Begin your adventure in the capital of Santiago. Experience the city's culture and culinary delights on a full-day walking tour. Next, head to the coast to immerse yourself in the artsy vibe of Valparaíso before heading out to the Casablanca Valley to taste some of Chile's world-renowned wines. Then, travel south to Punta Arenas to explore the rugged beauty and unforgettable landscapes of Chilean Patagonia. Take a boat out to Magdalena Island, and get a close-up look at the 150,000 strong penguin colony. Then you'll embark on a trek into the famed Torres del Paine National Park, a Patagonian Mecca for hikers. Finally, you'll tour lakes and rivers before finishing with a boat trip to Glacier Grey.

Highlights

  • Take a city tour of Santiago, and learn about modern Chilean culture
  • Explore the colorful coastal city of Valparaiso and indulge in wine tasting in the Casablanca Valley
  • Visit a penguin colony in the Patagonia
  • Trek through the famous Torres del Paine National Park
  • Visit the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and view Glacier Grey up close on a boat tour

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Santiago & City Tour Santiago
Day 2 Day trip to Viña del Mar & Valparaiso Santiago
Day 3 Fly from Santiago to Punta Arenas Punta Arenas
Day 4 Visit the Penguins at Magdalena Island & Travel to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 5 Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine, Visit the Famous Towers Torres del Paine
Day 6 Torres del Paine Full Day Private Tour Torres del Paine
Day 7 Admire Glacier Grey by Boat, Return to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 8 Say Good-Bye to Patagonia  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Santiago & City Tour

Enjoy a stroll through Chile's municipal markets
Enjoy a stroll through Chile's municipal markets

Welcome to Chile! Upon arrival at Santiago International Airport, a driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel. But rather than idle indoors, we want you to get out and experience the pulse of this Latin American metropolis. And like any great city, that pulse is found in its people, marketplaces, and cuisine. To that end, you'll immediately head back out on an easy and delicious half-day tour of the city. By the end of it, 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 impressive 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.

  • Enjoy dinner in the fashionably bohemian enclave of Barrio Bellavista. This is the trendiest neighborhood in the city, and here you'll find a diverse array of funky cafés, international eateries, and high-end restaurants.

Tour Duration: Half-day (with English-speaking guide)

Day 2: Day trip to Viña del Mar & Valparaiso

The colorful streets of Valparaiso
The colorful streets of 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 AlegreCerro 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 3: Fly from Santiago to Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas
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 4: Visit the Penguins at Magdalena Island & Travel to Puerto Natales

Magdalena Island

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 18 miles (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.

In the afternoon you'll travel by bus to Puerto Natales. This trip will take about 3 hours and along the way you will get your first glimpses of the Patagonian Pampa. If you are lucky you may see of number of local wildlife, including the Guanaco and the Ñandu!

Upon arrival to Puerto Natales you will settle into your accommodation and then head to the Dittmar Adventures office for a trip briefing. At this point in time you will be able to ask any last minute questions as well as pick up all of your tickets and vouchers for the next few days' adventures.

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 is phenomenal at sunset. After the stroll, check out one of the numerous restaurant options in town for dinner.

Day 5: Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine, Visit the Famous Towers

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 transfer from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park. 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 where you'll check-in and you'll leave your heavier bags here before trekking up the mountain.  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, a great place for lunch or a rest.

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 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.

Total Distance: 18 Kilometers / 11.2 Miles
Average Time: 8 Hours 

Day 6: Torres del Paine Full Day Private Tour

Torres del Paine

Today, you will be picked up by your guide from Dittmar Adventures and embark on your journey around Torres del Paine National Park.

You will have the chance today to explore Torres del Paine's unrivaled flora and fauna and impressive viewpoints at your own pace. Throughout the day you will be transported to different areas of the park that boast well for viewing the park's wildlife and stunning landscapes as well as some short hikes.

At some point during the day, you will stop for a picnic lunch. At the end of the tour, you will be brought back to your accommodation.

Day 7: Admire Glacier Grey by Boat, Return to Puerto Natales

Glacier Grey
Glacier Grey

This morning, you'll transfer to the Grey sector of the park where you'll board the Grey III catamaran for a tour of Glacier Grey, which feeds the lake of the same name, Lago Grey. The boat travels across the lake and stops close to the glacier, which gives passengers a prime vantage point to snap photos of its massive ice walls. 

Upon return you'll have a short hike across the windswept beach and through the forest before returning to your hotel. You will have the afternoon to either relax or hike the nearby Mirador Ferrier, which boasts unbelievable views of the park's many colored lakes.

In the evening you'll catch and transfer and then a bus back to Puerto Natales where you will spend the night. 

Day 8: Say Good-Bye to Patagonia

Farewell, Chile!

Today, you will look back on all of the memories you've made and say good-bye to your Patagonian adventure (or see you later!).  At some point today you will take a bus back from Puerto Natales to the Punta Arenas Airport (PUQ) for your flight. Upon arrival to Santiago, you will be picked up and taken to your final destination.

Map

Map of Santiago, Valparaíso & Patagonia Nature Trip
Map of Santiago, Valparaíso & Patagonia Nature Trip