Chile remains a land of geographical extremes. It boasts the Atacama Desert, the second driest location in the world (after Antarctica), and it also encompasses parts of Tierra del Fuego, an archipelago off the southernmost tip of South America where penguins rule.
Besides stunning and diverse natural scenery, Chile offers dynamic cities like Santiago, its sprawling capital. There’s also Valparaíso, the edgy jewel of the Pacific, with its thriving Bohemian culture, delectable restaurants, and lively wine making scene. But no matter where you go, you’ll find lots of family-friendly amenities and kid-approved activities.
Here’s our list of what to do in Chile on a family vacation.
A thriving metropolis, Santiago offers countless activities when traveling Chile with kids. The Museo Interactivo Mirador (el MIM) contains a diverse collection of educational exhibits themed around biology, physics, history, art, and mechanics. The old museum mantra “do not touch” doesn’t apply to MIM’s highly interactive exhibits.
The Museo Artequín is an art museum designed from a kid’s perspective. It showcases copies of some of the most famous artwork in the world all hung at the optimal height for kids to view. Housed in a gorgeous glass and cast-iron building, it was originally used as Chile’s Pavilion in 1889 at the Paris Exhibition.
When it comes to less structured activities, stroll the Plaza Armas or the Parque Forestal where you’ll find a variety of street performers and loads of vendors selling Chile’s decadent take on ice cream.
Chile’s stunning Lakes District abounds with kid-friendly activities. For families who enjoy outdoor adventures, spend a day in the Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve. From pristine waterways to ancient trees and volcanoes trailing smoke, you’ll appreciate the stunning views and wealth of wildlife. Enjoy activities such as whitewater rafting, hiking, ziplining, and biking.
Chile’s Lakes District also boasts quaint towns with German-inspired architecture and cuisine such as Puerto Varas. Puerto Varas offers gorgeous views of Llanquihue Lake, the conical Osorno Volcano, and the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Calbuco and Mt. Tronador. Nearby parks include Vicente Perez Rosales and Alerce Andino where outdoor adventures include fly fishing.
Valparaíso, known affectionately as Valpo by locals, boasts a rich arts scene that attracts musicians, artists, and Bohemians from all over the world. Its vibrant streets pulse with visual art. Its eclectic cafes swirl with lively intellectual conversations and its healthy local music scene all make for a unique vacation experience.
Enjoy a graffiti workshop at an artisan’s atelier where you and your kids will learn about the craft of street art. Visit a boutique winery to check out the winemaking while sampling some of Chile’s most delicious bottles.
Take a stroll through the revitalized neighborhoods of Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion with their restored historic buildings and quaint cafes. And don’t forget to sample the city’s bistro-style restaurant scene where chefs craft dishes around Chilean favorites with innovative twists.
When visiting Chile with family, you don’t want to miss the Atacama Desert’s otherworldly landscapes. Once you arrive, you’ll feel as if you’ve landed on the Moon. In fact, one of the most popular hiking spots remains the Valle de la Luna with its bizarre rock formations and extraterrestrial appearance. Hike the Atacama’s surreal salt lakes and altiplanic lagoons and take in the majesty and power of the Tatio Geysers.
During the day, your family will enjoy Atacama’s expansive desert landscapes, eerie ghost towns, and resilient, though elusive, wildlife. And at night you’ll fall in love with Atacama’s dark skies, which make for an unforgettable stargazing opportunity.
Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego
No trip to Chile would be complete without a trip to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego for some penguin watching and active adventure. Your kids will delight in observing these cuddly, waddling creatures as they hang out on the beach, socialize, or head into the surf for a swim.
While you can scope out penguins throughout Chilean Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego’s King Penguin Park boasts the only colony of king penguins in South America. Or, head out to Isla Magdalena an uninhabited island with a colony of Magellanic penguins that’s 120,000 strong. Not only will you get your fill of happy feet, but the boat trip includes chances to see sea lions, dolphins, and even whales.
Of course, no trip to Patagonia would be complete without a visit to the Torres del Paine National Park, a land of massive glaciers, exotic wildlife, turquoise lakes, lush forests, and snow-clad granite peaks. One of the most pristine wilderness settings in the world, you’ll come face-to-face with sublime landscapes that will make you feel completely insignificant.
What to Do in Chile
From the kid-friendly museums and parks of Santiago to the lush rainforests and ancient terrain of the Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve, there are endless adventure travel options when it comes to what to do in Chile.
Find out more about our Atacama Family Adventure, an immersive exploration of Chilean culture including a cooking class in Santiago, a graffiti workshop in Valparaíso, and a visit to Atacama’s breathtaking salt flats, active geysers, and star-studded night skies. Or, check out our eleven-day Patagonia Family Adventure that covers everything from winemaking in Valparaiso to exploring the magic of Patagonia.
At Our Whole Village, we create transformational trips for curious families who want to create lasting memories while making a difference. We’re here to help you and your family experience the world, its peoples, and its cultures. Contact us today to learn more about the unforgettable journeys that we handcraft for adventure-seeking families just like yours.