Desert spans over 100,000 square kilometers in northern Chile. A popular destination is the Valley of the Moon or “Valle de la Luna” near the border of Bolivia because of its otherworldly, moon-like landscape. This is also where you will find the highest active volcano in the world, Navado Ojos del Salado. In addition to hiking and mountaineering, the Atacama Desert is known for its stargazing and many observatories. Travelers can’t miss the flamingos, seen nesting and feeding throughout Los Flamencos National Reserve and the salt flats.


A remote, volcanic island in the south Pacific made up of three extinct main volcanoes, best known for its rows of giant Moai statues. Accessible by plane from Santiago, visitors can actively explore the island, with plenty of opportunities for biking and hiking in Rapa Nui National Park. Archeological sites also provide a glimpse into the Polynesian society that settled on the island around 300 A.D.


Accessible by public transit from the capital city of Santiago, Valle Nevado in the Andean foothills is a popular ski and snowboarding resort region. At nearly 10,000 feet in altitude, the resort includes hotels and additional lodging options, restaurants, and guest services and amenities. Guests can also hike, trek, mountaineer, and horseback ride through the Andean Mountains.


The island includes numerous wooden churches built by Jesuit missionaries in the 17th and 18th centuries. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage cultural property, the wooden churches reflect the rich fusion of indigenous and European cultures on the island. There are also the palafito buildings, referring to the colorful homes that sit along some of the island’s shorelines, rising out of the waters on wooden stilts. Chiloé National Park offers another opportunity to take in the vistas and wildlife, including dolphins and blue whales.


Wine enthusiasts can enjoy the Colchagua Valley, one of the most popular areas of wine production in Chile. The region, located in central Chile and south of Santiago, is known for its red wines, with Cabernet Sauvignon making up a large portion of its wine production. Many of the wineries offer tastings and tours of their vineyards. The valley also provides opportunities for stargazing at the nearby observatory.


Patagonia is the name of the mountainous region at the southernmost tip of South American, spanning both Chile and Argentina. Many travelers to this region take advantage of the dramatic natural landscapes of old-growth forests, fjords, lakes, and glaciers across the snow-capped Andean Mountains. A popular destination is Torres del Paine National Park. Those who venture further south can find penguin colonies, sea lions, and whales around the waters of the Strait of Magellan.


Ireland, of course, is known for its alcoholic spirits. Located in Northern Ireland, the Old Bushmills Distillery is the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world. It was granted its distillery license in 1608 and continues to produce some of the finest Irish whiskeys and malt whiskeys in the world. Old Bushmills Distillery offers multiple tour and tasting options.


A highlight in Chilean Patagonia is Torres del Paine National Park, which is highly regarded for the scenic hiking trails with views of serene blue lakes, forests, and the Paine Horns or “Cuernos del Paine.” The most well-known trails are the “W” and the “Circuit,” each of which are multi-day hiking experiences that lead to stunning vantage points. Visitors can discover abundant wildlife, including the South Andean deer known as the “huemul” and the Andean condor, two of Chile’s national symbols.


Located northeast of Punta Arenas in southern Chile, this natural monument is home to one of the largest penguin colonies in Chile. On the nearby Magdalena Island and Marta Island, guided boat tours offer opportunities to see colonies of seals and sea lions.

Gastronomy Guide

Chilean cuisine infuses a combination of Spanish and local, indigenous influences. Chilean empanadas are a very popular dish. The most traditional is the empanada de Pino, a pastry pocket filled with meat, onions, hard-boiled eggs, black olives, and sometimes raisins. Compared to other empanadas, the Chilean version is often square and large. A common food shared among friends is “chorrillana,” consisting of French fries covered with a steak or slices of steak, chorizo sausage, diced onions, and a fried egg (or two). It’s best enjoyed with a beer.

Chilean seabass cannot be missed and can be found served in countless ways. Seabass is a white, flaky fish that tastes similar to cod. Visitors, especially in the coastal cities, will almost certainly see shellfish on the menu, a common catch in Chilean waters. The most popular is “machas a la parmesana,” which are razor clams topped with cheese, wine, and butter.

Cocktail lovers will enjoy the Chilean pisco sour, an iced mixed drink made with brandy liquor mixed with tangy, citrus juices for its signature sour. Chilean Sopaipillas are light and crisp, deep-fried pastries that are commonly served topped with honey or sugar.

Safety Considerations for LGBTQ+ Visitors to Chile

Chile has made progress in recent years to enact LGBTQ+ laws and protections, although homophobia and transphobia continue to be everyday challenges for the LGBTQ+ community. Same-sex sexual activity is decriminalized in Chile. In 2012, Chile passed “Ley Zamudio,” a non-discrimination law inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. Ley Zamudio is named in honor of Daniel Zamudio (he/him), a young gay Chilean man who died after being targeted and beaten because of his sexual orientation.

Chile recognizes civil unions and, very recently, passed marriage equality, nearly 15 years after equal marriage legislation was first presented. The law also allows for joint parenthood between same-sex couples, as well as for children’s birth certificates to recognize the motherhood of transgender women and the fatherhood of transgender men. Chile further permits Chileans over the age of 14 to change their names and gender markers on legal documents. Gender affirming surgeries and hormone therapy are covered under the country’s public health system. Very recently, Chile’s Ministry of Health ordered the prohibition of non-consensual surgeries and medical procedures on newborns and children with an intersex condition.

LGBTQ+ travelers should be mindful that Chile is a large country, and acceptance and attitudes may differ, especially from Chile’s metropolitan cities to more rural areas of the country. However, public displays of affection are uncommon, even in metropolitan cities like Santiago. This is because homophobia, transphobia, and even bias-motivated crimes continue to be challenges for the LGBTQ+ community in Chile.

Travelers should also take general precautions when traveling, especially with personal belongings. As is common in many big cities, muggings, pickpocketing, and theft can occur so visitors should be vigilant and avoid putting themselves in high-risk situations. Though not frequent, travelers should plan ahead for potential disruptions to public transportation and planned itineraries that may result from demonstrations and protests that occur with little to no notice. Travelers should stay up-to-date with any travel advisories issued by their government prior to travel.


LGBTQ+ Travel Tips & Events

Pride is one of Chile’s biggest LGBTQ+ events of the year. Santiago Pride, also known as “Marcha del Orgullo,” is the largest pride event in Chile and one of the largest in Latin America, and takes place in June every year. What makes Santiago Pride unique is that it is held simultaneously in the cities of Santiago, Concepción, and Valparaiso. Every November, Santiago also puts on “Santiago Parade, Open Mind Fest.” The event describes itself as the “most massive march for equality in Chile” and includes a large electronic music parade through the city’s streets. Visitors will find LGBTQ+ nightlife throughout the year, particularly in larger cities like Santiago and Concepción.