By Briana Seftel
Pinned between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, the "Land of Poets" is one of simply poetic beauty: imposing mountain peaks, sweeping coastline, vibrant cities, and otherworldly desert.
Before you set forth to South America's skinniest country stretching nearly 3,000 miles, check out these nine spectacular places that you have to see to believe!
Torres del Paine National Park
Patagonia is often the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Chile, and there is no better place to discover the beauty of this region than Torres del Paine. Flanked by the Andes mountains, this national park is the creme de la creme for adventure and nature lovers, and one is one of the finest national parks in South America.
Cavernas de Mármol (Marble caves)
Loaced in the center of General Carrera, a glacial lake spanning the Chile-Argentina border, the Cavernas de Marmol (marble caves) look like they have been kissed by Mother Nature. Carved out of the Patagonian Andes, these caves are a mosaic of colors and shapes formed by 6,000 years of waves licking the calcium carbonate.
Holding the title as the driest non-polar desert in the world, Northern Chile's Atacama Desert looks like another planet - no wonder NASA used this desert for testing Martian rovers! Spanning 41,000 square miles, Atacama is filled with spurting geysers, golden dunes, salt lagoons, vicuña herds and even tiny villages. It's also one of the best places in the world to see the Milky Way.
1,300 miles away from the nearest inhabitated island, you can't get more off the beaten path than Easter Island. The remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is most famous for its 887 states called moai built by the Rapa Nui people around 300-400 A.D. Aside from this UNESCO site, the island has enormous volcanic craters, beaches, diving, and stone villages.
This vibrant seaside town once known as the "Jewel of the Pacific" is a colorful city filled with late 19th century architecture, clifftop homes, and steep funiculars. With its distinct European flavor, Valparaiso is quickly becoming one of the top destinations in Chile. The famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda called the city "a wonderful mess."
To the west side of Torres del Paine National Park, the Grey Glacier is one of the spectacular - yet sadly disappearing - sights in Chile. Spanning 11 miles in the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, the massive glacier is best seen by kayak.
Rising up from the shadow of the Andes, Chile's cosmopolitan capital is as dynamic and cultural as any capital you'll find in South America. Founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1541, the city of nearly 7 million is boasts interesting neighborhoods, cutting edge museums, and world-class dinging. While you're in the city, don't miss trying Asado a la parilla, Santiago's signature dish that is like an Andes mountain of grilled beef.
If you're wondering where all that fantastic Chilean wine comes from, your answer is the Elqui Valley. Located in northern Chile near the Elqui River, this region is well-known for producing wine likes Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc and pisco, Chile's national liquor. Like the Atacama Desert, it's also a popular place for stargazing.
Chiloé National Park
Located on the western coast of Chiloe Island in Los Lagos Region, Chiloe National Park encompasses rainforest, coast, villages, lakes, mountains, and more. Divided into three areas - Cehpu, Metalqui and Anay - the park is most known for its stilt houses in Castro and dense Valdivian rainforest.