The doorstep to Chilean Patagonia lies in the country's southern Lake District. Here you'll find towering volcanoes as well as some of the largest and most beautiful freshwater lakes in the nation . You'll also find Chiloé, an island just south of the Lake District city of Puerto Montt known as a land of myths and legends, with unique architecture and incredible gastronomy. It's a place truly worth exploring.

Highlights

  • Enjoy a whitewater rafting excursion on the Petrohué River
  • Travel around Lago Llanquihue to see waterfalls and volcanoes
  • Visit Chiloé, one of the most mythic places in Chile

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Santiago de Chile Santiago
Day 2 Santiago to Puerto Montt & Transfer to Puerto Varas Puerto Varas
Day 3 Puerto Varas National Park and Lakes Tour Puerto Varas
Day 4 Chiloé Island Tour Puerto Varas
Day 5 Puerto Montt to Santiago & Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Santiago de Chile

Santiago is an eclectic, artistic, and historic city
Santiago is an eclectic, artistic, and historic city

Welcome to Chile! Upon arrival at Santiago International Airport, a driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel. You'll have the rest of the day to explore the city at your leisure. 

Suggested activities include:

  • Hike to the top of Cerro San Cristobal, the most magnificent viewpoint in Santiago. When visiting any new city it's a good idea to get your bearings by surveying the area from a high vantage point. Pathways lead 850 meters (2,788 feet) up this central hill to a series of lookouts that offer wraparound views of Santiago. Enjoy the reconnoitering, and if you aren't the hiking type not to worry: you can catch a scenic gondola to the top.

  • Stroll the cobblestone streets of Barrio Bellavista. On the north side of Santiago, you'll find this trendy enclave, at once fashionable and bohemian. Brightly painted old houses adorned with graffiti art sit alongside modern shopping complexes featuring an eclectic array of eateries and bars. It's a great place to come for dinner out, a glass or two of Chilean red, and people watching from a patio table. 

  • Visit 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. Also here is the impressive Catedral Metropolitana, a neoclassical church dating to 1748 and whose towering twin bell towers dominate the north side of the plaza.

  • Snap pics 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 to visit the palace. 

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 2: Santiago to Puerto Montt & Transfer to Puerto Varas

Waterfalls along the Petrohué River
Waterfalls along the Petrohué River

This morning you'll transfer by car to Santiago's airport for a flight south to the Lake District city of Puerto Montt. Upon arrival, a van will pick you up to take you to your hotel 30 minutes north in the town of Puerto Varas, located on the shores of Lago Llanquihue. After checking into your hotel, you will have time to enjoy lunch and prepare for the afternoon's whitewater rafting trip. 

In the afternoon, a driver will pick you up for the trip to the lakeside town of Ensenada, from where you'll embark on your rafting adventure along the Petrohué River. This is an adrenaline-pumping experience down one of the most beautiful rivers of southern Chile, featuring class III rapids. The rafting trip lasts an hour and a half, and along the way, you'll be able to enjoy the natural splendor of Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, as well as views of the Osorno, Calbuco and Puntiagudo volcanoes. Once you've completed your journey, a delicious snack will be waiting for you on the riverbanks, after which you'll hop in a vehicle back to Puerto Varas.

Day 3: Puerto Varas National Park and Lakes Tour

Lago Llanquihue and Volcano Osorno
Lago Llanquihue and Volcano Osorno

After breakfast, a van will pick you up and you'll embark on a day tour around Puerto Varas and the major lakes of the region, including Lake Llanquihue, which is one of the largest lakes in South America. First, you'll head for the biggest and oldest national park in Chile, Vicente Pérez Rosales. Your first stop here will be the Saltos del Petrohué, a thundering waterfall created by glacial retreat as well as 19th-century volcanic eruptions.

The next stop is Lake Todos Los Santos, to the east, which is famous for its emerald waters, beaches comprised of volcanic stones, and unspoiled native forest. Here you can take a swim, enjoy a snack, and snap plenty of pictures. Then, it's off to the Osorno Volcano, where you'll head up to a viewpoint located at 3,000 meters above sea level. From there, you'll enjoy a panoramic view of the valley, Lake Llanquihue, the Petrohué River, the Calbuco Volcano, and Mount Tronador. It's no overstatement to say that these are some of the most incredible views anywhere in South America. 

Afterward, you'll return to your hotel in Puerto Varas.

Day 4: Chiloé Island Tour

Chiloe's traditoinal stilt houses
Chiloe's traditoinal stilt houses

After breakfast, you will transfer from Puerto Varas southwest to the island of Chiloé. To get there, you will cross the Chacao Channel by ferry. Keep an eye on the water, as you might just spot a Chilean black dolphin, which is one of the world’s smallest.

Once on the island, your first stop will be Caulín Bay, where oysters are farmed and the main industry is fishing (there is, of course, some great seafood here). You'll visit Puñihuil, a nearby natural monument consisting of three islets home to a colony of penguins. This is the only place on earth where Humboldt and Magellanic penguins nest alongside each other. During the tour of the town of the coastal city of Ancud, you will also see old churches built after the Spanish conquest when the native Huilliche people were converted to Catholicism. These buildings are a World Heritage Site. Also here is an impressive Spanish fort, a local market, and the Ancud Museum

If it doesn't happen to be penguin-spotting season then you'll replace that excursion with a visit to Castro, the island's capital city, which is located on Chiloé's southern shores. The city is notable for its multi-colored homes on stilts—built to guard against the high tide. You'll also be able to visit the local church and town square. Afterward, you'll return to the north of the island and transfer back to your hotel in Puerto Varas.

Day 5: Puerto Montt to Santiago & Departure

Farewell, Lake District!
Farewell, Lake District!

It's time to say a bittersweet goodbye to Chile and the Lake District. After breakfast, a driver will pick you up for the 30-minute trip from Puerto Varas to Puerto Montt, at which point you'll hop a flight back to Santiago. From there you'll meet your connecting flight home.