Experience the scope of Chile on a grand tour of three of its most famous regions: Santiago, the Atacama Desert, and southern Patagonia. In Santiago, tour colonial landmarks before flying north to Atacama, where you'll stargaze on the Altiplano, see spouting geysers, and embark on a desert safari. The third act takes you to Patagonia to visit penguin colonies, explore massive glaciers, and hike around the soaring peaks of Torres del Paine before returning north for some wine tasting to send you off in style.


  • Tour Santiago's highlights, from the Presidential Palace to the Plaza de Armas
  • Hit the Atacama sand dunes on a buggy safari through Chile's northern deserts
  • Travel to penguin-filled islands and ride horses around Patagonian frontiers
  • Hike up to soaring granite peaks in Torres del Paine National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Santiago, City Tour Santiago
Day 2 Day Trip to Cajón del Maipo Santiago
Day 3 Santiago Free Day: Museums & Neighborhoods Santiago
Day 4 Fly to San Pedro de Atacama, Stargazing Tour San Pedro de Atacama
Day 5 Atacama Salt Flats & Lagoons Tour San Pedro de Atacama
Day 6 Day Trip to Tatio Geysers & Moon Valley San Pedro de Atacama
Day 7 Buggy Safari Through the Desert San Pedro de Atacama
Day 8 Fly to Punta Arenas, Optional Activities Punta Arenas
Day 9 Penguin Island Tour, Transfer to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 10 Torres del Paine Full-Day Tour Puerto Natales
Day 11 Patagonia Horseback Tour Puerto Natales
Day 12 Hike in Torres del Paine National Park Puerto Natales
Day 13 Boat Tour to Balmaceda & Serrano Glaciers Puerto Natales
Day 14 Fly to Santiago, Transfer to Colchagua Valley Colchagua
Day 15 Free Day & Wine Tasting in Colchagua Valley Colchagua
Day 16 Transfer to Santiago, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Santiago, City Tour

The Plaza de Armas is just one historic landmark you'll visit on a city tour

Welcome to Santiago, the capital of Chile! There's no better starting point for a trip around the country, as all the popular regions—from the Atacama Desert to Patagonia to wine country—are just a short flight or drive away. At the airport terminal, a driver will pick you up for the ride to your hotel.

After checking in, you'll meet a local guide for a half-day tour to experience the pulse of this lively Latin American metropolis. Start by wandering the aisles of Santiago's labyrinthine Mercado Central. This market is the beating heart of the city, overflowing with vendors and locals eager to get their hands on the day's fresh produce. With the help of an English-speaking guide, engage with vendors and shoppers, sampling delicious tidbits along the way.

Continue to the Plaza de Armas, located in Santiago's historic center. Founded in 1541, it's home to the impressive Catedral Metropolitana, a neoclassical church whose twin bell towers dominate the western side of the plaza. Finally, enjoy panoramic vistas from Cerro Santa Lucía or Cerro San Cristóbal. Snap pics of the impressive skyline as you spot landmarks like the Gran Torre Santiago (also known as the Costanera Center), the tallest building in Latin America.

Day 2: Day Trip to Cajón del Maipo

Cajon de Maipo at dusk
The morning sun rises above the mountains of Maipo Canyon

Rise and shine! This morning, meet your driver and travel about two hours east out of the city to Cajón del Maipo (Maipo Canyon). During this day trip, you'll enjoy outdoor activities amid the natural splendor of the Andes Mountains. First up is a stop on the way for a 25-minute walk to a cascading waterfall. Then, continue along the Río Maipo until you arrive at El Cabrerio, where you'll lace up your boots for a hike deep into the mountains.

This three-hour roundtrip trek will take you around the San José volcano, which rises 19,213 feet (5,856 m). As you go, your guide will reveal insight into the area's natural history, flora, and fauna as you marvel at the surrounding mountains and glaciers. The route leads to La Engorda Valley, where you'll enjoy panoramic views of the ruggedly beautiful landscapes. There, you'll break for lunch and snap some photos. After a while, you'll begin the hike back to the trailhead, where the car will be waiting to take you back to Santiago.

Day 3: Santiago Free Day: Museums & Neighborhoods

Hike or take a gondola up to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal
Hike or take a gondola up to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal

Spend the day exploring Santiago at your own pace. You could stroll the cobblestone streets of the trendy Bellavista neighborhood, tour the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, or visit the Palacio de la Moneda, Chile's opulent presidential palace.

For lunch or dinner, be sure to enjoy a culinary adventure in the city. In recent years, Santiago has emerged as a global foodie destination. You can find great restaurants and wine bars not only in Bellavista but also in the revitalized historic neighborhoods of Yungay and Italia.

Day 4: Fly to San Pedro de Atacama, Stargazing Tour

A historic straw-roof chapel in the deserts around San Pedro de Atacama

Say goodbye to Santiago as you return to the airport this morning and board a two-hour flight to the city of Calama in Chile's far north. Upon arrival, a driver will meet you for the 1.5-hour drive to the remote outpost of San Pedro de Atacama, the launching point for adventures into the famed Atacama Desert. During the journey, witness some of the world's most evocative and ancient landscapes. This high-altitude desert features endless salt flats, towering Andean peaks, and the volcanic Domeyko Cordillera, where red-hued mountains form the base of the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon).

Upon arrival in town, you'll check into your accommodation and will have the rest of the day free to walk around. In the evening, get ready for a literal star-studded excursion with an astronomy lesson out on the Altiplano, a plateau surrounded by volcanoes that stretches into Bolivia. In some places, the Altiplano reaches 12,000 feet (3,660 m) above sea level, making it an ideal place for stargazing.

Learn how to identify constellations with the help of an expert guide. Even with the naked eye, the stars here are more vivid than anything you’re likely to have experienced before. You'll also get a chance to use high-powered telescopes and/or binoculars to spot an array of celestial objects, including planets, binary stars, and spherical clusters.

Day 5: Atacama Salt Flats & Lagoons Tour

See the famous flamingoes of northern Chile at their watering holes

Leave after breakfast on a full-day tour of Chile's famous Salar de Atacama (Atacama Salt Flats). Meet your private guide in a 4WD vehicle and leave San Pedro on a trip to Toconao and Socaire. These villages are known for their mud-and-volcanic-rock buildings, as well as the 18th-century church in Toconao. Meet the locals and browse craft markets, where you can pick up alpaca-wool clothing and handicrafts.

Next, visit high-plateau lagoons in Los Flamencos National Reserve. Set at 7,500 feet (2,300 m) above sea level, Laguna Chaxa is one of the best places in the world to see flamingoes. The algae-rich water is a magnet for three different flamingo species: James's, Chilean, and Andean. The birds flock here to breed and feed on plankton, shadowed by volcanoes and moon-like salt crusts. Continue to the Miscanti and Miñiques lagoons for more bird-watching, then end with sweeping salt-flat views from Salar de Talar and Piedras Rojas. Afterward, you'll return to San Pedro.

Day 6: Day Trip to Tatio Geysers & Moon Valley

Tatio Geysers at sunrise
Sunrise is the best time to see the steaming vents at Tatio Geysers

Leave the hotel around 4:30 am for the 1.5-hour trip to the Tatio Geysers. Getting a jump on the day will pay dividends, as seeing the sun rise over the Atacama is a singular experience. Also, sunrise is the best time to visit Tatio. The contrast between the cold outside temperatures and the boiling water of the geothermal field beneath the earth causes the pillars of steam here to rise as high as 30 feet (10 m). 

At 14,173 feet (4,320 m), the Tatio Geysers are the highest in the world. So take your time, admire these otherworldly landscapes, snap plenty of photos, and enjoy breakfast at the site. You can also relax in a natural geothermal pool (subject to availability). This afternoon, continue discovering the geological wonders around Moon Valley, which include salt flats, red cliffs, and rolling sand dunes.

Highlights include visiting the mesmerizing salt caves of the Cordillera del Sal, the otherworldly Three Marias rock formations shaped by millenniums of wind and water erosion, and strolling atop the famous dunes, which offer great photo opportunities. After the tour, you'll return to San Pedro and can spend the rest of the day enjoying the town or relaxing at the hotel.

Day 7: Buggy Safari Through the Desert

Bugy tour in Atacama Desert
Hop in a buggy for some off-roading fun in the Atacama Desert
For your last day in San Pedro, embark on a thrilling buggy ride around the vast Atacama Desert. As you'll quickly discover, buggies are the perfect vehicles for traversing steep mountains, riverbed crossings, and hulking dunes. Along with an expert guide, you'll zip along trails as you learn a little something about the area's history and ecology. Don't forget your camera, as there'll be stops to snap epic photos.

Day 8: Fly to Punta Arenas, Optional Activities

Punta Arenas is a historic (and colorful) Patagonian port city
Plan your trip to Chile
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Transfer back to Calama this morning and hop on a connecting flight south into Chilean Patagonia and Punta Arenas. This major transport hub is located 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.

Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel and can then spend the rest of the day exploring. The perfect starting point for a walk around town is the Plaza Muñoz Gamero. Not only is this leafy central plaza a gem (the pathways are lined with French street lamps, and a statue of Magellan sits in the center), but it's surrounded by grand neoclassical mansions once owned by the monied sheep-ranching families of the 19th century.

If you like, 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 see your first Patagonian sunset. Later, enjoy dinner at one of the restaurants in town. Seafood is a staple, so sample some local specialties, like chupe de centolla (souffle of king crab), as well as oysters, scallops, and other shellfish.

Day 9: Penguin Island Tour, Transfer to Puerto Natales

Hike alongside penguins up to a lighthouse at Isla Magdalena

You're in for a treat, as today you'll get to waddle with penguins! This half-day tour begins bright and early with a transfer to a pier on the Strait of Magellan. Then, board a boat 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 Magellanic penguins (over 100,000 of them).

First, though, you'll travel to Isla Marta. Located in the middle of the strait, it's home to a large colony of Patagonian sea lions whose numbers top a thousand. These aren't the only residents on this rocky outpost—you'll also find several seabirds, which include cormorants, skuas, arctic pigeons, and more.

Eventually, you'll arrive at Isla Magdalena, where you'll spend one hour onshore. Once here, follow a 2,624-foot (800 m) path to an old lighthouse that offers sweeping views of the Strait of Magellan. As you go, you'll enjoy the company of the island's penguin residents. There's no experience on earth like hiking alongside these flightless birds amid the rugged Patagonian coast. Afterward, return to the boat for the ride back to Punta Arenas. There, you'll catch a bus three hours north to Puerto Natales, on the doorstep of Torres del Pain National Park.

Day 10: Torres del Paine Full-Day Tour

Look for wild guanacos in Torres del Paine

Begin today's adventure at the Cueva del Milodón (Mylodon Cave), located 15 miles (24 km) north of Puerto Natales. This is the largest in a network of caves, and it houses a life-size replica of a mylodon, a giant prehistoric sloth. German explorer Hermann Eberhard discovered the well-preserved remains of a mylodon here in 1895, hence the name. En route, pass by the Silla del Diablo (Devil's Chair), a rock formation shaped like a seat that's the subject of numerous local legends. Afterward, hop back on the road north into Torres del Paine National Park.

Soon, you'll see the Cuernos del Paine (Paine Horns) and reach a fork in the road leading to Lago Grey. Once you arrive at the lake, take a pleasant walk along its shores, stopping at a viewpoint to snap some panoramic shots. After the nature trek, break for a picnic lunch and then continue to the thundering Salto Grande waterfall and another prime viewpoint overlooking the dazzling Lago Nordenskjöld. Later, follow a winding route to Laguna Amarga (Bitter Lagoon). Later, you'll return to Puerto Natales, passing by the azure waters of Lago Sarmiento on the way back.

Day 11: Patagonia Horseback Tour

Get in touch with your inner gaúcho (cowboy) on a horseback ride through Patagonia

This morning, trade the hiking boots for a saddle as you transfer to a small Patagonian town just outside Puerto Natales. There, you'll meet your guide and horse and commence a fun horseback adventure that follows nature trails up to epic viewpoints. During the journey, your guide will tell you about the town's history and the surrounding nature.

Eventually, you'll reach a viewpoint at the top of a hill—the perfect place to spot the region's most awe-inspiring avian species: the Andean condor. This bird, whose massive wingspan can reach 10 feet (3.3 m), nests in the vertical walls of nearby Cerro Dorotea and which will likely be circling overhead, looking for food. After admiring the Patagonian scenery and wildlife, you'll ride your horse back to town and return to Puerto Natales.

Day 12: Hike in Torres del Paine National Park

Las Torres in Torres del Paine National Park
Las Torres viewpoint in Torres del Paine National Park

It's another early start as you meet your driver for the short ride to the Laguna Amarga entrance of Torres del Paine. Once there, you'll embark on an 11.2-mile (18 km) self-guided hike, which takes all day to complete. Start by following a well-marked trail up Monte Almirante Nieto, which features spectacular views of Lago Nordenskjöld and the Asencio Valley below. After two hours of hiking, you'll reach Refugio & Camping Chileno, where you'll break for lunch.

Then it's another hour of hiking past ancient Lenga forests until you arrive at a moraine. The next part is a 45-minute hard scramble to the top and Mirador Base Torres. In this spot, three granite pillars jut out of the ground over a silver lagoon and make for the best view in the park. You'll also see the towering peaks of nearby Torre Sur, Torre Central, Torre Norte, Condor's Nest, and Glacier Torre. Later, you'll hike back down the mountain and meet your driver for the ride back to Puerto Natales. 

Day 13: Boat Tour to Balmaceda & Serrano Glaciers

Take a ride to the glaciers of Bernardo O'Higgins National Park

This morning, head to the dock near Puerto Natales and hop on a boat for the ride to Balmaceda Glacier, located at the southern end of Bernardo O'Higgins National Park, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. The park is only accessible by foot or by boat, and this full-day tour follows the Última Esperanza Sound north from Puerto Natales to the glacier.

Keep your camera close during this scenic boat ride, as you'll be treated to panoramic views of native forests of coihue, canelo, and lenga beech trees. You'll also spot sea lions as you head north toward the Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers, disembarking on shore to enjoy close-up views of these enormous ice structures. After a short hike, you'll reach a ranch where you'll sit down for a traditional Patagonian asado (barbecue). Later in the afternoon, return by boat to Puerto Natales.

Day 14: Fly to Santiago, Transfer to Colchagua Valley

Trade the wilds of Patagonia for the vineyards of Chile's Central Valley
Leave Patagonia behind as you transfer to the airport in Puerto Natales and board a connecting flight back to Santiago. A driver will pick you up for the 2.5-hour drive south to Colchagua. Nestled between the coast and the Andes mountains, this fertile valley is one of the premier wine regions of Chile, famous for its scenic landscapes and rich viticulture heritage. Your driver will drop you off at your hotel in the area, where you can spend the rest of the day relaxing.

Day 15: Free Day & Wine Tasting in Colchagua Valley

Toast your epic adventure in Chile with a wine tasting
You have the day to explore the Colchagua Valley on your own. The itinerary is yours to design, but you'd be remiss if you didn't take advantage of the area's many world-class wineries. The volcanic soils and Mediterranean climate of this region mean that grapes here ripen slowly, which is perfect for producing full-bodied red wine varieties like carménère, syrah, and malbec. So stop by a bodega (or three) for a tasting. Also, if you're feeling active, there are plenty of hikes to enjoy and the nearby coast beckons with its rugged beaches and seafood restaurants.

Day 16: Transfer to Santiago, Depart

Adiós, Chile
After 16 days, the last mountain has been hiked and the final cork has been popped. Enjoy one more breakfast amid the splendor of Chilean wine country before hopping in the car for the return trip to Santiago. Your driver will drop you off at the airport, where you'll catch your flight home. ¡Buen viaje!

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Map of Total Chile Tour: Santiago, Atacama, Patagonia & Wine Country - 16 Days
Map of Total Chile Tour: Santiago, Atacama, Patagonia & Wine Country - 16 Days