- Get to know Chile's famous wines one sip at a time
- Stop at Torres del Paine National Park and the Paine towers
- Visit the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and view Glacier Grey up close on a boat tour
|Day 1||Arrival in Santiago de Chile||Santiago|
|Day 2||Concha y Toro Vineyard Tour||Santiago|
|Day 3||Santiago to Patagonia - Torres del Paine National Park||Torres del Paine|
|Day 4||Lake Pehoé and Lake Grey||Torres del Paine|
|Day 5||Torres del Paine: Trekking to the Base of the Towers||Torres del Paine|
|Day 6||Torres del Paine to Santiago - Departure|
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: 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 3: Santiago to Patagonia - Torres del Paine National Park
Today is mostly a travel day, as you have a few transfers before arriving at the ultimate destination: Torres del Paine National Park. This is one of the most iconic and beautiful protected areas in Patagonia.
In the morning a driver will pick you up for the transfer to Santiago's airport, where you'll catch a flight to Punta Arenas, a city located deep in Chilean Patagonia on the shores of the Strait of Magellan. You'll then transfer from the airport in Punta Arenas for the three-hour drive to Torres del Paine, stopping en route in Puerto Natales, an attractive city situated on the Esperanza Sound. Here you'll enjoy a hearty local lunch complete with views across the water to the snowy peak of Mt. Balmaceda.
You'll then continue on to Torres del Paine. On the remainder of the drive, you'll likely spot some of Patagonia's famed wildlife, including guanacos (a type of camelid similar to a llama) and rheas. You'll then enter the park and transfer to your hotel.
Know that sunset usually occurs around 11 pm in the Patagonian summer months. So even though you'll arrive at your destination later in the day, you'll still have ample time to admire the surrounding mountain scenery. You certainly won't miss the iconic triple peaks of the Paine Massif, part of the Cordillera del Paine. They rise sharply into the sky like jagged horns, hence their nickname, the Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Paine).
Day 4: Lake Pehoé and Lake Grey
After breakfast in your hotel, you'll meet your guide and transfer by car to the western lakes of Torres del Paine. On the way, you’ll enjoy amazing views of the surrounding mountains and especially the Cuernos del Paine. You'll of course stop off at viewpoints along the way to relish the scenery and take copious pictures. Be sure to keep an eye out for the local wildlife, like guanacos, condors, and foxes.
You'll continue south towards the edge of Lake Pehoé, which affords sweeping views further south to Lake Toro. Then you'll head a short distance east to Lake Grey. Once there, you’ll enjoy a delicious picnic lunch on the shore rest up before embarking on an optional boat tour of Grey Glacier. On this trip, you will get close-up views of the 30-meter (98-foot) walls of this impressive ice mass in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. If you get lucky and keep an eye on the surrounding southern beech forests you may even spot some endangered Andean deer.
After the boat trip, you will return to your hotel.
Day 5: 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 6: Torres del Paine to Santiago - Departure
Today, you’ll take a private transfer from Torres del Paine National Park to the Punta Arenas airport. You'll then hop on a domestic flight to Santiago. From there you'll meet your connecting flight home. ¡Buen viaje!