Stretching over 4,000km from north to south, Chile embraces a diverse range of climates and landscapes, meaning the country is in a great position to offer up adrenaline-fuelled adventures.
Bordered by the world’s driest desert to the north, the Andes mountain range to the East, the fjords and glaciers of Patagonia to the south and the South Pacific Ocean to the West, Chile epitomises “off the beaten track”. Recently voted ‘South America’s leading adventure tourism destination’ in the World Travel Awards, you really can't afford to miss a visit to Chile.
With the long Pacific coastline and warm seas, Chile has an abundance of great surf locations, but nothing is more legendary than the El Gringo wave, which attracts surfers from all over the globe and plays host to a leg of the World Surf League’s World Championship Tour.
The secret to why the ‘Chilean Pipeline’ draws so many crowds is due to the shallow reef and huge swells that bless the area; the best time to surf the wave is usually early in the morning, due to local wind patterns.
Known as the ‘Land of the Indigenous People’, San Pedro de Atacama is home to ancient cultures and stunning scenery. In the heart of this vast, dry desert, travellers can surf the sand on a sandboard cruising down 120-metre dunes to get their adrenalin fix. Set 2,400 metres above sea level, sandboarders can enjoy 360-degree views of Death Valley.
The perfect setting for parasailing and other aerial sports, Dragón Hill is an enormous, 4km long sand dune in the coastal city of Iquique and is one of the top places to parasail in Chile. Situated on a narrow rocky ledge above a 500-ft high cliff, the dune varies in height from 150-500 metres and is the largest urban sand dune in the world – only the dunes of the Sahara are taller.
A coastal nature reserve divided between the arid Atacama and Antofagasta regions of northern Chile, Pan de Azucar National Park is located 800m above sea level and covers around 40,000 hectares of truly unique scenery. The perfect playground for adventure-seekers, the park offers anything from fishing and diving, to trekking and mountain biking.
With unbelievable views, incredible snow, and over 3,000 feet of vertical descents, Snowcat skiing is a form of guided backcountry skiing which you can try out in the Andes, just over 100km north of Santiago. Rather than hiking or using a chairlift or helicopter, skiers and boarders are transported up the mountain in a snowcat, a piste-grooming machine with a cabin built on to the back.
A must-do for any hardcore skier, skiing in the shadow of Aconcagua is unlike any other experience in Chile; at the summit of the valley, skiers can see Cerro Aconcagua to the east - the highest peak in the Americas - and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Cat skiing operators have access to vast areas of backcountry terrain, so the likelihood of skiing fresh snow is very high, if not guaranteed.
A gorge in central Chile located southeast of Santiago, Cajón del Maipo has become synonymous with adventure sports; visitors come here to Zip-line through the trees and the picturesque canyon, which is home to El Morado National Monument. A mountain reserve with trails to the San Francisco Glacier and Laguna Morales, El Morado has steep, rocky cliffs, which are a big draw for climbers, whilst the trails and rivers bring in adrenaline-junkies to cycle, raft and ski. Reaching heights of more than 25 metres, cable riding is a unique way to see the amazing terrain from above, as you glide overhead.
The adventure capital of Chile, offering kayaking, rafting, skiing, trekking and volcano climbing, Pucón is located close to the Villarrica National Park and offers thrill-seekers a chance to ski on the slopes of the active Villarrica volcano.. There are 20 runs at the resort, with great local services and good snow conditions; there’s runs for all levels and with 9 ski lifts, you won’t be waiting long for a ride up the volcano.
Located 2,300 miles off-shore, Easter Island rests on a broad volcanic ridge that supports 111 species of tropical and pelagic fish. The pollution-free waters mean that visibility in these seas can exceed 120 feet, which provides a unique dive-experience for adventure travellers. There are many operators offering a range of local diving centres for visitors to choose from, which all follow official PADI rules and safety routines. Tropical temperatures make for easy diving in the winter, but rough waters can limit choice of dive sites in the summer. The submerged moai statue at the bottom of the ocean is one of the most popular scuba-diving sites for keen divers.
Located in northern Patagonia, the Futaleufu River is fed by glacial snow from the Andes, making it one of the world’s top white-water rivers. The rafting season here runs from December through mid-April, when you can raft through turquoise waters beneath snow-capped mountains; a true once in a lifetime experience. The river flows 120 miles through Chile to the Pacific Ocean and you’ll find a wide range of rafting operators along its length. Locals refer to the valley as ‘Un paisaje pintado por dios’, meaning ‘A landscape painted by god’, which should give you an idea of how stunning this area actually is.
The third-largest ice mass in the world after Antarctica and Greenland, the Patagonian Southern Ice Field is best explored on foot. Stretching over three National Parks and covering 16,800 square kilometres, this giant plateau is at an average altitude of 1,500 metres and is always covered in snow.
Hailed as one of the most exciting and exhilarating treks in the world, those attempting to traverse it will pass through icy rivers and snowy forests, as they trek through the wilderness in crampons or snowshoes.