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National Parks: 5 must-see trails and waterfalls

National Parks: 5 must-see trails and waterfalls

By: Hernan Claro - 7 February, 2023

The longest country in the world is Chile, and that allows us to enjoy National Parks with breathtaking trails and waterfalls, which enchant ecotourism lovers around the world.

We invite you to discover 5 Chilean National Parks that you must visit on your next visit to our country.

For the third consecutive year, Chile was chosen as the “World’s Leading Green Destination” by the World Travel Awards (WTA), thanks to sustainable tourism, its reserves, and parks that today you will get to know in depth.

Amazing trails and waterfalls in National Parks in Chile

1. Pan de Azúcar National Park

If you want to have an adventure in the north of Chile, the Pan de Azúcar National Park is a perfect place to start.

Located in the Chañaral area, this park joins together the best of two worlds: the aridity of northern Chile and the Pacific Ocean, which covers the coast of our country.

You can visit it from Tuesday to Sunday between 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and then from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

What can you see?

There are more than 43 thousand hectares formed by the Pan de Azúcar island, the Las Chatas islets, and emerging rocks called Las Mariposas.

Among the multiple activities that you can do here, we recommend you discover the Mirador trail, a route of just over 5 kilometers on foot.

On this route, you can find the incredible desert landscape of northern Chile and the particular vegetation of “las copiapoa”, which are at ground level in more than 20 different varieties.

You can also see part of the native fauna such as foxes and guanacos.

At the end of the trail, you can find a lookout that has a panoramic view of the Pan de Azúcar Island and its surroundings, the best award for that trekking without a doubt.

The sea and desert come together in Pan de Azúcar National Park. Photography: @anacleto_fulgencio 

2. Discover the beauty of the Bosque Fray Jorge National Park

A little bit closer to Santiago, you can go to the Bosque Fray Jorge National Park, located in northern Chile. It has a special characteristic that you will not see in other parts of the Atacama Desert: it is a true oasis in the Coquimbo Region.

It has a Valdivian forest in a coastal desert area, a unique phenomenon that is enough to be declared a World Biosphere Reserve by Unesco.

This landscape is created by the coastal mist or “camanchaca, which facilitates it easier for the park to have a wide variety of trees with 400 identified species.

What can you see?

In the middle of the flora, you can go hiking and on observation trails through delimited trails in the park, and then finish it with an open-air picnic in one of the areas set up for this.

However, this is not the only interesting thing about this park, since in 2021 it was declared as a Starlight Reserve, which means that it is a protected area in defense of the night sky quality and access to starlight.

This made the Bosque Fray Jorge National Park the world’s first reserve with dark skies free of pollution in Chile and South America, and the fourth in the world. Just a magical place.

Visit this must-see in the Chilean National Parks from La Serena. You can go on Tuesdays, and from Thursday to Sunday. To go in you must get a ticket at Aspticket.

The Bosque Fray Jorge National Park. Photography: @jd.anyway  

3. Go all over the Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park

Los Lagos region in southern Chile has one of the most unbelievable places in the country, the Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park, which can be visited daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

This green lung of the south of the world is located 110 kilometers south of Puerto Montt, where you can take transport from to get to this unique place in the world.

Visiting this park allows you to discover the vitality of nature through the rainforests of the Southern Andes, where you will find millennial larches, tepa, cinnamon, tineo, tiaca, or coigües.

What can you see?

But if there is something spectacular in this park, it is the hundreds of waterfalls that emerge from the snowdrifts of the area and form a beautiful landscape, where the water creates a feeling of peace that thrills anybody who visits the place.

The beautiful view is complemented by the Michimahuida and Chaitén volcanoes that watch over the park with more than 400,000 hectares of area.

Among the favorite panorama of this area is to visit the Michimahuida Volcano Snowdrift, which you can get to by taking the Michimahuida path, of medium difficulty, but with an 8-hour trek. We also recommend you take the Snowdrift Trail, considered to be a low difficulty and 14 kilometers on foot.

If you want to do some with the least possible difficulty, consider Los Alerces Trail, also of low difficulty and which lasts just 40 minutes.

Waterfalls in Pumalín Douglas Tompkins Park. Photography: @collin_wuentecura 

4. Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park

We also find to the south of the world one of the oldest National Parks of Chile. It is the Vicente Pérez Rosales Park, created almost 100 years ago.

More than 250,000 green hectares made this place one of the favorites of the ecotourism lovers who visit our country.

What can you see?

Here you can find humid forests with cinammons, pitas, or coigües, and fauna rich in species such as pudues, pumas, lessers, hualas, etc.

Among the main attractions of this incredible place, there is the Osorno Volcano, Todos los Santos Lake, and Puntiagudo Valleys.

But if there is a place that you must visit today, it is Petrohué Falls, a great waterfall that falls above lava that comes from the Osorno Volcano.

Although it keeps its emerald color during the whole year, in the winter the flow increases with the rain, which makes it an ideal landscape to come and visit Chile.

You can find it 50 kilometers from Puerto Varas. It is open every Tuesday and from Thursday to Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., so that, by acquiring a ticket for a little more than 3 dollars, you can enter to marvel at its nature. Watch out if you are under 12 or over 60, you get in for free!

The Petrohué Falls are 50 kilometers from Puerto Varas. Photography: @b.arbara_us

5. Queulat National Park

If there is something that characterizes Queulat National Park, it is its waterfalls, which even goes in its name. It means “Waterfalls Sounds” in the chonos language.

This park which is part of the “Route of the Parks of Patagonia”, is in the Aysén area reaching the southernmost part of Chile. This is because coming to this place is an adventure.

What can you see?

Here you can take various trials which are going to take you to the glory of nature. The first one is 50 meters from where you can admire the large hanging snowdrift in the middle of the characteristic green of southern Chile.

Then, you can take a trial of 30 minutes to cross a hanging bridge above the Tempanos River and have a privileged view of the ice of the snowdrift.

You can visit it from Tuesday to Sunday entering between 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., but you must leave before 4:30 p.m. after reserving your ticket previously at Aspticket.

Finally, you can go trekking in the middle of hundred-year-old trees such as mañíos and coigües, with a spectacular view of the Hanging Snowdrift in the middle of a glacier that looms over to surprise anyone who visits it.

The Hanging Snowdrift in the Queulat National Park. Photography: @sebastian.bravo.v  

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