Beaches

With 4,300 kilometers of coastline and a large number of islands, Chile has plenty to offer when it comes to beaches. The warmer climes of the northern regions are perfect for those who simply want to spread out their towel and enjoy the sun. Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta, Copiapó, La Serena and Coquimbo have warm-water beaches, dispelling the myth that only cold Pacific waters reach the Chilean coast.

One of the most beautiful examples is La Virgen Beach in Caldera, north of Copiapó, which features fine white sands, turquoise waters, gentle swells and dune fields. Cifuncho, in Antofagasta, is less touristy and offers deep blue, crystalline waters, white sands and, best of all, a number of excellent fish and seafood restaurants.

If you want to combine a beach trip with nature and wildlife, pay a visit to Las Tijeras on Damas Island off the coast of Coquimbo. The excellent visibility allows scuba divers to spot dolphins and penguins, and you can't beat the tranquility of its white sands.

The big cities of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar have lively beaches with bigger waves, like those found at Reñaca. There are also more peaceful options, such as Algarrobo, Concón and Zapallar. Some of the coves south of Santiago have become popular among surfers, including Navidad and Matanzas. Chile's surfing epicenter is Pichilemu.

Southern Chile is home to more rustic beaches, with enormous forests providing the backdrop. The waters are cold and wild, and the sand is darker. You'll find good examples of this on the outskirts of Valdivia and Chiloé and in Patagonia. There are also hundreds of lakeside beaches, such as those on Lake Villarrica (in Villarrica and Pucón). Along with the beaches at Lakes Ranco, Rupanco and Puyehue, they offer fun nautical outings and 100 percent natural relaxation.

But the star attraction remains Anakena Beach on Easter Island. It combines tranquil waters and perfect temperatures, complete with palm trees and view of the mysterious Moai statues.

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