Chile might well have been designed for adventure tourism. In a country where you can often see the Andes from the coast, you are never more than a few hours’ drive away from mountains.
This activity has become all the rage in countries across the globe over the past couple of decades, and Chile is no exception. Canopy tours can be found near most tourist destinations in the centre and south. It consists of whizzing down zip-lines through native forests. Runs are of different lengths and range from easy, child-friendly lines to vertigo-inducing descents from 60m upwards. Check your equipment carefully.
There are various types of climbing available in Chile, including rock climbing, mountain climbing, ice climbing, volcano climbing and canyoning. There are hundreds of volcanoes to climb, ranging from the high-altitude Parinacota in the far north to the chain of much lower cones in the Lake District and along the Carretera Austral. The southern bank of the Río Petrohué in the Lake District has many fantastic canyons for climbing. Nearby, rope ladders have been fixed in the canyon of the Río León, 30 minutes by boat from Petrohué on the southern shore of Lago Todos los Santos.
ENAM(Escuela Nacional de Montaña de Santiago), runs rock- and ice-climbing courses. It also administers the Carnet de La Federación de Chile, a card which is often required to climb mountains, especially where CONAF (Corporación Nacional Forestal) control access. To climb many mountains in border areas, permission must be obtained from the Dirección de Fronteras y Límites. Apply well in advance.
There is more of an equine culture south of Santiago than further north, but some of the best riding country is to the north and east of the capital. Horse treks are organized in Santiago, in Ritoque near Valparaíso, in the Elqui and Hurtado valleys, in the Lake District and on Chiloé, and in numerous remote areas of the south. One of the best places for hiring and riding horses is along the west coast of the island of Chiloé.
Mountain biking is a popular activity, particularly on descents from the Andes and from refugios on volcanoes such as Antillanca and Osorno. Touring the length of the Carretera Austral by mountain bike is a great way of seeing this part of the country.
Chile’s major international ski resorts lie in the Andes near Santiago, but skiing is possible from Santiago to Punta Arenas. Skiing elsewhere is mostly on the volcanoes to the south of Santiago. The larger resorts in the south are Termas de Chillán, Villarrica/Pucón and Antillanca.
Watersports, such as diving and surfing, are best in northern Chile, except for at Pichilemu, a resort three hours to the southwest of Santiago, which is fast becoming world-renowned for surfing.
Over a dozen rivers between Santiago and Tierra del Fuego are excellent for whitewater rafting. The main ones are the Maipo, the Trancura, Fuy, Bueno, Rahue and Petrohué, the Yelcho, Futaleufú, Corcovado, Palena and Baker and the Serrano and Tyndall.
The most attractive waters for sea kayaking are around the islands off eastern Chiloé or around Hornopirén in the fjords of the sheltered Gulf of Ancud.