From the kid-friendly museums and parks of Santiago to the lush rainforests and ancient terrain of the Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve, to the extraordinary Atacama Desert, and parts of the Tierra del Fuego, an archipelago where penguins rule, Chile is an active family paradise with both soft and more strenuous adventure opportunities. No matter where you go, you’ll find lots of family-friendly amenities and kid-approved activities. Children are well treated and respected in Chile. All restaurants offer high-chairs and child-size meals. As in all Latin American countries, children are accepted as an important part of society and culture. Here are a few reasons why an adventure to Chile with kids should make the bucket list:
Santiago offers countless activities for Chile family travel. Marvel at the best of the city from an open-top double-decker bus, complete with an informative commentary. You’ll have the option to hop on or off as many times as you like. Be sure to stroll the Plaza Armas or the Parque Forestal where you’ll find a variety of street performers and loads of vendors selling Chile’s decadent ice cream. Paseo Ahumada and Huerfanos are pedestrian streets lined with small shops, cafes, and restaurants. Your kids will love the funicular, which takes you to the top of Cerro San Cristobal for some awesome views of the city. In the Bellavista neighborhood, you can admire the street art and then stop for a drink or a bite to eat at any of the cafes lining the streets. Housed in a beautiful glass and cast-iron building, the Museo Artequín is an art museum designed from a child’s perspective.
It showcases copies of some of the most famous artwork in the world all of which is hung at the optimal height for kids to view. Meanwhile, the Museo Interactivo Mirador contains a diverse collection of educational exhibits themed around biology, physics, history, art, and mechanics. You can also explore the Cerro Santa Lucia, which is actually the remnant of an ancient volcano. This park is filled with beautiful fountains, winding paths, steep staircases, and even a castle. The highest point is Torre Mirador, providing yet another amazing vista of the city and the Andes mountains.
Valparaíso is known for its rich street art. There are numerous walking tours that will introduce you to the city, including the street art, but you can also just wander around and experience it all in your own time. This bohemian city is built on 42 hills. There are some very steep streets and lots of stairs but you can also ride the funiculars to the top of the hills. They’re pretty old and a little bit rickety, but heaps of fun for your kids. In Valparaíso you and your kids can also participate in a graffiti workshop at an artisan’s atelier where you will learn all about street art.
Later, take a stroll through the revitalized neighborhoods of Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion with their restored historic buildings and quirky cafes. If you head down to the port, you can also take a short boat tour of the harbor for some great views of the hills and the city.
When visiting Chile with family, you don’t want to miss the Atacama Desert’s otherworldly landscapes. Your kids will think they’ve landed on the Moon. The Valle de la Luna is a great place to hike, with bizarre rock formations and giant sand dunes that children will love. The sunsets here are amazing. After hiking, take a dip in the saltwater pools of Laguna Cejar or Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache. Kids are allowed in but ideally, they should wear goggles to ensure that the concentrated salt water doesn’t get in their eyes.
A visit to Laguna Chaxa is THE place to see Chilean and Andean flamingos in their natural habitat. Being in the Atacama Desert with the clearest skies in the world also allows for some of the best stargazing opportunities. You can either take an organized tour from San Pedro or if you have a rental car, head out on your own and find a spot just outside of town to watch the stars. You can also visit the ALMA Observatory.
Chile’s stunning Lake District abounds with kid-friendly activities. In Pucon, the country’s Alpine adventure capital, you can take to the water on a kayak, climb or ski the Villarrica Volcano or go whitewater rafting. At the end of the day, head to the hot thermal pools for a relaxing soak. If you’re a family that enjoys outdoor adventures, spend a day in the Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve. From clear waterways to ancient trees and puffing volcanoes, you’ll relish the spectacular views and abundant wildlife. Enjoy more opportunities for whitewater rafting, as well as hiking, ziplining, and biking.
The Chilean Lake District is home to some lovely towns with German-inspired architecture and cuisine, such as Puerto Varas, where in summer, your kids can play on the beaches of Lake Llanquihue under the shadow of the conical Osorno Volcano, and the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Calbuco and Mt. Tronador. Nearby parks include Vicente Perez Rosales and Alerce Andino, where you’ll find more outdoor Chile adventures including fly fishing.
No trip to Chile would be complete without a trip to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego for some penguin watching and active adventure. Your kids will delight in observing these comical, waddling creatures as they hang out on the beach, socialize, or head into the surf for a swim. Tierra del Fuego’s King Penguin Park boasts the only colony of king penguins in South America. You could also head out to Isla Magdalena, an uninhabited island with a colony of Magellanic penguins that’s 120,000 strong. Not only will you get your fill of happy feet, but during the boat trip, you may get to see sea lions, dolphins, and even whales.
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