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Top 7 Outdoor Activities in Chile

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Chile won the award for “Best Adventure Travel Destination” two times in a row during 2015 and 2016 in the World Travel Awards. That alone speaks about the amazing adventure activities the country has to offer. Albeit its small size, Chile has one of the most diverse landscapes in South America that plates up a contrasting assemblage of mountain ranges, deserts, fjords, glaciers, and volcanoes, making Chile one of the best adventure playgrounds in the world.

If you are an adventure bug, craving for your next big adrenaline rush, Chile will fulfill your wishes. Below are seven big outdoor activities in Chile, listed in random order, that will satiate even the most adventurous people.

1. Mountaineering

Volcan Lanin
Volcan Lanin, one of the highest volcanoes in Patagonia's “Ring of Fire”.

There is a certain amount of vigor and athleticism that mountaineering demands which cannot be compared to any other adventure activity. But there is also a fulfilling reward – the sheer joy and contentment of being on top of a mountain. For those mountaineers who’ve conquered a native peak and are on the look for a new challenge, or for beginners who want to sharpen their skills, Chile has it all. From the icy summits in the Andes, to some brilliant peaks in the Lake District, Chile has a perfect mountain to climb for every mountaineer. Get your pulse soaring with endless climbing opportunities available in Chile!

  • For Experts: Mount San Valentin, at 4,085 meters, is a challenging expedition due to its weather, remoteness, and technical difficulty. The ascent from the first base camp to the top and back takes around 11 days, but an expedition can last up to 3 weeks.
  • For Beginners: Volcan Lanin, at 3,776 meters, is a demanding but doable mountain. Perfect for experienced trekkers who want to have a go at mountaineering. It can be summited in 2 days. (There are more volcanoes to climb in Chile!)
  • Best time: January to April and October to December (Mount San Valentin) December and April (Volcan Lanin)
  • Solo / Tours: Guided Tours is highly recommended for expert and beginner climbers.
  • Tips: Remember the golden rule by veteran climber Ed Viesturs, “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.”

2. Trekking and Hiking

trekkers in Torres del Paine
Trekkers hike up a hill on their trek in Torres del Paine

Chile is a haven for hiking and trekking enthusiasts. From the famous Patagonia region, its glaciers and mountains, the Atacama Desert, to the lakes and volcanoes in the Lake District, the best of Chile has to be explored wearing a pair of trekking boots. There are so many trails to follow, and so many vistas to witness.

  • For Experts: Torres del Paine O trek in the Torres del Paine National Park is a 6 – 10 days trek covering 110 km.
  • For Beginners: Cerro San Cristobal, the big hill in the middle of Santiago, offers an incredible view of the city. The hike lasts up to 1 hour uphill and 30 mins downhill.
  • Best time: November to early March (Torres del Paine O trek)  After a rainfall for the clearest view (Cerro San Cristobal)
  • Solo / Tours: Hiking the Cerro San Cristobal can be done solo. Trekking the Torres del Paine O circuit is best done with an experienced guide, but can be done alone, if you’ve got the necessary experience.
  • Tips: Pack light, wear good trekking boots and comfortable clothes. Water and dry snacks is a must for a hike.

3. Rafting and Kayaking

Whitewater Kayaking on the Maipo River in Chile
Tourist Kayaking on a river in Chile

Glacial lakes and pristine rivers provide many opportunities for some wonderful whitewater rafting and kayaking in Chile. Regardless of whether you have never been boating or had hundreds of similar water sport experiences in other countries, Chile will not disappoint you. Discover around 1200 rivers, hundreds of lagoons and lakes; take in the breathtaking clear waters, native wildlife, and gorgeous landscapes, all while you paddle!

  • For Experts: The Siete Tazas National Park, also known as the Seven Teacups National Park is a famous destination for expert kayakers, with its several mind-boggling canyon drops. Pair it with river Claro or river Maipo to extend the kayaking tour to 7 to 18 days.
  • For Beginners: A 1 day kayaking trip from Grey Lake, covering the Grey River and the Serrano River. This is best suited for those who are physically fit and have some past experience.
  • Best time: November and December. Melted snow in November transforms the rivers’ landscape turning them into a raging torrent.
  • Solo / Tours: If you are a beginner you should definitely not be kayaking alone. And if you are an expert, you know which rivers to take on your own, and which ones to not. Generally, our advice is to not do kayaking alone though.
  • Tips: Having your own kayak shipped is not a good financial move. You can easily rent good kayaks locally.

4. Kitesurfing

Kite Surfing in Pupuya Beach
Pupuya, one of the world’s best beaches for windsurfing

Kitesurfing is a mix of parasailing and surfing. Harness the power of the wind by holding onto a large kite while surfing the waves on a modified and smaller surfboard! With a lot of good wind, Chile is one of the best places to experience this thrilling sport to its fullest! Take up this adventure with an 8m or a 12m kite to feel that exhilarating rush.

  • For Experts: Extended sessions at Matanzas Beach for experienced kitesurfers. Wind intensities here can change rapidly, pushing the difficulty bar higher and thus making the adrenaline rush that much sweeter.
  • For Beginners: 1 hour sessions at Pupuya Beach, which is at a distance of 2.5 hours from Santiago.
  • Best time: October and November
  • Solo / Tours: It is advisable to join a kitesurfing tour with professional instructors.
  • Tips: Enroll in a 1 day kitesurfing class if you’re planning to experience it for the first time.

5. Mountain Biking

Cancha Carrera Mountain Bike Trail
Mountain biker riding on the Cancha Carrera Mountain trail

Mountain Biking is a fantastic way to view nature on 2 wheels. With its diverse, beautiful landscape, seemingly never-ending mountain ranges, varied treks, and natural obstacle courses, Chile is the perfect destination for cycling and mountain biking. Head to the gorgeous valleys in the Andes ranges and experience the thrill and rush of high speed.

  • For Experts: Cancha Carrera trail, Santiago is a 13km trail and offers a very hard circuit with technically difficult sections.
  • For Beginners: La Escondida trail, Mulchen with a 2km circuit has low level of technical difficulty.
  • Best time: November through February
  • Solo / Tours: It is advisable to join a mountain biking tour on an unknown terrain.
  • Tips: Make sure the bike you are taking, whether your own or on hire is in good condition.

6. Skiing

Skiing in Chile
A skier skiing in Valle Nevado, Chile

Chile, with the Andes Mountain range running throughout its land, is considered one of the best ski destination in the world, making skiing in Chile a must activity. The spine-tingling heights, heavy snowfall, and slopes are meant for skiing. You cannot leave the country without giving this adventure sport a shot (during the winter season), even if you’re a beginner.

  • For Experts: Portillo in the Valparaiso region is known for its 20 kilometer slopes and difficult gradients. These slopes are only meant for experienced skiers.
  • For Beginners: Valle Nevado slopes near Santiago is perfect for skiers wishing to practice turns and tricks on snowboards and skis.
  • Best time: Winter season — mid-June through mid-September
  • Solo / Tours: Ski lessons are recommended for beginners.
  • Tips: The best time is the most crowded too, so reservation of hotels is highly recommended.

7. Sandboarding

Sandboarding in the Atacama Desert, Chile
Sandboarding in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Sandboarding is a fantastic mix of sun, sand, and adrenaline. With one of the world’s driest deserts at its disposal (Atacama Desert), Chile gives you some wonderful sandboarding opportunities. Slide down sand dunes at breakneck speeds to get an intense adrenaline thrill if you have perfected the game, or just be a good sport and face the challenges the wavy dune peaks have to offer.

  • For Experts: Cerro Dragon, Iquique, south of Santiago is ideal for experts. With dunes high as 500 meters, any sandboarding expert would love to board down at 30mph speed and smoothen up their dune stunts!
  • For Beginners: Board down the 120 meter dunes in Death Valley in the Atacama Desert. A session here can last only 3.5 hours due to the desert heat.
  • Best time: December and January
  • Solo / Tours: If you are a beginner, tag along with a guided tour that offers an instructor.
  • Tips: Remember to thoroughly wax your sandboard before you start, otherwise you won’t move an inch.

Chile is the ideal destination for any outdoorsy person, who loves a tummy-churning experience. Whether it is the peak of summer or freezing winter, there’s always one outdoor activity or another for everybody. Head to Chile for an unforgettable adventurous vacation! But before you start planning for a trip to the country, do find out the best time to visit Chile.

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