- Explore Barrio Bellavista's hip restaurants and bars in Santiago
- Discover the colorful, coastal towns of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar
- Embark on the four-day W Trek to explore stunning Torres del Paine
- Tour Argentinian Patagonia, from Perito Moreno Glacier to Mount Fitz Roy
|Day 1||Arrival in Santiago & City Tour||Santiago|
|Day 2||Viña del Mar & Valparaíso Excursion||Santiago|
|Day 3||Fly to Punta Arenas & Transfer to Puerto Natales||Puerto Natales|
|Day 4||Visit the Famous Towers - W Trek Day 1||Torres del Paine|
|Day 5||Hike Along Lake Nordenskjöld - W Trek Day 2||Torres del Paine|
|Day 6||Explore the French Valley - W Trek Day 3||Torres del Paine|
|Day 7||Admire Glacier Grey - W Trek Day 4||Puerto Natales|
|Day 8||Travel to El Calafate (Argentinian Patagonia)||El Calafate|
|Day 9||Perito Moreno Boat & Walking Tour||El Calafate|
|Day 10||Transfer to El Chaltén||El Chalten|
|Day 11||Self-Guided Hiking in El Chaltén||El Chalten|
|Day 12||Return to Puerto Natales||Puerto Natales|
|Day 13||Depart From Santiago||Santiago|
Day 1: Arrival in Santiago and city tour
Welcome to Chile! Upon arrival at Santiago International Airport, a driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel. Once settled, get out and experience the pulse of this Latin American metropolis on a guided, half-day tour. Like any great city, that pulse is found in its people, marketplaces, and cuisine.
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, engage with these vendors and shoppers, learning about their daily routines, while getting the inside track on the most delicious ingredients 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. Nearby sits the impressive Catedral Metropolitana, a neoclassical church circa 1748, with towering twin bell towers dominating the north side of the plaza.
- Ascend to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal. Hop on a cable car to the top of this hill that sits high above the city. Enjoy the 360° panoramas and take plenty of photos, as these are the most incredible views in Santiago.
- Enjoy dinner in the fashionably bohemian enclave of Barrio Bellavista. This is the trendiest neighborhood in the city. Find a diverse array of funky cafés, international eateries, and high-end restaurants here.
Day 2: Viña del Mar and Valparaíso excursion
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 Alegre, Cerro 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 3: Fly to Punta Arenas and transfer to Puerto Natales
After breakfast, a driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport to catch a flight to the city of Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia. Upon arrival, hop a bus for a 3-hour trip north to Puerto Natales. When you arrive, make the transfer to your hotel, and the rest of the evening is yours 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 small-town tranquility. Puerto Natales offers simple pleasures, like strolling its waterfront promenade, which sits on the Ultima Esperanza Sound. Facing north, spot the peaks of Cerro Benitez and Cerro Toro for a phenomenal sunset view.
Day 4: Visit the famous Towers - W Trek Day 1
Early this morning, depart your hotel in Puerto Natales for the 1-hour drive to Torres del Paine National Park. Upon arrival in the park, you will begin your trekking experience. Start with a 1.5-hour ascent, complete with stunning views of the hanging glacier at Mount Almirante Nieto (8,750 feet) as well as the nearby lakes. Once you reach Refugio el Chileno, drop off your bags and take a quick break to refuel.
Next, hike for another hour past ancient lenga forests until you reach the moraine base. Brace the steeper, more challenging climb for 45 minutes, and once at the top, reward yourself with some of the park's best views from the Mirador Base Torres. Take in the towering peaks of Torre Sur, Central Tower, North Tower, Condor's Nest, and Glacier Torre, all set across the sweeping backdrop of the Patagonian Highlands.
Digest the views, and hike back down to Refugio Chileno to spend the evening.
Hiking Distance: 9.6 miles
Hike Duration: 6.5 hours
Day 5: Hike along Lake Nordenskjöld - W Trek Day 2
After breakfast, it's time for another adventurous hike. Today, experience Lake Nordenskjöld up close. After leaving Refugio Chileno, embark on a brisk, 4-5-hour hike to Refugio Cuernos, an outpost located on the shore of Lake Nordenskjöld, at the foot of the Paine Massif.
Along the way, hike along the base of Monte Almirante Nieto and traverse a few Patagonian rivers by hopping across the rocks. Every step of the way includes incredible Patagonia landscapes, in the form of jagged mountain peaks and glaciers, with glimpses of wild animals that reside in the region. Eventually, the lake and the peaks of Cuernos del Paine will come into view, signaling your destination. Spend the night here, in Refugio Cuernos.
Hiking Distance: 7 miles
Hike Duration: 4.5 hours
Day 6: Explore the French Valley - W Trek Day 3
The destination of today's hike is Campamento Italiano, a campsite located 2.5 hours away from Refugio Cuernos. To arrive there involves trekking along the windy shores of Lago Nordenskjöld. Once you arrive at Campamento Italiano, leave your heavy gear and continue the trek towards the French Valley, a rocky section of flatland cradled at the base of granite peaks.
Hike another couple of hours through a forest before finally emerging into the valley, and all the incredible scenery will come into view. From a lookout point, enjoy spectacular views of lakes Nordenskjöld, Skottsberg, and Pehoé behind you, as well as the hanging French Glacier ahead. After leaving the lookout, return to gather your large pack, and continue another 2.5 hours to Refugio Paine Grande, on the shore of Lake Pehoé, for your overnight stay.
Hiking Distance: 10.7 miles
Hiking Duration: 7 hours
Day 7: Admire Glacier Grey - W Trek Day 4
After a fortifying breakfast, embark on a hike through a small forest to Lago Grey, a lake fed by one of the star landmarks of Torres del Paine: Glacier Grey. At 104 square miles, this glacial mass comprises a sizeable portion of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. After about two hours of hiking, get your first glimpse of its jagged ice walls and peaks of the Cordon Olguin.
Cap off 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. A private driver will then transport you back to Puerto Natales.
In the evening, relax in your hotel after the long day.
Hiking Distance: 6.8 miles
Hiking Duration: 4 hours
Day 8: Travel to El Calafate (Argentinian Patagonia)
After breakfast at your hotel in Puerto Natales, hop on a scenic bus ride bound for El Calafate, in neighboring Argentina. Arrive in the afternoon, and check into a cozy hotel near the center of town.
The rest of the afternoon and evening is yours to enjoy on your own. Following all of the trekking and excursions over the course of the past few days, consider a nice, evening stroll through town, a quiet dinner, and some good rest.
If you're still full of energy, feel free to enjoy an activity or check out the local bar scene. The town is a popular stop for tourists adventuring through Patagonia, just like you.
Day 9: Perito Moreno boat and walking tour
After breakfast at your hotel, it's time to head to Los Glaciares National Park. As you enter the park, catch your first glimpse of the majestic Perito Moreno. This expansive ice mass flows down from the Andes out over the turquoise waters of Lago Argentino, ending abruptly in a great wall of ice that curves around the lake. If you're lucky and willing to wait a bit, witness "calving," the awe-inspiring sight of ice breaking off the facade and crashing into the tranquil waters below. Every time ice hits the water, a thundering crash echoes on the lake.
While it's not the only glacier in the area, Perito Moreno is the star of the park. It's also one of the few advancing glaciers in the world, which is what causes the calving mentioned above. Upon arrival, admire Perito Moreno from a number of different vantage points, thanks to the network of wooden walkways that zigzag strategically in front of the glacier. In addition, see the massive ice wall up close on a boat tour.
After a day spent viewing the glacier and wandering the numerous trails, head back to El Calafate to enjoy the evening at your leisure.
Day 10: Transfer to El Chaltén
After breakfast, head to the bus station in El Calafate to board a bus bound for El Chaltén. This is a northbound journey that covers about 124 miles and takes between 3-4 hours. Ride along Ruta 40, the famous Patagonian highway that cuts through great expanses of barren steppe, and affords views of snowy peaks on the horizon.
Eventually, the popular tourist town of El Chaltén will be in sight. The second you arrive, its appeal is apparent. El Chaltén sits at the foot of the iconic Mount Fitz Roy and is nicknamed "Hiker's Paradise," due to the abundance of mountaineering options all around.
Day 11: Self-guided hiking in El Chaltén
Today, the day is yours to discover numerous hiking trails at your own pace. You can choose when and where to go since all the paths are self-guided, clearly marked, and well-maintained.
If you're up for it, go for a "day hike," which can last up to 11 hours, depending on the route you choose. Trails lead up from town and through alpine forests, with a diverse range of landscapes along the way. One of the most popular full-day treks is to Laguna de los Tres, with rewarding views of Mount Fitz Roy, the Poincenot, and the Torre.
There are many easier trails around, too. For an easier option, head out on a short, 1.9-mile walk, with views of lenga forests and the Rio de las Vueltas. This option also allows you to see all kinds of birds, including woodpeckers. For more mountain views, head to the Cerro Torre lookout. Or, set out on a 2-hour brisk hike amid the native forest, to a lagoon with deep blue waters. This is Laguna Capri—a lake that sits at the foot of the mountains with unobstructed views of the Fitz Roy massif.
No matter how you spend your day outdoors, make sure to return to your hotel in time to explore more of the bar and restaurant options in El Chaltén.
Day 12: Return to Puerto Natales
Today is a long day of travel to cross back into Chilean Patagonia from Argentina. The first order of business is to transfer back to El Calafate. Some of midday is free to enjoy lunch and/or a stroll around town. In the late afternoon, hop on a southbound bus headed for the Chilean town of Puerto Natales. This journey can take upwards of 5 hours, depending on traffic conditions at the Argentina/Chile border.
This is your last evening of the trip (in Puerto Natales), so enjoy it. Make sure to visit a nice restaurant or site that you may have missed earlier in the itinerary.
Day 13: Depart from Santiago
Today, look back on all of the memories made on your Patagonian adventure. Depending on your flight time, first, take a bus from Puerto Natales back to Punta Arenas. Then, catch your flight back to Santiago, followed by your onward flight home. Safe Travels!