Around Chile in 9 adventure sports

Chile voted Best Destination for Adventure Tourism in South America for fifth consecutive year

Measuring a distance that spans from the top of Norway to the bottom of Greece, Chile is the world’s longest country and home to an incredible diversity of landscapes that make it one of the world’s top outdoor adventure destinations. From the Atacama Desert in the north to the glaciers of Patagonia in the south, between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific, Chile offers travellers an adrenalin adventure at every turn.

In recognition of this, Chile has been named the Best Destination for Adventure Tourism in South America for the fifth consecutive year. Popularly known as the “Oscars of Tourism” and voted for by the public, the World Travel Awards Latin America win recognises the plethora of activities on offer across Chile’s deserts, volcanoes, glaciers, lakes, mountains, ancient forests and miles of coast.

Here we round up nine thrill seeking activities for travellers seeking an exhilarating exploration in Chile…

Scuba diving in Rapa Nui


Unlike any other dive sites, explore the sea and scuba dive in Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Crystal clear waters with visibility of up to 60m allows for perfect viewing of the islands 142 endemic marine species. The underwater landscapes of Rapa Nui consist of bare volcanic limestone and colonies of young coral. Visitors can take in dive sites including the Acantilado cliff, Moai site (with a submerged 25ft Moai) and the Cathedral lava tube. In 2018 the Chilean government signed legislation to establish one of the world’s largest marine protection areas, encompassing the Rapa Nui waters. The Rapa Nui Marine Park, roughly the size of the Chilean mainland, is home to 77% of the Pacific Ocean’s fish abundance and includes 27 species which are at risk of extinction.

Skiing and snowboarding in Nevados de Chillán

Swap the Alps for the Andes and enjoy summer skiing in Chile. Located a six hour drive south of Santiago, the Nevados de Chillán ski resort area sits atop three active volcanoes – Nevados de Chillán, Chillán Nuevo and Chillán Vejo. Set at an altitude over 3,000m high, skiing is available across the skirt of the volcanoes and the slopes offer unrivalled panoramic views of the surrounding area. Nevados de Chillán is home to 30 slopes including the longest run in South America, the 13-kilometre-long ‘La Tres Marias’. Guests can also enjoy healing volcanic thermal springs after a day on the slopes.

Sandboarding in the Atacama Desert

Surf the sand in the Atacama, the world’s driest desert. With dunes galore, head for Death Valley outside San Pedro de Atacama to experience martian landscapes, snow-capped volcanoes and slide at high speed down the dunes. The city of Iquique on the northern coast offers an alternative location for the thrill seeking sandboarders. Visitors can take on the imposing Dragon Hill, which standing at 350m is considered the highest urban dune in the world.

Zip lining in Pucón

Fly through the forest canopy on the “El Cóndor” zip line in Pucón, located in the Lakes and Volcanoes region and widely known as the Chile’s adventure tourism hub. The longest zip line in South America, the “El Cóndor” route extends for 3,500m with six stations that cross the Villarrica, Quetrupillán and Lanín volcanoes.

Kitesurfing on the Puclaro Dam

Home to the South American Kitesurfing Championships the Puclaro Dam, located near the city of La Serena, offers ideal conditions to harness up and head out kitesurfing. Propelled by the wind thrill seekers can glide over the water and take turns catching air over the open water. The beaches of Matanzas and Pupuya, a few hours’ drive south from Santiago, are perfect for beginners and the winds allow for boarded pirouettes a plenty on the open waves.

Paragliding in Iquique

Iquique is one of the largest cities in northern Chile and its unique geography, nestled between the sea and dramatic coastal mountain range, make it the ideal destination for adventure sports. Flights take off from the mountain over 1000m high and catch rising, hot air coastal breeze currents for a smooth ride. Guests can take in the breath-taking views of both the Atacama Desert and the Pacific Ocean at once. After a different aerial adrenalin kick? Skydiving in the capital Santiago offers the ultimate adventure experience in the sky, from an altitude of 4,000m high!

Rafting in Cajón del Maipo

The Cajon del Maipo valley, located 25km from Santiago, offers a green oasis outside of the capital. Soak in the sights or take part in the action by bungee jumping, canyoning the gorge, kayaking the reservoir or rafting the Maipo River. With class three rapids on offer adventure seekers can test their limits on the rushing river, set against a stunning scenic backdrop. Guests can enjoy rafting the Maipo at all activity levels.

Trekking to the Villarrica volcano crater  

One of the most active volcanoes in Latin America, the Villarrica Volcano is an adventure playground. Guests can climb by foot on a guided tour to the crater of the Volcano almost 3,000m above sea level, for 360 degree views of the Lakes and Volcanoes region. Ski the slopes where decades of lava flows have formed thrilling runs and boarding halfpipes or take to Lake Villarrica at the foot of the volcano for kitesurfing, kayaking and rafting in Villarrica National Park.

Glacier hiking in Patagonia

Torres del Paine National Park, in Chile’s Patagonia region, is known for soaring mountains, turquoise mirrored lakes, glaciers and forest landscapes. There are two recommended trekking circuits in the park for visitors seeking adventure, including the ‘W’ route that takes four to seven days. Guided tours of the route take in Valle Frances to view the dramatic hanging French Glacier and hike towards the iconic Grey Glacier, a 14km glacier that calves into Lago Grey. Visitors can gear up and experience ice-hiking on the surface of Grey Glacier as part of the W trek or arrange a day tour.

For more information on adventure tourism in Chile, visit: https://chile.travel/en/what-to-do/adventure-and-sports 

Caoilfhionn Rose

Caoilfhionn is a freelance travel writer who enjoys slow travel and avoiding landmarks in favour of diving into a destination's culture. Instagram: @CaoilfhionnRose

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