Discover the best of Chile's urban and natural landscapes on this 9-day adventure. Begin with a cultural exploration of Santiago on a full-day city tour. Next, head to the Maipo Valley to take in its stunning mountain landscapes while sipping Chilean wine. Then, venture south to Patagonia for a visit to the iconic Torres del Paine National Park. Here, you'll embark on a 4-day version of the famed "W" circuit trek—a multi-day hike featuring some of the park's most breathtaking scenery.

Highlights

  • Take an immersive city tour of Santiago de Chile
  • Emabark on an excursion in the beautiful mountainous region of the Maipo Valley
  • Challenge yourself on the famous "W" circuit trek 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Santiago de Chile Santiago
Day 2 Santiago City Tour Santiago
Day 3 Maipo Valley Full-Day Tour Santiago
Day 4 Fly from Santiago to Puerto Arenas &Transfer to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 5 Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine - W Trek Day 1/4: Mirador Base Torres Torres del Paine
Day 6 W Trek Day 2/4: Refugio el Chileno to Refugio Los Cuernos Torres del Paine
Day 7 W Trek Day 3/4: The French Valley to Refugio Paine Grande Torres del Paine
Day 8 W Trek Day 4/4: Glacier Grey to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 9 Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas & Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Santiago de Chile

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 Cristobal

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, where you can get your bearings by surveying the area from a high vantage point. Pathways lead 2,788 feet (850 m) 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, at once fashionable and bohemian. Stroll past colorful houses adorned with graffiti art and choose between an eclectic array of eateries and bars—great for people watching. 

  • Visit the Plaza de Armas, a stone plaza located in Santiago's historic center dating to 1541. There's also the impressive Catedral Metropolitana, a neoclassical church dating to 1748 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 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 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

Santiago's bustling central market
Santiago's bustling central market

Like any great city, Santiago's 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 with an English-speaking guide. Regardless of which one you choose, you'll become an honorary Santiaguino!

Tour highlights:

  • Wander 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. 

  • Visit the Catedral Metropolitana, a neoclassical church dating to 1748 and whose towering twin bell towers dominate the north side of the plaza.

  • Head to the glittering Costanera Center, an epic skyscraper encased in glass! For one of the best and certainly highest views in Latin America, go to the Sky viewpoint. At nearly 1,000 feet (304 m) high, the top offers 360-degree views of the city below, as well as the surrounding Andes.

  • Visit Cerro Santa Lucia, a small, manicured park in the center of Santiago. As you stroll up the hill, make sure to stop and see Fuente Neptuno and Castillo Hidalgo, two impressive structures located within the grounds. 

  • If you haven't done it yet, ascend to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal via hike or cable car. Enjoy the 360° panoramas and take plenty of photos, as these are the most incredible views in Santiago.

Day 3: Maipo Valley Full-Day Tour

Maipo Valley
Maipo Valley

Today you'll experience even 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. You'll first arrive in the fertile San José de Maipo region, with its hills and vineyards. Then it's an ascent into the mountains and the landscapes become even more dramatic as massifs and snow-capped peaks dominate the skyline. That's to say nothing of the sparkling rivers and streams that wind through this paradise.

After reaching 3,000 meters above sea level (9,843 feet), you'll exit the vehicle at the shores of the Embalse de Yeso, a reservoir nestled in the Andes whose glassy surface shines bright turquoise. There will be ample time to marvel at this landscape and snap photos of the panoramic vistas. You'll also 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, pull up a seat near the water and enjoy a picnic accompanied by a selection of top Chilean wine. Afterward, you'll return to San José de Maipo and stop in at a local restaurant to try a traditional Chilean empanada. Finally, you'll transfer back to your hotel in Santiago.

Day 4: Fly from Santiago to Puerto Arenas &Transfer to Puerto Natales

Aerial view of Punta Arenas
Aerial view of Punta Arenas

After breakfast, a driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport, at which time you'll catch a flight to the city of Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia. Upon arrival in Punta Arenas, you'll hop a bus for a three-hour trip north to Puerto Natales. When you arrive, you'll transfer to your hotel and have the rest of the evening to relax and explore the town. 

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 air of small-town tranquility. Puerto Natales offers simple pleasures like strolling its waterfront promenade, which sits on the Ultima Esperanza Sound. Facing north from here, you'll see the peaks of Cerro Benitez and Cerro Toro, and the view at sunset is phenomenal.

Day 5: Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine - W Trek Day 1/4: Mirador Base Torres

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

In the morning, you'll hop a bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park (Laguna Amarga Main Entrance). The total distance is 70 miles/112 km, and the drive takes about two hours, with a short stop at Cerro Castillo Village. The scenery along the way will be incredible, as you'll get your first glimpses of Torres del Paine's massive peaks as well as some of the local fauna, like guanacos. 

You'll arrive at the Laguna Amarga main entrance and register yourself with the park office (the entry fee is already included). Then it's a quick shuttle ride to the Las Torres sector. From here you'll hike up Mt. Almirante Nieto, which features stunning views of the Asencio Valley below and Lake Nordenskjold. After two hours of hiking, you'll reach Refugio Chileno, where you'll overnight. You'll leave your heavier bags here and, after a brief rest, continue trekking up the mountain. 

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, with the Cuernos Del Paine (Horns of Paine) looming over a green lagoon, is the best view in the park. From here you can also marvel at the towering peaks of nearby Torre Sur, Central Tower, North Tower, Condor's Nest, and Glacier Torre, all set amidst the sweeping backdrop of the Patagonian highlands.

After spending some time enjoying the views at Base Torres, you'll then hike back to Refugio el Chileno to rest up for the evening. 

Hike distance: 15.5 km/9.6 miles
Hike duration: 6.5 hours

Day 6: W Trek Day 2/4: Refugio el Chileno to Refugio Los Cuernos

Lake Nordenskjöld
Lake Nordenskjöld

After breakfast, you'll depart Refugio el Chileno for a more moderate day of hiking. After passing by the Paine Massif you'll pass the base of Mount Almirante Nieto. Then it's more hiking for 4.5-6 hours, during which you're treated to views of Lake Nordenskjöld's emerald waters, impressive hanging glaciers, and fascinating local flora. Eventually, you will reach the Cuernos sector of the park and spend the night in Refugio Los Cuernos, a welcoming refuge nestled on the hillside in the heart of Torres del Paine.

Hike distance: 11 km/6.8 miles
Hike duration: 4.5 hours

Day 7: W Trek Day 3/4: The French Valley to Refugio Paine Grande

French Valley landscape
French Valley landscape

Prepare for the longest, most arduous, but also the most rewarding day of trekking on the W circuit. The morning starts with a two-hour hike around Lake Nordenskjöld. Upon reaching the Campamento Italiano sector, you'll leave your bags at the camp and carry on with a small daypack containing the day's necessary food, water, and extra clothing.

Then it's a 1.5-hour ascent beginning at the French River Valley, passing the French Glacier, and finishing at the "British camp," which is a group of primitive log shelters once used by English hikers. Nearby you'll find the Mirador Britanico (British Viewpoint), which features one of the most amazing panoramic views in the park. The mountains of Cerros, Paine Grande, Catedral, Hoja, Máscara, Espada, Aleta de Tiburón, and Cuerno Norte Horn can all be seen from this viewpoint.

Afterward, you'll return on the same path to Campamento Italiano and pick up your bags. You'll then continue on to Refugio Paine Grande, on the shores of Lake Pehoé, and settle in here for the evening.

Hike distance: 17.3 km/10.7 miles
Hike duration: Seven hours

Day 8: W Trek Day 4/4: Glacier Grey to Puerto Natales

Glacier Grey and Lake Grey
Glacier Grey and Lake Grey

In the morning, you'll depart from Refugio Paine Grande on a hike through native forest and along Lago Grey. After about two hours you'll get your first glimpses of Glacier Grey, the giant mass of ice that feeds the lake, and the peaks of the Cordon Olguin.

You'll cap your Torres del Paine adventure by hopping aboard the Grey III catamaran and taking a tour of the lake as well as getting up close to the glacier.  The catamaran will then leave you at the shore in the Pudeto sector of the park, where a vehicle awaits to transport you back to Puerto Natales. In the evening, you can relax in your hotel and rest after a long day.

Hike distance: 11 km/6.8 miles
Hike duration: four hours

Day 9: Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas & Departure

Say goodbye to Patagonia
Say goodbye to Patagonia

It's time to say goodbye to Torres del Paine and Chile. In the morning, you’ll take a private transfer from Puerto Natales to the Punta Arenas airport. There you'll catch a domestic flight to Santiago and transfer to the international terminal for your flight back home. ¡Buen viaje!

Deborah
Written by Deborah Hayman, updated Mar 18, 2019