This two-part trip will take you to Chile's Lake District and on a maritime expedition of the Patagonian fjords. Along the way, there'll be rafting on wild rivers and an abundance of wildlife to encounter — including sea elephants and penguins, humpback whales and albatrosses, cormorants and skuas. Over 13 days, get up-close to ancient glaciers and snowy mountains, visit pretty towns and islands and see the best of Chile.  

Highlights

  • Go rafting on the Petrohué River
  • Swim in Chile's oldest and largest national park
  • See penguins on Chiloé Island
  • Cruise through the Strait of Magellan
  • Spot whales and ancient glaciers as you sail 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires to Puerto Varas - Rafting on the Petrohué River Puerto Varas
Day 3 Visit the lakes and volcanoes of Vicente Perez Rosales National Park Puerto Varas
Day 4 Visit the penguins on Chiloé Island Puerto Varas
Day 5 Travel to Punta Arenas Punta Arenas
Day 6 Board a ship and start sailing the Strait of Magellan At sea
Day 7 Visit Helado Glacier and Rupert Islet At sea
Day 8 Go to Aguila Glacier and kayak in Bahía Angelito At sea
Day 9 Explore Almirantazgo Sound At sea
Day 10 Encounter sea elephants and anchor down at Parry Fjord At sea
Day 11 Look for Magellan penguins At sea
Day 12 End your sailing trip then go to Punta Arenas Punta Arenas
Day 13 Flight to Santiago de Chile - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City

Spend your first day in Argentina's buzzing capital
Spend your first day in Argentina's buzzing capital

Welcome to Argentina! Renowned as the "Paris of South America," and the "Queen of El Plata," the capital city of Buenos Aires is defined by passion. This is exemplified in the rich tango heritage and its citizens' limitless enthusiasm for fútbol (soccer), which is far and away the country's most popular sport. 

When you arrive at the airport, your driver will be waiting to take you in a private car to your hotel where you can relax after a long flight. But make no mistake: the city will beckon you. So after a quick recharge, be sure to venture out into the welcoming arms of Buenos Aires and explore. The best starting point would be the city center.

Suggested activities include:

  • Visit the Obelisco, which might be the most famous icon of the city. This obelisk (which even Argentines admit is a little too reminiscent of the Washington Monument) is worth a visit for its location alone. It sits right in the middle of Avenida 9 de Julio, which boasts a whopping 16 lanes, making it the widest city street in the world.

  • Stop by the Teatro Colon, one of South America's premier opera houses. The horseshoe-shaped gallery features 2,487 seats and incredible acoustics. Even if you plan on taking a tour or catching a show here on another day, it's always breathtaking to pass by its exterior. The Colon's neoclassical facade has been the face of one of the most handsome buildings in Buenos Aires since its opening in 1908.

  • Stroll Puerto Madero, an upscale waterfront neighborhood adjacent to downtown. Puerto Madero may be the "new money" finance center of Buenos Aires, but it's also one of the most pleasant pedestrian areas in a city famous for its paths. A romantic stroll involves walking over the canal on the Puente de Mujer ("Woman's Bridge") at sunset. 

  • Dine at an Argentine steakhouse or parilla. When night falls and dinnertime arrives, do like the locals and enjoy a thick, juicy steak (Argentina has some of the best beef in the world) drizzled with the nation's famous chimichurri (a garlic, herb, and vinegar sauce). Know that Buenos Aires is a culture that thrives after dark, and it's not uncommon for locals to have dinner well past nine in the evening, especially on weekends. 

Day 2: Buenos Aires to Puerto Varas - Rafting on the Petrohué River

Rafting in Chile's Lake District
Rafting in Chile's Lake District

Today you'll travel from Buenos Aires to Puerto Varas—a city in southern Chile's Lake District. Once you've arrived at your hotel, a guide will meet you and you'll hop in a van for a scenic 40-minute drive along Lago Llanquihue to the town of Ensenada, located on the eastern shore. This will be the base for your half-day rafting excursion on the Petrohué River. This is one of the most beautiful rivers in the south, and the rapids are a fun Class 3. 

After a mandatory safety talk, you'll drive five more minutes to the river's put-in. At this point, you'll be in Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, Chile's first-ever national park, which was founded in 1926. The river flows out from Lago Todos los Santos and makes its way south to the Reloncavi Estuary. This jaw-droppingly beautiful fjord is surrounded by snowcapped volcanoes such as Osorno, Calbuco, and Puntiagudo.

The rafting team will put in on a calm section of water, which will allow everyone some time to practice rowing. You'll then embark down the river, really getting into the action at the first set of rapids, which is called Ciao Seco ("goodbye dry land"). From here you'll experience 13 kilometers of fun-filled class III and IV rapids. Breaking up the action will be the occasional stop for a bit of riverbank cliff diving into the crystalline water.

After two hours of wild rafting adventure, you'll disembark the raft and hit the changing rooms before heading back to the base. Here you can enjoy a local craft beer and some snacks before driving back to Puerto Varas, which you should reach in the early evening.

Day 3: Visit the Lakes and Volcanoes of Vicente Perez Rosales National Park

Walking in Chile's Lake District
Walking in Chile's Lake District

After breakfast, head to one of the largest lakes in South America — Lake Llanquihue, and get to know Vicente Perez Rosales. It's the biggest and oldest national park in the country and it's home to Saltos del Petrohué, a waterfall created by 19th-century volcanic eruptions and ancient glaciers. Then visit Lake Todos Los Santos, which is known for its volcanic stone beaches and brilliant blue (and swimmable!) waters.

Later, visit Osorno volcano and its viewpoint that sits 9,843 feet above sea level. From there you can see right across the valley to Lake Llanquihue, the Petrohué River, Calbuco volcano, and Mount Tronador. Later, head back to the city of Puerto Varas for the night. 

Day 4: Visit the Penguins on Chiloé Island

Chiloé Island
Chiloé Island

After breakfast, head to the island of Chiloé. As you take the ferry there across the Chacao Channel, look out for Chilean dolphins! They're some of the smallest in the world. The first stop on the island is Caulín Bay, where oysters are farmed and fishing is the main industry. Stop to eat delicious, fresh seafood here! Then, if it's the season, go look for the colony of penguins living in Puñihuil. It's the only place on the planet where Humboldt and Magellanic penguins nest next to each other. If there's time, also visit the pretty town of Castro where multi-colored buildings sit on stilts to withstand the high tide. Return to Puerto Varas for the night. 

Day 5: Travel to Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas
Punta Arenas

This morning, catch a flight to Punta Arenas in the south to begin the next part of your adventure. You'll stay overnight in town, and there'll be time before and after dinner to see the town's mansions from the wool boom and its charming old houses. 

Day 6: Travel through the Barbara Channel

The boat that'll take you into the Strait of Magellan
The boat that'll take you into the Strait of Magellan

Leaving your hotel after breakfast, drive out to Punta Carrera in the Fort Bulnes area to board your boat for the day. Time to sail the Strait of Magellan towards Isla Carlos III in Francisco Coloane Marine Park

Day 7: Visit Helado Glacier and Rupert Islet around Carlos III Island

Glacial ice in Chile
Glacial ice in Chile

In the early morning, navigate through the Bárbara Channel towards Helado Glacier. Look out for whales as you go, and seabirds like skuas, petrels, and albatrosses overhead. During the night you'll continue sailing the Strait of Magellan towards De Agostini Sound.

Day 8: Visit Aguila Glacier and Kayak in Bahía Angelito

Southern Chile
Southern Chile

Sailing through the night, the boat will enter the Magdalena Channel and Kyats Fjord. Traveling into De Agostini Sound around dawn, you'll get your first glimpses of Aguila Glacier. Visit the glacier after breakfast, and maybe even do a bit of kayaking in Bahía Angelito! Around midday, the boat will head towards Serrano Glacier where you'll stay for the night. 

Day 9: Explore Almirantazgo Sound and See Black-Browed Albatrosses

Penguins in Chile
Penguins in Chile

This morning, visit Vergara Glacier. Then head into the Gabriel Channel, a stunning narrow crossing that leads into Almirantazgo Sound. From here, head towards Azopardo Bay where you can see a colony of black-browed albatrosses. Set anchor at Parry Fjord for the night. 

Day 10: Visit Sea Elephants and Anchor Down at Parry Fjord

Chile's penguins
Chile's penguins

What a day you're in for! Visit a colony of sea elephants in Jackson Bay, then a colony of albatrosses in the afternoon. Later on, set anchor at Parry Fjord to check out an amazing glacier surrounded by the high snowy peaks of the Darwin range.

Day 111: Visit Parry Fjord and Look for Magellan Penguins

Wildlife in the south of Chile
Wildlife in the south of Chile

Visit Tuckers Isle to look for an amazing variety of birdlife, including the Magellan penguin, cormorants, and skuas. Later, head towards Fitton Bay to see yet another epic glacier.

Day 12: Travel through the Gabriel Channel then Leave the Boat for Punta Arenas

Kayaking in Chile
Kayaking in Chile

Early in the morning, navigate through Gabriel Channel. Sadly, it's time to disembark from your boating adventure. Happily, you'll be heading back to charming Punta Arenas for the night. 

Day 13: Flight to Santiago de Chile - Departure

Views of Santiago de Chile
Views of Santiago de Chile

After breakfast at your accommodation, it's time to leave beautiful Punta Arenas for your flight to the Chilean capital of Santiago.  From there, it's up to you! Maybe it's time to head back home, or maybe you can squeeze in a few days of exploring this lively capital? 

Map

Map of Experience Chile's Patagonian Fjords and Lake District - 13 Days
Map of Experience Chile's Patagonian Fjords and Lake District - 13 Days