This 15-day odyssey will take you to some of Chile's most fascinating sites and spectacular landscapes. Get to know the bustling city of Santiago, see the driest desert in the world at San Pedro de Atacama, marvel at glaciers in Torres del Paine National Park, and learn about Chile's colonial history in the scenic lakeside town of Puerto Varas. Cap off your adventure with a food tour of Santiago's best restaurants and a trip to Colchagua Valley wine country.

Highlights

  • Wander through the Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley)
  • Ride a hot air balloon through the Atacama Desert
  • Spot condors and guanacos in Torres del Paine National Park
  • Relax in Chile's picturesque Lake District

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Santiago, Panoramic City Tour Santiago
Day 2 Day Trip to an Andes Lagoon, Visit Embalse El Yeso & Cajón del Maipo Santiago
Day 3 Fly to San Pedro de Atacama, Night at a Planetarium San Pedro de Atacama
Day 4 Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley), Salar de Atacama & Toconao San Pedro de Atacama
Day 5 Explore the Geysers of El Tatio San Pedro de Atacama
Day 6 Atacama Desert Hot Air Balloon Ride San Pedro de Atacama
Day 7 Fly to Santiago, Free Afternoon Santiago
Day 8 Fly to Torres del Paine  Torres del Paine
Day 9 Hike to the Condor Lookout Point & Excursion to Grey Glacier Torres del Paine
Day 10 Road Trip through Torres del Paine National Park Torres del Paine
Day 11 Fly to Puerto Varas  Puerto Varas
Day 12 City Tour of Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas & Frutillar Puerto Varas
Day 13 Free Day in Puerto Varas Puerto Varas
Day 14 Fly to Santiago, Gourmet Evening Food Tour Santiago
Day 15 Colchagua Valley Vineyard Tour & Wine Tasting, Depart Chile  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Santiago, Panoramic City Tour

Aerial view of Santiago
Aerial view of Santiago

Welcome to Chile! Upon arrival at Santiago Airport, a driver will pick you up for a private transfer to your hotel. Then, kick off your trip with a private tour of Santiago's historic center. Start at Plaza de Armas, the focal point of the city's oldest neighborhood and home to several colonial-era buildings, such as the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral. A few blocks away is the Palacio de la Moneda, once a colonial mint and now home to the Chilean government. In 1973, this palace was witness to one of the most important events in recent Chilean history—the military coup that led General Augusto Pinochet to power.

Continue your tour with a stroll around the stately old neighborhoods of Chile's "high society." Here, you'll see a wide variety of architectural styles brought to Chile by European immigrants. Many of these families gained their wealth through mining, which has been a key part of the Chilean economy for most of the country's history. Head out to Santiago's hills for a magnificent panoramic view of the mountains surrounding the city, then wander through its western areas for a completely different vibe: impressive contemporary buildings that add a touch of modernity to the thriving capital. 

Day 2: Day Trip to an Andes Lagoon, Visit Embalse El Yeso & Cajón del Maipo

Day Out at an Andes Lagoon - Visit Embalse El Yeso & Cajón del Maipo
The calm waters of the Embalse El Yeso reservoir

In the morning, leave Santiago and drive toward San José de Maipo, where you'll stop to learn a bit about the local history and culture. Afterward, continue along the scenic Cajón del Maipo (Maipo Canyon) and Maipo River, heading toward the Andes Mountains. Stop at the Tinoco Tunnel, an abandoned railway tunnel that has now become a place of pilgrimage due to a tragic legend about a young man who passed away there. Locals leave gifts (including blue pinwheels) outside the tunnel and come to ask the man's spirit for favors. 

Next, head to the Embalse El Yeso (El Yeso Dam), making a stop at Cascaras Refuge. This settlement was created in the 1960s and originally housed the workers who built the dam. Here, you'll get a scenic view of the surrounding mountain peaks and one of the area's most emblematic glaciers. After arriving at the Embalse del Yeso, take in the incredible landscape of the Andes Mountains and the clear blue waters of the reservoir. You'll have the chance to share a glass of Chilean wine, some local cheese, a delicious sandwich, and a moment of peace in a stunning natural setting.   

Day 3: Fly to San Pedro de Atacama, Night at a Planetarium

Scenery of the Atacama Desert

The adventure level goes up a notch today as you make your way to the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth. A private transfer will take you to Santiago Airport, where you'll catch a two-hour flight to Calama Airport. Then, another private transfer will take you to your hotel in San Pedro de Atacama

Later in the evening, the stories of the night sky will unfold as you visit an observatory 4.3 miles (7 km) from San Pedro de Atacama. Your guide will point out stars and constellations, explaining how the sky's appearance changes when you travel to a different hemisphere. Then, you'll use a telescope to take a closer look. With 10 different telescope orientations to choose from, you'll see nebula and star clusters from all directions and can ask any questions you'd like. At the end of the activity, enjoy a refreshment with the group. 

Day 4: Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley), Salar de Atacama & Toconao

Moon Valley
View of the Valle de la Luna

Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) is an area of the Atacama Desert known for its unique stone and sand formations. This region has been declared one of Chile's Nature Sanctuaries and is also part of the Los Flamencos National Reserve. Located in the Cordillera de la Sal mountain range, 8 miles (13 km) west of San Pedro de Atacama, the valley received its name because it looks like a lunar landscape. Due to its lack of plant and animal life and extremely low humidity, Valle de la Luna is considered one of the world's most inhospitable places.

After visiting the valley and taking in its strikingly barren beauty, head over to the Salar de Atacama (Atacama Salt Flat). This salt flat is the main lithium deposit in Chile and one of the largest in the world. Here, you can enjoy the landscape, the Lincancabur and Lascar volcanoes, and the local fauna, including three different species of flamingo (Chilean, Andean, and James' flamingoes). Later, take the time to visit a few nearby villages, such as Toconao, a picturesque town featuring many buildings constructed from pumice stone. 

Day 5: Explore the Geysers of El Tatio

Explore the Geysers of El Tatio
El Tatio and its spectacular geysers
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Today, discover El Tatio, one of the highest-altitude geothermal geyser fields in the world. El Tatio is located at 14,170 feet (4,320 m) above sea level in the Andes mountain chain. Here, you'll find many fumaroles—vents in the Earth's surface that emit volcanic gases.

When the Andes snow melts and becomes water, it seeps through cracks in the Earth's crust, reaching the planet's hot and deep zones. After making contact with magma (hot, liquid rock), this water shoots rapidly back up toward the Earth's surface and is released in the form of steam, creating a fumarole. The curls of steam rising from the ground, combined with the breathtaking beauty of the Andes, make for a particularly impressive panorama.

This area is home to diverse species of fauna, including various types of mammals and birdlife. You may spot vicuñas, a type of wild camelid with a graceful walk that has adapted to extreme geographic and climatic conditions. On the way back from the geyser fields, you'll be treated to a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and volcanoes, as well as a network of small rivers leading all the way to the Salar de Atacama.

Day 6: Atacama Desert Hot Air Balloon Ride

Balloon ride in the Atacama Desert
Balloon ride in the Atacama Desert

Get ready for an early start with a wake-up call before dawn. This is when the conditions are ideal to navigate above the desert by hot air balloon and catch the sunrise.

Pause for a quick coffee or tea, then board the balloon and prepare for takeoff. During the hour-long ride, you'll have an incredible view of the Atacama Desert. Use this special moment to snap a few photos and appreciate the beauty of the landscape before you begin coasting down to land. Afterward, celebrate the day with a Champagne toast and breakfast, accompanied by the crew. In the afternoon, return to your hotel for some free time. 

Day 7: Fly to Santiago, Free Afternoon

Cable cars in Santiago
Cable cars in Santiago

Leave the Atacama behind with a shared transfer to Calama Airport. From there, catch a flight to Santiago Airport, and then take a private transfer to your Santiago hotel. Use the rest of the day to explore Santiago on your own. The city offers plenty of sights to discover, from museums and monuments to stunning vistas. Start with a visit to Cerro San Cristobal (San Cristobal Hill). Hike up, take a taxi, or enjoy a scenic ride by cable car. Afterward, head back down to visit the Chilean National Zoo or La Chascona, the house of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

Next, visit one of the several museums located near Plaza de Armas. Wander into the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art to see statues, pottery, and masks from ancient cultures of the Americas, or check out the Museo Histórico Nacional, which is housed in a 19th-century royal palace. Spend the evening sampling some of Chile's famous wines and delectable national dishes, such as pastel de choclo, a baked casserole of corn, meat, and spices.  

Day 8: Fly to Torres del Paine 

Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park

Meet your driver and head to the airport for your flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas. When you arrive, take a shared transfer to your hotel in Torres del Paine National Park.

Upon arrival, you'll have the late afternoon and evening to relax in anticipation of the adventures you'll undertake in the coming days. Enjoy a leisurely dinner and get an early night's sleep, as tomorrow, you'll be off on a spectacular hike to one of the area's most scenic viewpoints. 

Day 9: Hike to the Condor Lookout Point & Excursion to Grey Glacier

Lake Pehoé, Torres del Paine
Lake Pehoé in Torres del Paine National Park

Drive about 45 minutes toward the center of Torres del Paine National Park, then begin your hike to the Mirador Cóndor (Condor Lookout Point). This is a simple trek with a maximum height of 1,312 feet (400 m), starting at 148 feet (45 m) above sea level. From the lookout point, you'll have an incredible view of the Paine River, the turquoise waters of Lake Pehoé, and the magnificent Paine Range. At the top of the viewpoint, with some luck, you may see condors. After taking some time to enjoy the view, return to your hotel for a break. 

Later on, travel in a comfortable and modern boat to Grey Glacier, where you'll be treated to views of clear blue ice and floating icebergs in the still, silvery waters of Grey Lake. Feel the Patagonian wind on your face as you marvel at the beauty of this frozen landscape. On your way to visit the glacier, enjoy views of the snow-capped peaks of the Paine mountain range and the forested cliffs surrounding the lake. If you're lucky, you'll see and hear chunks of ice falling off the glacier and tumbling into the water.

Day 10: Road Trip through Torres del Paine National Park

Guanacos in Torres del Paine National Park
Guanacos in Torres del Paine National Park

On today's excursion, you'll have the chance to contemplate and enjoy the Torres del Paine National Park in a relaxed and easy way. Start at the Forestry Corporation Visitor Center, where you'll learn about this magnificent World Biosphere Reserve. Then continue to the Great Waterfall, which can be reached via a short walk. Here, you'll have a view of Paine Grande Mountain, the highest peak of the Paine Mountain Range. 

Next, drive to the Lago Nordenskjöld Viewpoint. From this point, you can gaze out over Nordenskjöld Lake and see the Cuernos del Paine (Paine Horns)—a collection of several tall granite peaks named for their spiky shapes. Afterward, visit the Amarga Lagoon area to see the Paine River Falls and take in the panoramic views of the famous Torres del Paine. Continue to the other end of the park to have a picnic lunch near the Laguna Azul.

Day 11: Fly to Puerto Varas 

The lakeside area of Puerto Varas
The lakeside area of Puerto Varas

Take a shared transfer from Torres del Paine to the Punta Arenas Airport. Then, fly to Puerto Montt Airport and meet your driver for a private transfer to your Puerto Varas hotel.

Upon arrival in Puerto Varas, take some time to relax after your journey. Use the evening to stroll through the city center, get the lay of the land, and perhaps pop into a riverside restaurant for dinner. Puerto Varas is located on the shores of Lake Llanquihue and not far from the Osorno Volcano, making it a particularly picturesque spot. Tomorrow, you'll visit Puerto Montt, the capital of southern Chile's Lake District region. 

Day 12: City Tour of Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas & Frutillar

Puerto Montt cityscape
Puerto Montt cityscape

Begin your visit to Puerto Montt at a scenic viewpoint. Then head downtown, past residential districts and government buildings, until you reach the Plaza de Armas. This is where you'll find the Catedral Nuestra Señora del Carmen (Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral), an unusual church constructed from Patagonian cypress wood. Nearby, you can see the Monument to the German Settlers and the bright yellow Jesuit Church, built in 1872. Afterward, visit the town of Chinquihue and the fish and seafood market of Angelmó, where fresh local products are sold.

Continue along the Pan-American Highway toward Puerto Varas. Once there, stop at the Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús. Wander through the main square and past the city's casino, then stroll through the residential district to admire its old houses. Hop back in the car and drive along the lakeside promenade to Cerro Philippi (Philippi Hill) to enjoy a panoramic view of Puerto Varas. Next, make a visit to the nearby city of Llanquihue, stopping for lunch en route. End your journey in Frutillar, where you can visit the Museo de la Colonización Alemana (German Colonial Museum) and handicrafts fair.

Day 13: Free Day in Puerto Varas

Puerto Varas and the Osorno Volcano
Puerto Varas and the Osorno Volcano

Puerto Varas, sometimes called the "city of roses," was founded by German settlers in the mid-19th century and is known for its German-style architecture. The rapid growth of both Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt has transformed this region into a tourist hub with a selection of excellent hotels, creative gastronomy based on regional seafood specialties, cultural events, and local crafts.

Take some time today to get to know Puerto Varas on your own, admiring the architecture and stopping in some local shops and restaurants. You can also pay a visit to the Museo Pablo Fierro, a quirky collection of interesting items compiled by a local painter, or go for a hike in the surrounding nature.

Day 14: Fly to Santiago, Gourmet Evening Food Tour

Chile is known for its variety of wines
Chile is known for its variety of wines

Meet your driver for a private transfer from your hotel in Puerto Varas to Puerto Montt Airport. There, you'll board a flight back to Santiago and transfer to your hotel for some downtime.

Chilean gastronomy has a variety of influences, with many different flavor profiles to explore. In Santiago, you'll find an eclectic selection of gourmet spots serving up inventive dishes made with fresh, local ingredients. Tonight, enjoy a group tour of the city's food scene, starting with a Chilean wine tasting in one of the country's best stores. Later, head to an upscale resto-bar, where you'll sample some sophisticated cocktails and tapas prepared by a nationally-renowned chef. Finish your evening in one of the capital's top restaurants, savoring a nine-course dinner accompanied by local wines. 

Day 15: Colchagua Valley Vineyard Tour & Wine Tasting, Depart Chile  

View of a vineyard in Colchagua
View of a vineyard in Colchagua

Take a day trip to the Colchagua Valley, located south of Santiago. This region is known for its picturesque hills, sprawling haciendas, centennial grapevines, and modern high-tech wineries. Reputedly once part of the Inca Empire, the Colchagua Valley later became a popular spot for Chile's elite families to build mansions. Many of these can still be found here today.

The geographic conditions in the valley create a unique microclimate ideal for the production of different grape varieties. Cabernet sauvignon, merlot, carménère, malbec, and syrah are all cultivated in the area's renowned vineyards. On your tour, you'll visit three of these vineyards, where you can enjoy the panoramic landscape and learn about how wine is made. You'll also have the opportunity for a wine tasting and a delicious lunch at a regional restaurant. Later on, return to your hotel to pack, and transfer to Santiago Airport for your flight home or to your next destination. Buen viaje!

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Map

Map of Chilean Nature Adventure: Santiago, Atacama Desert, Torres del Paine & Puerto Varas - 15 Days
Map of Chilean Nature Adventure: Santiago, Atacama Desert, Torres del Paine & Puerto Varas - 15 Days