Kick off this 5-day Chilean sojourn in Santiago for a day of cultural and culinary delights. You'll then fly south for activities surrounding native forests, hot springs, glaciers, and waterfalls. Base yourself in the traveler hub of Pucón for lakeside strolls with views of one of Chile's most active volcanoes—not to mention international eats ranging from Middle Eastern to French to Peruvian.

Highlights

  • Explore the bohemian, cobblestoned streets of Santiago's Barrio Bellavista
  • Rent a kayak in a lake known for its calm waters and volcano views
  • Check out rare wildlife and plants on a challenging hike
  • Trek to the base of Pichillancahue glacier and its nearby waterfall
  • Photograph sunrises and sunsets while strolling around Pucón

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Santiago de Chile Santiago
Day 2 Fly from Santiago to Temuco - Transfer to Pucón Pucón
Day 3 El Cañi Trekking & Hot Springs Tour Pucón
Day 4 Pichillancahue Glacier & Waterfall Trek Pucón
Day 5 Pucón to Temuco - Flight to Santiago - 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: Fly from Santiago to Temuco - Transfer to Pucón

Villarrica Volcano near Pucón
Villarrica Volcano near Pucón

After breakfast in Santiago, you'll transfer to the airport for your flight to Temuco. Upon arrival, you'll meet your driver and transfer about 1.5 hours to the town of Pucón.

This village is deservedly famous as it sits on the shore of Lago Villarrica in the shadow of the towering Volcán Villarrica. Pucón is also a popular destination for those looking for seasonal activities, such as hiking and skiing. Zip-lining is a fun activity as well, and there are a number of nearby excursions you can make from town, such as to the geothermic pools.

But that's for another day. For now, if you would like to get out and stretch your legs, then here a couple options for easy activities in and around Pucón.

  • Stroll the city center and waterfront. Pucon's main drag, Av. Bernardo O'Higgins, is the epicenter of activity in town. Here you'll find any number of bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Also, you can walk down the road to where it terminates at the lakeshore.

  • Go on a boat tour around the lake. Many tour operators offer boat excursions around Lake Villarrica as well as kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals. This is a fun and relaxing way to experience the natural beauty of the area. Depending on the climate you'll also be able to take a dip in the water.

  • Dine out. Because Pucón is such a hotbed of tourism, many quality international restaurants have opened up to cater to the crowds. In this town, you'll find everything from Chilean fusion to sushi to Italian to Arabian to Uruguayan and Argentine steakhouses.

Day 3: El Cañi Trekking & Hot Springs Tour

Look for rare flora species in Santuario El Cañi
Look for rare flora species in Santuario El Cañi

After breakfast in Pucon, you'll venture out of town a mere 13 miles (20 km) on a private full-day tour for some vigorous outdoor exercise in the form of mountain trekking. Your destination is the Santuario El Cañi. This 1,500-acre private reserve makes for one of the best hikes in the entire region.

There's plenty of nature diversity on this hike, which you'll notice immediately once you embark. You'll ascend in altitude as you traverse the Andes (the hike takes between 6 to 8 hours), passing lagoons and observing the unique flora. This region is also home of the Araucaria, or "monkey puzzle" tree, a type of evergreen conifer that can live an impressive 2,000 years. Lenga and coihue trees are also common here.  

Along the way, your guide will point out the various wildlife species that call the area home, such as foxes, pudus, and even pumas and condors. Eventually, at 5,085 feet (1,550 m) above sea level you'll reach a mirador (lookout) that affords 360° panoramic views of the surrounding volcanoes and lakes. Short of hiking up Volcán Villarrica, you won't find better views anywhere nearby.

Immediately after the hike, you'll be able to soak your beleaguered muscles in the geothermal pools at Termas Pucón Indomito located near El Cañi. Take your time in this natural spa environment, letting the hot water ease the day's exertions. Later in the day you'll transfer back to Pucón where you can spend the evening further relaxing and unwinding after your challenging trek.

Day 4: Pichillancahue Glacier & Waterfall Trek

Catch a sunset on your last night
Catch a sunset on your last night

Today you'll take part in a full-day trekking adventure to the Pichillancahue Glacier located at the foot of Villarrica Volcano. But first, a driver will pick you up from your hotel after breakfast and transfer you to Palguin, a region in the interior of Chile's Lake District. Here you'll embark on an easy and well-marked trail through native Araucaria forest.

As you ascend in altitude you'll stop at viewpoints that offer 360° views of the surrounding volcanoes. Eventually, you'll reach the the glacier, which is unique in that it has been colored black by all the volcanic ash that has fallen on it over the years. The trek culminates with a visit to a towering 100 foot (30 m) waterfall tucked away in the native forest. Afterward, you'll transfer back to your hotel in Pucón.

Day 5: Pucón to Temuco - Flight to Santiago - Departure

One more glimpse of Santiago from the air
One more glimpse of Santiago from the air

It's time to say goodbye to Chile! This morning, savor one last leisurely breakfast before a driver meets you and transfers you 1.5 hours to the airport in the city of Temuco. Here you'll catch a flight to Santiago and make your connecting flight home. ¡Buen viaje!

Map

Map of Santiago & the Lake District - 5 Days
Map of Santiago & the Lake District - 5 Days
Deborah
Written by Deborah Hayman, updated Mar 18, 2019