Explore Chile's Lake District & Wine Country: Santiago, Chiloé Island, Puerto Varas & Colchagua – 15 Days
- Explore Santiago's markets and historic city sights
- Discover rural life on Chiloé Island in the Lake District
- Spot volcanoes in Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park
- Kayak on sparkling Reloncaví Fjord
- Enjoy wine tasting at Colchagua Valley's famous vineyards
|Day 1||Arrive in Santiago, City Tour & Private Dinner||Santiago|
|Day 2||Day Trip to Valparaíso via Casablanca Valley Wine Tour||Santiago|
|Day 3||Free Day in Santiago||Santiago|
|Day 4||Fly to Puerto Montt & Transfer to Chiloé Island||Chiloé Island|
|Day 5||Rilan Day Trip||Chiloé Island|
|Day 6||Day Trip to Chonchi & Chiloé National Park||Chiloé Island|
|Day 7||Chiloé Food Tour||Chiloé Island|
|Day 8||Chiloé Island to Puerto Varas||Puerto Varas|
|Day 9||Day Trip to Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park||Puerto Varas|
|Day 10||Trekking in Alerce Andino National Park||Puerto Varas|
|Day 11||Kayaking on Reloncaví Fjord||Puerto Varas|
|Day 12||Fly to Puerto Montt, Pick up Rental Car & Drive to Colchagua||Colchagua|
|Day 13||Colchagua Valley Vineyards Tour||Colchagua|
|Day 14||Free Day in Colchagua Valley||Colchagua|
|Day 15||Final Day in Santa Cruz, Depart from Santiago|
Day 1: Arrive in Santiago, City Tour & Private Dinner
Welcome to Chile! Your driver will greet you at the airport and take you to your hotel to get settled in. When you're ready, head out to get your bearings and experience the pulse of this lively Latin American metropolis. Start by wandering the aisles of Santiago's labyrinthine Mercado Central or Mercado La Vega. These markets are the beating heart of the city, overflowing with vendors and locals eager to get their hands on the day's fresh produce. With the help of an English-speaking guide, engage with vendors and shoppers, sampling delicious tidbits along the way.
Visit the Plaza de Armas, located in Santiago's historic center. Founded in 1541, it's home to the impressive Catedral Metropolitana, a neoclassical church whose twin bell towers dominate the north side of the plaza. Finally, enjoy panoramic vistas from Santa Lucía Hill or San Cristóbal Hill. Take in the urban sprawl and spot landmarks like the Gran Torre Costanera, the tallest building in Latin America.
This evening you'll have the unique opportunity to taste Chilean flavors with a local. Join our chef in his home for an authentic gastronomic experience. Dinner features Chilean dishes prepared with a regional twist and paired with a selection of wines or fruit juice.
Day 2: Day Trip to Valparaíso via Casablanca Valley Wine Tour
This morning you'll head to the Chilean coastal city of Valparaíso, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the country's most romantic and artistic city. En route, you'll stop at an organic winery in the Casablanca Valley, the Veramonte Winery, for a guided tour and tasting session. Try four different wines paired with Chilean cheeses and chocolates.
Next, delve into the colorful, well-preserved seaport of Valparaíso. The city is a throwback to the turn of the 20th century when electric trollies coasted along the waterfront, and funicular elevators carried passengers to the city's highest points. Travel by trolley between Plaza Sotomayor and Plaza Aníbal Pinto, then board the Reina Victoria funicular for aerial views.
Ramble through hilly neighborhoods like Cerro Alegre, Cerro Concepción, and Cerro Florida, with their brightly-painted houses, old churches, and cobbled squares. To finish, you have the option of dining on some of the best seafood in South America. Then it's time to hop back in the minivan for the journey back to Santiago.
Day 3: Free Day in Santiago
Today is yours to spend as you please. Have lunch at the Mercado Central or amble around the coffee shops and boutiques of Barrio Lastarria, one of the city's most fashionable neighborhoods. Don't miss Palacio De La Moneda, the stately presidential palace, which takes up an entire block in downtown Santiago. If you're lucky, you may catch the changing of the guard. In the evening, head to the bohemian Bellavista neighborhood, where you'll find no shortage of international restaurants, cafés, and wine bars.
Day 4: Fly to Puerto Montt & Transfer to Chiloé Island
Today you'll transfer to the airport and catch a flight south to Puerto Montt in the Lake District. This windy port city is the jumping-off point for epic forays into southern Chile along the Carretera Austral into Patagonia. Transfer directly to Chiloé Island, also known as Isla Grande. This scenic archipelago is one of Chile's most geographically and culturally distinct areas, covered with rolling green hills, dense forests, and patchwork fields. Its coastal coves inspired legends of cave-dwelling witches who leave trails of light as they fly across the night sky.The journey to Chiloé involves a road trip and ferry crossing through spectacular scenery, ending in the compact capital city of Castro, where you'll stay the night. The fishing port is filled with colorful houses and German churches. Take a look at the Plaza de Armas before strolling along the waterfront, which borders an immense fjord. For dinner, try local favorites like curanto, a rich seafood stew that has been around since the island was settled.
Day 5: Rilan Day Trip
For today's tour, you'll follow the Rilan "Route of Learning," which provides an insight into the peninsula's nature and farming culture. The trip starts at Chiloé's coastal wetlands, where flamingoes flock in the winter and sarapitos gather in summer. Look out for a variety of birds as you tour the wetlands, including black-neck swans, seagulls, and ducks. You'll be supplied with boots, bird-watching books, hiking sticks, and binoculars for this adventure.The trip continues along the peninsula's fields and villages, pausing at the UNESCO-listed Church of Rilan, a restored 19th-century Catholic relic. You'll also stop at a handicraft workshop and visit a rural family who'll invite you into their home for a glimpse of daily life in Chiloé. On the way back to your hotel, your guide will tell you all about the area's water mills and fish corals, myths, and traditional El Fogon houses.
Day 6: Day Trip to Chonchi & Chiloé National Park
Discover the landscape that captivated famed naturalist Charles Darwin on this day tour of Huillinco, Cucao, and the Pacific Ocean. The trip begins in Chonchi, known as the city of three floors, as it sprawls over three terraces. Highlights in Chonchi include its UNESCO-listed Church of Chonchi, the Museum of Traditions, and a vibrant waterfront and crafts market.Move on to the town of Huillinco, where you'll find a typical Chiloé cemetery filled with tiny houses which serve as tombs. The trip also features Chiloé National Park, where you'll peruse the Visitor Center and walk along the path of El Tepual, which leads you through the park's biodiverse rainforests. The day ends at the Pacific Ocean for a walk along the beach before returning to Castro.
Day 7: Chiloé Food Tour
Get a real taste of Chiloé on this gastronomical tour. The island was named an Ingenious World Agricultural Heritage System for its well-preserved farming traditions and peasant culture. To understand the region's culinary history, peruse the Yumbel Fair Market in Castro, where stalls heave with vegetables and seafood used to make Chilota cuisine.Venture into the countryside next to see Castro's brightly-colored stilt houses that perch above the water. Meet a local family who'll teach you how to whip up the region's signature dish: curanto al hoyo. This hearty meal is prepared by burying shellfish, meat, and potatoes in the ground and cooking it over hot rocks.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 8: Chiloé Island to Puerto Varas
Say goodbye to Chiloé and head to Puerto Varas, named the city of roses after the flowers that line its streets. This quiet Lake District hub lies on the shores of Lake Llanquihue and is a gateway for exploring nearby volcanoes and national parks. Experience a mix of German colonial architecture and Indigenous Mapuche cultural influences as you meander through Puerto Varas's quaint streets.
Day 9: Day Trip to Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park
Today, explore the wonders of Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park. You'll spot the Osorno Volcano on the shores of Llanquihue as you ascend 4,068 feet (1,240 m) above sea level to the Osorno Mountain Ski Center. Take an hour to soak in views of the Calbuco Volcano and sparkling lake, with the Pacific Ocean as your backdrop. There's time to ride the lift to Estación Primavera or Estación Glaciar for more awe-inspiring photo opportunities.Continue to Petrohué to wander through an evergreen forest that offers glimpses of the Osorno Volcano and turquoise Petrohué River. This place is known as the Saltos del Río Petrohué, one of the most beautiful spots in the country, where the river crosses a large mass of crystallized lava that's been around for centuries. Finally, head to Lake Todos Los Santos, where you can sail across the water surrounded by forests, mountains, and volcanoes before transferring back to Puerto Varas for the night.
Day 10: Trek in Alerce Andino National Park
Spend the day trekking in Alerce Andino National Park, which is part of the Temperate Rainforest Biosphere Reserve of the Southern Andes. This slice of wilderness is home to around 50 lagoons and tree species found nowhere else in the world. Located in the Chaicas Mountain Range south of Lake Chapo, the journey to the park showcases views of the Pacific Ocean along the new Paseo Pelluco, passing through the town of Lenca.
A park ranger will provide safety instructions for traversing a 2.5-mile (4 km) trail to the Chaica River waterfalls. The path is mostly flat and winds along the river through one of the world's oldest rainforests, which is home to exotic birds such as woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and endemic chucao tapaculo.Eventually, you'll reach a set of stairs leading to the Salto del Río Chaica, where you can rest while watching the waterfall crash onto the rocks. Just 330 feet (100 m) farther up the trail, you'll encounter the park's towering alerce trees, the tallest in South America, that can live for up to 2,500 years. Watch out for wildlife and all kinds of forest flowers and ferns as the path loops back to the beginning.
Day 11: Kayak on Reloncaví Fjord
Your day starts with a 40-minute drive east along the shore of Llanquihue to the town of Ensenada, where you'll pick up your gear and choose between a single or tandem kayak expedition. Continue to Ralún and the mouth of Patagonia's northernmost fjord, Reloncaví, where you'll start paddling south. Stop for a traditional lunch and fresh coffee at a small cove, followed by a short walk in the woods.
Jump back in the water and continue paddling down the fjord, surrounded by lush landscape and views of the snow-capped Yate and Hornopirén volcanoes. Spot an array of birds soaring above, from pelicans to cormorants, as well as sea lions, dolphins, and the occasional penguin frolicking in the water beside you. The trip ends at Cochamó, a village that sits between the Andes and the Pacific. Get changed and take the bus back to Puerto Varas for a relaxed evening.
Day 12: Fly to Puerto Montt, Pick up Rental Car & Drive to Colchagua
This morning, savor one last leisurely breakfast in Chile's Lake District before your private transfer to Puerto Montt airport. When you land in Santiago, you'll pick up a rental car for the next three days. The self-drive portion of your adventure begins with a 125-mile (200 km) journey to the beloved wine region of Colchagua, where you'll spend the afternoon exploring independently.
Day 13: Colchagua Valley Vineyards Tour
Embark upon the mother of all wine tours in Chile's most prestigious grape-growing region, the valley of Colchagua, which is famed for its tasty syrah and carménè varieties. Kick off the day with a trip to the distinguished Viña Viu Manent winery. Traverse the grounds on a horse-drawn, antique carriage and taste the various fine wines produced on the premises.Next up is a trip to the Apalta Valley and Viña Montes winery. The owners will open up their diverse cellar so you can try the premium and ultra-premium wines produced there. A bilingual guide will accompany you to ensure nothing gets lost in translation. If there's time, you can also visit some of the area's stellar museums.
Day 14: Free Day in Colchagua Valley
Explore the Colchagua Valley solo today. Have a relaxed breakfast at your hotel, and then take a drive through the vine-carved countryside. Sip on more local wines at some of the top vineyards in Chile, including Clos Apalta, MontGras, and Neyen. If you're feeling active, there are plenty of hikes to enjoy, Neyen offers a 3-mile (5 km) trek in the Apalta Nature Reserve, while MontGras combines a wine tour with trekking at Ninquen Hill.
For some relaxed beach time, the nearby coast beckons with its rugged beaches and seafood restaurants. Drive to Pichilemu, a seaside resort with a distinctly 19th-century European vibe, complete with an old casino on a hill. Watch surfers ride the waves in this popular haunt where the National Surfing Championships are held.
Day 15: Final Day in Santa Cruz, Depart from Santiago
For your final day in Chile, spend the morning exploring the fantastic wine culture that Santa Cruz has to offer. This well-preserved town is surrounded by top wineries like the Vina Santa Cruise, which has a cable car to an observatory and a collection of replica Indigenous villages. Visit the Museo de Colchagua, set in a colonial hacienda, to peruse their artifacts, which include everything from fossils to saddles and memorabilia from the Chilean Independence movement.
In the afternoon, pack up and get ready to say farewell to this amazing adventure in Chile. Return your rental car and buen viaje!
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