Filled with unspoiled natural wonders and secluded national parks, the Chilean side of Patagonia is the ideal destination for adventurers who want to go off the tourist trail. Over 16 days, you'll do just that, starting with trips around the snowcapped volcanoes in the Lake District and hikes in Pumalín, the largest nature reserve in the world. Then, fly to Chile's far south, where more memorable excursions await, like horseback riding at a working ranch and hiking in Torres del Paine National Park.

Highlights

  • Explore the quiet waterfalls and ancient forests of Pumalín National Park
  • Cruise the waterways of Patagonia as you spot penguins, dolphins, and more
  • Hike around the glaciers, lakes, and granite peaks of Torres del Paine
  • Go horseback riding around a working ranch, followed by a barbecue lunch

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Puerto Varas, Explore Puerto Varas
Day 2 Fly to Pumalín National Park, Warm-Up Hike Pumalín National Park
Day 3 Pumalín Nature Hike (Day 1) Pumalín National Park
Day 4 Pumalín Nature Hike (Day 2) Pumalín National Park
Day 5 Fly to Puerto Montt, Transfer to Puerto Varas Puerto Varas
Day 6 Fly to Punta Arenas, Explore Punta Arenas
Day 7 Explore the Wildlife of the Magellan Strait Punta Arenas
Day 8 Transfer to Puerto Natales, Explore Puerto Natales
Day 9 Río Serrano Boat Tour to Torres del Paine Torres del Paine
Day 10 Day Hike to the French Valley Torres del Paine
Day 11 Day Hike to Grey Glacier Torres del Paine
Day 12 Glacier Hike & Boat Tour, Transfer to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 13 Transfer to Estancia La Peninsula Peninsula Antonio Varas
Day 14 Estancia Hiking & Horseback Riding Peninsula Antonio Varas
Day 15 Final Day at the Estancia, Transfer to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 16 Fly to Santiago, Depart   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Puerto Varas, Explore

Start your adventure in Puerto Varas, an idyllic town in Chile's Lake District

Welcome to Chile! This adventure focuses on the southern Patagonia region, and that's exactly where things kick off. After a connecting flight to the capital of Santiago, you'll arrive in Puerto Montt. Located in Chile's gorgeous Lake District, this port city is the gateway to the most scenic lakes, volcanoes, hot springs, and virgin forests in northern Patagonia.

At the airport, a driver will pick you up for the 30-minute ride north to Puerto Varas. Here, you'll check into your hotel and then enjoy lunch. After eating, you can head out for a walk around town. This charming village sits on the southern shore of Lago Llanquihue and features a captivating mix of German architecture and Indigenous Mapuche heritage. You certainly won't miss the snowcapped cone of Osorno, an 8,700-foot (2,652 m) stratovolcano that looms large over Llanquihue.

Day 2: Fly to Pumalín National Park, Warm-Up Hike

Warm up with an introductory hike in the wilds of Pumalín

In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the ride back to the airport in Puerto Montt. Here, you'll catch a 40-minute scenic flight south to the airfield in Chaitén, a small town on a fjord. This is the gateway to Pumalín National Park, the largest private nature reserve in the world. It was created by millionaire businessman/conservationist Douglas Tompkins and spans 1,000,000 acres (400,000 ha). Within this natural wonderland of old-growth forests, waterfalls, volcanoes, mountains, and rivers are countless opportunities for outdoor adventures.

You won't waste any time, either. Upon arrival, you'll meet your guide and, along with your group, you'll transfer about 1.5 hours into the reserve and Lodge Caleta Gonzalo. Here, you'll settle into your cabin and have lunch. Later in the afternoon, you'll lace up your boots for a warm-up hike along one of the nature trails near the lodge. Afterward, your guide will brief you on the next day's activities, then you'll enjoy a delicious dinner and rest up for the next morning's big hike.

Day 3: Pumalín Nature Hike (Day 1)

Welcome to Pumalín, the largest nature reserve in the world

Get ready for an epic nature hike in Pumalín! It begins around 7:30 am with breakfast at the lodge followed by organizing your gear, and then you'll embark. The exact trail you'll follow depends on the interests and abilities of the group. That said, the preferred routes are Cascadas (near the Lodge), Escondidas, Alerces, and Tronador. Throughout the hike, expect to see all the unspoiled nature that makes Pumalín one of the most gorgeous hiking destinations in the world. 

Day 4: Pumalín Nature Hike (Day 2)

Pass glaciers and other wonders on today's hike in Pumalín

It's another early start as your group and guide return to the park for another hike. Like yesterday, the specific route you'll follow is up to the group. One popular trek is the ascent up Volcán Chaitén. This is a 3-mile (5 km) out-and-back hike up an active volcano that involves an elevation gain of 1,968 feet (600 m).

During the day, you'll pass incredible Pumalín scenery, including lakes, glaciers, temperate rainforests, and more. The forests here are also home to endemic animals like pudú, deer, foxes, and the rare pampas cat; exotic birds include the chucao tapaculo and huet-huet. At the end of the hike, you'll return to the lodge, where you can socialize with the other hikers over dinner before retiring to your cabin.

Day 5: Fly to Puerto Montt, Transfer to Puerto Varas

See the sights around Puerto Varas, like Petrohué Falls
Leave Pumalín this morning as you board a charter flight back to Puerto Montt. A driver will meet you at the terminal for the return trip to Puerto Varas. After checking into your hotel, you'll have one more day to enjoy the town's pleasant surroundings. Perhaps take a boat ride on the lake or visit the nearby Petrohué Falls. In the evening, have dinner in town before retiring to your hotel.

Day 6: Fly to Punta Arenas, Explore

Catch views from the Mirador Cerro de la Cruz viewpoint, which looks out to the Strait of Magellan

Venture deeper into Patagonia as you transfer back to Puerto Montt this morning and board a 2.5-hour flight south to Punta Arenas. Located on the Strait of Magellan, this port city was founded in 1848 and, in its heyday, was home to the crème de la crème 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.

Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel. Then, if you like, you can spend the rest of the day exploring. The perfect starting point for a walk around town is the Plaza Muñoz Gamero. 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), but it's surrounded by grand neoclassical mansions once owned by the moneyed sheep-ranching families of the 19th century.

If you like, 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, making it a great place to see your first Patagonian sunset. Later, enjoy dinner at one of the restaurants in town. Seafood is a staple, so sample some local specialties, like chupe de centolla (souffle of king crab), oysters, scallops, and other fresh shellfish.

Day 7: Explore the Wildlife of the Magellan Strait

See Patagonia's famous wildlife, like Magellanic penguins, on today's tour
Plan your trip to Chile
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Set off with your group this morning on a full-day Zodiac boat tour. It's a one-hour transfer to the launch point in the San Isidro area, where you'll put on a semi-dry suit and board the boat. This exhilarating excursion will take you down the Strait of Magellan, where you'll be treated to sightings of exotic marine animals and other wildlife.

One star specimen is the austral dolphin, known for its sleek black and gray coloring. They're commonly seen in pods of up to 12 swimming along the side of the boat. Also, keep an eye out for sea lions and various sea birds, including albatrosses, petrels, and penguins. During the trip, there will be stops for lunch and snacks paired with delicious Chilean wine.

Day 8: Transfer to Puerto Natales, Explore

Puerto Natales' colorful waterfront
Check out this colorful town on the Última Esperanza Sound

After breakfast, you'll hop on a bus for the three-hour drive north to Puerto Natales. This waterfront town is famous as the base for excursions into Torres del Paine, a legendary protected area that covers 700 square miles (1,810 sq km) and is renowned for its circuit treks. Upon arrival, a driver will pick you up and take you to your hotel.

After checking in and receiving a trip briefing, you'll have the rest of the day free. Simple pleasures in Puerto Natales include strolling the promenade fronting the silver waters of the Seno Última Esperanza (Last Hope Sound). In the distance, you'll see the peaks of Cerro Benitez and Cerro Toro, and the sunset views are phenomenal.

Day 9: Río Serrano Boat Tour to Torres del Paine

Ultima Esperanza Fjord & Rio Serrano Boating Adventure to Torres del Paine
Cruise into Torres del Paine in Style in a Zodiac boat

Another thrilling boat tour is on the agenda today. After breakfast, you'll board a speedboat for a ride on the Última Esperanza Sound. During the voyage, there will be stops at different viewpoints to marvel at glaciers, waterfalls, and soaring mountain peaks. get lucky, and you might even spot a condor or two.

Eventually, you'll arrive at Bernardo O'Higgins National Park, Chile's largest national park, where you'll disembark for a short walk through a native forest toward the impressive Serrano Glacier. Following the hike, hop in a Zodiac and travel up the Río Serrano to Pueblo Serrano, a village at the doorstep of Torres del Paine. After a delicious lunch, you'll head into the park and check into your lodge for the night.

Day 10: Day Hike to the French Valley

The French Glacier
The hanging French Glacier is one iconic landmark in Torres del Paine

For your first full day in Torres del Paine, you'll trek 10.7 miles (17.3 km) through the beautiful French Valley. Your guided trip starts with a transfer to Pudeto Ranger Station. From here, embark on a half-hour cruise across Lago Pehoé on a catamaran. On the other side, begin your trek. The first part of the trail is relatively flat, leading along the north side of Lago Skottsberg to the bottom of French Valley and Campamento Italiano, where you'll break for water and snacks.

You'll then continue upward, heading deeper into the French Valley along a steep trail through the forest and a rocky moonscape above the treeline. Roughly 1.5 miles (2.5 km) from Campamento Italiano, you'll reach a viewpoint where you'll take in views of the French Glacier, Mount Paine Grande, the Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Pain) peaks, and the valley ahead. Finally, hike back down to the shores of Lago Pehoé and Refugio Paine Grande, where you'll overnight. 

Day 11: Day Hike to Grey Glacier

Follow the trail to Lago Grey and its famous glacier
After a restful night and an energizing breakfast, begin a four-hour hike through a small forest along Lago Grey. Most days, this section of the park is highly windy due to the open landscapes around the lake, so dress warm. After two hours of hiking, you'll get your first glimpse of one of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field's star landmarks, Grey Glacier. You'll have time to snap photos of this impressive ice mass, whose walls rise as high as 98 feet (30 m). Continue hiking for two more hours until you arrive at Refugio & Camping Grey, where you'll spend the night. 

Day 12: Glacier Hike & Boat Tour, Transfer to Puerto Natales

Ice Hike on Glacier Grey
Strap on crampons and hike across the surface of a glacier

Make your way to the Bigfoot Basecamp this morning for a memorable ice hike. First, take a boat to the island of Islatak, then hike up a glacial moraine. After an hour, you'll arrive at the surface of Grey Glacier, where you'll gear up and receive instructions and safety tips from your pro guides. Equipped with an ice ax, crampons, helmet, and harness, you'll start your ice hiking adventure. This involves a 2.5-hour walk on the glacier's surface, traversing the ice, crevasses, and meltwater streams. Afterward, you'll return to camp for lunch.

Later in the afternoon, board a catamaran to see Grey Glacier from another perspective. The boat will cruise across the lake and stop close to the glacier so you can snap photos of its massive ice walls. After the ride, take a short hike across a windswept beach and through a forest. Then, say goodbye to Torres del Paine as you board a bus back to Puerto Natales.

Day 13: Transfer to Estancia La Peninsula

Spend a few days on a working sheep farm in Patagonia

After breakfast at your hotel, meet your driver and set off for the beautiful Estancia La Peninsula on the Antonio Veras Peninsula. This sprawling sheep and cattle ranch is surrounded by glaciers, mountains, and beech forests. Getting there involves a fun 40-minute boat trip across the Última Esperanza Sound.

When you arrive at this working wool farm, you'll get an overview of the grounds and then plan a three-day program. Possible activities include horseback riding, wildlife viewing, hiking, bird-watching, and more. Your schedule for this part of the trip depends on your interests. In the afternoon, enjoy a traditional Patagonian asado (barbecue) prepared by the staff and attend the daily sheepshearing demonstration. 

Day 14: Estancia Hiking & Horseback Riding

Horseback riding with a view
Meet your horse and venture into the surrounding Patagonian landscapes
Wake up at the Estancia La Peninsula and enjoy a Patagonian-style breakfast. Depending on your chosen program, you'll embark on different activities. One popular option is a horseback ride through wild Patagonian landscapes, taking you from fjords to mountains to forests. You'll return to the ranch in time for lunch and can spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing. 

Day 15: Final Day at the Estancia, Transfer to Puerto Natales

Saddle up for one more grand Patagonian adventure
Savor your last day on the ranch and enjoy some more memorable adventures in Patagonia. Perhaps you'd like to go on a birding hike, ride horses in the mountains, take a leisurely stroll around the grounds, and sit down for another leisurely barbecue. Later in the day, you'll catch the boat back to Puerto Natales and check into your hotel. For your final evening in Patagonia, enjoy dinner at a restaurant in town.

Day 16: Fly to Santiago, Depart

Farewell, Patagonia
It's been 16 days of wild adventures in Patagonia, now you can kick back and relax on the journey home. In the morning, meet your driver for the ride to the airport in Puerto Natales. There, you'll board a plane to Santiago and catch your connecting flight home. Until next time!

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Map

Map of Hidden Wonders of Chilean Patagonia - 16 Days
Map of Hidden Wonders of Chilean Patagonia - 16 Days