Chile has 4000 linear kilometers of mountains which form the natural borders between this country and Argentina. In this tour, the Andes reach its biggest elevations and the biggest mountain concentration is over 6000 meters high.
Geographically, the Chilean Andes can be divided in three big groups. Firstly there are the northern Andes, which flow through Arica, Iquique, Atacama and Copiapó regions, with mountains as the Payachatas, Aucanquilcha, Llullaillaco and Ojos del Salado volcanos (the last one is the highest in the world).
To the south we can find the popular Central Andes, located next to the capital city, Santiago. Among them Tupungato and Marmolejo, the most Austral 6000 meters mountain, stands out. The colossus Aconcagua and Mercedario are a couple of highlights when we get into Argentinan territory.
Lastly, the southern or Austral Andes begin with a great number of volcanic buildings which in some cases surpass the 3000 meters range. They are well known volcanos as the Llaima, the Antuco, the Villarica, the Lanín or the Osorno, which extend themselves across Los Lagos and Araucanía regions. To the south, the Andes border with the huge glacier mass formed by the ice continental fields, creating granitic and irregular mountain ranges, with impressive towers and rocky peaks. The San Lorenzo and San Valentín (the highest one at the southern Andes) mountain ranges especially stand out.
Already in the southern Chilean border, in the north of Punta Arena’s city, the popular Paine solid rises and thousands of visitors go through its beautiful paths every year, staying in its great shelter and camp net, in the shadow of the impressive Paine’s Towers.
Climate and best season
Chile presents lots of different climates thanks to its latitude gradient, which goes from the most desertic and dry climate of the world in Atacama to the most extreme cold and wind conditions in the southern Patagonia, including a warm Mediterranean climate in the central Chilean coast. Generally, the best period for visiting the mountains and natural venues in Chile goes from October to March, especially in the central and Austral regions, something that fits into the dry period and the high season to trek and climb in big mountains. However, in the northern regions of Arica, Antofagasta and the Atacama, any season is favorable for outdoor activities due to the dryness and climatic stability. The differences will be noticed depending on the presence of snow at the peaks and the temperature range, that will be lower from May to September compared to the period from October to April.
Places of interest
Chungará Lake–Beautiful lake located into Lauca’s National Park, in the region of Parinacota. Natural and fauna reserve, with water meadows and more than a hundred types of birds, including ducks and Andean flamingos. Spectacular overview of Payachatas volcanos (Parinacota and Pomerape).
Surire Salt mine–One of the biggest salt mines in Arica. It has been declared a natural place of interest and it preserves local fauna, defined by species like the vicuñas, suris or ñandús, puna’s partridge, flamingos and different species of aquatic birds. It is located at a 4250 meters height.
Aucanquilcha Volcano – Here, close to the peak of the volcano, the most elevated mining inhabited camp in the world existed. It was full of workers who worked at a height of 5900 meters. It is also one of the most elevated descents by bike in the world.
San Pedro de Atacama –Popular village for tourists in the north of Chile. Lots of tours to the most beautiful corners of the region start from here, as well as to the desert and Atacama Salt mine. It contains popular venues like Luna Valley, Cejar Lakes, Tara Salt mine, the high plateau lagoons and Tatio Geiser. From San Pedro we can also get closer to big volcanos as the Licancabur, Sairecabur, Lascar, Toco, Pili, San Pedro and San Pablo. All of them surpass the 5500 meters range.
Llullaillaco Volcano– The most elevated Andean sanctuary. Several mummys from Inca sacrified children were found at its peak. Nowadays they are preserved at Salta’s museum (Argentina).
Ojos del Salado Volcano – The highest peak in Chile and the biggest volcano in the planet.
Santiago de Chile and the central Andean region – The capital city deserves a visit to its historical center and a walk through its more popular neighbourhoods. However, at the outskirts of the city rise big mountains which offer lots of outdoor activities. Climbing in the rocks, climbing of peaks, mountain ski, etc. Big mountains as the Tupungato or the Marmolejo are the summits which surpass the 6000 meters range in southern South America.
The Araucanía –Located near Temuco, the Araucanías region is one of the natural jewels in northern Patagonia. Here we can find extremely wide conifer forests, wide rivers, but, above all, two elements stand out in the landscape: the big lakes and the perfect volcanic cones, some over the 3000 meters range. In addition, the Araucanía has one of the biggest concentration of national parks and natural reserves in all the country, as Villarrica, Huerquehue, Tolhuaca or Conguillio national parks. The most important peaks in this region are the Llaima (3125 m), the Villarrica (2847 m) and the Lonquimay (2890 m).
Chiloé – This archipelago, formed by the big Chiloé island and hundred of islands and islets, is located to the southwest of Puerto Montt city. A place of tourist and natural interest, it shelters rich fauna and flora and beautiful shore landscapes.
The Austral Road – Beautiful road that goes through every area of the Chilean Patagonia. It can be started from Puerto Montt and then board to Chiloé to head to Chaiten afterwards, or starting at Chaiten itself. From there the road goes south through Quelat National Park, Coyhaique and General Carrera Lake, and it can also be connected to Argentina in order to go on to the south, reaching El Chaltén and Calafate.
The Austral Patagonia– One of the most beautiful regions in Chile. Thousands of tourists visit its natural venues every year, as well as its fjords, glaciers and Torres del Paine National Park.