- Discover Santiago de Chile on a city tour
- Stroll the colorful streets of coastal Valparaiso & Viña del Mar
- Get to know Chile's famous wines one sip at a time
- Walk with Magellanic penguins on Isa Magdalena
- Enjoy picturesque sights of Torres Del Paine National Park
|Day 1||Arrival in Santiago de Chile||Santiago|
|Day 2||Santiago City Tour||Santiago|
|Day 3||Concha y Toro Vineyard Tour||Santiago|
|Day 4||Day trip to Viña del Mar & Valparaiso||Santiago|
|Day 5||Fly from Santiago de Chile to Punta Arenas||Punta Arenas|
|Day 6||Isla Magdalena and Penguin Colony||Punta Arenas|
|Day 7||Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine||Torres del Paine|
|Day 8||Trek to Lago Grey||Torres del Paine|
|Day 9||Torres del Paine: Trekking to the Base of the Towers||Torres del Paine|
|Day 10||Departing Torres del Paine|
Day 1: Arrival in Santiago de Chile
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 Cristobal, the most magnificent viewpoint in Santiago. When visiting any new city it's a good idea to get your bearings by surveying the area from a high vantage point. Pathways lead 850 meters (2,788 feet) up this central hill to a series of lookouts that offer wraparound views of Santiago. Enjoy the reconnoitering, and if you aren't the hiking type not to worry: you can catch a scenic gondola to the top.
Stroll the cobblestone streets of Barrio Bellavista. On the north side of Santiago, you'll find this trendy enclave, at once fashionable and bohemian. Brightly painted old houses adorned with graffiti art sit alongside modern shopping complexes featuring an eclectic array of eateries and bars. It's a great place to come for dinner out, a glass or two of Chilean red, and people watching from a patio table.
Visit 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. Also here is the impressive Catedral Metropolitana, a neoclassical church dating to 1748 and whose towering twin bell towers dominate the north side of the plaza.
- Snap pics in front of the Palacio de la Moneda. Chile's opulent Presidential Palace (known simply as "La Moneda") is just a short stroll from the Plaza de Armas, and like the plaza, it's filled with history. 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. Today the country is under democratic rule, and visitors are welcome to visit the palace.
For dinner be sure to get out of the hotel and 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: Santiago City Tour
Like any great city, the cultural pulse is found in its people, marketplaces, and cuisine. To that end, today you'll head out on a guided city tour. Depending on your preference this will either be a full-day or half-day tour. Regardless of which you choose, by the end of the excursion, you'll be an honorary Santiaguino!
Highlights of the tour include:
- Wandering the aisles of Santiago's labyrinthine Mercado Central and Mercado La Vega. These markets are the beating heart of the city, overflowing with vendors and local residents eager to get their hands on the day's fresh produce. With the assistance of an English-speaking guide, you'll engage with these vendors and shoppers, learning about their daily routine while getting the inside track on the most delicious tidbits to try.
- 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. Also here is the Catedral Metropolitana, a neoclassical church dating to 1748 and whose towering twin bell towers dominate the north side of the plaza.
- Ascend to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal. You'll hop on a cable car to the top of this hill that sits 300 meters (984-feet) above the city. Enjoy the 360° panoramas and take plenty of photos, as these are the most incredible views in Santiago.
Tour Duration: Half-day or Full-day (with English-speaking guide)
Day 3: Concha y Toro Vineyard Tour
In the morning a driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to wine country. The destination today is the town of Pirque, located about an hour south of Santiago. This is where you'll find the showcase vineyard and family estate of Concha y Toro. Currently, Concha y Toro is the largest producer of wine in Latin America, and they export their popular brands to over 130 countries.
The tour begins in the Casa Patronal, the company's main estate, which is notable for its beautiful green grounds and tranquil pond. You will visit the vineyards and stroll among the rows of grapes that comprise these internationally known wines. Then you'll enter the production facilities and observe the process that results in all those famous bottles, including the most famous Chilean wine of all: Casillero del Diablo. There's a legend to this particular Concha y Toro brand that you'll learn about on the tour. The tale dates back over 130 years and involves the devil himself guarding the family's wine cellar against theft.
Finally, it's time for a tasting of Concha y Toro's most famous varietals. If a sampling isn't enough then an added visit to the vineyard's wine shop will allow you to purchase more bottles either for yourself or as gifts. The tour finishes with a return to your hotel in Santiago, where you're free to enjoy the remainder of the day as you please.
Day 4: Day trip to Viña del Mar & Valparaiso
Today you'll leave the capital on an excursion to central Chile's Pacific Coast. You're in for a treat because on this trip you'll be visiting two incredible neighboring cities: Viña del Mar and Valparaiso. These places are unique in that they're as different atmospherically as they are close in proximity.
First, you'll 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 many buildings being rebuilt after the numerous earthquakes that have hit the Chilean coast over the years. That said, you can still find some early 20th century landmarks, like the Germanic Wulff Castle and the Venetian-Gothic Vergara Palace, the former home of the founder of Viña del Mar. Indeed this city is the perfect place to enjoy a seaside lunch at one of the many upscale restaurants on the shore.
Your next visit is to the port city of Valparaiso, 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.
You can start exploring Valparaiso by visiting the old plazas of Sotomayor and Aníbal Pinto. Then hop in the Reina Victoria funicular and ascend to the top. From here you can wander the hilly neighborhoods of Cerro Alegre, Cerro Concepción, and Cerro Florida. It's on this last hill where you'll find La Sebastiana, a museum that was once the home of famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. No matter where you go here, 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. Valparaiso is like San Francisco reimagined by Dr. Seuss.
Afterward, it's time to hop back in the minivan, transfer to Santiago, and return to your hotel.
Day 5: Fly from Santiago de Chile to Punta Arenas
After breakfast, a driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport, at which time you'll catch your flight to Punta Arenas. Upon arrival at this small Patagonian city, you'll 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 streetlamps and a statue of Magellan sits in the center), the surrounding architecture is impressive as well. All around the plaza are a number of majestic 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.
Reserva Nacional Magallanes. If you're interested in an active excursion just outside the city, head seven km 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. Obviously, seafood is the order of the day here, so sample some local specialties, like chupe de centolla (souffle of king crab), as well as oysters, scallops, and other shellfish.
Day 6: Isla Magdalena and Penguin Colony
This half-day tour begins bright and early in the morning. You'll transfer from downtown Punta Arenas by vehicle to a pier on the Strait of Magellan, at which point you'll board a vessel that will take you 30 km northeast to Isla Magdalena. 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 whose numbers top a thousand. However, these aren't the only residents on this rocky outpost. You'll also find a number of seabirds, which include cormorants, skuas, arctic pigeons, and more.
Now it's time to arrive at Isla Magdalena, where you'll disembark and spend one hour on shore. During this time you'll follow an 800-meter (2,624-foot) path to an old lighthouse that offers sweeping views of the Strait of Magellan. On your way, be sure to enjoy the company of the island's residents: a Magellanic penguin colony that can reach up to 170,000 in number. There's no experience on earth quite like hiking alongside penguins near Patagonian waters first mapped by Magellan and made famous by Charles Darwin.
Afterward, it's time to return to the vessel and make the journey back, reaching Punta Arenas by midday.
Note: the order of the destinations you visit is subject to change on the day of the excursion.
Day 7: Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine
Early this morning, depart from your hotel in Punta Arenas for Torres del Paine National Park. On the way, you'll certainly spot some of the local fauna, including many species of birds as well as the guanaco, a wild camelid related to the llama.
Upon reaching Torres del Paine it's time to start the extensive full-day tour. You'll visit some of the park's main attractions, such as the Amarga Lagoon, which features views of the iconic peaks of the Horns of Paine (part of the Cordillera Paine). You'll also trek alongside Salto Grande, the famous thundering waterfalls found in this national park. At noon, you'll enjoy lunch at a restaurant in the park before continuing on the excursion. Finally, at the end of the day, return to your hotel in the park to enjoy a relaxing evening.
Day 8: Trek to Lago Grey
Early in the morning, you'll hop on a bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine, whereupon you'll board a catamaran that will carry you across Lago Pehoé. From here you'll hike through native forest until you reach the adjacent Lago Grey, the most famous glacial lake in Torres del Paine. After two hours of trekking, you'll get your first glimpse of its source: Glacier Grey.
It's then another two hours to Refugio Grey where you will spend the night. You'll arrive here relatively early, and there are two optional excursions you can partake in either later the same afternoon or the next morning. The first is an ice hike on Glacier Grey, and the second is kayaking on the lake.
Lago Grey Hike Total Distance: 11 km (6.8 miles )
Average Hike Duration: 4 Hours
Day 9: Torres del Paine: Trekking to the Base of the Towers
After breakfast, your excursion into the park will begin. Today you'll be heading up to the base of Torres del Paine on one of the most popular hiking routes in the park. Although it can be completed in less than a day, this hike is strenuous and requires a good level of physical fitness. However, the stunning views at the base of the Paine massif make it well worth the effort.
The trekking route covers 18 km (11 miles) and lasts about nine hours. Every step of the way you will enjoy views of beautiful scenery comprised of rivers, native forest, mountain peaks, and narrow valleys. You'll likely even spot some impressive local avian varieties, like condors and black eagles.
Your route will begin at the Las Torres Hostel and will take you over the Ascencio River, at which point you'll ascend about 2.5 km to a lookout featuring panoramic views of the valley below and the surrounding mountains. Then you'll continue through sections of lenga forest until the remaining 45-minute stretch, which is a steep ascent that involves a hard scramble over a moraine to the final path leading up to the viewpoint.
This is the hardest portion of the hike, However, once you arrive at the lagoon at the base of the Paine Massif and stare up at the nearby Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Paine) jutting into the sky, you'll likely forget all about your exhaustion. Upon arrival, you’ll have ample time to rest by the lagoon and marvel at the amazing rock formations as you enjoy a delicious picnic lunch.
Afterward, you'll begin the return trip back down the trail. The descent takes approximately four hours, at the end of which you'll arrive back to the hotel.
Day 10: Departing Torres del Paine
Today, you’ll take a private transfer from Torres del Paine to the Punta Arenas airport. Hop on a domestic flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago. Upon arrival in Santiago, transfer to the international terminal for your flight back home. ¡Buen viaje!