CHILE, WORLD’S ADVENTURE TOURISM DESTINATION
The great geographical barriers that surround Chile, such as the Atacama Desert to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the magnificent Andes Mountains to the east, and Patagonia with the Antarctic territory to the far south, give it a distinctive character that allows to practice adventure sports in places where the human being still has not been. These are some of the reasons why Chile won for the third consecutive year the World Travel Awards, as world’s leading adventure tourism destination 2018.
Chile is the ideal place for adrenalin junkies, and for those who enjoy the sight of a spectacular landscape. Ski down Chile’s mountains and volcanoes, go for water sports such as scuba diving, surfing, kayaking and kitesurfing in the vast Pacific Ocean, grab your sandboard and hit the desert dunes, zipline through lush forest canopies, and fly fish in the Patagonia rivers, are some of the options to enjoy both adventures and sports.
ADVENTURE TOURISM THROUGHOUT CHILE
North and Atacama Desert
Chile, with over 4,000 kilometers of coast, is a real paradise for surf lovers. Arica, with good weather all year round, tepid waters and the wild wave named “El Gringo”, is a favorite destination for surfers from all over the world. In Iquique, surfers get applauses by their magnificent performances over their boards, thanks to the perfect formation of Cavancha beach’s ‘tubes’.
For paragliding specialists, Iquique is considered one of the 10 best destinations in the world. There, between the Atacama Desert and the Pacific Ocean, you do not only have the best conditions for overflying, but there is also a mild weather that invites you to enjoy its beaches and outdoors life.
Further south you will find San Pedro de Atacama, a town located in the middle of the world’s driest desert, which serves as base to visit and explore its impressive surroundings. There you will find the Atacama Salt Flats, the Moon Valley, the Tatio Geysers, the Salt Mountains, among many other geographical attractions that encourage exploration and adventure.
From San Pedro de Atacama you can also go trekking to Lejía Lake, from where you can hike at over 4 thousand meters above sea level, and enjoy the view of volcanoes, mountains and the impressive Miscanti Lake. The volcanoes surrounding San Pedro de Atacama, including Licancabur, Láscar and Llullaillaco, are permanent guards of the scenery. Climbing them up is a quite an experience that requires a two-day trip at least.
For mountaineers, the Ojos del Salado volcano is one of the biggest challenges on the planet. With its 6,893 meters of altitude it is the world’s tallest one. Climbing it is a test for experienced mountaineers’ skills.
The Atacama Desert, the world’s driest desert, invites you to see it from a bike, visiting its enormous salt flats. Going down through the Pan de Azúcar National Park coastal roads, you can see deep blue waters that will recharge your energy to continue the trip.
A good place for scuba diving in the north is the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, near Chañaral de Aceituno or Punta de Choros. There, besides the attractive seabed, you can see penguins, sea lions, otters and even whales.
Central Chile and Islands
Although endangered, Chile has over 2,000 glaciers, most of them unknown. Near Santiago, the capital city, it is possible to get to them after a 4-5 hour walk. El Morado Glacier is located further up to the west of Santiago and Cajón de Maipo, and on the way you can see how quickly you go from the big city area to the Mediterranean vegetation in over an hour. For beginners in Santiago, Sierra de San Ramón and the city hills such as Manquehue, are an excellent choice.
Scuba diving is one of the islands’ favorite activities. The Juan Fernández Archipelago’s underwater paradise has transparent water, a vast density of fish, besides morays, lobster and the playful Juan Fernández fur seal. Easter Island’s temperate and crystalline waters surprise the visitors with a privileged 40- to 60- meter visibility. The underwater world offers mysterious caverns to explore, and in the Las Áncoras reef you can discover the submerged moai. Back in the continent, in the central area of the country, other places to scuba dive include Los Molles and Pichidangui, near Zapallar, or Quintay, near Valparaíso, where you can scuba dive to explore a shipwreck.
The snow that falls during winter in the Central Andes gives way to the best ski tracks of the Southern Cone. Activities for experts, beginners, travelers and adventurers are offered by the magnificent mountain, spine of the entire Chilean territory. Besides skiing, it also offers snowboarding, snow tubing, ski touring and snowshoe hiking.
A must-see of the central zone are the trails of the La Campana National Park, near Valparaíso. Declared a World Biosphere Reserve, this hiking includes an 8-hour walk that goes through marvelous tracks with centennial Chilean palms.
Here you can also find the so-called surf’s world capital, Punta de Lobos, in Pichilemu, which receives the adrenaline junkies with waves over 4 meters high, and sea currents that provide enviable conditions to slide over the sea. In beaches such as Dichato and Buchupureo, near Concepción, waves crushing against the rocks test surfers’ skills.
Kayaking concentrates from central Chile to Patagonia with routes of different intensities, but always joined by magnificent landscape and abundant native fauna. To start testing your balance, we recommend trying the quiet sections of the Maipo River in the Metropolitan Region to then immerse in the Maule Valley waters.
Regarding rafting, rivers of central and southern Chile are a fascinating experience of both adventure and adrenaline. Their impressive descents, large flow and steep mouths into the Pacific Ocean, turn them into a delight for rafting. Beginners can test their skills on a raft in low-intensity currents such as the Maipo River, a few kilometers away from Santiago. For a group experience, the Claro River in the Siete Tazas National Reserve is the ideal place.
Southern Chile and Patagonia
Huerquehue National Park surprises with the Caburgua Lake, and the Villarrica National Park with the climb to the volcanic cone. These tough settings require climbing with crampons to access the top, which you can also do in Torres del Paine, where you can still go through totally unspoiled routes.
Near Pucón, experienced kayakers can try the Trancura River or enjoy wooded landscapes in the Caburgua, Calafquén, Conguillío and Riñihue lakes.
For higher speed in rafting, the rafting tourist centers near Pucón are a good option, in the IV- and V-class Trancura and Liucura Rivers. If you are an expert, your challenge will be to raft the Futaleufú River in the middle of Patagonia. Surrounded by an impressive landscape, its V-class rapids, well known by their extension have a good flow and exciting descents. Another must-see is the Baker River: its turbulence and turquoise waters will turn it into an unforgettable memory.
The Carretera Austral (Southern Highway), with over 1,200 kilometers from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins, is an ideal place for bikers. Most of the route is made of pebbles and it requires an adventurous spirit and patience to visit it, because it can be a rough ride. However, the effort is worth it, because you will find a place to photograph in every kilometer: forests, rivers, cascades, lakes, fiords, mountains and glaciers. This is also the ideal place for recreational fishing, for instance, in the Simpson and Baker rivers. In southern Chile you can also do fly fishing, trolling fishing and trawling. One option is to hire a hydroplane to reach unspoiled territories, such as the Grande River in Tierra del Fuego, where you can catch a giant brown trout, which can reach over 15 kilos. These are real trophies for expert fishermen, who return them to water to preserve the environment.
Patagonia is a must-see for hiking and trekking fans, with tens of national parks and reserves including trails with different levels of difficulty. Among them, Torres del Paine Park, in Chilean Patagonia, declared World Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 1978, is a 227,000-hectare protected area, with a variety of ecosystems including lakes, glaciers, rivers, vast prairies, cascades, forests and its particular granite towers, which have positioned Chile as one of the planet’s best natural destinations, according to the National Geographic Traveler magazine. The park has one of the world’s best trails. One of its most famous circuits, W, was selected by the Lonely Planet magazine as the world’s best trekking in multiple days without too much altitude. Keen adventurers can try the O circuit.
Ice trekking is a breathtaking adventure. The Chilean Patagonia has one of the world’s largest ice masses, ideal for this adventure. We recommend walking through the millenary frozen water structures, hidden in the Torres del Paine National Park and San Rafael Lake, and live the adventure and discover different cracks, rivers and tunnels formed among glaciers, while visiting the Yelcho Snowdrift in Carretera Austral.