- Explore historical sites and bohemian enclaves in Santiago
- Embark on a full-day wine tour of the Casablanca Valley region
- Discover the glaciers and marble caves in the Aysén region of Patagonia
- Enjoy a private tour of the stunning highlights of Torres del Paine
|Day 1||Arrival in Santiago & City Tour||Santiago|
|Day 2||Viña del Mar & Valparaíso Excursion||Santiago|
|Day 3||Maipo Valley Full-Day Tour||Santiago|
|Day 4||Casablanca Valley Wine Tour||Santiago|
|Day 5||Fly to Balmaceda||Puerto Rio Tranquilo|
|Day 6||Marble Caves Full-Day Tour||Balmaceda|
|Day 7||San Rafael National Park & Glacier Boat Trip||Puerto Rio Tranquilo|
|Day 8||Fly to Punta Arenas||Punta Arenas|
|Day 9||Magdalena Island & Marta Island Wildlife Tours||Punta Arenas|
|Day 10||Torres del Paine - Full-Day Private Tour||Torres del Paine|
|Day 11||Patagonian Estancia Day Trip||Puerto Natales|
|Day 12||Fly Back to Santiago & City Exploration||Santiago|
|Day 13||Departure From Santiago|
Day 1: Arrival in Santiago and city tour
Welcome to Chile! Upon arrival at Santiago International Airport, a driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel. Once settled, get out and experience the pulse of this Latin American metropolis on a guided, half-day tour. Like any great city, that pulse is found in its people, marketplaces, and cuisine.
Highlights of the tour include:
- Wandering the aisles of Santiago's labyrinthine Mercado Central and Mercado La Vega. These markets are the beating heart of the city, overflowing with vendors and local residents eager to get their hands on the day's fresh 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 ingredients to try.
- A visit to the Plaza de Armas, located in Santiago's historic center. There's a lot of history within the four corners of this expansive stone plaza, as it was founded all the way 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.
- Ascend to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal. Hop on a cable car to the top of this hill that sits high above the city. Enjoy the 360° panoramas and take plenty of photos, as these are the most incredible views in Santiago.
- Enjoy dinner in the fashionably bohemian enclave of Barrio Bellavista. This is the trendiest neighborhood in the city. Find a diverse array of funky cafés, international eateries, and high-end restaurants here.
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: Maipo Valley full-day tour
Today, experience more of Chile's famous natural beauty with a visit to Cajón del Maipu. After breakfast, embark on a 45-minute road trip southeast of Santiago to this popular gorge. First, arrive in the fertile San José de Maipo region, with its hills and vineyards. Then, it's an ascent into the mountains, where the landscapes become even more dramatic as massifs and snow-capped peaks dominate the skyline. Take in the sparkling rivers and streams that wind through this paradise.
After reaching 9,843 feet above sea level, exit the vehicle at the shores of the Embalse de Yeso, a reservoir nestled in the Andes with a glassy surface that shines bright-turquoise. Enjoy the landscape and snap photos of the panoramic vistas. Walk around the shore as your expert guide offers insight into the geology of the area, as well as the history of the reservoir, a result of damming the Yeso River back in 1964.
For lunch, take a seat near the water and enjoy a picnic, accompanied by a selection of top Chilean wines. Afterward, return to San José de Maipo and stop in at a local restaurant to try a traditional snack—the Chilean empanada.
Transfer back to your hotel in Santiago, and enjoy the evening on your own.
Day 4: 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 5: Fly to Balmaceda
After breakfast, make a quick transfer to the airport for a flight to Balmaceda, a village located in northern Patagonia's Aysén region. A driver will meet you upon arrival and take you to your hotel. Spend the evening at your leisure as you prepare for tomorrow's adventures.
Day 6: Marble caves full-day tour
After breakfast, a driver will take you south to Puerto Río Tranquilo, a town located on General Carrera Lake. This is a scenic, 4-hour drive filled with stunning scenery. Pass through Cerro Castillo National Park and its thick Nothofagus forest, the turquoise Chiguay Lagoon, surrounded with lenga trees, and along the Río Murta, which features basaltic lava flows on its glacial valley floor, dating back hundreds of thousands of years.
Puerto Río Tranquilo is the base for boat tours to the Capillas de Mármol, a network of marble pillars near the lakeshore. The sleek lines of the deep, white crevices at the base of these giant pillars are the result of thousands of years of erosion. When contrasted with the blue and turquoise waters of the lake, these crevices shine brightly iridescent, lending an otherworldly quality to an already stunning geological formation. Be sure to take plenty of photos when you tour these impressive, ancient caves.
Later in the day, return to your hotel, and enjoy the evening at your leisure.
Day 7: San Rafael National Park and Glacier boat trip
Today, depart bright and early from Puerto Río Tranquilo for the 47-mile trip west to Bahía Exploradores (Explorers' Bay). This bay sits at the western end of Valle Exploradores (Explorers' Valley), which is situated at the confluence of the Exploradores, Oscuro, and La Teresa rivers, at Laguna San Rafael. The entire valley is notable for its temperate forests and rich exotic wildlife, including pudus and pumas. Once you arrive, board a boat for an excursion on the lake. Your guide will provide a brief safety lesson before the adventure is underway.
Enjoy breakfast as you cruise along an easy route through the delta of the Exploradores River's beautiful scenery. After about 2.5 hours, you will reach Laguna San Rafael National Park and the San Rafael Glacier. Take in the views and snap photos of the floating blocks of ice and a variety of wildlife species, including marine otters, sea lions, black-necked swans, and condors. Next, a boxed lunch will be served, and imbibers can also sip an afternoon glass of whiskey chilled with ice from a nearby, ancient glacier.
Later in the afternoon, return to the pier at Bahía Exploradores, and take the ride back to Puerto Tranquilo, in time for dinner.
Day 8: Fly to Punta Arenas
After breakfast, a driver will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport to catch your flight to Punta Arenas. Upon arrival in this small Patagonian city, make the 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.
Day 9: Magdalena Island and Marta Island wildlife tours
This half-day tour begins bright and early in the morning. Transfer from downtown Punta Arenas by vehicle to a pier on the Strait of Magellan. Then, board a vessel that will take you 18 miles northeast to Magdalena Island. On this island is Los Pingüinos Natural Monument, a protected area home to Chile's largest colony of penguins.
First, though, you will travel to Marta Island, located in the middle of the strait. It's home to a large colony of Patagonian sea lions. However, these aren't the only residents on this rocky outpost. Scout a number of seabirds, which include cormorants, skuas, arctic pigeons, and more.
Upon arrival at Magdalena Island, disembark and spend 1 hour onshore. Follow a 2,624-foot path to an old lighthouse that offers sweeping views of the Strait of Magellan. On your way, enjoy the company of the island's residents: a Magellanic penguin colony that can reach up to 170,000 inhabitants. There's no experience on earth quite like hiking alongside penguins near Patagonian waters first mapped by Magellan, and then made famous by Charles Darwin.
Afterward, it's time to return to the vessel and make the journey back, reaching Punta Arenas by midday. The rest of the day and evening are at your leisure.
Day 10: 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 11: Patagonian Estancia day trip
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 tour, return by boat to Puerto Natales, and enjoy the rest of the evening at your leisure.
Day 12: Fly back to Santiago and city exploration
This morning, take a bus from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas, and catch your flight back to the capital city of Santiago. Upon arrival, meet your private driver, who will transport you to your hotel. Enjoy the city sights you did not get to explore on your initial city tour.
Snap photos in front of the Palacio de la Moneda. Chile's opulent Presidential Palace (known simply as "La Moneda") is just a short stroll from the Plaza de Armas, and like the plaza, it's filled with history. It was here in 1973 that Chile's armed forces, backed by the U.S. government, overthrew President Salvador Allende, kicking off a brutal right-wing military dictatorship that would last for 17 years. Today, the country is under democratic rule, and visitors are welcome.
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 all the way 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 13: Departure from Santiago
Today, it is time to say goodbye to Chile. A driver will pick you up from the hotel surrounding your departure flight time. Take the ride to the airport in Santiago and board your flight home. Safe Travels!