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Chile's 10 Most Coveted Destinations

El Mercurio, one of Chile’s broadsheet newspapers, published a list of Chile’s 10 Most Coveted Spots in their Sunday supplement. In addition to Chile’s most famous hotspots - Torres del Paine National Park, San Pedro de Atacama and Easter Island - the country houses a selection of hidden gems, particularly popular with foreign visitors. Here’s a rundown of Chile’s most sought after locations.
 
 
 
 
1. Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, Lake District
This national park is Chile’s most popular national park after Torres del Paine and Los Flamencos (home to the highlights surrounding San Pedro de Atacama). Over 70,000 foreign travellers visited the park in 2011, located near scenic lakeside town Puerto Varas. Created in 1926, it’s Chile’s oldest national park and enjoys a reputation for its beautiful scenery and diverse activities including hiking, kayaking, rafting and nature walks. Cascada’s Chilean Lake District 5 Day Premium Tour offers hiking, lakes and waterfalls with a stay in the renowned Petroé lodge, while the Chilean Lake District 4 Day Adventure offers trekking and rafting inside the park.
 
2. Coyhaique, Patagonia
Patagonia is synonymous with fly fishing and Coyhaique is one of Patagonia’s most popular spots for engaging in this relaxing sport. Set in the middle of the Carretera Austral amid green forests, snow-capped mountains and gushing rivers, Coyhaique and its Patagonian surroundings provide a scenic opportunity to fish for chinook salmon and various kinds of trout. Further south near Torres del Paine National Park there are also fly fishing options with excursions run by EcoCamp Patagonia in their Patagonia Fly Fishing Extension.
 
 
3. Matanzas, O’Higgins Region
Surfing haven Matanzas is becoming increasingly frequented by North Americans and Europeans looking to catch some of Chile’s most impressive waves. The waves are popular all year round but in summer especially Chile’s coastline in O’higgins region and in the V region of Valparaíso sees a big influx of visitors from Chilean capital Santiago and from overseas.
 
 
 
4. Maule Mountain Range 
Just 3 hours south of Chile’s capital Santiago lies the Maule region, home to scenic trekking routes and virgin wilderness. Even closer to Santiago in the Andes mountain range there are also many trekking opportunities and natural monuments to visit. Cascada’s El Morado full day Trek explores the Andes flora and fauna in the mountains, which can also be enjoyed on horseback or while rafting down the Maipo river. Further north in El Colorado horseback riding can be enjoyed or in winter skiing in nearby Valle Nevado.
 
 
5. Putre-Colchane, Arica & Parinacota region
Chile’s northernmost region is full of hidden gems, like Lauca National Park. Inland from Arica (Chile’s most northern city on the border with Peru) lies Putre - gateway to Lauca NP. Putre is located at 3,500 m.a.s.l (11,483 ft) and was a stopover on the Inca trade route between the Altiplano and the coast. Lauca houses a wealth of wildlife including Andean vegetation, llamas, guanacos, alpacas, geese and flamingos, as well as Chungará lake - one of the world’s highest lakes. Cascada’s Altiplano 5 Day Wildlife Explorer visits the region’s highlights, including Putre and Lauca. 
 
 
6. Cochamó, Lake District
Dubbed ‘The Yosemite of South America’, Cochamó is a tucked away trekking paradise. Still relatively undiscovered (just 259 visitors in 2011), the Cochamó valley and mountains provide a real wilderness sensation as well as excitement for climbers who scale the granite walls. Nestled in the lake district at the tip of northern Patagonia, Cochamó valley is only accessible by crossing through native forest.  
 
 
7. Darwin Mountain Range
Terra Incognita, the ends of the earth! The Darwin Mountain Range is one of the world’s most unexplored corners, lined with mountains and glaciers. Very difficult to access (just 2,725 tourists arrived in 2011) and lacking in infrastructure, yet the activities are numerous and trekking fanatics & mountaineers from across the world enjoy the challenging activities in the region. 
 
 
 
8. Cape Horn
The northern edge of the Drake passage separating South America & Antarctica and where the Pacific ocean meets the Atlantic, Cape Horn is synonymous with famous voyages and old shipping routes. Again very difficult to access and lacking in infrastructure, but holding an allure for marine fauna lovers who were among the 10,420 foreign visitors in 2011. Cascada’s Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia 4 Day Explorer offers an adventure at the world’s end on the shores of the Beagle Channel.
 
 
9. Valle de Parraguirre, near Valle Nevado 
Nestled high in the Andes Mountains, close to world famous ski resort Valle Nevado, Parraguirre boasts virgin snow perfect for off-piste skiing. Tricky to access but popular with heli skiers, the resort is just a couple of hours from the capital and popular with freeriders. For those who prefer pistes, Cascada’s Valle Nevado day trip is the ideal way to spend a day outside of the capital and enjoy fresh power in the middle of the Andes mountains. Cascada’s Patagonia Hiking & Chile Ski Special gives skiers the chance to combine Valle Nevado with Torres del Paine’s nature trails. 
 
10. Patagonian Ice Fields
Another end of the earth venture, trekking on some of the world’s most impressive glaciers. Patagonia’s glaciers are a big draw for travellers who want to witness the spectacular sight of calving glacier Perito Moreno near El Calafate in Argentina or the brilliantly blue Grey Glacier in Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia. Flying into Punta Arenas you can appreciate the vast size of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field as white stretches out across the horizon as far as the eye can see.