Chile is a beautiful country stretching across 4,270 kilometers from North to South on a narrow strip. With various climates and environments Chile gives you the opportunity to drive through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world while exploring a great culture and enjoying delicious food.
We knew our trip would be incomplete without a road trip and Chile was the best place to do it in South America because there are so many things to do off the beaten tracks. It is impossible to even get a glimpse from all Chile has to offer without getting the fr eedom a car can get us.
You Need to Do a Roadtrip in Chile
From the Atacama desert in the most northern part of Peru all the way to Santiago, the capital, it is quite easy to discover the country through traditional public transit. However, once you are south of Santiago, getting a car is the best thing to do.
Chile is one of the best countries in the world to have a road trip; it is safe, has great roads, awesome things to see and do that can hardly be reached without a personal vehicle and the liberty that comes with it. The fact the country is so narrow allows you to go in one direction without ever coming back on your steps while maximizing the amount of things you can explore in a day. The main road is always between the ocean and the mountains, and national parks are abundant. Rivers coming down from the glaciers, volcanoes shaping the landscape and various unique things to do really make chile one of the best place to do a road trip. Without a car it really is impossible to see what Chile really has to offer.
The best thing to do is to rent a car in Santiago and then drop it off in Puerto Montt where you can take a plan towards Patagonia; or the other way around. This prevents going back and forth. From Santiago to Puerto Montt it’s a 11 hours of highway. However, the point is to spent as little time possible on the highways and to enjoy exploring towns and parks on your way south.
Things to do and see
Chile has so many things to do and see that you’ll need to do heartbreaking choices between all the available things to do. Here are some highlights.
National Parks of Chile
Chile has many National Parks and it is easy to do many of them in a few days considering they are all only a few hours apart.
Chiloe Islands are unique. The landscapes, the picturesque fishing towns, penguins and amazing views will blow your mind. I really fell in love with this island. One day is enough to explore the northern part of the island and the ferry ride to the Chiloe Island is great also. You don’t want to miss this part!
Volcanoes and lakes
The siete lagos ( seven lakes) is a beautiful region with many lakes, volcanoes, rivers and small villages. The Osorno volcano is worth the hike and pretty much just by driving you will end up seeing so many volcanoes, lakes and rivers that each have their own charm.
Villages and cities
Villarica, a beautiful touristic town, is worth the visit with the beautiful Vilarica volcano (it erupted this year) in the scenery it is one of the nicest town in South-America. Also, Temuco got that student vibe and there are tons of pubs, restaurants and local life. The region of Osorno is also great and on the coast you will find many small fishing villages especially in the southern part and on the Chiloé Islands.
Beaches and secluded areas
One of the great thing about having your own vehicle is you can go where ever you want! Don’t be shy to go in small dirt roads and discover secluded areas. Some of the nicest views were find there; a road trip is an adventure.
Chilean people are warm and friendly and going through villages really allows you to discover what those people are all about. The spanish accent is hard to understand (for non-natives like me) but it’s easy to get in a conversation with someone. Also, local farmers sometimes have stands near the road and buying fresh fruits and vegetables is always great.The german heritage is very present in the southern part of Chile. Also if you love beer, Chile has some of the best beers I know, thanks to the german descendants!
Where to rent a car
You can try the traditional websites like www.Kayak.com and www.expedia.com but there are also some smaller local rental service that offer better prices but they can’t always be found on the main car rental search engines. We used www.econorent.cl ; just get the cheapest the price you get out of your reasearch. Also we had the cheapest, smallest model and it did a great job! We had a Chevrolet Sonic and we managed to go to places I would not have risked even with a jeep back home.
How much you can expect to spend
Well, a road trip is somewhat expensive but all the cost can be divided by the number of passengers. We spent 325$ US for the car during the week and the gas what somewhat expensive (around 40$/day). We got our food in local markets and stores and managed to save a lot by sleeping every night in the car. Waking up to amazing views, in random areas (it was usually pitch black when we parked and had no idea what to expect) was one of the coolest thing of the trip ! It’s more expensive then backpacking but it’s also the only way to get to know Chile well.