Chile, South America
Chile stretches along the west coast of South America from the Arica Desert in the north to icy Patagonia down South, with the breathtaking Andes Mountains as its backdrop. Chile is visually stunning, and its attractions are numerous and diverse, including pristine beaches, ancient icebergs, active volcanoes and spectacular scenery. In the centre of the country, you’ll find an abundance of vineyards and farmlands. This area is famous for its hacienda culture and elegant colonial estates. Further south is the scenic Lake District, one of the country’s most exciting regions.
This fabulous holiday destination has a modern, elegant, multi-faceted capital city, Santiago, which offers plenty of cultural activities, great restaurants and a thriving nightlife. From Santiago, it’s just two hours to the mountains or the sea, an easy drive to the picturesque port of Valparaiso or up to the world-class ski resort of Valle Nevado. And that’s just a taste of what’s in store for you on a Chile holiday package.
Why holiday in Chile, South America
- It’s home to the world’s driest desert, the Atacama Desert, which receives only 15mm of rain each year.
- Chile’s vast wilderness areas are a nature lover’s delight.
- Breathtaking modern architecture is found in its beautiful cities.
- Compared to many South American countries, it’s incredibly authentic.
- It’s home to both arctic and desert animals.
- One can literally visit the end of the world in Chile – Cape Horn.
- It boasts the largest glacier in South America, Brüggen Glacier.
- The beaches at Pichilemu offer the best surfing on the continent.
Things to do in Chile
Considered a dream come true for adventure lovers, Chile in South America is an unexpected treat for every type of traveller. Offering a vast expanse of Patagonian wilderness that remains untouched, Chile is also home to extraordinary Easter Island, a remote volcanic island famous for its archaeological sites, including 900 monumental statues with oversized heads.
Whether you’re enjoying a holiday full of active pursuits or are exploring to see Chile’s diverse natural attractions, such as the driest desert in the world, the Atacama Desert, or the glaciers in the spectacular Lake District, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do and places to see.
What to do in Chile
- Learn to surf in Punta de Lobos.
- Travel from Chile to Easter Island to see the enchanting Moai statues.
- Cruise to see San Rafael Glacier’s giant icebergs.
- Go fly-fishing in the Lake District.
- Enjoy white water rafting in the rapids near Santiago.
- Hike up Cerro San Cristobal to see the giant statue of the Virgin Mary.
- Trek through Torres del Paine.
- Visit Isla Magdalena close to Punta Arenas to see the legendary penguins.
- Discover the waterfalls, volcanoes and forests around Puerto Varas.
- Explore some of Santiago’s magnificent museums.
- Photograph extraordinary street art in Valparaiso.
- Go swimming or snorkelling around the seaside town of La Serena.
- View the bizarre rock formations and spouting geysers at San Pedro de Atacama.
- Go sandboarding in Death Valley.
Reaching from the southern tip of Patagonia all the way to the northern border of Peru on South America’s west coast, Chile may be a narrow country, but it’s home to plenty of exciting tourist attractions offering a variety of things to do. If you’re keen to embark on a Chile holiday, let Thompsons Holidays put together the perfect package for you. We cater for every type of holiday, and every type of traveller.
Know before you go...
- Chile is a popular destination year-round, but the time to visit is in the summer, December to February.
- Coldest months: June to September. Wettest time: December to March.
- Flight duration from Johannesburg to Santiago: 17 hours, 40 minutes with one stopover.
- There are not many regular flights from South Africa to Chile.
- South African passport holders do not require a visa to enter Chile.
- On arrival, you will receive a 90-day visa to stay in the country.
- Passports must be valid for 6 months after date of return to South Africa.
- Chile is 5 hours behind South Africa.
- The official currency is the Chilean Peso (CLP).
- Credit cards are widely accepted & ATMs are prevalent. Some retailers charge a surcharge for credit card payments.
- US Dollars are accepted in tourist areas, but throughout Chile, cash in local currency is preferable.
- Tipping is customary in Chile. Restaurants: 10% of the bill. If there is a service charge of 10%, then add another 5% tip.
- The official language is Spanish.
- English is not widely spoken.
- Christianity is the main religion in Chile. 54% of the population is Catholic.
- When visiting sacred sites and temples, dress conservatively. (See ‘What to pack’).
- It is relatively safe to drink tap water in Chile, but bottled water is preferable and readily available.
- Many public restrooms charge a small fee for use, so keep change on hand for this.
- Smoking is not permitted in public areas such as restaurants, bars and indoor work places as well as on public transport. Airports offer designated smoking rooms.
- Vaccinations are not currently required but check with your travel clinic before you go.
What must I pack?
- Lightweight clothing in summer, warm layers clothing for winter, ski or beachwear depending on where you are going.
- Comfortable walking shoes.
- Sunscreen, lip balm, hat and sunglasses.
- Mini first aid kit and regular prescription medication.
- Hand sanitiser and insect repellent.
- Travel adaptor.
- Transport within Chile revolves around buses.
- Towns in outlying areas may have less sophisticated transport infrastructure – it depends where you are going.
What can I do to be a responsible traveller?
- Wherever possible, buy local food and souvenirs and support local artisans.
- Instead of using plastic bags, take fabric shopping bags with you.
- Respect each other's cultures and customs and avoid imposing your beliefs.
- Be safety conscious: don’t display cash or valuables. Leave jewellery and expensive watches at home.
- Keep your belongings safe – use the hotel safe for passports and valuables and watch out for pickpockets and bag snatchers when out and about.
What do I do in an emergency?
- If passports or valuables are stolen, report the theft to the hotel/police immediately.
- Contact the Thompsons Holidays 24-hour care line to assist.
Out of season
We’re sorry! The holiday you’re looking for is not in season. Luckily, we have loads of other exciting options. Take a look!