On this 12-day Chilean vacation, explore three regions of the country—the capital city, Patagonia, and the Pacific Coast. Begin with some sightseeing in Santiago, and head to Patagonia the next day. Enjoy the waterfront promenade of Puerto Natales before venturing to Torres del Paine National Park. Spend an adventurous five days exploring the park’s highlights—Las Torres, Los Cuernos, Lake Nordenskjöld, the French Valley, Lago Grey/Glacier Grey, and more. Visit a Patagonian estancia, and go on a historical kayaking excursion. Then, return to Santiago and head out to the vibrant coastal towns of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso, a colorful grand finale.

Highlights

  • Go sightseeing in the Chilean capital city of Santiago
  • Hike the Patagonian highlights, from Las Torres to Glacier Grey
  • Visit a Patagonian estancia and go kayaking along the Eberhard Fjord
  • Enjoy the colorful coastal towns of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Santiago and City Tour Santiago
Day 2 Travel to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 3 Hike to Famous Las Torres Torres del Paine
Day 4 Hike Along Lake Nordenskjöld Torres del Paine
Day 5 Hike the French Valley Torres del Paine
Day 6 Trek to Lake Grey Torres del Paine
Day 7 Lake Grey Boat Tour & Return to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 8 Visit a Patagonian Estancia Punta Arenas
Day 9 Kayaking in Eberhard Fjord Puerto Natales
Day 10 Fly Back to Santiago Santiago
Day 11 Viña del Mar and Valparaíso Excursion Santiago
Day 12 Depart From Santiago  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Santiago and embark on a city tour

Take a cable car up Cerro San Cristóbal
Take a cable car up Cerro San Cristóbal

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: Travel to Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales
Puerto Natales

Transfer from your hotel to the airport for your flight to Punta Arenas. Stretch your legs after the flight and get ready for the Patagonian adventure you've been waiting for. A travel representative will meet you at the airport and transfer you to Puerto Natales, a tiny, beautiful town. Spend the night awaiting the next day's adventures.

The town is set in a backdrop of beautiful mountains on one side, and the sea on the other. 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 3: Hike to famous Las Torres

Las Torres
Las Torres

Early in the morning, depart on a bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park. The trip to the park entrance at Laguna Amarga is approximately 2 hours.

After arriving and registering with the park, begin to hike up Almirante Nieto, a mountain with incredible views of Lake Nordenskjold and the Asencio Valley. After 2 hours of hiking steadily upward, arrive at your destination, Refugio & Camping Chileno. (This is your camp for the evening.)

Store your large pack before continuing onto the Las Torres lookout. Hike about 1 hour through a dense lenga forest. Once you leave the forest, approach a moraine and climb to see the amazing granite peaks known as Torres. After admiring the view, return to Refugio & Camping Chileno for dinner and a night of rest. 

Hiking Distance: 9.6 miles
Hike Duration: 6.5 hours

Day 4: Hike along Lake Nordenskjöld

Los Cuernos
Los Cuernos

In the morning, have breakfast and then prepare to hike again. Leave Refugio Chileno and walk 4 hours toward Refugio Cuernos, located on the shore of Lake Nordenskjöld, and at the foot of the Cuernos. Along the way, walk the skirt of Almirante Nieto, and pass by Lake Nordenskjöld. There will be a few rivers you will pass over by hopping across rocks. As you hike, catch glimpses of glaciers and the mountaintops hovering over you. Finally, spot the majestic peaks of the Cuernos. Spend the night at the foot of the Cuernos at Refugio Cuernos.

Hiking Distance: 6.8 miles
Hike Duration: 4.5 hours 

Day 5: Hike the French Valley

The French Valley, Torres del Paine
The French Valley, Torres del Paine

Today, hike into the heart of the park to visit another iconic area of Torres del Paine: French Valley. After breakfast, meet your guide and transfer to the Pudeto Ranger Station, located on the shore of Lake Pehoé. From here, it's a half-hour catamaran cruise across to the lake to arrive at the trailhead and begin your trek.

The first part of the trail is relatively flat and leads along the north side of Lago Skottsberg to Refugio Italiano, which is located at the bottom of the French Valley. Here, break for water and snacks. Afterward, you can continue deeper into the French Valley, along a steep trail through the lenga forest. Roughly 1.5 miles from Italiano, reach a viewpoint near the Horns of Paine that affords wide views of the French Glacier hanging down from Mount Paine Grande. From here, begin the journey back to the hotel, and spend the remainder of the day relaxing.

Day 6: Trek to Lake Grey

Glacier Grey
Glacier Grey

After a restful night and an energizing breakfast, begin a 4-hour hike through a small forest, and then along Lake Grey. Most days, this section of the park is very windy, due to the openness provided by Lake Grey, Glacier Grey, and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. After about 2 hours of hiking, take in your first glimpse of Glacier Grey. Continue hiking for 2 more hours until arriving at your home for the night, Refugio & Camping Grey.

If you'd like, continue past the Refugio for a spectacular view of the glacier and a chance to cross one of the park's famous suspension bridges. There are two, optional excursions you can take today (in the afternoon) or tomorrow (in the morning, while at Refugio Grey)—ice hiking on Glacier Grey or kayaking on Lake Grey. Arrangements can be made on your behalf for either activity. 

Hiking Distance: 6.8 miles 
Hike Duration: 4 hours

Day 7: Lake Grey boat tour and return to Puerto Natales

Take a boat tour around Glacier Grey
Take a boat tour around Glacier Grey

The morning is yours to enjoy however you see fit. You can partake in an optional excursion, or you can spend these few hours relaxing at Refugio Grey.

In the afternoon, board the Grey III catamaran, which will transport you to Glacier Grey to get close-up views of its massive ice walls—keep your camera handy. 

After arriving on the other side of the lake, disembark and transfer back to Puerto Natales for the night.

Day 8: Visit a Patagonian Estancia

Meet the sheep of a Patagonian estancia
Meet the sheep of 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 9: Kayaking in Eberhard Fjord

Kayaking in Patagonia
Kayaking in Patagonia

After breakfast, get ready to paddle near the scenic coast of Puerto Natales. From the hotel, it's a 20-minute drive to Estancia Puerto Consuelo, a working family-owned ranch on the shores of the Eberhard Fjord. There's a lot of history here—Puerto Consuelo was built by German immigrants at the end of the 19th century. This will be your base camp for today's kayaking excursion.

The kayak trip includes visits to a number of historic locations along Eberhard Fjord, such as the settlement of Puerto Prat, founded in 1899, and Krugger Island, known as the “Island of the Dead,” which was once used as a cemetery to bury the first settlers. During this excursion, keep an eye out for a variety of birds, such as Andean condors, Chilean flamingos, and black-necked swans.

At the end of the excursion, return to Puerto Natales, and enjoy the night at your leisure.

Day 10: Fly back to Santiago

Say goodbye to Patagonia
Say goodbye to Patagonia

Today, make the transfer from Puerto Natales to the airport in Punta Arenas. Then, hop on a domestic flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago. Check in to your hotel after the long day of travel, and relax or enjoy more of Santiago at your leisure.

If you're up for a dinner outing, be sure to 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 in the Bellavista neighborhood, as well as the revitalized, historic barrios of Yungay and Italia.

Day 11: Viña del Mar and Valparaíso excursion

The colorful streets of Valparaíso
The colorful streets of Valparaíso

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 AlegreCerro 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 12: Depart From Santiago

Adios, Chile!
Adios, Chile!

It's time to say farewell to Chile. In the morning, make the transfer from your hotel to the airport in Santiago for your flight back home. ¡Buen Viaje!

Map

Map of Chilean Highlights: Patagonia, Santiago, & the Pacific Coast - 12 Days
Map of Chilean Highlights: Patagonia, Santiago, & the Pacific Coast - 12 Days