Be ready to hop on the train of Adventure and we swear: it’ll be a beautiful ride. There has to be something for you here somewhere, as Chile takes care of 41 National Parks, 45 Reserves and 17 Natural Monuments. The National Parks of Chile are indeed wide, wild, and many of them are frighteningly remote. But at the end of a long rocky road, the wonders of untouched Nature await. In active volcanoes and Patagonian glaciers, in fjords and high-altitude deserts, they await. And always with the most colourful wildlife you’ve ever seen. We’ve partnered with some of our favourite travel bloggers to guide you through some of them, in this selection of their favourite Chile national parks.

Villarrica National Park

Coni from Experiencing the Globe visited Villarrica National Park in December.

View from Villarrica volcano on the surrounding National Park, Chile

In Chile’s Araucanía region, in the Andes mountain range, there are 63 thousand hectares (138,600 acres) of diverse flora and fauna, and stunning volcanoes, caves, rivers and lagoons under the protection of Villarrica National Park.

Why is this your favourite national park in Chile?

The diversity is the park’s best feature. You can hike among extensive forests of araucarias and lengas, and run into pumas, foxes, pudúes, coipos, peucos and other furry friends. There’re options for relaxing and sunbathing by cerulean lakes. You can explore volcanic caves, and –if you dare– climb an active volcano. And not any, but South America’s most active one: Villarrica volcano. When you summit it, you can enjoy the sight of boiling lava in its crater, and a panorama of the many lakes that surround it. If you visit during winter, you can ski down its slopes.

Base yourself in the charming town of Villarrica, or in Chile’s capital of adventure, the nearby Pucón. There you’ll be able to keep feeding your adventurous soul with whitewater rafting with class III and IV rapids, rappelling down a waterfall, and zip-lining over magical forests.

What did you like less?

The only disadvantage of this national park is that it’s a popular destination for Chileans, which means that it gets fairly crowded during the high seasons. During winter it gets transformed into a ski resort, while in summer it’s mountaineering central. I recommend visiting in shoulder season, avoiding January, February, and July. Then you’ll have the park to yourself.

Useful information about Parque Nacional Villarrica

Best time to go:

Outside the tourist seasons, so around either March or October
Closest town:Villarrica or Pucón

How to get there:

Bus to Villarrica, then to Pucón
Entrance price:7.200 CLP
Other expenses:/

 


 

Puyehue National Park

Megan from Time.Travel.Trek. visited Puyehue National Park in February.

View on Puyehue National Park, Chile

Puyehue National Park is tucked up near the Chile/Argentina border in the Lake District. It contains two large volcanoes: Puyehue and Casablanca. The park is divided into three districts: Anticura, Aguas Calientes and Antillanca. There are day hikes leading to waterfalls, through coigüe –ancient evergreen beech trees– forests and up to volcanic summits. Hot springs and a ski hill add to the charms of this park.

Why is this your favourite national park in Chile?

While Puyehue is known for its rain, we were lucky enough to have several clear days to camp in the park and go on hikes – in preparation for our travel to Easter Island.

With the weather on our side, we drove up past Aguas Calientes one day to the Conaf ranger station at the base of the ski hill. Permits in hand, we continued up the gravel road to a trailhead for Volcan Casablanca. The summit hike was beautiful in itself, but the 360-degree views took our breath away. Best of all, we had it all to ourselves!

What did you like less?

The park is large and only has a few access points. It takes time –and a decent map– to get to the three separate districts.

Useful information about Parque Nacional Puyehue

Best time to go:

December to early March
Closest town (city):Entre Lagos (east of Osorno)

How to get there:

By private car: Head east from Osorno on Highway 215 heading toward the Argentina border
Entrance price:1,000 CLP
Other expenses:Campgrounds and hot springs have additional fees

To visit also:

The Los Lagos region of Chile is a natural jewellery box with many gems. Around Puyehue and Villarrica National Parks, you can find two more areas with the same status: Alerce Andino National Park in the south (near Puerto Montt) & Conguillío National Park in the north (near Temuco).

Both showcase a similar landscape of snow-capped mountains and volcanoes amidst lakes and evergreen forests; but each one of these parks has its distinctive features and identity. While Alerce Andino NP is a wet, rainy pocket next to the sea, Conguillío NP is oriented towards outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking and horseriding.

 


 

Chiloé National Park

We visited Chiloé in December.

The developed part of the Chiloé National Park is relatively small, cute and it presents a varied wetland landscape with dense rainforest, swamps, peat bogs and coastal dunes. There are several trails leading to the different landscapes and they’re all very well marked.

Hikers also have the possibility to take a half-a-day hike to the coast, where they can camp on a deserted beach.

Why is this your favourite national park in Chile?

This National Park is really representative of the Chiloé island by its size, cuteness and variety. It’s easily accessible from the island’s capital, Castro, either as a day trip or camping overnight on a 2-day coastal hike. Most of the parks’ area is out of bounds; so besides the coastal area, the touristy part is completely visitable in 1 day. We also liked the many panels explaining the different types of ecosystems and their wildlife.

What did you like less?

We like challenging hikes (well, Anna does!) and Chiloé National Park is mainly on a flat landscape, so no challenges here. Having said that, the longer hike leading to the beach is said to be wilder. But you have to expect a more-than-fair amount of rain on Chiloé, so be prepared with a good rainjacket.

Useful information about Parque Nacional Chiloé

Best time to go:

Between November and March (November and March are shoulder seasons)
Closest town:Castro

How to get there:

Bus from Castro main terminal. Take L2-2 then change to bus Ojeda which will drop you at the park entrance. Or hitchhiking from Castro.
Entrance price: 5000 CLP (5.5 EUR / 6 USD)
Other expenses:/

Read our post about Chiloe island, the Chilean corner of our heart.


 

Corcovado National Park

Ellie from Ellie’s Travel Tips visited Corcovado National Park in December.

Lake in Corcovado National Park, south of Chile

Corcovado is a pristine National Park located in the Los Lagos region of Chile. Home to rich forests, bays, rivers, fjords, hidden lakes, and scenic valleys, Corcovado is a Patagonian paradise.

With Chile being one of the most affordable countries in South America, hikers from around the world will fall in love with the remarkable natural wonders found throughout Corcovado National Park.

Why is this your favourite national park in Chile?

Corcovado National Park is home to almost 1,000,000 untouched acres of temperate rainforest and deciduous shrubland. The massive and powerful Corcovado Volcano is the biggest draw to this breathtaking National Park. Standing at over 7,500 feet above sea level, this volcano welcomes visitors to explore the park’s pristine ecosystem.

Other once-in-a-lifetime opportunities include rowing through Tic Toc Bay, fishing in the Corcovado River, and discovering hidden Lake Trébol. Corcovado National Park is also a nourishing habitat for various endangered species, including the southern river otter, Colocolo opossum, puma, and the Pudú deer.

Plenty of boat tours offered in the area sail along the park’s coast where migrating blue whales are commonly spotted.

What did you like less?

Corcovado is only accessible by sea or air. The park has no land access, and visitors will have to book a private boat or aircraft ride to access Corcovado. This National Park is possibly the most unknown in Chilean Patagonia, leading to many trails looking abandoned.

Another downside is the influx of mosquitoes in the summertime. These pesky bugs can be avoided by packing and applying sufficient bug repellent before visiting.

Useful information about Parque Nacional Corcovado

Best time to go:

In springtime (October-November) to avoid winter’s low temperatures and summer’s mosquitoes
Closest towns:Chaitén (north) or Port Raúl Marín Balmaceda (south)

How to get there:

By ship or aircraft from Chaitén or from Port Raúl Marín Balmaceda
Entrance price:Free
Other expenses:You need private transportation/tour to visit the park

 


 

Torres del Paine National Park

Cecily from Groovy Mashed Potatoes visited Torres del Paine National Park in January.

The 3 towers of Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Torres del Paine National Park is located in Chile’s southern Patagonian region and is most famous for its three granite peaks called the Towers of Paine overlooking a glacial lake. The park is popular for its multi-day hikes to different “refugios” (lodges) and camping areas.

Why is this your favourite national park in Chile?

If you’re an avid hiker, trekking through Patagonia to the magnificent three spires is a bucket list experience for many. On your multi-day hike through the rugged park, you are rewarded with stunning views of magnificent glaciers, vivid blue icebergs, waterfalls, crystal-clear rivers and azure lakes. The feeling you get as you ascend 750 m through the forest and up boulders to the three Towers of Paine is priceless.

What did you like less?

Since the park is a very popular spot, you have to book your route and accommodation almost a year in advance. One of the most popular hikes is the self-guided W Trek, which is a lot cheaper than booking a tour. However planning your route and figuring out where to stay each night can be complicated, as there are various route options you can take along the W trek.

If you are a hiker that doesn’t like to run into any people on the trail, you may want to consider a less popular park as it can get busy especially during summertime. If you don’t like to hike, you may want to skip this park as some of the best sights like the three towers require a strenuous day hike.

Useful information about Parque Nacional Torres del Paine

Best time to go:

In summer it gets busy, in winter very cold. Best choose a season in-between.
Closest town:Puerto Natales

How to get there:

3-hour flight from Santiago to Puerto Natales, then 2-hour drive to the entrance.
Entrance price:21,000 CLP (~ $29 USD)
Other expenses:Transport to the entrance; guide if you want; remember to pack enough snacks.

 

To visit also:

The wild expense of Patagonia is a fragmentation of stunning National Parks. If some are more famous than others, we honestly don’t think one is more breathtaking than the next. The main difference between them might be in how easy it is to access and visit. Anyway, whichever you decide to explore, preparation is key; unless you travel like that Frenchman we met in Chiloé: hitchhiking, with a pack of rice, a portable stove and a fishing rod…

Among the many nationally protected areas in the Chilean Patagonia, let’s name Laguna San Rafael National Park with its charismatic glacier; Queulat National Park and its evergreen forest down high mountain slopes; and the island of the Bernardo O’Higgins National Park, which can be explored by cruise or by helicopter.

 


 

Pali-Aike National Park

Elisa from France Bucket List visited Pali-Aike National Park in December.

Pali-Aike National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Pali-Aike National Park is one of the lesser-known national parks in Chile. It is located in the Magallanes Region of Patagonia, on Chile’s southern tip. Pali Aike means in the local language ‘Desolate Place,’ and there’s no better name to describe this national park.

Why is this your favourite national park in Chile?

Pali-Aike is a national park quite different from the other national parks in Chile. There are no thick forests, snow-capped mountains, or impressive glaciers. People visit this desolate place mainly for the volcanic field – the oldest volcano in all Patagonia! – which is surrounded by kilometers and kilometers of scoria (volcanic material).

Also, there are some petroglyphs and rock carvings (the site was occupied by humans since Prehistoric times) and interesting fauna like the guanaco, fox, puma, and some birds. These animals usually gather at Laguna Ana, inside the park, at sunrise or sunset.

What did you like less?

The park is too off the beaten path. Unlike other famous national parks in Chile, there are no guided tours to Pali-Aike National Park. The only way to visit this park is with a private car arranging private transportation. The closest main city is Punta Arenas, and I needed to ask around for a while until I found somebody ready to take me to Pali Aike and spend the day with me.

The distance from Punta Arenas to Pali-Aike is 212 Km, a 3-hour drive, so there’s not much time left on site for exploring the park.

Useful information about Parque Nacional Pali Aike

Best time to go:

The park is closed between May and September
Closest town:Punta Arenas

How to get there:

Only by private car/tour
Entrance price:4.000 CLP
Other expenses:/

 


 

Nevado Tres Cruces National Park

Lori from TravlinMad visited Nevado Tres Cruces National Park in March.

Flamingos in the Atacama desert, Chile

Located in the heart of the Atacama Desert, around 200 km from the town of Copiapó (roughly a 3 hour drive), the Parque Nacional Nevado Tres Cruces is a rugged paradise for outdoor fun. Travelers come for the mountaineering activities, spectacular scenery, and the raw Chilean desert landscape.

With its picturesque lagoons, mountains, salt lakes, and incredible wind-swept snow pinnacles, the Park is comprised of two main summits, Tres Cruces Sur (22,139 ft) and Tres Cruces Centro (21,749 ft). While the main summit is one of the highest volcanoes in the world, it’s the second highest in Chile after Ojos del Salado.

Why is this your favourite national park in Chile?

Travelers can immerse themselves in the lunar-like desert landscape here, from day hikes and extreme summiting to swimming in salt lagoons and jumping in thermal hot pools.

Nevado Tres Cruces is so remote that wildlife sightings are frequent and amazing to see. Famed for the migratory flamingos that arrive in summer, the Santa Rosa Lagoon and Negro Francisco Lagoon are good places to visit to see dozens of bird species including the Andean flamingo, the Chilean flamingo and the James Flamingo, whose group behavior resembles a well-orchestrated and hilarious dance.

What did you like less?

Refuges in the Park are scattered and very basic. Because the park is remote, services are not regularly provided for — e.g. there are no gas stations between Copiapó and the Park, and none within the Park itself.

Because of this and of the sheer size of the Park, driving on your own isn’t recommended — there are several well-recommended small group tour operators to guide you instead.

Useful information about Parque Nacional Nevado Tres Cruces

Best time to go:

The park or some trails can be closed in winter (June-September)
Closest town:Copiapó

How to get there:

There’s no public transportation, so private car or tour
Entrance price:$7.200
Other expenses:Possible guided tour; onsite accommodation (camping, refuges, cabañas)

 


Northwest of Santiago, La Campana National Park is probably the most accessible of all the National Parks of Chile. It has no glacier nor active volcano and might not be as otherworldly as the others, but it’s a pocket of oxygen for the local wildlife. Its main advantage for the visiting hikers is the presence of well-marked hiking trails and campsites.

You’ll find hilly forests and palm trees, and some great lookouts upon the ocean and the Andes. There are three different entrances to the park, which can be easily visited departing from Santiago or Valparaíso.


 

Lauca National Park

Pradosh & Suchitra from Bombay Nomads visited Lauca National Park in February.

Volcano in the Lauca National Park, Chile

Lauca National Park is a stunning biosphere reserve set in the Altiplano – the high plateau in the Andes spanning Bolivia, Peru and Chile. Situated at heights of 3,900-4,500m in the northernmost part of Chile, the land is windswept and studded with enormous (~6,000m high) volcanoes. With almost no human population, the high-altitude lakes amidst snow-capped volcanoes and grazing alpaca herds give some ridiculously photogenic vistas.

Why is this your favourite national park in Chile?

The Lauca experience starts on Chile’s Ruta 11 – the road from Arica to the National Park. In the 160 km drive from Arica to Lauca, the road climbs to an astonishing 3,900m from zero (sea level). It is an international highway and one encounters trucks heading to, and coming from, Bolivia. But the road is terrific to drive on, and the freight traffic doesn’t impede driving in any way.

The most beautiful part of Lauca National Park is Lake Chungaro (situated at a height of 4,500m) – and the twin volcanoes of Parinacota and Pomerape towering behind. The snow-covered, perfectly symmetrical, conical, 6000m+ mountains and their reflection in the blue waters of Lake Chungaro, is nothing short of breathtaking.

Lauca National Park is almost completely devoid of humans, except for the small village of Parinacota. The last census puts the population of the village at just 29. The picturesque colonial-era adobe church in the village stands lonely in the front of the village, surrounded by herds of grazing llamas.

What did you like less?

Lauca National Park’s remoteness is both its biggest blessing and curse. On our trip to Lauca, we did not see a single other tourist. But it also means a complete lack of tourist facilities. There are no visitor information centres, public transport (that we could see) or availability of food or water. Closest accommodation and food is available in the village of Putre, 20 km outside the park.

Useful information about Parque Nacional Lauca

Best time to go:

Year round
Closest town (city):Putre (Arica)

How to get there:

By private car or tour; or on a bus to La Paz, ask to be dropped in Parinacota
Entrance price:Free
Other expenses:/

 


 

Rapa Nui National Park

Caroline & Paolo from Searching El Dorado visited Rapa Nui National Park in May.

Tongariki site, in Rapa Nui National Park, Chile

Lost in the middle of the Pacific Ocean there is a small volcanic island. The locals call it Rapa Nui, although it is mostly known as Easter Island. Technically Chilean territory, but with a culture and a language closer to the Polynesian, the island’s fame is due to the Moai, the famous big-headed statues.

Why is this your favourite national park in Chile?

Nowhere else in Chile have we found a more fascinating history to discover. There are several archaeological sites around the island and they are well spread along all its surface. Only two among those can be visited only once which means that if you liked any other spot, you can go back as many times as you like!

There are also some beautiful hikes to do on the island, like the one connecting the town of Hanga Roa to the crater of Rano Kau, or another that runs along the coast. And when you are too tired, you can just relax on the beach of Anakena and swim where, according to the tradition, the canoes of the first inhabitants landed.

What did you like less?

The island is so famous that, even though it is remote, it is filled up by tourists all year long. While this allows the majority of its inhabitants to survive, the major sites can become definitely overcrowded. But in others sites you can be completely alone, so rent a car (or a motorcycle) and just keep exploring every corner of the island!

Useful information about Parque Nacional Rapa Nui

Best time to go:

All year round
Closest town:Hanga Roa is the only town on the island

How to get there:

You will need a flight from either Santiago (Chile) or Tahiti (French Polynesia)
Entrance price:80 US$ (40 for kids, discounts for Chileans)
Other expenses:

Accommodation on the island; renting of some means of transportation to make the most out of your stay. Count the expensive flight too.

 

To visit also:

The Easter Island is part of an administrative ‘region’ which bears the poetic name of Islas Esporádicas, or “the Sporadic Islands”. It comprises therefore Rapa Nui and the Sala y Gómez island –which are the furthest from continental Chile–, the Islas Desventuradas (“Unfortunate Islands”) and the Juan Fernández Islands, located 670 kilometres (420 miles) west of Valparaíso.

The Archipiélago de Juan Fernández National Park consists of 3 volcanic islands with names that ring of adventure: Robinson Crusoe, Alejandro Selkirk and Santa Clara. It’s a distinct, subtropical ecoregion with a limited number of plant and animal species. Penguins, seals and wild goats (as in, domestic goats turned wild) are here aplenty. You can reach this remote paradise with a 2.5-hour flight from Santiago.

Are you planning a trip to Chile? Which of these national parks attract you the most?
Tell us in the comments below!


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Anthony fell in love with the world, and more particularly with South America. He wants to offer inspirational guides to the curious backpacker, travel stories to the online generation, and incentives for a more responsible and greener way-of-travel for everyone.

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2 Comments

    1. You are right Pradosh, Queulat National Park is another magnificent National Park in Chile’s Patagonia. There are just so many that would be worth mentioning!

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