This 11-day adventure combines sightseeing in central Chile with a multi-day trek in Patagonia's most scenic national park. Kicking off in Santiago, you'll head to a German-style village known for its volcano views and breweries before continuing south to Torres del Paine for the W Trek. Here, you'll hike past turquoise lakes, emerald forests, roaring rivers, and a massive glacier to get to the best view in the house: Paine Massif.

Highlights

  • Sample Santiago's best eats in cobblestoned Barrio Bellavista
  • Ride a chairlift for volcano views followed by a beer tasting in town
  • Day-trip to Chiloé Island for oysters and UNESCO-listed wooden churches
  • Sleep near the shore of stunning Lake Pehoe during your trek
  • Finish your trip with a drive to Laguna Azul for more views and wild horses

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Santiago de Chile Santiago
Day 2 Fly from Santiago to Puerto Montt - Transfer to Puerto Varas Puerto Varas
Day 3 Osorno Volcano & Brewery Tour Puerto Varas
Day 4 Explore Chiloé Island: Ancud, Caulín & Lacuy Puerto Varas
Day 5 Puerto Varas to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 6 Puerto Natales - Torres Del Paine & W Trek - Day 1/5 Torres del Paine
Day 7 W Trek - Day 2/5 Torres del Paine
Day 8 W Trek - Day 3/5 Torres del Paine
Day 9 W Trek - Day 4/5 Torres del Paine
Day 10 W Trek - Day 5/5 Torres del Paine
Day 11 Torres del Paine to Santiago - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Santiago de Chile

Hike or take a gondola up to the top of Cerro San Cristobal
Hike or take a gondola up to the top of Cerro San Cristobal

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, where you can get your bearings by surveying the area from a high vantage point. Pathways lead 2,788 feet (850 m) up this central hill to a series of lookouts that offer wraparound views of Santiago. If you aren't the hiking type, not to worry: catch a scenic gondola instead.

  • Stroll the cobblestone streets of Barrio Bellavista. On the north side of Santiago, you'll find this trendy enclave, at once fashionable and bohemian. Stroll past colorful houses adorned with graffiti art and choose between an eclectic array of eateries and bars—great for people watching. 

  • Visit the Plaza de Armas, a stone plaza located in Santiago's historic center dating to 1541. There's also the impressive Catedral Metropolitana, a neoclassical church dating to 1748 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 a short stroll from the Plaza de Armas. 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. Visitors are welcome.

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: Fly from Santiago to Puerto Montt - Transfer to Puerto Varas

The charming village of Puerto Varas
The charming village of Puerto Varas

After breakfast at your hotel in Santiago, you'll depart on a short flight to Puerto Montt, a port city in southern Chile that is also known as a gateway to the Andes mountains and Patagonian fjords. When you arrive, you'll meet your English-speaking guide who will transport you in a private vehicle to Puerto Varas.

From here, you'll drop your luggage at the hotel, enjoy lunch, and then re-join your guide for a tour of the charming little village of Puerto Varas next to Llanquihue Lake. Enjoy the village’s mix of German architecture and Mapuche indigenous cultural influence.

If there's extra time in the afternoon, you can head out of town for other scenic stops for views of the snowcapped Osorno Volcano. At the end of the day, drive back to your hotel in Puerto Varas where you'll have the rest of the evening to explore the "ciudad de las rosas" or city of roses.

Day 3: Osorno Volcano & Brewery Tour

Osorno Volcano at sunset
Osorno Volcano at sunset

After breakfast at your hotel in Puerto Varas, you'll be picked up for a half-day tour and beer tasting. First, you will drive along the road that traverses the edge of Llanquihue Lake to an area called Ensenada where you'll head to a ski resort near Osorno Volcano. You'll have time to wander around, take photos, and enjoy the views of the surrounding Andes, Calbuco Volcano, Llanquihue Lake, and even the Pacific Ocean if the weather is clear enough. 

As an option, you can enjoy a cup of coffee or snack at the cafe here, or ride the chairlift that ascends to either Primavera Station or Glaciar Station where there is an even more breathtaking view.

From here, you'll return to Puerto Varas to visit a German-style brewery called Malta Chocolate that boasts waterfront views of the lake and volcano. This is the first brewpub in the city that produces beer with naturally-filtered water. While here, you can learn about the brewing process from the friendly staff while sampling three pours.

Day 4: Explore Chiloé Island: Ancud, Caulín & Lacuy

Colorful architecture in seafaring Chiloé Island
Colorful architecture in seafaring Chiloé Island

Today, you'll be picked up for a full-day excursion in seafaring Chiloé Island—South America's fifth largest island. The trip starts with a drive to Pargua where you'll hop aboard a ferry to sail the channel that separates the mainland to Chiloé Island. During the ride, keep an eye out for sea wolves, pelicans, and other native seabirds from this area.

Your ferry will dock at Chacao pier where you'll instantly spot the island's colorful architecture and iconic wooden churches (16 of which are Unesco World Heritage sites). Stop and take in the sites before you continue along a seaside road towards Caulín and Lacuy. Both of these beach towns are famous for oyster production.

From here, keep driving until you get to Ancud, a small city known for its historic San Antonio Fort—one of the last Spanish fortifications in Chile. While here, you'll also have time to explore the main square and central market offering many of the island's gastronomic and craft options.

At the and of the day, you'll head back to the ferry and return to Puerto Varas in time for dinner.

Day 5: Puerto Varas to Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales' colorful waterfront
Puerto Natales' colorful waterfront

Today is a big travel day that encompasses a few stops along the way! After breakfast in Puerto Varas, your guide will pick you up from your hotel and drive you to El Tepual Airport in Puerto Montt. Next, hop on a short flight from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas. Upon arrival in Punta Arenas, you'll receive a transfer to Puerto Natales.

Upon arrival at Puerto Natales, you'll check into your accommodation and then have the rest of the day to relax and explore. 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 air of small-town tranquility.

Puerto Natales offers simple pleasures like strolling its waterfront promenade, which sits on the Ultima Esperanza Sound. Facing north from here you'll see the peaks of Cerro Benitez and Cerro Toro, and the view is phenomenal at sunset. After the stroll, check out one of the numerous restaurant options in town for dinner. 

Day 6: Puerto Natales - Torres Del Paine & W Trek - Day 1/5

Start the trekking
Start the trekking

Early this morning, depart your hotel in Puerto Natales for Torres del Paine National Park (about a one-hour drive). Upon arrival in the park, you will begin your trekking experience. 

The trekking circuit begins with a pleasant walk on the Cuernos Trail, which runs alongside the bright turquoise waters of Lake Nordenskjold. This section is more of a warm-up hike, and its easy pace allows you to admire Patagonia's remarkable flora and fauna while being surrounded by the park’s central lakes and the peaks of the Paine Massif. The hike ends at Refugio Los Cuernos, a cozy mountain refuge located on the shore of Lake Nordenskjold.

Alternatively, depending on the schedule, the trek could end at Domo el Francés, a campground featuring three dome bungalows, located between Cuernos and Refugio Italiano, which affords an amazing view of Lake Nordenskjöld. Regardless of where you overnight, you'll have the evening free to relax and enjoy dinner.

Day 7: W Trek - Day 2/5

Into the French Valley
Into the French Valley

After breakfast, you'll transfer to the dock at Pudeto where you'll board a catamaran and take a 30-minute ride across Lago Pehoé. From here you'll begin the challenging trek to Valle Frances (French Valley) on a steep trail leading near the Paine Massif. How far in you go depends on the overall speed of your particular group. If you make good time, you'll reach a hanging bridge over the French River, located at the foot of the southeast face of the massif. Here you'll be treated to stunning valley views.

You'll then hike to the upper section of the valley where you can marvel at the geological formations and glaciers. After this portion of the trek, we will pause for a picnic and relax. Your group will then descend through grassland and forest until you reach Refugio Paine Grande, located on the shores of Lake Pehoé, where you will overnight.

Note: the excursion to French Valley varies throughout the season depending on the schedule of the catamaran connecting Pudeto and Refugio Pehoé.

Day 8: W Trek - Day 3/5

The jagged ice wall of Grey Glacier
The jagged ice wall of Grey Glacier

Today you'll hike from Refugio Paine Grande along Lake Pehoé to the northern side of Lake Grey, which is fed by the glacier of the same name. Here you'll enjoy a picnic lunch before boarding a vessel that sails right up to the massive and jagged ice wall of Grey Glacier. From the boat, you'll likely witness great chunks of ice breaking off the wall and crashing into the water below. This is a process called "calving," which is the result of the glacier slowly encroaching ever further into the water.  

If the boat trip is canceled due to weather conditions, your group will instead trek up to a viewing point where you can marvel at panoramic vistas of the glacier. You'll also have the chance to take a kayak excursion on the lake and maneuver around the small icebergs. After, you'll return on foot to Refugio Paine Grande and take a catamaran to the dock at Pudeto, where a vehicle will meet you and transfer you to the next base camp.

Day 9: W Trek - Day 4/5

The base of the Paine Massif
The base of the Paine Massif

This is your penultimate day on one of the most famous nature treks in the world. As such, we've saved the best view for last. Today you'll be trekking up to the base of the famous Paine Massif. In the morning you'll hike to the Hotel Las Torres, at which point you'll gradually ascend through the Ascencio Valley, located on the massif's eastern face.

It's a rigorous hike but an incredible one. Along the way, you'll pass below jagged mountain ridges, through beech forests, and over small rivers. Just before the base of the massif lies the greatest obstacle of the trek: a steep moraine that requires deftly maneuvering around masses of boulders. At this point, you'll look up and the site of three gigantic granite monoliths, the result of millennia of glacial ice erosion, will tell you that you've arrived at the base of the Paine Massif. 

After the tough uphill climb, you've earned a break. So now you'll kick back on the shore of the turquoise lagoon at the foot of the massif and enjoy a picnic lunch. Savor the memory and take plenty of photos, because there aren't views quite like this anywhere in the world.

After eating, you'll backtrack along the same trail through the Ascencio Valley and return to camp for a hearty dinner.

Day 10: W Trek - Day 5/5

Wild horses in Laguna Azul, Torres del Paine
Wild horses in Laguna Azul, Torres del Paine

In contrast with yesterday's ascent to the Paine Massif, the fifth day of the W Circuit involves a much less arduous hike. After breakfast, you'll transfer by vehicle to Laguna Azul, which is notable for the views of the Paine Massif looming over it. En route you'll pass by Cañadón Macho, an area of golden hills home to wild guanacos and ñandúes (a type of Rhea). 

At Laguna Azul, you'll hike to a lookout point where you'll be treated to a gorgeous view of both the lagoon and the granite towers of the massif. After lunch, you'll drive to the northern shore of Lago Sarmiento where the Fauna Trail begins. As we hike northbound, you'll see an impressive range of Patagonian fauna on the vast plains, including guanacos, ñandús (a type of Rhea) and maybe even a puma. After approximately three miles (5 km) of relaxed walking, you'll reach the Laguna Amarga ranger station. A driver will meet you here and transfer your group back to camp where you'll enjoy a celebratory dinner.

Day 11: Torres del Paine to Santiago - Departure

Goodbye, Torres del Paine
Goodbye, Torres del Paine

Today, you’ll take a private transfer from Torres del Paine National Park to the Punta Arenas airport. You'll then hop on a domestic flight to Santiago. From there you'll meet your connecting flight home. ¡Buen viaje!

Map

Map of Chile's Puerto Varas & W Trek - 11 Days
Map of Chile's Puerto Varas & W Trek - 11 Days