On this scenic Chilean adventure, explore several regions of the country over the course of nine days. Begin in Santiago, and tour the landmarks and markets. Then, embark on two day trips—one to the neighboring towns of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso, followed by an excursion to explore the beauty of Maipo Valley. Next, venture into the Atacama Desert region to discover the valleys, geysers, and villages, along with memorable sunrises, sunsets, and stargazing.

Highlights

  • Stroll the landmarks and markets of Santiago
  • Tour the colorful towns of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso
  • Go stargazing with state-of-the-art tools in the Atacama
  • Watch an unforgettable sunrise among the Tatio Geysers

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Santiago Santiago
Day 2 Santiago City Tour Santiago
Day 3 Viña del Mar and Valparaíso Excursion Santiago
Day 4 Maipo Valley Full-Day Tour Santiago
Day 5 Fly to San Pedro de Atacama and Stargazing Tour San Pedro de Atacama
Day 6 Tour San Pedro de Atacama San Pedro de Atacama
Day 7 Visit Tatio Geysers and Machuca Village San Pedro de Atacama
Day 8 Tour Moon and Death Valleys San Pedro de Atacama
Day 9 Depart From Santiago  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Santiago

Welcome to Chile!
Welcome to Chile!

Upon arrival at Santiago International Airport, meet your designated travel representative and transfer to your hotel.  Enjoy the afternoon at your leisure and discover the city at your own pace. After a long flight,  stretch your legs on a scenic stroll or relax at the hotel. Get a good night's sleep before tomorrow's activities begin.

Day 2: Santiago city tour

Go on a city tour of Santiago

After breakfast, meet your tour guide for a half-day tour. Begin on the hill of Santa Lucia. From the Caupolicán terrace, admire the Hidalgo Castle (formerly a Spanish fortress), and enjoy beautiful views of the city. The tour continues to Constitution Square and Palacio de La Moneda, the current seat of government.

Next up is Plaza de Armas, the main square surrounded by the Metropolitan Cathedral, the palace of the Royal High Court, the Main Post Office, and other buildings of historical interest.

Next, a short drive takes you to Cerro San Cristóbal. On the way, stop by the Central Market, Mapocho Station, Forestal Park, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Sip a mote con huesillo, a typical Chilean drink. Return by cablecar or car, depending on the time, and transfer back to the hotel.

The evening is at your leisure.

Day 3: Viña del Mar and Valparaíso excursion

The colorful streets of Valparaiso
The colorful streets of Valparaiso

Today, leave the capital on an excursion to central Chile's Pacific Coast. Visit two neighboring cities: Viña del Mar and Valparaíso

First, arrive in Viña del Mar, an upscale coastal resort city teeming with shopping complexes, commercial high-rises, boutiques, and well-manicured gardens. The city's modern image is the result of reconstruction efforts following the numerous earthquakes the Chilean coast has endured over the years. However, there are still 20th-century landmarks, like the Germanic Wulff Castle and the Venetian-Gothic Vergara Palace, the former home of the founder of Viña del Mar. The city is the perfect place to enjoy a seaside lunch at one of the many upscale restaurants on the shore. 

Next, visit the port city of Valparaíso, located adjacent to Viña del Mar. This colorful metropolis is the artistic and bohemian soul of the country. It's filled with street art, music, and poetry. Moreover, it's a throwback to the turn of the 20th century, when electric trollies coasted along the waterfront and lurching funicular elevators carried passengers to the highest points in the city.

Start exploring Valparaíso by visiting the old plazas of Sotomayor and Aníbal Pinto. Then, ride the Reina Victoria funicular and ascend to the top. From here, wander the hilly neighborhoods of Cerro AlegreCerro Concepción, and Cerro Florida. On the last hill, find La Sebastiana, a museum that was once the home of famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

No matter where you go, you can always find sweeping views looking out over the colorful houses to the Pacific Coast and the blanket of blue water running out to the horizon. Some liken Valparaíso to San Francisco reimagined by Dr. Seuss. 

Following the exploration, head to the minivan to transfer back to Santiago, and return to your hotel.

Day 4: Maipo Valley full-day tour

Maipo Valley
Maipo Valley

Today, experience more of Chile's famous natural beauty with a visit to Cajón del Maipu. After breakfast, embark on a 45-minute road trip southeast of Santiago to this popular gorge. First, arrive in the fertile San José de Maipo region, with its hills and vineyards. Then, it's an ascent into the mountains, where the landscapes become even more dramatic as massifs and snow-capped peaks dominate the skyline. Take in the sparkling rivers and streams that wind through this paradise.

After reaching 9,843 feet above sea level, exit the vehicle at the shores of the Embalse de Yeso, a reservoir nestled in the Andes with a glassy surface that shines bright-turquoise. Enjoy the landscape and snap photos of the panoramic vistas. Walk around the shore as your expert guide offers insight into the geology of the area, as well as the history of the reservoir, a result of damming the Yeso River back in 1964.

For lunch, take a seat near the water and enjoy a picnic, accompanied by a selection of top Chilean wines. Afterward, return to San José de Maipo and stop in at a local restaurant to try a traditional snack—the Chilean empanada.

Transfer back to your hotel in Santiago, and enjoy the evening on your own.

Day 5: Fly to San Pedro de Atacama and stargazing tour

Stargazing in the Atacama Desert
Stargazing in the Atacama Desert

This morning, transfer from your hotel in Santiago to the airport for your flight to the city of Calama, located in the far north of the country. Upon arrival, another driver will meet you to drive you 1 hour and 20 minutes into the desert outpost of San Pedro de Atacama. This is the embarkation point for all excursions and adventures into the Atacama Desert.

During the journey, watch the unique and ancient landscapes pass by. This high-altitude desert abounds with seemingly endless salt flats, painted hills that change color depending on the light, towering Andean peaks, and the volcanic Domeyko Cordillera, where flaming red mountains create the base of Moon Valley.

Upon arrival at San Pedro, check into your hotel and relax for the remainder of the afternoon—until it's time for your first excursion. At the scheduled time, a driver will meet you for the 15-minute transfer outside of town into the desert. Then, enjoy some stargazing in the desert.

First, sit for a 20-minute presentation to learn some basic astronomy concepts. Then, head outside to the open Altiplano, and learn how to identify various constellations. This desert plateau is an ideal spot for stargazing, due to its high altitude, about 7,900 feet high. Even seen from the naked eye, the stars here are more vivid than anything you've likely experienced before. Finally, the outing culminates by viewing the sky through high-powered telescopes and binoculars. Spot a wide array of celestial objects, including planets, binary stars, spherical clusters, and more. Enjoy some good Chilean wine to complement the experience. 

At the end of the night activity under the stars, return to San Pedro de Atacama.

Day 6: Tour San Pedro de Atacama

Chaxa Lagoon
Chaxa Lagoon

Today, enjoy a full day of discovery at the Atacama Salt Flat and the surrounding area. Explore the many places that have created the myth and mystic surroundings that contribute to Chile’s legendary landscapes. Visit Quebrada de Jérez, as well as several lagoons, including ChaxaMiscanti, and Miñiques, as well as their associated volcanoes. Explore the vast Piedras Rojas landscape and the Tuyacto Laguna. Then, enjoy lunch in the village of Socaire.

Return to San Pedro de Atacama at the end of the afternoon and make a stop to visit the village of Toconao. Experiencing Toconao is like stepping into another time; interact with locals as you stroll through the town’s historic church, central plaza, and craft market.

Day 7: Visit Tatio Geysers and Machuca Village

Sunrise over the Tatio Geysers
Sunrise over the Tatio Geysers

Today calls for an early start. Depart the hotel at 4:30 am for the 1.5-hour trip to the Tatio Geysers. Getting a jump on the day will reward you with an unforgettable sunrise over the Atacama Desert—the best time to visit Tatio. The contrast between the cold, outside temperatures and the boiling water of the geothermal field beneath the earth's surface causes the pillars of steam here to rise as high as 30 feet. 

At an altitude of 14,173 feet, the Tatio Geysers are the highest in the world. Take your time admiring these otherworldly landscapes, snap plenty of photos, and at the appropriate hour, breakfast will be served on-site. In addition, you can take an optional, relaxing soak in a natural geothermal pool—mother nature's jacuzzi.

On the return drive to San Pedro, stop at Machuca, a small village on the Altiplano whose residents have bred llamas and harvested Yareta (moss-like evergreen plants that can survive for thousands of years) for generations. It's a small-but-welcoming town, comprised of only about 20 homes and a simple chapel. Some locals sell crafts you can peruse, and you can admire the llamas in the area, as well as the flamingos that reside in nearby marshlands.

Return to San Pedro for lunch, and spend the remainder of the day relaxing in town.

Day 8: Tour Moon and Death Valleys

The aptly named Moon Valley
Moon Valley

Today, depart early in the morning from San Pedro de Atacama and travel along the mountains of the Cordillera de la Sal. This region was once a giant lake that eventually dried and rose above the Atacama Desert. Millions of years of erosion by rain, wind, and sun resulted in the stratification, different colorations, and natural sculptures that exist here today.

The first visit is to the Valle de la Luna, or Moon Valley, part of the Los Flamencos National Reserve, a protected area famous for its flocks of flamingos who reside in the seasonal lakes here. The area is also known for its sand dunes and distinctive rock formations that have been shaped by thousands of years of wind and salt erosion. This caused the terrain to become similar to the lunar surface, which is how Moon Valley got its name. One such formation, Las Tres Marias (The Three Marias) includes a series of three granite and clay formations that jut dramatically out of the ground like a sculpture carved by mother nature. 

Then, it's off to the Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley), which actually earned its name due to the high dunes with narrow ridges that exist throughout the area. The dunes also make Death Valley an ideal spot for sandboarding. Note the large salt formations here that have been sculpted by the elements over the millennia. 

The tour ends at one of the highest points of the Cordillera de la Sal to watch the sunset from the Mirador de Kari viewpoint. Afterward, transfer back to your hotel in San Pedro de Atacama.

Day 9: Depart From Santiago

Moon Valley at sunset
Farewell, Chile!

This morning, enjoy free time to relax and explore San Pedro de Atacama on your own. In the afternoon, transfer to Calama airport for your flight back to Santiago. Upon arrival in Santiago, transfer to the international terminal for your flight back home. Safe Travels!

Map

Map of Santiago & Atacama Desert Tour - 9 Days
Map of Santiago & Atacama Desert Tour - 9 Days