Experience remote deserts, sparkling lakes, and soaring volcanoes on this family-friendly 10-day tour through two of Chile's most spectacular regions. Get your bearings in Santiago before heading north to the otherworldly Atacama Desert, where the kids can swim in salt lagoons, stargaze under clear night skies, and bounce through the dunes on a buggy tour. Jet south to Patagonia next and dive into the famous Lake District with kayaking, hiking, and penguin-spotting adventures.


  • Splash around in the turquoise salt lagoons of the high-altitude Atacama Desert
  • See some of the clearest skies on Earth while stargazing with powerful telescopes
  • Ford rivers and ride up and down mountains on a dune buggy adventure
  • Take fun family treks through the national parks of Chile's famous Lake District
  • Kayak to the hidden corners of Lago Llanquihue and meet the penguins of Puñihuil 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Santiago, Explore Santiago
Day 2 Fly to San Pedro de Atacama, Valley of the Moon Tour San Pedro de Atacama
Day 3 Visit the Baltinache Lagoons, Waterfalls Trek, Stargazing Tour San Pedro de Atacama
Day 4 Explore the Atacama Salt Flats & Lagoons San Pedro de Atacama
Day 5 Tour of Tatio Geysers, Desert Buggy Safari  San Pedro de Atacama
Day 6 Fly to Puerto Montt via Santiago, Transfer to Puerto Varas Puerto Varas
Day 7 Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, Kayak on Lake Llanquihue Puerto Varas
Day 8 Boat Trip to Isla Chiloé & Puñihuil Penguin National Reserve Puerto Varas
Day 9 Trekking in Alerce Andino National Park Puerto Varas
Day 10 City Tour in Puerto Montt & Puerto Varas, Fly to Santiago & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Santiago, Explore

Get your bearings of Santiago during a city tour

Welcome to Chile's vibrant capital, Santiago! Your driver will be waiting at the airport to take you to your city-center hotel. After a long flight, you and the kids will probably want to relax and unwind in the hotel for a while before heading out on your 3.5-hour city tour and experiencing the pulse of this lively Latin American metropolis.

Meet your private tour guide at the prearranged destination, and start by wandering the aisles of Santiago's labyrinthine Mercado Central. This market is the beating heart of the city, overflowing with vendors and locals eager to get their hands on the day's fresh produce. With the help of an English-speaking guide, engage with vendors and shoppers, sampling delicious tidbits along the way. Dare the kids to try charqui de caballo (dried horse meat) and chunchules con harina tostada (intestines with toasted wheat flour), or keep things tamer with fresh-squeezed fruit juices and tasty tamales.

Afterward, visit the Plaza de Armas, located in Santiago's historic center. Founded in 1541, it's home to the impressive Catedral Metropolitana, a neoclassical church whose twin bell towers dominate the western side of the plaza. Finally, enjoy panoramic vistas from Cerro Santa Lucía or Cerro San Cristóbal. Take in the sprawling cityscape and spot landmarks like the Gran Torre Santiago (also known as the Costanera Center), the tallest building in Latin America. Spend the evening enjoying dinner in one of Santiago's many family-friendly restaurants before getting an early night at the hotel.

Day 2: Fly to San Pedro de Atacama, Valley of the Moon Tour

Marvel at salt caves and stone formations while exploring the Valley of the Moon

Get ready to enter a different world today. Wake up early to catch a two-hour flight to Calama, a city in the far north of the country. Upon arrival, a driver will be waiting to take you on the 1.5-hour journey to the remote outpost of San Pedro de Atacama, the launching point for adventures into the Atacama Desert. During the ride, be wowed by some of the world's most evocative and ancient landscapes. This high-altitude desert features endless salt flats, towering Andean peaks, and the volcanic Domeyko Cordillera, where red-hued mountains form the base of El Valle de la Luna (The Valley of the Moon).

Have lunch before setting off on a Valley of the Moon tour. Discover geological wonders such as the unique salt caves and stone formations carved out by salt and wind over millions of years in the Cordillera del Sal (Salt Mountain Range). Finish the tour by watching the sunset over the Atacama, painting the mountains in shades of red while the mighty Licancabur volcano looms overhead. Enjoy the quietness of San Pedro de Atacama this evening, where you'll be staying for the next four nights.

Day 3: Visit the Baltinache Lagoons, Waterfalls Trek, Stargazing Tour

Learn about the constellations while stargazing from the Altiplano

Continue your journey through the otherworldly landscapes of northern Chile today with a visit to the Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache (Hidden Lagoons of Baltinache) that dot the sugar-white terrain of Attacama's Cordillera del Sal. Rather than simply looking, you can dive right into two of these seven turquoise lagoons, so don't forget your swimwear! 

More watery encounters await this afternoon as you take part in a 4.5-hour adventure to a series of waterfalls deep in the Atacama Desert. Embark on a child-friendly, one-hour trek through canyons, cactus valleys, and along the Río Vilama to reach three waterfalls. Cool off from the hike as you bathe underneath the refreshing cascades, then drag the kids away from this special place with the promise of an after-dark stargazing tour.

The evening begins with a brief lesson on astronomy so that you and the kids know what to look out for in the night skies. Your guide will drive you to the Altiplano, which, in some places, reaches 12,000 feet (3,660 m) above sea level, making it an ideal place for stargazing. Learn how to identify constellations with the help of your guide. Even with the naked eye, the stars here are more vivid than anything you're likely to have experienced before. Take turns using high-powered telescopes and binoculars to spot an array of celestial objects, including planets, binary stars, and spherical clusters.

Day 4: Explore the Atacama Salt Flats & Lagoons

Get your cameras at the ready in Los Flamencos National Reserve

After a tasty Chilean breakfast at your lodgings, spend a full day traversing Chile's famous Salar de Atacama (Atacama Salt Flats). Visit the traditional villages of Toconao and Socaire, which are known for their mud-and-volcanic-rock buildings. Meet the locals and peruse their colorful craft markets, where you can pick up alpaca wool clothing and handicrafts. Make a brief stop at the Quebrada de Jérez, a green oasis that welcomes you from the dry surrounding deserts.

Continue upward until you reach high-plateau lagoons in the Los Flamencos National Reserve. Set at 7,500 feet (2,300 m) above sea level, Laguna Chaxa is a magnet for three of the world's five species of flamingoes: James’s, Chilean, and Andean. For any animal lovers or budding photographers in the family, there'll be nothing better than watching the varying shades of these elegant pink birds feeding on plankton, shadowed by volcanoes and moon-like salt crusts.

Finish the trip with sweeping salt flat views from the Salar de Talar and Piedras Rojas before you return to San Pedro de Atacama mid-afternoon. Enjoy some more Chilean food as you look back over photos from a day spent on what feels like another planet. 

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Day 5: Tour of Tatio Geysers, Desert Buggy Safari 

Imagine you're on another planet as you watch the Tatio Geysers blast out steam

Tempt your kids out of bed at first light this morning with the lure of blasting geysers and thrilling buggy rides. Start by bundling up in warm clothes for the 1.5-hour trip to the famed Tatio Geysers and watch the sunrise over the Atacama Desert as you go. Set at an altitude of 14,173 feet (4,320 m), the Tatio Geysers are some of the highest in the world and spurt pillars of steam up to 30 feet (10 m) into the air. Savor a scenic picnic breakfast and spot wandering lamas and flamingoes on the way back.

Get the adrenaline pumping this afternoon on an exhilarating dune buggy ride through the harsh terrains of the Atacama Desert. Go up and down steep mountains, splash through rivers, and drive over mammoth dunes. Along the way, the kids will be entertained with facts about the area's history and ecology. Don't forget your camera–there'll be plenty of spectacular photo opportunities along the way. At the end of the excursion, you'll head back to San Pedro de Atacama and enjoy your last evening amid the quiet of the desert.

Day 6: Fly to Puerto Montt via Santiago, Transfer to Puerto Varas

Witness a completely different side of Chile as you arrive in Puerto Varas

Equip your family with their favorite books, films, and music to pass the time today as you travel from San Pedro to Puerto Varas—a six-hour journey overall that starts with a transfer to Calama Airport, then a flight to Santiago and a connecting 1.5-hour flight to Puerto Montt. Located in the scenic Lake District of northern Patagonia, the alpine-inspired town of Puerto Varas sits on the shores of sparkling Lago Llanquihue and will be your base for the next three days of outdoor adventures. 

Get settled into your lakeside hotel, then take the kids for a much-needed walk through the city, noting its distinct blend of German colonial architecture and Indigenous Mapuche culture. This evening, watch the sunset over the lake and fill up on southern Chilean food before lights out.

Day 7: Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, Kayak on Lago Llanquihue

Go on a kayaking expedition on Lago Llanquihue

Today you'll dive into the unspoiled nature of the Lake District with an epic guided excursion into Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park. You'll start at the base of the snowcapped Osorno volcano on the shores of Llanquihue as you ascend 4,068 feet (1,240 m) above sea level to the Volcán Osorno Ski Center. Here you'll have plenty of time to admire views over the neighboring Calbuco volcano and surrounding lakes. From here, the kids definitely won't want to miss riding the lift to the higher-altitude Estación Primavera or Estación Glacier, where you'll be rewarded with even more scenic photo opportunities. 

Next, you'll continue to the eastern slopes of Osorno to explore a verdant evergreen forest and the turquoise waters of the Río Petrohué. This place is known as the Saltos del Río Petrohué, one of the most beautiful spots in the country, where the river tumbles over a large mass of crystallized lava that's been around for centuries. Head to Lago Todos Los Santos next, where you can sail across the water surrounded by forests, mountains, and volcanoes.

For the second half of the day, embark on a kayaking excursion amid awe-inspiring natural scenery. A perfect activity for the whole family, this afternoon you'll spend two hours paddling to hidden corners of Lago Llanquihue while soaking up views of the Calbuco volcano. Return to your hotel for the evening and fill up on local grub after your busy day in nature.

Day 8: Boat Trip to Isla Chiloé & Puñihuil Penguin National Reserve

Spot families of Magellanic and Humboldt penguins in Puñihuil

Whether you're a family of wildlife, nature, or history lovers, today you'll experience all three. It starts as your guide takes you on a drive to the port of Pargua. Here you'll set off on a 30-minute boat ride across the Chacao Channel to Isla Chiloé—an archipelago of dense forests, rolling green hills, and caves steeped in legends that'll have your kids' imaginations whirring! Stop in the town of Ancud to visit its museum and market, then take in the views from Cerro Huaihuen, where you'll see Fuerte San Antonio, an early 19th-century Spanish fort that played a significant role in the wars for independence.

Next, head to the Caulín Bird Sanctuary, a haven for over 60 migratory bird species that gather off its pebbly beach. Your guide will brief the kids on which birds to look out for, then have fun spotting black-necked swans, flamingoes, and herons. The bird theme continues with a trip to a penguin colony in nearby Puñihuil, which is the only place in the world where Magellanic and Humboldt species coexist. In the late afternoon, return to Puerto Varas and spend a relaxing evening in town.

Day 9: Trekking in Alerce Andino National Park

Follow your guide through the ancient forests of Alerce Andino National Park—home to the tallest trees in Chile

Lace up your hiking boots and set off on a family trekking adventure in Alerce Andino National Park. A guide will drive you past views of the Pacific Ocean along the new Paseo Pelluco, and you'll pass through the town of Lenca before meeting the park ranger who'll be leading you on the 2.5-mile (4 km) trail to the Río Chaica waterfalls. On this mostly flat path, follow the winding river through one of the world's oldest rainforests, where you can watch out for all kinds of exotic birdlife, such as woodpeckers and hummingbirds.

Eventually, you'll reach a set of stairs leading to the Salto del Río Chaica, where you can rest while watching the waterfall crash onto the rocks below. Take some family pictures here against the backdrop of the roaring waterfall before climbing 328 feet (100 m) to encounter towering alerce trees. The kids will be amazed as they gaze up at the tallest trees in South America and even more speechless when they learn that they can live for up to 2,500 years! When the little ones have explored to their hearts' content, loop back to the beginning of the path, where a driver will be waiting to take you back to Puerto Varas.

Day 10: City Tour in Puerto Montt & Puerto Varas, Fly to Santiago & Depart

Take a final stroll through Plaza de Armas on today's tour

So far, you haven't even had a chance to tour Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas, the two main cities in the Chilean Lake District. Today you'll get to do both as you follow a local guide who'll take you to sites such as the main square of Plaza de Armas, where the impressive cathedral is located. Head up to the Manuel Montt viewpoint, breathe in the last of the clean Patagonian air, and savor the panoramic views. You'll also visit the picturesque port of Angelmó, where you can feast on local food at typical restaurants, and a farmer's market, where you can stock up on souvenirs before your flight. 

After your tour, it's time to pack your things and meet your driver, who will take you to the airport in Puerto Montt for the 1.5-hour flight back to Santiago. From there, meet your connecting flight and bid farewell to Chile. Buen viaje!

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Map of Chile's Natural Wonders for Families: Atacama Desert & Lake District - 10 Days
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