- Enjoy a half-day food tour of Chilean cuisine in Santiago
- Go wine tasting through organic vineyards in Casablanca Valley
- Tour the Straight of Magellan, Ultima Esperanza Sound, and Rio Serrano by boat
- Embark on an incredible hike through Paine massif in Torres del Paine
|Day 1||Arrival in Santiago & City Food Tour||Santiago|
|Day 2||Viña del Mar and Valparaíso Excursion||Santiago|
|Day 3||Casablanca Valley Wine Tour||Santiago|
|Day 4||Fly to Punta Arenas||Punta Arenas|
|Day 5||Strait of Magellan Wildlife Tour||Punta Arenas|
|Day 6||Arrive in Puerto Natales||Puerto Natales|
|Day 7||Ultima Esperanza Sound & Rio Serrano Boat Tours||Torres del Paine|
|Day 8||Torres del Paine - Full-Day Private Tour||Torres del Paine|
|Day 9||Hike to the Base of Paine Massif||Puerto Natales|
|Day 10||Visit a Patagonian Estancia||Punta Arenas|
|Day 11||Departure From Patagonia|
Day 1: Arrival in Santiago and embark on a city food tour
Welcome to Chile! Upon arrival at Santiago International Airport, a driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel. But rather than idle indoors, get out and experience the pulse of this Latin American metropolis. Join an easy and delicious half-day tour of the city.
Highlights of the tour include:
- Wandering the aisles of Santiago's labyrinthine Central Market. This is the beating heart of the city, overflowing with vendors and local residents eager to get their hands on the freshest of the day's produce. With the assistance of an English-speaking guide, engage with these vendors and shoppers, learning about their daily routines while getting the inside track on the most delicious tidbits to try.
A tasting of traditional Chilen dishes. It's not enough to experience the kinetic energy of the marketplace—do like a local, and indulge your tastebuds, as well. Get a glimpse into how some of Chile's most famous dishes are prepared.
- Ascending to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal. After the market, its time to hop on a cable car to the top of this hill that sits almost 1,000 feet above the city. Enjoy the 360° panoramas and take plenty of photos of the most incredible views in Santiago.
- Take a lunch break in the fashionably bohemian enclave in Barrio Bellavista. It's time for even more food—in the trendiest neighborhood in the city, Bellavista. Find an array of funky cafés, international eateries, and high-end restaurants to choose from.
After the tour, return to your hotel and spend the remainder of the day relaxing.
Day 2: Viña del Mar and Valparaíso excursion
Today, leave the capital on an excursion to central Chile's Pacific Coast. Visit two neighboring cities: Viña del Mar and Valparaíso.
First, arrive in Viña del Mar, an upscale coastal resort city teeming with shopping complexes, commercial high-rises, boutiques, and well-manicured gardens. The city's modern image is the result of reconstruction efforts following the numerous earthquakes the Chilean coast has endured over the years. However, there are still 20th-century landmarks, like the Germanic Wulff Castle and the Venetian-Gothic Vergara Palace, the former home of the founder of Viña del Mar. The city is the perfect place to enjoy a seaside lunch at one of the many upscale restaurants on the shore.
Next, visit the port city of Valparaíso, located adjacent to Viña del Mar. This colorful metropolis is the artistic and bohemian soul of the country. It's filled with street art, music, and poetry. Moreover, it's 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.
Start exploring Valparaíso by visiting the old plazas of Sotomayor and Aníbal Pinto. Then, ride the Reina Victoria funicular and ascend to the top. From here, wander the hilly neighborhoods of Cerro Alegre, Cerro Concepción, and Cerro Florida. On the last hill, find La Sebastiana, a museum that was once the home of famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.
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. Some liken Valparaíso to San Francisco reimagined by Dr. Seuss.
Following the exploration, head to the minivan to transfer back to Santiago, and return to your hotel.
Day 3: Casablanca Valley wine Tour
Today, head 1 hour west to Casablanca Valley. This fertile valley near the Pacific Coast is ideal for growing grapes, as the sea breezes come in from offshore and provide the perfect weather conditions for them to thrive. It's also an area famous for producing organic, all-natural wine grapes.
Tour two wineries on this trip—the first is Casa Marín. Besides producing top-quality wines, Casa Marín is famous for being Chile's first female-founded bodega. The vineyard here sits on rolling hills above the town of Lo Abarca, just more than 1 mile from the Pacific. The tour includes a stroll around the grounds and facilities to get a sense of the ambiance and terroir, and a tasting of three wines.
The second winery on the schedule is Viñedo Matetic, a larger, well-known vineyard. A bilingual guide offers a tour of the grounds, including the vineyards and the panoramic views of the valley that surrounds them. After learning a bit about the growing process, the tour culminates with a tasting in the underground cellar, where you can also purchase select bottles.
After the tour, return to your hotel in Santiago, and enjoy the evening at your leisure.
Day 4: Fly to Punta Arenas
After breakfast, a driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport to catch your flight to Punta Arenas. Upon arrival at this small Patagonian city, transfer by private car to the hotel.
You're now in the major transport hub in one of the most beautiful regions of Chile. Founded in 1848 on the eastern shore of the Brunswick Peninsula, in its heyday, Punta Arenas was home to the creme de la creme of Patagonian society. Today, it's a tourist destination, and from here, you can easily access some of the most impressive natural attractions in Patagonia, like Torres del Paine National Park and Magdalena Island. There are also a number of sites in and around town that deserve your attention.
Suggested activities include:
- Stroll the Plaza Muñoz Guerrero. This is a good starting point for a walk around the city. Not only is this leafy central plaza a gem (the pathways are lined with French street lamps and a statue of Magellan sits in the center), the surrounding architecture is impressive, as well. All around the plaza, there are neoclassical mansions, once owned by the monied sheep-ranching families of the 19th century.
- Tour the Palacio Sara Braun, which is one such neoclassical mansion fronting the plaza. If you want to get an idea of just how much wealth the sheep trade generated in the 19th century, take a tour of this former home of the family Braun. Inside is a testament to luxury in the form of opulent dining halls and billiard rooms.
- Take a seaside walk. In recent years, Punta Arenas has revitalized its waterfront area, so come and enjoy the boardwalks and outdoor spaces, complete with artistic sculptures.
- Visit the Reserva Nacional Magallanes. If you're interested in an active excursion just outside the city, head a few miles west of Punta Arenas to this 33,000-acre forested reserve (known locally as Parque Japonés). There's a self-guided nature trail lined with lenga and coigue trees, and it makes for a great, brisk hike.
- Watch the sun go down at Mirador Cerro de la Cruz. This viewpoint overlooks the city all the way out to the Strait of Magellan. It's a great place to come and watch the sun go down over Patagonia.
Be sure to head out in the evening and enjoy a local dinner. Seafood is a staple, so sample some local specialties, like chupe de centolla (souffle of king crab), as well as oysters, scallops, and other shellfish.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Strait of Magellan wildlife tour
Today's 10-hour adventure will involve navigating the Strait of Magellan in a zodiac boat.
The excursion begins at 7 am. A driver will pick you up and transport you 1 hour to the launch point. Enjoy breakfast and gear up in a semi-dry suit—which will provide comfortability during the trip. Throughout the day, enjoy snacks, as well as lunch, accompanied by nice Chilean wine.
Be prepared for the adventure ahead. You may encounter rough seas, requiring you to hold tight to the side of the boat. Your guide will be involved every step of the way to ensure your safety.
Visit the San Isidro area in search of the beautiful Austral dolphin, sometimes known as the Peale's dolphin. It is common to find groups of 12 swimming by the side of the boat or engaged in some acrobatic jumping. It is also possible to see some sea lion colonies, as well as a variety of sea birds, such as albatrosses and petrels, and perhaps even some penguins.
Following the tour, your private driver will transport you back to the hotel in Punta Arenas.
Day 6: Arrive in Puerto Natales
Catch a bus bound for Puerto Natales today. This trip will take about 3 hours, and along the way, take in your first glimpses of the Patagonian Pampa, as well as native wildlife.
Settle into your accommodation in Puerto Natales, and then head to the travel tour office for a briefing. Ask any last-minute questions and pick up all of your tickets and vouchers for the next few days' adventures.
This small port city is the main base for excursions into Torres del Paine National Park. It's far less touristic than many other Patagonian hubs, and thus, retains its small-town tranquility.
Puerto Natales offers simple pleasures, like strolling the waterfront promenade, which sits on the Ultima Esperanza Sound. Facing north, spot the peaks of Cerro Benitez and Cerro Toro—the view is phenomenal at sunset.
After the stroll, check out one of the numerous restaurant options in town for dinner.
Day 7: Ultima Esperanza Sound and Rio Serrano boat tours
After breakfast, board a boat tour of the Ultima Esperanza Sound, a fjord adjacent to Puerto Natales. During the voyage, stop at many viewpoints to see glaciers, waterfalls, and cliffs. Keep an eye out for condors flying overhead.
Next, arrive in Bernardo O'Higgins National Park to disembark for a short walk through the native forests of Coigues, Ñirres, and Ciruelillos, until reaching the impressive Serrano Glacier. Continue the boat journey up the Río Serrano. enjoying the natural beauty of the region as you go. Then, arrive at Pueblo Serrano, a village known as the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park, where a delicious meal awaits you.
Afterward, head into the park and check into your lodging for the night.
Day 8: Torres del Paine - Full-day private tour
Today, meet with your guide and embark on your own private journey around Torres del Paine National Park. Discover the unrivaled flora and fauna and impressive viewpoints at your own pace. Throughout the day, transport to different areas of the park known for impeccable viewing of the park's wildlife and stunning landscapes. Indulge in some short hikes, and stop for a picnic lunch along the way.
At the end of the tour, return to your hotel.
Day 9: Hike to the base of Paine Massif
After breakfast, head up to the base of the Torres del Paine towers on one of the most popular hiking routes in the park. Although it can be completed in less than a day, this hike is strenuous and requires a good level of physical fitness. However, the stunning views at the base of the Paine massif make it well worth the effort.
The trekking route covers 11 miles and lasts about 9 hours. Every step of the way, enjoy views of beautiful scenery comprised of rivers, native forests, mountain peaks, and narrow valleys. Keep a close watch for local bird species, like condors and black eagles.
Your route begins at the Las Torres Hostel and will take you over the Ascencio River, at which point it is time to ascend about 1.5 miles to a lookout featuring panoramic views of the valley below and the surrounding mountains. Then, continue through sections of lenga forest until the remaining 45-minute stretch, which is a steep ascent that involves a hard scramble over a moraine to the final path leading up to the viewpoint.
This is the hardest portion of the hike. However, once you arrive at the lagoon at the base of the Paine Massif and stare up at the nearby Cuernos del Paine jutting into the sky, any exhaustion will likely dissipate. Upon arrival, rest by the lagoon and take in the amazing rock formations as you enjoy a delicious picnic lunch.
Afterward, begin the return trip back down the trail. The descent takes approximately 4 hours before returning to Puerto Natales for the night.
Day 10: Visit a Patagonian estancia
This morning, board a vessel on the Ultima Esperanza Sound bound for the beautiful Estancia La Peninsula, a working Patagonian sheep ranch. This full-day tour is the perfect opportunity to experience a way of life that is little changed since the first immigrants settled this region around the turn of the 20th century.
The day begins with a 30-minute boat trip through the fjords before arriving at the ranch. Once here, enjoy a hot cup of coffee and a breakfast pastry. Then, choose between a variety of activities to fill the day, such as horseback riding, hiking, or embarking on a land tour in a 4x4.
Around lunchtime, enjoy one of the best traditional lamb barbecues in the area, followed by a demonstration of sheep shearing and wool classification. Meet some other friendly employees of the estancia—in the form of sheepdogs.
At the end of the day, return to Puerto Natales by boat, and then transfer to Punta Arenas.
Day 11: Departure from Patagonia
Today, look back on all of the memories made on your Patagonian adventure. Depending on your flight time, first, take a bus from Puerto Natales back to Punta Arenas. Then, catch your flight back to Santiago, followed by your onward flight home. Safe Travels!