Since about a third of Chile is designated as protected parkland, it ranks among the world’s top destinations for outdoor activities. You can hike up volcanoes, skirt fjords and glaciers or travel across the world’s driest desert on an adventurous journey to Chile.
There is only one issue: 42 national parks to select from, making it challenging to choose where to start. Here is a list of 10 national parks you shouldn’t miss to help you decide.
National Torres del Paine Park
With its exceptional location sandwiched between the Magellanic subpolar forests and the Patagonian Steppes, Torres del Paine is undoubtedly the most well-known park in Chile and the Patagonia destination that tourists fantasize about. The most well-known walks are the five-day “W Trek” and eight-day “O Circuit,” which offer breathtaking scenery, well-managed campgrounds, and cozy Refugio huts.
Additionally, you can spend the night in five-star adventure lodges outside the park and go on day hikes to granite spires that bear the park’s name, glaciers, or moraine lakes. Visit the reserve in the winter to look for pumas and escape the crowds and howling winds.
National Park of the Archipelago Pedro Fernández
best green space for ecologists
This little-explored archipelago, located 670 kilometers (416 miles) off the coast of Valparaiso, is home to 213 native plant species and 135 endemics. Compared to Hawaii or even the Galapagos Islands, the Parque Nacional Archipiélago Juan Fernández has a higher percentage of endemism.
On the main island, appropriately named Robinson Crusoe, a dozen pathways wind through ancient forests filled with cheery tree ferns and enormous rhubarb (really). Most itineraries depart from San Juan Bautista, the only real town on the archipelago, where lobster feasts are practically required to take advantage of the plentiful crustaceans caught in the area’s waters.
National Park of Nevado de Tres Cruces
Best mountaineering park
Hardcore climbers travel to Nevado de Tres Cruces every year to acclimatize before ascents of Ojos del Salado, the second-highest mountain in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres and the world’s highest active volcano. The crater lake atop this massive 6893m (22,615ft) summit is also the highest body of water on the planet.
This breathtaking section of the Chilean high plains offers hiking to turquoise and green lagoons, dry Andean peaks, and blindingly white salt flats for those who lack the time, money, or willpower for a summit adventure.
National Park Queulat
best waterfalls park
Imagine a river of blue ice cutting through a dense forest, flowing to the edge of a sheer cliff, and thundering into a turquoise lake below. One of the most family-friendly excursions in Patagonia is the 3-kilometer (2 mi) Mirador del Ventisquero Trail to the hanging glacier of Parque Nacional Queulat.
Most tourists stay in the nearby hamlet of Puyuhuapi, which has cozy restaurants, steamy hot springs, and distinctly German architecture, thanks to its early residents. Puyuhuapi is a little village on the brink of a fjord. Family-friendly outdoor excursions may be found here in plenty.