Chile is a geographically diverse country that stretches 2,653 miles from north to south along South America’s western coast. In the north is the Atacama Desert, the world’s driest non-polar desert, while the country’s southern region is lush with forests and grazing land, volcanoes, lakes and a labyrinth of fjords, inlets and islands. Each year, more than 3.5 million tourists head to Chile to enjoy the beaches, national parks, wine tours and natural beauty.
It’s not just the tourists who flock to Chile: A growing number of expat retirees from around the world call Chile home because of its high standard of living, beautiful surroundings, welcoming locals and an affordable cost of living (see What Does Retirement Cost Abroad?).
One issue you do need to consider: Chile is in a major earthquake zone. However, this highly developed country is much better prepared to manage quakes than many places.
Think Chile might be part of your retirement future? Here are five cities worth considering.
La Serena is located in northern Chile, and is one of the country’s most popular seaside destinations because of its miles of white sandy beaches. Retirees enjoy the beaches, of course, but can take pleasure in the city’s historic architecture, museums and galleries, tree-shaded avenues, vineyards and festivals, including the La Serena Song Festival. Because its exceptionally clear skies, northern Chile has the world’s highest concentration of observatories, several of which are located in or very close to Serena. La Serena’s Observatorio Turístico Collowara was built with tourists in mind, and you can visit the facility and use its 16-inch telescope for stargazing.
Pucón is located in central Chile, about 500 miles south of Santiago, the capital. This small city sits on the shores of beautiful Lake Villarrica, adjacent to a snow-capped volcano of the same name. One of Chile’s major adventure tourism destinations, Pucón offers everything from bird-watching and hiking, to horseback riding, canopy tours (jungle, ecotourism treks, often via ziplines) and whitewater rafting. In the winter and spring, you can ski or snowboard on the slopes of the volcano, or take a dip in the thermal baths of the Valdivian rainforest. The downtown area has a large selection of restaurants, clubs and microbreweries, all within walking distance of the lake’s sandy beaches.
Santiago is the capital of Chile, located in the country’s central valley. Like other cities in South America, Santiago is a blend of the old and new: Spanish colonial architecture and cobblestone streets sit alongside modern buildings throughout the city. Because of the city being in an earthquake zone, height restrictions keep the skyline flat compared with most major urban centers. Retirees will enjoy Santiago’s warm, dry summers and mild winters, as well as its many museums and galleries, a growing art scene, nightlife and outdoor cafes.
Valparaiso is located about 70 miles northwest of Santiago and is one of the South Pacific’s major seaports. Affectionately nicknamed “The Jewel of the Pacific,” Valparaiso was named a World Heritage Site because of its urban design and distinctive architecture. The city is known for its bohemian, artsy vibe and beautiful vistas, and the downtown area is a jumble of steep cobblestone alleys and colorful buildings, dotted with street artists, musicians, church spires, markets and seafood restaurants.
Viña del Mar
Viña del Mar, or “The Garden City,” sits on central Chile’s Pacific Coast and is known for its tranquil resorts; manicured, palm tree-lined boulevards; beaches; and beautiful parks, including Jardín Botánico Nacional, a nearly 1,000-acre garden that’s home to more than 3,000 plant species. Retirees can enjoy Viña del Mar’s beaches, city parks with gardens and water fountains, several museums and galleries, and the Viña del Mar International Film Festival, considered to be the most important film festival in Chile and Latin America.
The Bottom Line
If you are an older adult looking for new experiences and a change of scenery, you might be considering living abroad during retirement (see Savings Needed To Retire Abroad). Chile is a diverse country that offers incredible natural beauty, a rich history, national parks, beaches, arts and culture, and as much adventure as you want. As with any move abroad, it’s a good idea to try out an area first with a vacation or two and a longer-term rental before settling down.