Stretching over 4,300 kilometers from north to south, Chile lies on a narrow strip of land with the towering Andes Mountains to its east and the glimmering Pacific Ocean to its west. As it is located in a zone of high seismic and volcanic activity, the South American nation boasts lots of stunning stratovolcanoes and snow-capped volcanoes. Of these, the Nevado Ojos del Salado is the highest volcano on Earth.
Often set amid spectacular scenery with sparkling lakes or deserts around them, these lofty peaks make for fabulous exploring, with lots of incredible views on show wherever you go. Very impressive to gaze upon, these mighty volcanoes and their awe-inspiring surroundings are now some of Chile’s top tourist destinations.
Located on the border between Bolivia and Chile, Licancabur towers imperiously above the arid and desolate Atacama Desert that surrounds it. As it reaches a staggering 5,916 meters in height, its higher realms often receive snowfall, which melts runs into Licancabur Lake – one of the highest lakes on Earth. Below its glittering summit crater lake are steep and unstable slopes scarred by ancient lava flows. This makes it quite tough and treacherous to climb, although the views from its summit are undoubtedly phenomenal. Considered to be sacred by the Atacameno people, Licancabur certainly makes for a majestic sight, particularly when viewed from across the sparkling waters of the nearby Laguna Verde.
Towering to a colossal 5,592 meters in height, Lascar lies in the Central Volcanic Zone, one of the highest and driest volcanic settings on the planet. As such, the area surrounding the stratovolcano is very arid and dry, with only sparse shrubs to be found on its lower slopes. Made up of two different cones, the mighty mount sports a number of steaming summit craters and is set atop a massive ridge. This connects it to other lofty peaks and lava domes, with the Atacama Desert lying not far away. Located just a stone’s throw away from the border with Bolivia and Argentina, it is Lascar’s bleak and unforgiving environment that makes it so memorable to visit and explore.
Formed thousands upon thousands of years ago atop older stratovolcanoes and calderas, Quetrupillán sprawls over a large area within the Villarrica National Park. Nestled between the prominent volcanic peaks of Villarrica and Lanin, it boasts a beautiful seven-kilometer wide crater, with another smaller one found near its summit. In addition to its sadly shrinking glaciers, the 2,360-metre-high mount is also home to some impressive lava domes and crumbling cinder cones. Although often overlooked in favor of its two neighbors, Quetrupillán is blessed with some wonderful scenery, with the rocky outcrop above its crater looking particularly arresting.
Lying within the gorgeous national park of the same name, the 2,236-meter-high Puyehue presides over devastated and destroyed landscapes that were caused by its violent eruption in 1960. The spectacular stratovolcano is often referred to as Puyehue-Cordon Caulle because, over the millennia, the two coalesced, forming one huge and hulking volcanic massif. A number of craggy calderas and craters can be found scattered around them, with cinder cones and lava domes also on show. Exploring the sizeable volcanic complex is an amazing experience, and Puyehue’s prominent peak is the standout feature. Besides all this, the surrounding park has lush forests and bubbling hot springs for visitors to check out, as well as fantastic hiking, rock climbing, and skiing on offer.
Overlooking rambling foothills and fertile fields and farmland, Lonquimay is set in a scenic spot within Malalcahuello National Reserve. Reaching a maximum height of 2,865 meters, the snow-capped stratovolcano looms over its surroundings with a stunning crater at its summit. It last erupted unexpectedly on Christmas day 1988, when a new vent – now fittingly known as Christmas Crater – opened up. Lonquimay is a popular place to go hiking, skiing, and rock climbing. On a clear day, you can spy up to 14 volcanoes rearing up against the sky, off in the distance.
Straddling the border between Chile and Argentina, Ojos del Salado is the highest active volcano in the world. As it towers to an awe-inspiring 6,893 meters, this also makes it the second-highest mount in the whole of the Americas behind Aconcagua in Argentina. Due to its proximity to the Atacama Desert, its surroundings are very desolate, with only ancient lava fields and steaming fumaroles on display. Meaning ‘Snowy Salty Eyes’ in Spanish, the volcano was so named due to the snow that coats its peaks in winter and the salty lakes that dot its bare slopes. Majestic to gaze upon, Ojos del Salado is definitely one of the Andes’ most amazing volcanoes.
One of the nation’s largest and most active volcanoes, Volcan Llaima dominates Conguillío National Park with its two sparkling snow-capped peaks. While its summit’s snowy cone reaches 3,125 meters, its lower and less prominent peak, Pichillaima, comes in at only 2,920 meters. Both of them, however, offer incredible views over the nearby Sierra Nevada stratovolcano, as well as the reflective waters of Conguillío Lake below. Although Llaima’s slopes are quite barren due to its frequent eruptions, the volcano makes for some lovely hiking. Lots of plunging gorges and canyons can be found nearby alongside gleaming rivers and lakes.
Towering over both Lake Llanquihue and Chapo Lake, as well as the cities of Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt, the gigantic Volcan Calbuco makes for an epic sight. Set within Llanquihue National Reserve, the large stratovolcano boasts numerous peaks, the highest of which soars to 2,015 meters. These surround a massive and impressive-looking crater, while numerous hiking trails and paths wind their way up its volcanic scree slopes. In contrast to its bare, lava scarred upper reaches, Calbuco’s foothills are coated in gorgeous forests and flower-filled meadows. From its summit, visitors can enjoy breathtaking views out over the Chilean Lake District, with the awe-inspiring Volcan Osorno lurking in the distance.
Often compared with the iconic Mount Fuji in Japan due to its similar appearance and shape, Volcan Osorno is one of Chile’s most famous natural landmarks. Glimmering in the sun, its almost perfectly symmetrical snow-coated cone rises to 2,652 meters, with gorgeous glaciers covering its upper slopes. Set in the heart of the Chilean Lake District, the stunning stratovolcano lies at one end of Llanquihue Lake and looms above the shimmering waters of Todos los Santos Lake. Although it certainly looks serene, the volcano is actually one of the most active in the southern Chilean Andes. With so much splendid scenery all around it, however, there are loads of beautiful views to be had of Osorno, and lots of great recreational activities can be enjoyed on its gentle slopes.
Permanently coated in ice and snow, Volcan Villarrica stands out magnificently against its surroundings and the bright blue sky above. Located in a marvelous national park, the 2,860-meter mount rises above both Lake Villarrica and the city of the same name, with the latter being a very popular tourist destination. This is because of its sublime setting and the ample outdoor activities that the park and volcano have to offer up. Volcan Villarrica is, of course, the main attraction with its snow-capped cone, which is home to a lava lake within its crater. Numerous volcanic caves and cinder cones are dotted about here and there, while verdant forests coat its lower slopes. A fabulous place to go hiking, skiing, or snowboarding, Villarrica is certainly one of the most incredible volcanoes in the whole of Chile.