- Go trekking through Pumalín Park
- Hike up the snowcapped volcano of Osorno
- Explore the Lake District's national parks
- Conquer Torres del Paine's famous W Circuit
|Day 1||Arrive in Santiago, Fly to Puerto Varas||Puerto Varas|
|Day 2||Fly to Pumalín National Park, Warm-Up Hike||Pumalín National Park|
|Day 3||Pumalín Nature Hike||Pumalín National Park|
|Day 4||Return to Puerto Varas||Puerto Varas|
|Day 5||Trekking Osorno Volcano & Paso Desolación||Puerto Varas|
|Day 6||Trekking in Alerce Andino National Park||Puerto Varas|
|Day 7||Fly to Puerto Natales, Optional Activities||Puerto Natales|
|Day 8||Transfer to Torres del Paine, W Circuit Trek (Day 1)||Torres del Paine|
|Day 9||W Circuit Trek (Day 2)||Torres del Paine|
|Day 10||W Circuit Trek (Day 3)||Torres del Paine|
|Day 11||W Circuit Trek (Day 4)||Torres del Paine|
|Day 12||W Circuit Trek (Day 5), Transfer to Puerto Natales||Puerto Natales|
|Day 13||Fly to Santiago & Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Santiago, Fly to Puerto Varas
Welcome to Chile! This South American nation may look like a tiny sliver on a map, but it's chock full of natural wonders, from the volcanoes of the Lake District to the wild mountains of Patagonia. You'll arrive in the capital of Santiago, but this is no city trip—you're here for the great outdoors. Upon arrival, you'll immediately catch a connecting flight further south to Puerto Montt. This city is located in the famous Lake District, which is the gateway to the southern Patagonia region.
At the airport, a driver will pick you up for the 30-minute ride north to the town of Puerto Varas. Here, you'll check into your hotel and then enjoy lunch. After eating, you can head out for a walk around town. This charming village sits on the southern shore of Lago Llanquihue and boasts a captivating mix of German architecture and Indigenous Mapuche heritage. You certainly won't miss the snow-capped cone of Osorno, an 8,700-foot (2,652m) stratovolcano that looms large over Llanquihue.
Day 2: Fly to Pumalín National Park, Warm-Up Hike
In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the ride back to the airport in Puerto Montt. Here, you'll catch a 40-minute scenic flight south to the airfield in Chaitén, a small town on a fjord in the Los Lagos district of Chile. This is the gateway to Pumalín National Park, the largest private nature reserve in the world. It was created by millionaire businessman/conservationist Douglas Tompkins and spans 1,000,000 acres (400,000 ha). Within this natural wonderland of old-growth forests, volcanoes, mountains, and rivers are countless opportunities for outdoor adventures.
You won't waste any time, either. Upon arrival, you'll meet your guide and, along with your group, you'll transfer about 1.5 hours into the reserve and Lodge Caleta Gonzalo. Here, you'll settle into your cabin and have lunch with the group. Later in the afternoon, you'll lace up your boots for a warm-up hike along one of the nature trails near the lodge. Afterward, your guide will brief you on the next day's activities, then you'll enjoy a delicious dinner and rest up for the next morning's big hike.
Day 3: Pumalín Nature Hike
Get ready for an epic nature hike in Pumalín. It begins around 7:30 am with breakfast at the lodge followed by organizing your gear, and then you'll embark. The exact trail you'll follow depends on the interests and abilities of the group. That said, the preferred routes are Cascadas (near the Lodge), Escondidas, Alerces, Tronador, and, of course, Volcán Chaitén. That last one is a 3-mile (5 km) out-and-back hike up an active volcano and which involves an elevation gain of 1,968 feet (600 m).
Throughout the hike, you can expect to see all the stunning nature for which Pumalín is famous. This includes lakes, glaciers, temperate rainforests, and much more. These forests are also home to endemic animals like pudú, deer, foxes, and the rare pampas cat; exotic birds include the chucao tapaculo and huet-huet. At the end of each hike, you'll return to the lodge, where you can socialize with the other hikers over dinner before retiring to your cabin.
Day 4: Return to Puerto Varas
After breakfast, you'll leave the lodge around 9 am and transfer back to the airport in Chaitén. There, you'll catch a flight back to Puerto Montt and return to Puerto Varas. After checking into your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day to relax and gather your strength in preparation for the next round of hiking.
Day 5: Trekking Osorno Volcano & Paso Desolación
Meet your driver this morning for the ride along Lago Llanquihue into Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park. The site of today's excursion is the iconic Osorno volcano. Along the way, you'll pass the mouth of the Río Pescado (Fish River) and the villages of La Poza and Los Riscos. Upon arrival at the base of the volcano, you'll embark on the six-hour hike.
The trek starts on a trail leading to Lago Todos Los Santos. During the 7.5-mile (12 km) hike, you'll enjoy spectacular views of the nearby Tronador and Puntiagudo volcanoes, the snow-covered summits of the Andes, and the lake's emerald waters. The name of this trail, Paso Desolación (Desolation Path), refers to the low-lying vegetation of lichens and shrubs that frame panoramic views along the route. After an intense final ascent to the cone of Osorno, you'll take a break to enjoy the views before hiking back down and returning to Puerto Varas.
Day 6: Trekking in Alerce Andino National Park
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Another full day of trekking is in store today! After breakfast, depart Puerto Varas on a 30-minute drive to Puerto Montt. Then it's another 30 minutes south to the coastal town of Lenca, the gateway to Alerce Andino National Park. This 151 square mile (393 sq km) rainforest biosphere is bounded by an estuary and filled with hiking trails winding up soaring mountains and around glassy lakes and wetlands.
The route you'll follow runs along the edge of the Río Chaicas. The scenery in this part of the Lake District is nothing short of spectacular. You'll pass through great swaths of unique, temperate forests abounding with mañio, tepa, arrayán, and alerce trees. You'll also stop at Chaiquenes and Triangulo—two tranquil mountain lagoons that happen to be great spots for bird-watching (keep an eye out for kingfishers and black woodpeckers). At the end of the trek, you'll return to Puerto Varas.
Day 7: Fly to Puerto Natales, Optional Activities
In the morning, you'll transfer back to the airport in Puerto Montt and catch a two-hour flight south to Puerto Natales. Upon arrival, another driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel. After checking in, you'll have the rest of the day to explore.
This small port city is famous as the base for excursions into Torres del Paine National Park. It is less touristic than other Patagonian hubs and has an air of small-town tranquility. Here, you can enjoy simple pleasures like strolling the promenade fronting the silver waters of the Seno Última Esperanza (Last Hope Sound). In the distance, you'll see the peaks of Cerro Benitez and Cerro Toro, and the sunset views are phenomenal.
Day 8: Transfer to Torres del Paine, W Circuit Trek (Day 1)
Wake up early and hop on a bus 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 is incredible, as you'll get your first glimpse of Torres del Paine's massive peaks, plus some exotic local wildlife like guanacos.
You'll arrive at the Laguna Amarga main entrance and register at the park office. Then it's a quick shuttle ride to check in at the Las Torres sector inside the park. From here, you'll embark on a 9.6-mile (15.5 km) hike, which takes all day to complete. You'll start by following a trail up Mount Almirante Nieto, which features stunning 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, Central Tower, North Tower, Condor's Nest, and Glacier Torre. After some time enjoying the views, you'll hike back to Refugio & Camping, where you'll overnight.
Day 9: W Circuit Trek (Day 2)After a hearty breakfast, you'll hit the trail again, this time on a 6.8-mile (11 km) trek to Refugio Cuernos, which takes about four hours. Located on the shore of Lago Nordenskjöld, the refuge sits at the foot of two jagged peaks known as the Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Paine). Along the way, you'll skirt the Almirante Nieto group of mountains and cross a few rivers. Throughout the hike, you'll be treated to views of glaciers and soaring peaks. When you finally see the awe-inspiring sight of the Horns of Paine, you'll have reached Refugio Cuernos, where you'll overnight.
Day 10: W Circuit Trek (Day 3)
Today you'll head out on one of the W Circuit's most challenging hikes: the trail to French Valley. This 10.7-mile (17.3 k) route starts with two hours of ascents and descents near Lago Nordenskjöld into a valley. Due to the intense inclines, it's best to start an hour early and bring only the bare necessities in a daypack. Next, a one-hour ascent will take you up to a viewpoint where you can look out to the incredible French Glacier.
The trail then continues for 20 minutes until you reach another campground, Campamento Británico. Here you'll be rewarded with a final lookout point that offers some of the most jaw-dropping views of the entire circuit. Admire the peaks and glaciers of Paine Grande, Cerro Hoja, Cerro Máscara, Cerro Catedral, Cerro Aleta de Tiburón, and Cuerno Norte before returning to Campamento Italiano. There you'll gather your things and continue to the shores of turquoise Lago Pehoé and Refugio Paine Grande to spend the night.
Day 11: W Circuit Trek (Day 4)After an energizing breakfast, you'll embark on a 6.8-mile (11 km) hike. It's a four-hour excursion that will take you through a small forest and along the shores of Lago Grey, a massive lake famous for the majestic glacier that terminates on its shores. After about two hours of hiking (in windy weather), you'll get your first glimpse of the marvel of Mother Nature known as Glacier Grey. Then continue hiking for two more hours until arriving at Refugio & Camping Grey, where you'll spend the night.
Day 12: W Circuit Trek (Day 5), Transfer to Puerto Natales
Start the day with a hike along the park's famous suspension bridges. Later in the afternoon, you'll board the Grey III catamaran for a tour of Glacier Grey, which feeds the lake of the same name. You'll cruise across the waters to the face of the glacier, which towers over the shore. Glacier Grey is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, and at its peak, its walls are 98 feet (30 m). Of course, you'll have ample time to snap photos.
After the boat tour, you'll have a short hike across the windswept beach and through the forest before heading to a nearby hotel, where you'll catch a transfer and then a bus back to Puerto Natales. There, you'll check into your hotel.
Day 13: Fly to Santiago & Depart
Today, you've reached the end of the trail. While you're likely exhausted from all the activity, you can be proud in the knowledge you've conquered the toughest and most scenic hikes in Chile. In the morning, your driver will pick you up and transfer you to the airport in Puerto Natales, where you'll catch your connecting flight home. On to the next adventure!