So narrow it’s almost invisible on a map, Chile does anything but blend in when you see it in real life. This visually diverse country is comprised of five tourist regions, all of which are home to some exquisite ecotourism opportunities. In addition to the prevalence of ecotourism in Chile, sustainable development and responsible travel thinking are prioritised here. Chile is one of the top countries in the world for ethical travel, and is consistently ranked by various sources amongst the top 10 when it comes to environmental protection, social welfare, human rights, and sustainable (tourism) development.
Northern Chile: The Altiplano and Atacama
Heading into the north? Consider taking an ecotour with either Ecotours Chile or Darwin’s Trails. Both tour operators are dedicated to sustainable tourism and ecotourism, and are well known for their responsible travel initiatives.
Darwin’s Trails works hard to be socially responsible, and they make every effort to promote tourism to and within authentic local communities. Dubbed their “Local People Experience”, this sets them above most other tour operators in Chile. Although they specialise in Valapariso/Vina, Santiago, and Puerto Montt, Darwin’s Trails offer two excellent Northern Chile packages, including a fascinating coastal ecosystems and astronomy tour.
In 2009, the Government of Japan and UNESCO set in motion a sustainable tourism training program on Easter Island, in efforts to generate tourism strategies developed to protect the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Rapa Nui National Park.
Due to the rise in popularity of tourism to Easter Island, which is famed for its “moai”, monumental Polynesian stone statues, the island’s fragile ecosystem has becoming increasingly pressured. This sustainable tourism training program is designed to help restore and preserve the moais, and enable participants to “acquire the skills they need for the island’s natural and cultural resource management”.
Considering this, it is of utmost importance that when travelling to Easter Island, as with travel to any destination, especially a fragile one, travellers must be considerate of their impact. This program also demonstrates the importance of sustainable tourism development and management of resources so as to ensure there is a balance between community development and resource preservation and conservation.
Central Chile: Ecotourism in Santiago and the Central Valley
Head out of the city and into the valley, where places like Cascada de las Animas are waiting for you. Originally a horse ranch, Cascada de las Animas has been in operation since 1840, and is now a gorgeous resort in the middle of over 3600 hectares of crazy gorgeous landscapes. Located in the Maipo Canyon of the Andes Mountains, next to the roaring Maipo River, Cascada de las Animas has just about everything.
If you’re looking for a quiet, relaxing vacation, you’ll be amazed by the peace and tranquillity, but if adventure and activity are what you’re after, consider that you’ll be able to go swimming, hiking, trekking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, kayaking, zip lining, and even head out on a canopy tour. Oh, and don’t forget the wine tour!
Lakes and Volcanoes District
With some magnificent sights to behold, the Lakes and Volcanoes district of Chile is impressive, and there is no shortage of exploration and activity available in the region. If you’re looking for a tour operator that can take you to the top of the Osorno volcano, lead you on a horseback ride on the slopes of the Cabuco volcano, or take you fishing, rafting, floating, or kayaking on any of the lakes and rivers in the region, look no further than EcoTravel. EcoTravel offers a huge variety of day excursions from adventure to cultural, historical to gastronomic, and have a number of options that include eco-lodge accommodations.
Ecotourism in Patagonia
The biodiversity and breathtaking landscapes are what has traditionally drawn travellers and ecotourists to the southernmost region of Chile, Patagonia. Fabled for its glacial waters, wildlife spotting, hiking, trekking, and sprawling mountains and valleys, Patagonia has recently introduced a new ecotourism initiative led by the Centre for Ecosystem Research in Patagonia (CIEP).
In conjunction with research projects, tourists can participate in sailboat tours of the Chonos Archipelago and become involved with an ongoing study of whales, porpoises, and dolphins, or, tourists can head to the Chacabuco River and observe and participate in an ongoing archaeological dig.
Looking to explore the other side of Patagonia? There are numerous outfitters that tour and explore the region, including those mentioned previously, but Cascada Expediciones consider Patagonia their specialty. Their ecotours in Patagonia include trekking, wildlife safaris, kayaking, sailing, eco-camping, and even a penguin encounter!
Ecotourism in Chile
Ecotourism in Chile is exciting, dynamic, diverse, and well-established. Organisations of all levels, including governments, NGOs, and tour operators themselves, are proactive about ecotourism and sustainable tourism development, which is key to ensuring Chile remains one of the top nations in the world for ecotourism.