More than 19 percent of Chile is protected by the government, ranking it among the most protected countries on earth. That listing includes 30 national parks, 38 national reserves and 11 natural monuments. Because of geographical location of the country a wide variety of landscapes can be found in Chile, from the Atacama Desert (world’s driest desert) to the largest sweet water reserve on the planet. Each of these protected areas is worth a visit, you’ll be able to see rare animals and beautiful landscapes. Here are 5 of the most impressive national parks to visit during a tour in Chile.
More famously known as Easter Island, this island is also part of Chile and further away from land than any other island in the world. People come of course for the impressive ancient statues but Rapa Nui also offers some of the best scuba diving in the world. The only way to reach Easter Island is by plane as the transport of public overseas is not allowed in that area. There are some beautiful lodges located on Rapa Nui, which make it an excellent option for a luxury Easter Island visit.
Torres del Paine
The most well-known of the parks and third most visited national Park in Chile. Torres del Paine is as well recognized as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and has spectacular granite spires and imposing ice fields and glaciers.
Torres del Paine National Park is visited best with a full day hike through the beautiful Ascencio Valley and the many forests, making your way to the base of the Towers. Don’t miss out on the postcard views of the Towers from Lago Grey!
La Campana National Park is located in between Santiago de Chile and Valparaiso in the southern Aconcagua Valley. It’s one of the smaller national parks, but definitely worth a visit and easy to reach from both Santiago and Valparaiso. Its main claim to fame is Cerro La Campana. The 6,000 feet mountain that Charles Darwin climbed during the second voyage of the Beagle on August 17, 1834 and then described enthusiastically in his diary. It will tak about 8 hours to reach the top of Cerro la Campana and to come back. The views over the Olmue Valley and the Andes from the top are well worth the climb.
726,000 acres of cloud forest, mountains and rivers in Chile’s Lake District that are almost completely undeveloped, as it was military zone until the 1990’s, make this a hikers and campers paradise. The Corcovado Bay on the coastal side of the park has amazing wildlife including penguins, seals and sea lions and functions as a crucial nursery for blue whales and the iconic volcano of the same name towers over it all.
Nevado Tres Cruces
East of the Atacama Desert city of Copiapo and high in the Andes towards the frontier with Argentina at an altitude of over 13,000 feet you will find huge salt flats and impressive lagoons teaming with unexpected wildlife like flamingoes. It’s also a huge 4×4 paradise with the Rally Dakar passing through each year in January and is home the world’s highest volcano, the Ojos del Salado at almost 23,000 feet above sea level. We normally advice those who want to see such rock formations and lakes to visit the Atacama Desert or the Salar de Uyuni. Nevado Tres Cruses is a firm option for off the beaten path travelers as the locations requires quite some traveling hours.