- Visit the penguins, sea lions, and dolphins that inhabit Patagonia
- Hike the W Trek highlights in Torres del Paine National Park
- Go ice hiking along the ice fields of famous Glacier Grey
- Enjoy a kayaking trip from Pueblo Serrano and visit a local estancia
|Day 1||Arrive in Santiago & Fly to Punta Arenas||Punta Arenas|
|Day 2||Strait of Magellan Wildlife Excursion||Punta Arenas|
|Day 3||Visit Magdalena Island and Travel to Puerto Natales||Puerto Natales|
|Day 4||Visit the Famous Towers - W Trek Day 1||Torres del Paine|
|Day 5||Hike Along Lake Nordenskjöld - W Trek Day 2||Torres del Paine|
|Day 6||Explore the French Valley - W Trek Day 3||Torres del Paine|
|Day 7||Admire Glacier Grey - W Trek Day 4||Puerto Natales|
|Day 8||Go Ice Hiking on Glacier Grey||Torres del Paine|
|Day 9||Kayak From Pueblo Serrano to Puerto Toro||Puerto Toro|
|Day 10||Visit Serrano Glacier & Estancia Perales||Puerto Natales|
|Day 11||Depart From Santiago|
Day 1: Arrive in Santiago and fly to Punta Arenas
When your international flight to Santiago International Airport touches down, catch your domestic flight to Punta Arenas. Upon arrival at 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 2: Strait of Magellan wildlife excursion
Today's 10-hour adventure will involve navigating the Strait of Magellan in a zodiac boat.
The excursion begins at 7 am. A driver will pick you up and transport you 1 hour to the launch point. Enjoy breakfast and gear up in a semi-dry suit—which will provide comfortability during the trip. Throughout the day, enjoy snacks, as well as lunch, accompanied by nice Chilean wine.
Be prepared for the adventure ahead. You may encounter rough seas, requiring you to hold tight to the side of the boat. Your guide will be involved every step of the way to ensure your safety.
Visit the San Isidro area in search of the beautiful Austral dolphin, sometimes known as the Peale's dolphin. It is common to find groups of 12 swimming by the side of the boat or engaged in some acrobatic jumping. It is also possible to see some sea lion colonies, as well as a variety of sea birds, such as albatrosses and petrels, and perhaps even some penguins.
Following the tour, your private driver will transport you back to the hotel in Punta Arenas.
Day 3: Visit Magdalena Island and travel to Puerto Natales
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.
In the afternoon, travel by bus to Puerto Natales. This trip will take about 3 hours, and along the way, relish your first glimpses of the Patagonian Pampa. Keep an eye out for local wildlife, as well.
Upon arrival to Puerto Natales, settle into your accommodation and then visit your tour representative for a trip briefing. Ask any last-minute questions, as well as pick up all of your tickets and vouchers for the next few days' adventures.
This small port city is the main base for excursions into Torres del Paine National Park. It's far less touristic than many other Patagonian hubs, and thus, retains its small-town tranquility.
Puerto Natales offers simple pleasures like strolling its 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 4: Visit the famous Towers - W Trek Day 1
Today, begin your trekking experience. Early in the morning, depart on a bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine. The trip to the park entrance at Laguna Amarga is approximately 2 hours. After registering with the park, start with a 1.5-hour ascent, complete with stunning views of the hanging glacier at Mount Almirante Nieto (8,750 feet) as well as the nearby lakes. Once you reach Refugio el Chileno, drop off your bags and take a quick break to refuel.
Next, hike for another hour past ancient lenga forests until you reach the moraine base. Brace the steeper, more challenging climb for 45 minutes, and once at the top, reward yourself with some of the park's best views from the Mirador Base Torres. Take in the towering peaks of Torre Sur, Central Tower, North Tower, Condor's Nest, and Glacier Torre, all set across the sweeping backdrop of the Patagonian Highlands.
Digest the views, and hike back down to Refugio Chileno to spend the evening.
Hiking Distance: 9.6 miles
Hike Duration: 6.5 hours
Day 5: Hike along Lake Nordenskjöld - W Trek Day 2
After breakfast, it's time for another adventurous hike. Today, experience Lake Nordenskjöld up close. After leaving Refugio Chileno, embark on a brisk, 4-5-hour hike to Refugio Cuernos, an outpost located on the shore of Lake Nordenskjöld, at the foot of the Paine Massif.
Along the way, hike along the base of Monte Almirante Nieto and traverse a few Patagonian rivers by hopping across the rocks. Every step of the way includes incredible Patagonia landscapes, in the form of jagged mountain peaks and glaciers, with glimpses of wild animals that reside in the region. Eventually, the lake and the peaks of Cuernos del Paine will come into view, signaling your destination. Spend the night here, in Refugio Cuernos.
Hiking Distance: 7 miles
Hike Duration: 4.5 hours
Day 6: Explore the French Valley - W Trek Day 3
The destination of today's hike is Campamento Italiano, a campsite located 2.5 hours away from Refugio Cuernos. To arrive there involves trekking along the windy shores of Lago Nordenskjöld. Once you arrive at Campamento Italiano, leave your heavy gear and continue the trek towards the French Valley, a rocky section of flatland cradled at the base of granite peaks.
Hike another couple of hours through a forest before finally emerging into the valley, and all the incredible scenery will come into view. From a lookout point, enjoy spectacular views of lakes Nordenskjöld, Skottsberg, and Pehoé behind you, as well as the hanging French Glacier ahead. After leaving the lookout, return to gather your large pack, and continue another 2.5 hours to Refugio Paine Grande, on the shore of Lake Pehoé, for your overnight stay.
Hiking Distance: 10.7 miles
Hiking Duration: 7 hours
Day 7: Admire Glacier Grey - W Trek Day 4
After a fortifying breakfast, embark on a hike through a small forest to Lago Grey, a lake fed by one of the star landmarks of Torres del Paine: Glacier Grey. At 104 square miles, this glacial mass comprises a sizeable portion of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. After about two hours of hiking, get your first glimpse of its jagged ice walls, at which point, continue hiking 2 more hours along the lakeshore until you arrive at Refugio Grey (fair warning, most days this section of the park is very windy) to spend the night.
Hiking Distance: 6.8 miles
Hike Duration: 4 hours
Day 8: Go ice hiking on Glacier Grey
In the morning, after an energizing breakfast, make your way to the Bigfoot Basecamp to begin your ice hiking excursion.
First, take a boat out to Islatak Island to begin a 1-hour hike up the glacial moraine. After an hour of hiking, reach the ice, gear up, and learn about the basics of ice hiking. Prepared with an ice axe, crampons, a helmet, and a harness, start your adventure, which includes walking for around 2.5 hours onto Glacier Grey to observe cracks, rivers, lagoons, and tunnels. Following your hike, return to the boat and back to the basecamp.
Then, board the Grey III, a double-decker catamaran, which will bring you up close and personal with Glacier Grey for some stunning photographs. Stay the night in the beautiful Hotel Lago Grey for a bit of luxury tonight.
Day 9: Kayak from Pueblo Serrano to Puerto Toro
A driver will pick you up early in the morning from Hotel Lago Grey and transport you to Pueblo Serrano.
After loading the kayaks and going through a safety check, the adventure begins. Start by paddling to Salto del Rio, an impressive waterfall, which requires carrying the kayaks around the falls. Then, continue paddling along the mighty river, toward Serrano Glacier. Stop for lunch with spectacular views of Tyndall Glacier and the Geike Mountains. After lunch, slowly make your way closer to Mount Balmaceda, where the river joins with the waters of the Ultima Esperanza Fjord.
Spend the night camping at Puerto Toro, and enjoy a delicious dinner in the wild Patagonian forest.
Day 10: Visit Serrano Glacier and Estancia Perales
After an early breakfast, carry your kayak about 100 feet to Serrano Lagoon, where the Serrano Glacier ends. Spend the morning paddling alongside the blue icebergs that have broken off from the glacier. At midday, embark on a larger boat that will take you back to Puerto Natales, through the Ultima Esperanza Fjord.
During this journey, enjoy the incredible views of the Balmaceda Glacier, before stopping at Estancia Perales for a traditional meal of Patagonian roasted lamb. Then, arrive back to Puerto Natales around 6 pm, and a driver will take you back to your accommodation.
Enjoy your final night in Patagonia at your leisure.
Day 11: Depart from Santiago
Today, look back on all of the memories made on your Patagonian adventure. Depending on your flight time, first, take a bus from Puerto Natales back to Punta Arenas. Then, catch your flight back to Santiago, followed by your onward flight home. Safe Travels!