Justifiably famous for its natural beauty, there's much more to Chile beneath its handsome surface. On this 16-day journey, you'll visit regions whose history and mythology match its natural wonders, beginning at the ancient forests and volcanoes of the Lake District. After enjoying nature hikes and visits to almost mythical islands (plus a craft beer tour), you'll jet off to Rapa Nui (a.k.a. Easter Island), whose iconic moai statues are emblematic of a rich culture dating back over 2,000 years.

Highlights

  • Explore Chile's capital of Santiago and sip fine wines in the Casablanca Valley
  • Meet residents from a traditional village, home to the Mapuche Indigenous tribe
  • Visit glassy lakes, waterfalls, and volcanoes, and go beer-tasting in German towns
  • Experience the best of Rapa Nui, like mystical ancient sites and its inviting beaches

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Santiago, Self-Guided Tour Santiago
Day 2 Wine Tasting in Casablanca Valley, Fly to Pucón Pucón
Day 3 Private Tour of Conguillio National Park Pucón
Day 4 Day Trip to Ojos del Caburga & Hot Springs Pucón
Day 5 Free Morning in Pucón, Transfer to Valdivia Valdivia
Day 6 Kunstmann Brewery Tour & Tasting Valdivia
Day 7 Transfer to Puerto Varas, Optional Activities Puerto Varas
Day 8 Driving Tour of Llanquihue Lake & Waterfall Visit Puerto Varas
Day 9 Day Trip to Chiloé Island Puerto Varas
Day 10 Day Trip to Frutillar & Puerto Octay Puerto Varas
Day 11 Free Time in Puerto Varas, Fly to Santiago Santiago
Day 12 Fly to Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Optional Activities Easter Island
Day 13 Orongo Volcano Hike & Birdman Ceremony Tour Easter Island
Day 14 Day Trip to Rano Raraku Volcano & Anakena Beach Easter Island
Day 15 Day Trip to Akivi & Tahai Easter Island
Day 16 Fly to Santiago, Depart Chile  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Santiago, Self-Guided Tour

Take a ride on the cable car up to Cerro San Cristóbal for the best views of Santiago

Bienvenidos! Welcome to Chile! This nation is famous for its mainland natural wonders, which range from high desert plateaus and volcanoes to the unspoiled wilds of Patagonia. What many don't know is that, far off the coast, all the way in the South Pacific, lies one of Chile's most beautiful islands: Rapa Nui, commonly known as Easter Island. You'll discover the wonders of Rapa Nui, plus spend time in the famed Lake District, which is the gateway to Chilean Patagonia. First, though, you'll arrive in Santiago, an impressive capital nestled in the Andes.

A driver will pick you up at the aairport and transfer you to your hotel. Then, if you like, head out and stretch your legs on a self-guided tour. You can snap photos in front of the Palacio de la Moneda. Chile's opulent presidential palace ("La Moneda") is a short stroll from the Plaza de Armas, the city's main square. It's home to the Palacio de la Real Audiencia (Palace of the Royal Court), built in 1808, which houses the National History Museum of Chile. Also on the plaza is the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral, an impressive neoclassical building with twin bell towers that dates back to 1753.

For panoramic views, hike (or ride a gondola) up Cerro San Cristóbal, a hill that rises 984 feet (300 m) over the city. Another great lookout is at Cerro Santa Lucia, a lovely park and remnant of an ancient volcano. Conquistadores used it as a lookout in the 16th century, and it was here that Pedro de Valdivia officially founded Santiago in 1541. For a local experience, head to Mercado Central, a large municipal market with many restaurants and vendors selling fresh fish and seafood. Later, you can grab dinner at one of the cool eateries in Santiago's bohemian Bellavista neighborhood.

Day 2: Wine Tasting in Casablanca Valley, Fly to Pucón

Check out views of the snowcapped Volcán Villarrica in Pucón

Rise and shine! Meet your driver for the one-hour ride west to the renowned Casablanca Valley this morning. Pleasure your palate with the robust flavors of Chilean wines on a full-day tasting tour of this viticulture region, which is famous for its rich terroir. During a guided visit, you'll enjoy a tasting of organic wines amid gorgeous panoramic views of the valley. An optional bike ride or hike through the vineyards is an added treat.

Afterward, return to Santiago and the airport, where you'll catch a 1.5-hour flight south to Pucón. This town sits on the shores of Lago Villarrica in Chile's unspoiled Lake District, where snowcapped volcanoes meet forested islands dotted with shimmering lakes. Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel in town and will have the rest of the day free.

Day 3: Private Tour of Conguillio National Park

Hike around the turquoise lakes of Conguillio National Park and enjoy a picnic

Head 2.5 hours north of Pucón today for a private tour of Conguillio National Park, designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for its pristine nature. This includes vast forests of araucaria trees, canyons, and the active Llaima volcano, which towers 10,253 feet (3,125 m) tall. Armed with a picnic lunch, spend the day exploring the park's natural wonders, from glass-clear lakes to waterfalls and glaciers.

Travel along some of the park's six scenic roads, which lead to highlights such as Lago Conguillio, Laguna Captrén, and Cañadón del Truful-Truful, which displays the area's archaeological history. You'll also marvel at the Llaima volcano's otherworldly lava formations. As you travel through the park, look for wildlife like the shy bush monkey and condors. Return to your hotel in the late afternoon for a relaxing evening. 

Day 4: Day Trip to Ojos del Caburga & Hot Springs

Today's trip will take you to some of the most romantic waterfalls in Chile
See some of the Lake District's most dazzling natural wonders as you embark on a half-day tour around Pucón. First up is a stop at a traditional village home to the Mapuche Indigenous tribe. After meeting the locals, continue to Ojos del Caburgua, a pair of crystalline blue springs and waterfalls nestled in a lush forest setting right out of a fairy tale. After hiking around the falls, savor a long soak in the steaming geothermal pools at Termas Pucón Indomito. Sink into the soothing waters and rest your muscles before returning to Pucón for dinner and an early night.

Day 5: Free Morning in Pucón, Transfer to Valdivia

A visit to Valdivia is a special treat most travelers never experience

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, followed by some free time in Pucón. If you like, spend the rest of the morning on a boat tour of Lago Villarrica. It's a great excuse to relax on the water while snapping photos of the surrounding lake scenery and snowcapped volcano peaks. You can also opt for a kayak trip or bike ride around the lakeshore.

Around midday, you'll catch a bus for the five-hour ride south to Valdivia. It's a long drive but a scenic one as it passes through the lush Valdivian forest—a temperate and biodiverse rainforest of towering trees native to southern Chile and Argentina. Eventually, you'll arrive in Valdivia, a charming city on the Calle-Calle River where it meets the Pacific Ocean. Located off the tourist trail, it's surrounded by some of northern Patagonia's most beautiful landscapes. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel.

Day 6: Kunstmann Brewery Tour & Tasting

Sample local beers from the national brewery and take a tour of the museum

Part of Valdivia's rich cultural heritage involves the wave of German immigration to Chile in the 19th century. These immigrants left a lasting influence on cities like Valdivia in their culture, architecture, food, and brewing traditions. In fact, the city is home to a national brewery, whose beers can be found throughout Chile.

Lucky for you, today's tour involves a visit to Cervezeria Kunstmann. There, you'll learn all about the origin of this delicious label as you tour its on-site beer museum. Of course, no visit to a brewery would be complete without a tasting, which is why you'll sample four different Kunstmann varieties. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 7: Transfer to Puerto Varas, Optional Activities

Learn about Chile's German heritage on the streets of Puerto Varas
Plan your trip to Chile
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

In the morning, transfer to the terminal and board a bus for the 3.5-hour ride farther south to Puerto Varas, located on the shores of Lago Llanquihue. Named "the City of Roses" after the flowers that line its streets, Puerto Varas offers a mix of German colonial architecture and Mapuche culture. From its streets, you can look out across the lake to the snowcapped cones of nearby Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes. The town is also a hub for Lake District adventures—from here, you can hike, ski, climb various volcanoes, fish, raft, and go horseback riding.

Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel and, if you like, stretch your legs on a walk around the waterfront. If you do want to know more about Puerto Varas' heritage, pop in at the Museo Antonio Felmer, a museum dedicated to the history of German colonization, and the Museo Pablo Fierro, which showcases local art and artifacts. 

Day 8: Driving Tour of Llanquihue Lake & Waterfall Visit

Hike along the volcanic rocks forming the wild Petrohué falls

Your personal driver will pick you up after breakfast for a scenic ride, stopping at the highlights around Lago Llanquihue. The first part of this full-day tour takes you along the lakeshore to the famous Río Petrohué Falls, in Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park. Fed by the nearby Todos Los Santos Lake, Petrohué is famous for its electric blue waters and cascading falls that have carved a network of chutes into the surrounding basaltic lava rock.

There are various pathways around here that offer different vantage points from which to observe these thundering falls in all their glory. After hiking around the falls, you'll continue driving around the lake, stopping at idyllic towns like Puerto Octay and Frutillar on your way back to Puerto Varas.

Day 9: Day Trip to Chiloé Island

Chiloé is known for its colorful waterfront houses, known as Palafitos de Gamboa (stilt houses)

Meet your driver early for the ride south of Puerto Varas to the port town of Pargua. There, you'll board a ferry for the 30-minute ride to the northern tip of Chiloé island. Both geographically and culturally, this is one of the most distinctive areas of the country. Chiloé is an archipelago comprised of many little islands and one main one, Isla Grande, which abounds with myths and legends. Supposedly, the island is inhabited by witches who fly from the caves after dark and can be seen as lights zipping across the night sky.

From the pier, you'll travel to the northern coastal town of Ancud. During a stop, you can hike up Huaihuen Hill for views of Ancud's many landmarks. This includes the Fuerte San Antonio, an early 19th-century Spanish-colonial fort that played a significant role in the wars for independence. From Ancud, continue south with your driver on a scenic ride amid rolling green hills south to Quinchao, an islet in the Chiloé archipelago. It's a great place to stop and browse its municipal market for fresh produce and traditional island eats. After a break for lunch, you'll return to Puerto Varas.

Day 10: Day Trip to Frutillar & Puerto Octay

Hop from one romantic German town to another on today's lake tour

Another day trip is on the agenda as your guide picks you up this morning for a drive up the western shore of Llanquihue to Frutillar. This region has a long history of German colonialism, which is particularly apparent in this lakeside village. The streets, biergärten, and Germanic architecture here conjure images of old Bavaria, and even the cuisine hails from that region (Frutillar is famous for its sausages).

You'll spend half a day enjoying Frutillar's sights and taking in the culture. German settlers founded the town in 1856, and you can learn more about this colonial history on a visit to the Museo de la Colonización Alemana (German Colonial Museum). There's also a handicraft market here that is well worth browsing.

After lunch in town, you'll return to Puerto Varas, stopping at Puerto Octay, another waterfront town with a history of German colonization. After strolling the streets and its main square, you'll continue on to Puerto Varas.

Day 11: Free Time in Puerto Varas, Fly to Santiago

Make your way to the airport as the sun sets over Osorno Volcano
It's another travel day, but lucky for you you'll have the morning and afternoon free to enjoy leisure time in Puerto Varas. Take some time today to get to know the town on your own, admiring the architecture and stopping in some local shops and restaurants. You can also browse the stalls and pick up souvenirs at Feria Puerto Varas, a municipal market with vendors selling clothing and artisanal items. Later in the day, transfer about 30 minutes south of town to the airport in Puerto Montt to board a two-hour flight north to Santiago for your overnight.  

Day 12: Fly to Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Optional Activities

Welcome to Easter Island, home to the iconic moai statues

Say goodbye to mainland Chile today as you embark on a grand adventure in the South Pacific. Transfer to the airport in Santiago and catch a five-hour flight to Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island. One of the most remote inhabited islands in the world, this volcanic wonderland is most famous for its nearly 900 monumental statues called moai. These were created by native inhabitants during the 13th to 16th centuries and range in height from 13-33 feet (4-10 m).

Upon arrival, your driver will take you to your hotel and you'll have the rest of the day free. Perhaps hit the streets and explore the main town of Hanga Roa. Located on the island's southwest side, it's a great place to experience Rapa Nui culture via its craft markets and museums. If you can't wait to see the moai, there are some ahu (ceremonial platforms) just outside of town where you can witness these rock monoliths. If you do have the energy for an adventure, the hotel can arrange guided bike rides, hikes, and snorkeling/scuba excursions.

Day 13: Orongo Volcano Hike & Birdman Ceremony Tour

Walk in the footsteps of ancient history at the village of Orongo

This morning, take a guided hike around the extinct volcano of Rano Kau. From here, you'll get a 360-degree view of the island and an up-close look at the round crater lake and other geological features. Continue to the nearby village of Orongo, the ceremonial center of the island's Birdman cult. The kids will be fascinated to learn about the annual competition to be chief, and you'll find spectacular petroglyphs referring to the cult around the village.

Next, your guide will take you to the ancient Ahu Vinapu and Ana Kai Tangata sites, where you'll glean more insight into the island's mysterious past in pre-Inca paintings. Afterward, you'll return to the hotel and will have the evening free.

Day 14: Day Trip to Rano Raraku Volcano & Anakena Beach

The sands at Anakena Beach gleam pink depending on the light

Leave this morning on a half-day tour of some of the island's cultural highlights. First up is Vaihu, an unrestored ceremonial site that memorializes the widespread demolition of the moai due to interclan fighting during the 18th century. Continue to the Akahanga region, where legend has it that the first king, Hotu Matua, is buried. From here, your guide will take you to one of the island's most stirring sights, the Rano Raraku quarry. Here, over 900 statues were carved, including partly-completed moai that illustrate the various stages of statue construction and transport.

Spend the rest of the day enjoying some relaxing beach time. Your driver will take you a short way to the island's north side and Anakena Beach, Rapa Nui's most extensive stretch of sand. Usually white, the coral sands here reflect a beautiful pink hue depending on the light. You can easily set yourself up here for the day; although the beach is 11 miles (18 km) from town, it has bathrooms, snorkel rental facilities, and some good places to eat. 

Day 15: Day Trip to Akivi & Tahai

See the moai up close on a visit to ancient ahu (ceremonial platforms)
After breakfast, embark on a half-day tour to some of the island's other notable ahu (ceremonial platforms). It begins at Ahu Tahai. This is Rapa Nui's most well-known ahu, as the sun sets directly behind the iconic moai, casting the figures in dramatic silhouettes. Also here are the remains of a boat house, a stone hen house, and a wharf. Later, continue north to Ahu Akivi. This ceremonial platform doubled as a celestial observatory. It's a particularly sacred site and notable as the only ahu where the statues face the water rather than inland. Later, you'll return to your hotel and can have dinner in town.

Day 16: Fly to Santiago, Depart Chile

Catch one more sunrise before departure
It's time to bid a fond farewell to the moai, Rapa Nui, and Chile. Meet your driver this morning for the ride to the airport, where you'll board a plane back to Santiago, arriving in time to connect to your flight home. Adiós!

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Map

Map of Outdoor Culture Adventure in Chile: Lake District & Rapa Nui - 16 Days
Map of Outdoor Culture Adventure in Chile: Lake District & Rapa Nui - 16 Days