On this brisk, six-day excursion, experience the unforgettable landscapes of Chilean Patagonia. Explore the capital city of Santiago to start, then travel to Punta Arenas to visit Magdalena Island, home to a colony of more than 150,000 penguins. Then, embark on a trek into the famed Torres del Paine National Park, a Patagonian Mecca for hikers. The vacation concludes with a stunning boat trip to Glacier Grey.

Highlights

  • Tour the landmarks and bustling markets of Santiago
  • Visit a massive penguin colony off Magdalena Island
  • Trek through the famous Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia
  • View the incredible Glacier Grey up-close on a boat tour

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Santiago Santiago
Day 2 Fly to Punta Arenas Punta Arenas
Day 3 Visit Magdalena Island and Travel to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 4 Torres del Paine Tour Torres del Paine
Day 5 Glacier Grey Boat Tour Puerto Natales
Day 6 Depart From Santiago   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Santiago 

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 Cristóbal

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 Cristóbal, where you can survey the area from a high vantage point. Pathways lead 2,788 feet 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, with a fashionable and bohemian vibe. Stroll past colorful houses adorned with graffiti art and choose between an eclectic array of eateries and bars—great for people watching.
  • A visit to the Plaza de Armas, located in Santiago's historic center. There's a lot of history within the four corners of this expansive stone plaza, as it was founded all the way back in 1541. Nearby sits the impressive Catedral Metropolitana, a neoclassical church circa 1748, with towering twin bell towers dominating the north side of the plaza.
  • Snap photos 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 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 to Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas
Punta Arenas

After breakfast, a driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport to catch your flight to Punta Arenas. Upon arrival at this small Patagonian city, 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 3: Visit Magdalena Island and travel to Puerto Natales

Visit a penguin colony on Magdalena Island

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: Torres del Paine tour

View of the Horns of Paine from Mirador Base Torres
The view from Mirador Base Torres

In the morning, transfer from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park. The total distance is 70 miles, and the drive takes about 2 hours, with a short stop at Cerro Castillo Village. The scenery along the way is incredible, with glimpses of Torres del Paine's massive peaks, as well as some of the local fauna, like guanacos. 

Arrive at the Laguna Amarga main entrance and register yourself with the park office. Then it's a quick shuttle ride to the Las Torres sector for check-in, and to leave your heavier bags here before trekking up the mountain.

From here, hike up Mt. Almirante Nieto, which features stunning views of the Asencio Valley below and Lake Nordenskjold. After two hours of hiking, reach Refugio Chileno, a great place for lunch or a rest.

It's another hour of hiking past ancient lenga forests until you arrive at a moraine. The next part is a challenging, steep ascent for 45 minutes until you reach the top, which is known as Mirador Base Torres. "Mirador" in English means "viewpoint,"  and this little section of the mountain is the best view in the park. From here, take in the collection of towering peaks of nearby Torre Sur, Central TowerNorth TowerCondor's Nest, and Glacier Torre—all set amidst the sweeping backdrop of the Patagonian highlands.

Distance: 11.2 Miles
Duration: 8 Hours

Day 5: Glacier Grey boat tour

Glacier Grey
Glacier Grey

This morning, transfer to the Grey sector of the park to board the Grey III catamaran for a tour of Glacier Grey, which feeds the lake of the same name, Lago Grey. The boat travels across the lake and stops close to the glacier, providing a prime vantage point to snap photos of its massive ice walls. 

Upon your return, take a short hike across the windswept beach and through the forest before reaching your hotel. You will have the afternoon to either relax or hike the nearby Mirador Ferrier, which boasts great views of the park's colored lakes.

In the evening, transfer via bus back to Puerto Natales to spend the night.

Day 6: Departure from Santiago

Farewell, Chile!
Farewell, Chile!

Today, look back on all of the memories made on your Patagonian adventure. Take the bus from Puerto Natales back to the Punta Arenas Airport (PUQ) for your flight. Upon arrival in Santiago, continue to your onward destination.

Map

Map of Explore Chilean Patagonia - 6 Days
Map of Explore Chilean Patagonia - 6 Days