- Get up close and personal with Chile's largest penguin colony
- Enter gigantic caves and discover turquoise lakes in Torres del Paine National Park
- Visit remote glaciers by boat and feast on a Patagonian barbecue
- Spot huge condors as you trek past waterfalls and mountains
|Arrive in Santiago, Afternoon City Tour
|Fly to Punta Arenas & Chilean Patagonia
|Penguin Colony on Magdalena Island, Transfer to Puerto Natales
|Full-Day Tour of Torres del Paine National Park
|Boat Tour to Balmaceda & Serrano Glaciers
|Trekking & Condor Watching
|Fly to Santiago, Depart
Day 1: Arrive in Santiago, Afternoon City Tour
Welcome to Chile's vibrant capital, Santiago! A driver will be at the airport to welcome your family and transfer you to your city-center hotel. After taking some time to relax and unwind, let the little ones stretch their legs after the journey and head out to explore the city on a guided 3.5-hour excursion.
Start by wandering the aisles of Santiago's labyrinthine Mercado Central. This market is the beating heart of the city, overflowing with vendors and locals eager to get their hands on the day's fresh produce. Dare the kids to try charqui de caballo (dried horse meat) or chunchules con harina tostada (intestines with toasted wheat flour). Pickier eaters can stick with fresh fruit juices and the ever-popular tamales.
Next, visit the Plaza de Armas, located in Santiago's historic center and founded in 1541. You'll finish your tour at Cerro Santa Lucía, a great place to take some family pictures against a panoramic backdrop of the city. Spot famous landmarks like the Gran Torre Santiago (also known as the Costanera Center), the tallest building in Latin America. Head back down to the city center and grab some dinner before getting some rest for the night.
Day 2: Fly to Punta Arenas & Chilean Patagonia
Wake up early to catch a four-hour flight to Punta Arenas in the south of Chile. Upon arrival at Punta Arenas Airport, a driver will take you to your hotel. You're now in the major transport hub in one of the most beautiful regions of Chile. If time permits, take a guided two-hour tour of this interesting city. Or, explore on your own terms. Wherever you go, start at the central Plaza Muñoz Guerrero, a leafy square surrounded by neoclassical mansions once owned by rich sheep-ranching families.
If the kids are dying to get out into the wild, then head to the nearby Reserva Nacional Magallanes for the afternoon. This 33,000-acre (13,350 ha) reserve is filled with native trees and short hiking paths. Come back to Punta Arenas in time to see the sun go down over the Patagonian wilderness from Mirador Cerro de la Cruz. Be sure to head out in the evening and enjoy a local dinner. Seafood is a staple, so see if you can convince the kids to sample local specialties, like chupe de centolla (king crab souffle), as well as oysters, scallops, and other shellfish.
Day 3: Penguin Colony on Magdalena Island, Transfer to Puerto Natales
Get up bright and early this morning and take a cab to a pier on the Strait of Magellan. From there, board a vessel that will take you 16 miles (25 km) northeast to Isla Magdalena in approximately 1.5 hours. On this island is Los Pingüinos Natural Monument, a protected area home to Chile's largest colony of penguins. But don't just watch from a distance! Meet the 170,000 tuxedoed residents on a walk around the island and take some pictures of the sweeping views from the old lighthouse.
Once back in Punta Arenas, get the bus to Puerto Natales. While a three-hour journey with kids usually calls for iPads, books, and games, the passing views of Patagonia will likely have you all hooked. Check in to your hotel and spend the rest of the evening relaxing at your new lodgings and exploring the town.
Day 4: Full-Day Tour of Torres del Paine National Park
Discover all of the hidden wonders in Torres del Paine National Park today on a full-day guided excursion into its wilderness. Drive 15 miles (24 km) north with your guide to the Cueva del Milodón—the largest cave in a network of caves and houses. Learn about the differences between stalactites and stalagmites and find out just how big a giant prehistoric sloth—called a mylodon—would have been with a life-size replica. The kids are bound to want selfies with this one!
Continue your journey and become entranced with spooky local legends about the Silla del Diablo (Devil's Chair)—a rock formation shaped like a seat. Reach Lago Grey, rimmed with mountains, and stretch your legs on a stroll to the Lago Grey viewpoint. Stop for a picnic lunch prepared by your guide, and continue to the turquoise Salto Grande waterfall and the impressive Lago Nordenskjöld viewpoint. Wind your way along a scenic route that takes you past the Laguna Amarga (Bitter Lagoon) and gradually return to Puerto Natales for the night.
Day 5: Boat Tour to Balmaceda & Serrano Glaciers
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
This morning, head to the dock near Puerto Natales and hop on a boat bound for Balmaceda Glacier, located at the southern end of Bernardo O'Higgins National Park. The park is only accessible by foot or by boat, and this seven-hour day tour follows the Seno Última Esperanza (Last Hope Sound) from Puerto Natales to the glacier.
Keep your camera close during this scenic boat ride, where you'll be treated to vast, panoramic views of native forests composed of coihue, canelo, and lenga beech trees. You're also likely to spot sea lions as you head north toward the Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers. Disembark and get up close to these enormous ice structures on land. From here, a short, child-friendly hike leads you to a local estancia (ranch), where the kids can meet the resident animals and pets before enjoying a traditional Patagonian barbecue. As the day draws to a close, return to Puerto Natales for the evening.