Embark on an unforgettable journey across the Andes on this 13-day itinerary, which takes you deep into the magnificent Lake Districts of Chile and Argentina. Starting in Santiago, fly south to cruise across mountain lakes, hike to scenic peaks, and explore charming alpine villages. A day of breathtaking travel by boat and bus takes you into Argentina, where you'll explore the lakeside town of Bariloche and end your stay soaking up the culture and energy of Buenos Aires.

Highlights

  • Tour Santiago's cosmopolitan capital
  • Discover the stunning Lake Districts of Chile & Argentina
  • Cross the Andes by boat & bus on an unforgettable scenic journey
  • Experience the culture & cuisine of Buenos Aires with a tango dinner show

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Chile! Santiago
Day 2 Santiago de Chile Half-Day City Tour Santiago
Day 3 Day Trip to Valparaíso & Viña del Mar Santiago
Day 4 Fly to Puerto Montt, Transfer to Puerto Varas Puerto Varas
Day 5 Day Trip to Llanquihue & Frutillar Puerto Varas
Day 6 Free Day in Puerto Varas - Optional Chiloé Island Excursion Puerto Varas
Day 7 Lake Crossing to Bariloche Bariloche
Day 8 Bariloche "Circuito Chico" Hike Bariloche
Day 9 Free Day in Bariloche Bariloche
Day 10 Fly to Buenos Aires Buenos Aires
Day 11-12 Explore Buenos Aires Buenos Aires
Day 13 Depart Buenos Aires  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Chile!

Welcome to Santiago, Chile's capital

Welcome to Chile! Upon arrival at the Santiago de Chile International Airport, a private transfer takes you to your hotel, leaving you with the rest of the afternoon to explore the city at your leisure. Nestled in the foothills of the Andes, Chile's capital of Santiago is a modern and bustling metropolis with pockets of historic ambiance scattered throughout its historic center. Stroll the cobblestones of Barrio Bellavista, visit the 16th century Plaza de Armas, or hike to the top of Cerro San Cristobal for magnificent views.

For dinner be sure to get out of the hotel and enjoy a culinary adventure in the city. In recent years Santiago has emerged as a global foodie destination. Chilean chefs are reinventing traditional dishes like empanadas, cazuelas (stews), and seafood with ingredients harvested from the northern deserts and southern Patagonian regions. You can find great restaurants and wine bars not only in the Bellavista neighborhood but also in the revitalized historic barrios of Yungay and Italia.

Day 2: Santiago de Chile Half-Day City Tour

Santiago's historic Plaza de Armas

Today is devoted to discovering Santiago on foot, with a half-day guided tour of the city's iconic sights. Along the way, you'll explore characterful old neighborhoods like Republica and Concha y Toro, learn about the city's origins and modern growth at the La Moneda Government Palace, and tour the grand Plaza de Armas, located in Santiago's historic center. Discover the incredible history within the four corners of this expansive stone plaza, founded back in 1541. Nearby sits the impressive Catedral Metropolitana, a neoclassical church circa 1748, with towering twin bell towers dominating the north side of the plaza.

Later on, you'll continue to the eastern parts of the city to admire the modern buildings that have shaped a new and modern Santiago. End the tour in a traditional handicraft store, where you can admire masterpieces crafted from local lapis lazuli and toast the day with a pisco sour.  

Day 3: Day Trip to Valparaíso & Viña del Mar

The colorful houses & art of Valparaíso

Head to Chile's Pacific Coast today to explore the seaside towns of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. Starting in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Valparaíso, explore this colorful metropolis known as the artistic and bohemian soul of the country. Filled with street art, music, and poetry, Valparaíso is a throwback to the turn of the 20th century, when electric trollies coasted along the waterfront and lurching funicular elevators carried passengers to the highest points in the city. No matter where you go, you can always find sweeping views looking out over the colorful houses to the Pacific Coast and the blanket of blue water running out to the horizon. 

After lunch, you'll continue to Viña del Mar, an upscale coastal resort city teeming with shopping complexes, commercial high-rises, boutiques, and well-manicured gardens. Its beaches and boulevards, surrounded by palm trees and beautiful parks, have earned it the name of "Ciudad Jardin" (Garden City) and it remains a popular weekend and holiday destination for the people of Santiago.

As your day at the seaside draws to a close, you'll be transferred back to your hotel in Santiago for the evening.

Day 4: Fly to Puerto Montt, Transfer to Puerto Varas

The German-inspired architecture of Puerto Varas

This morning you'll be transferred to Santiago's airport for a quick flight south to the Lake District city of Puerto Montt. Upon arrival, another transfer takes you to nearby Puerto Varas, located on the shores of Lago Llanquihue. After checking into your hotel and enjoying lunch, rejoin your guide for a tour of this charming lakeside village. Enjoy the village’s mix of German architecture and Mapuche indigenous cultural influence.

If there's extra time in the afternoon, head out of town for other scenic stops for views of the snowcapped Osorno Volcano. At the end of the day, return to your hotel in Puerto Varas to explore the "Ciudad de las Rosas," or the City of Roses, at night.

Day 5: Day Trip to Llanquihue & Frutillar

The lakeside dock at Frutillar

Start today with a visit to the city of Llanquihue, famous for its traditional and tasty sausages. This area is part of the ancient Route of the Settlers and the origin of the Maullin River. Then continue to Frutillar, a beautiful Bavarian-style village built by the area's first German colonists. In 1856 Frutillar was just a boarding pier, but soon tanneries, mills, and breweries sprung up and brought the region to life. Walk around the beautiful old houses, admiring the gardens and the incomparable views of the Osorno and Puntiagudo volcanoes framing the city. As an option, passengers can go to the German Colonial Museum which portrays the life of the settlers, and head to the lakeshore to observe the Teatro del Lago, which hosts a summer festival of classic music from Chile and abroad.

Day 6: Free Day in Puerto Varas - Optional Chiloé Island Excursion

Discover the small island of Chiloé 

Today you can explore Puerto Varas at your leisure, or join an optional excursion to a hidden gem of the Lake District: the island of Chiloé. Neighboring Puerto Montt to the southwest, this slender island possesses its own unique culture heavy on local myths (some say witches patrol the coastline at night). Also here you'll find incredible seafood as well as colorful villages and rolling green hills. 

The trip starts with a transfer to Pargua, where you'll hop aboard a ferry to sail the channel that separates the mainland from Chiloé Island. During the ride, keep an eye out for sea wolves, pelicans, and other native seabirds from this area.

Your ferry will dock at Chacao pier where you'll instantly spot the island's colorful architecture and iconic wooden churches (16 of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites). Stop and take in the sites before you continue along a seaside road towards Caulín and Lacuy, beach towns that are famous for oyster production.

Next, you'll visit Puñihuil, a nearby natural monument consisting of three islets home to a colony of penguins. This is a noteworthy spot, as it's the only place on earth where Humboldt and Magellanic penguins nest alongside each other. Following this is a tour of the coastal city of Ancud, which features old churches built after the Spanish conquest when the native Huilliche people were converted to Catholicism. You'll also find an impressive Spanish fort, a local market, and the Ancud Museum

At the end of the day, you'll head back to the ferry and return to Puerto Varas in time for dinner.

Day 7: Lake Crossing to Bariloche

Crossing Lago Todos los Santos with Osorno Volcano in the distance

Embark on an unforgettable journey through the Andes today, as you make your way across the border into the Lakes District of Argentina. Departing from Puerto Varas, the full-day trip combines two forms of transportation—boat and bus—to take travelers across three lakes, past national parks, volcanoes, mountains, and waterfalls. Setting sail for Puella, you'll cross Lago Todos los Santos under the towering volcanoes of Osorno and Puntiagudo. Here you'll stop for lunch before boarding a bus to Puerto Frias, crossing the Argentine border en route. After cruising across Lago Frias towards Puerto Alegre, you'll board another bus bound for Puerto Blest. From here you board the final boat to cross Lago Nahuel Huapi towards your destination of San Carlos de Bariloche.

The main city in Argentina's Lake District, San Carlos de Bariloche is home to some of the most impressive scenery in the country and sits on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi, which itself is part of the larger Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. The lake straddles the Chilean border, with the city of Bariloche located on the southeast shore. While beautiful in the summertime, Bariloche became globally famous as a prime winter ski destination. The charming chalet-style buildings and alpine architecture can be seen and enjoyed on a brisk walk around, and the city center abounds with waterfront plazas, chocolate shops, and upscale restaurants. 

Day 8: Bariloche "Circuito Chico" Hike

Views from the top of Cerro Campanario

Today you'll explore more of Bariloche with a guided hike around the "Circuito Chico" (Short Circuit) route. Along the way, you'll learn about the legacy of the city and its surroundings and stop at some of the area's most famous viewpoints, like Cerro Campanario and the Llao Llao Peninsula. The former offers panoramic views of Lago Nahuel Huapi from its summit, while the latter is the site of the most impressive hotel in the country, Hotel Llao Llao

Over the course of this tour, your guide will explain how San Carlos de Bariloche evolved relatively quickly from a small mountain village into one of the most attractive and popular cities in Argentina. As you experience the natural beauty of the region and hike around its terrain, you'll begin to understand why Bariloche was voted Argentina's national capital of adventure tourism.

Day 9: Free Day in Bariloche

An aerial view of Bariloche

Today is free for you to discover more of Bariloche and the Lakes Region at your own pace.

Some suggested activities include:

  • Stroll Mitre Street, the main drag that runs through downtown to visit souvenir shops, clothing stores, and confectioners. The street also passes near the waterfront, which is worth a visit.

  • Visit the five-star Hotel Llao Llao, the nicest hotel in Bariloche, and quite possibly all of Argentina. This expansive chalet-style resort sits on a small peninsula overlooking the lake and is the embodiment of alpine luxury. Even if you're not staying here, you can stop in for a full afternoon tea service.

  • Ride a cable car to the top of Cerro Campanario. Located just a couple of miles outside town, the view from atop this 3,444-foot (1,050 m)mountain is breathtaking. You'll have panoramic views of Lago Nahuel Huapi and the snow-covered mountains that surround it. There's also a restaurant and lounge at the top.

  • Consider an optional driving tour that follows the scenic Seven Lakes — a 66 mile (107 km) road that connects San Martin de Los Andes with Villa La Angostura. On this stunning route, you'll see magnificent landscapes and cross through two national parks. You'll also see picture-perfect lakes along the way, including Machónico, Falkner, Villarino, Escondido, Correntoso, Espejo, and Nahuel Huapi.

Day 10: Fly to Buenos Aires

Welcome to Buenos Aires!

This morning a transfer takes you to the airport to catch your departing flight for Buenos Aires. Renowned as the "Paris of South America" and the "Queen of El Plata," the capital city of Buenos Aires is defined by passion. This is exemplified in the rich tango heritage and its citizens' limitless enthusiasm for fútbol (soccer), which is by far the country's most popular sport. 

When you arrive at the airport, your driver will be waiting to take you in a private car to your hotel where you can relax after a long flight. But make no mistake: the city will beckon you. So after a quick recharge, be sure to venture out into the welcoming arms of Buenos Aires and explore. 

Days 11-12: Explore Buenos Aires

Stroll the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and explore

Spend the next two days exploring Buenos Aires at your own pace. Some suggested activities include:

  • Visit the Obelisco, which might be the city's most famous monument. This obelisk (which even Argentines admit is a little too reminiscent of the Washington Monument) is worth a visit for its location alone. It sits right in the middle of Avenida 9 de Julio, which boasts a whopping 16 lanes and is one of the widest avenues in Latin America.
  • Stop by the Teatro Colón, one of South America's premier opera houses, which is known worldwide for its incredible acoustics. Even if you plan to take a tour or catch a show here later, it's still worth passing by to take in the exterior architecture. The Colon's neoclassical façade has made it one of the most handsome buildings in Buenos Aires since its opening in 1908.
  • Stroll through Puerto Madero, an upscale waterfront neighborhood adjacent to downtown. Puerto Madero may be the "new money" finance center of Buenos Aires, but it's also one of the most pleasant places to walk in the city. Take a romantic stroll by crossing over the canal on the Puente de la Mujer (Woman's Bridge) at sunset. 
  • Dine at a classic Argentine parilla (steakhouse). When night falls, enjoy a thick, juicy steak (Argentina has some of the best beef in the world) drizzled with delicious chimichurri sauce (made of garlic, herbs, and vinegar). Buenos Aires is a late-night city, and it's not uncommon for locals to have dinner well past nine in the evening, especially on weekends.

If you would like, you can also book an optional evening of tango at a historic Buenos Aires coffee house and take a tango lesson.

Day 13: Depart Buenos Aires

Farewell, Argentina

Enjoy your last hours in the cosmopolitan capital of Buenos Aires. At the scheduled time, you'll transfer to the airport to catch your return flight home. Safe travels!

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