- See the hidden gems of Santiago and visit trendy areas like Barrio Lastarria
- Tour the otherworldly valleys, geysers, and lagoons of the Atacama Desert
- Travel to the Aysén region and go on excursions to marble caves and glaciers
- Walk with penguins in Patagonia and explore Torres del Paine National Park
- Hike the mountains of El Chaltén and atop the famous Perito Moreno Glacier
- Go trekking and canoeing in Tierra del Fuego and enjoy city tours of Buenos Aires
|Day 1||Arrive in Santiago (Chile), Alternative City Tour||Santiago|
|Day 2||Fly to Atacama Desert, Valley of the Moon Tour||San Pedro de Atacama|
|Day 3||Sunrise Balloon Ride, Lagoons & Salt Flats Tour||San Pedro de Atacama|
|Day 4||Tour Tatio Geysers & Baltinache Lagoons||San Pedro de Atacama|
|Day 5||Fly to Balmaceda via Santiago||Puerto Río Tranquilo|
|Day 6||Marble Caves Kayak Tour||Puerto Río Tranquilo|
|Day 7||San Rafael & Glacier Boat Trip||Puerto Río Tranquilo|
|Day 8||Fly to Punta Arenas||Punta Arenas|
|Day 9||Visit Penguin Colony, Transfer to Torres del Paine||Torres del Paine|
|Days 10-11||Explore Torres del Paine National Park||Torres del Paine|
|Day 12||Transfer to El Calafate (Argentina)||El Calafate|
|Day 13||Perito Moreno Glacier Hike||El Calafate|
|Day 14||Transfer to El Chaltén||El Chaltén|
|Day 15||Hike to Laguna de Los Tres||El Chaltén|
|Day 16||Transfer to El Calafate, Fly to Ushuaia||Ushuaia|
|Day 17||Trekking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego National Park||Ushuaia|
|Day 18||Tierra del Fuego Off-Road Adventure||Ushuaia|
|Day 19||Fly to Buenos Aires, Optional Activities||Buenos Aires|
|Day 20||Buenos Aires Bike Tour, Dinner & Tango Show||Buenos Aires|
|Day 21||Depart Buenos Aires|
Day 1: Arrive in Santiago (Chile), Alternative City Tour
Welcome to Chile! This sliver of a country on the western edge of South America features natural wonders ranging from volcanoes and high-altitude deserts to Patagonian fjords, glaciers, and snowcapped peaks. You'll see it all on this journey, beginning in the capital of Santiago. Sitting at 1,700 feet (518 m) above sea level and surrounded by soaring Andes mountains, this city is the perfect introduction to South America's natural beauty and metropolitan splendor.
Upon arrival at Santiago's airport, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel. After checking in, you can get acquainted with the city on an "alternative" walking tour with an expert guide. On this outing, you'll visit sites and landmarks most tourists don't get to see.
Day 2: Fly to Atacama Desert, Valley of the Moon Tour
This morning, transfer to the airport for the two-hour flight to the city of Calama, in the far north of the country. From there, it's a 1.5-hour transfer east to the remote outpost of San Pedro de Atacama, the launching point for adventures into the Atacama Desert. During the journey, you'll get your first look at some of the world's most evocative and ancient landscapes. This altiplano (high-altitude) desert features endless salt flats, towering Andean peaks, and the volcanic Cordillera Domeyko, where red-hued mountains form the base of El Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon).
After checking into your hotel, you'll head right back out on a half-day tour. Leave San Pedro on a route that will take you along the Cordillera de la Sal mountains. This region was once a giant lake that eventually dried and rose above the Atacama Desert. Your first stop in this otherworldly region is the Valley of the Moon, part of Los Flamencos National Reserve. Here, you'll see landmarks like the Las Tres Marias (The Three Marias)—natural salt formations sculpted by wind erosion over millennia.
The tour ends at a special viewpoint where you can watch the sunset over the Cordillera de la Sal. After you've witnessed the last rays of sun gild the desert landscapes in shades of red and gold, you'll transfer back to your hotel in San Pedro.
Day 3: Sunrise Balloon Ride, Lagoons & Salt Flats Tour
Wake up early and embark on a spellbinding adventure that will take you high over the deserts and volcano peaks of the Atacama region. It begins before dawn with a transfer to a remote launch area, where you'll hop in the basket of a hot-air balloon. You'll be airborne just in time to witness the sun peak over the horizon and light up the Andean Altiplano's desert valleys, mountains, and salt flats. When you land, toast the experience with a glass of Champagne, followed by a picnic breakfast. Afterward, you'll return to San Pedro.
Soon after arriving, you'll embark on a terrestrial tour to experience more stunning landscapes of the Altiplano. Meet your driver and head out on a route that runs south of San Pedro to your first stop: Laguna Chaxa. Located in the Salar de Atacama salt flats and sitting at 7,500 feet (2,300 m) above sea level, this is one of the best places in the world to see flamingoes. The algae-rich water here is a magnet for three of the world's five flamingo species: James', Chilean, and Andean.
Next, head to the Miscanti and Miñiques lagoons for more bird watching and to enjoy views of the surrounding volcanoes. The trip finishes with stops at sweeping viewpoints looking out over the vast Salar de Talar salt flats. One highlight stop is at Piedras Rojas (Red Rocks), a landscape comprised of red desert rocks adjacent to an aquamarine saline lake. After enjoying the scenery, you'll return to your hotel in the midafternoon.
Day 4: Tour Tatio Geysers & Baltinache Lagoons
Once again, wake at dawn and head back into the desert on a five-hour tour to visit another prominent natural wonder: the famed Tatio Geysers. Sitting at an altitude of 14,173 feet (4,320 m), these are some of the highest geysers in the world and spurt pillars of steam up to 30 feet (10 m) into the air. After breakfast at the site, you'll have plenty of time to admire the area's otherworldly landscapes and even take a dip in a geothermal pool.
Afterward, you'll continue on to the Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache. Also known as the Hidden Lagoons of Baltinache, these turquoise-colored saltwater lagoons are located in the heart of the Atacama's famous salt flats. They represent yet another alien and surreal landscape that contrasts beautifully with the arid surroundings. They make for a fun stop because you can swim in the lagoons while you're here. Also, during the drive back to San Pedro, look out for llamas and colonies of flamingoes in the Vado de Putana and Machuca wetlands.
Day 5: Fly to Balmaceda via Santiago
It's time to bid farewell to the desert. In the morning, you'll transfer back to Calama and catch a connecting flight south via Santiago to Balmaceda, a tiny town in Chile's unspoiled Aysén region. Blessed with a mix of ruggedly beautiful wilderness landscapes—as well as glaciers, waterfalls, lakes, and rivers—Aysén is the perfect introduction to Patagonia. It's one of the last truly unspoiled frontiers left in the world.
Upon arrival, a driver will take you on a four-hour scenic transfer south to Puerto Río Tranquilo. This remote town is located on the north shore of Lago General Carrera, Chile's largest lake, which straddles the border with Argentina. This vast glacial lake is renowned for its vivid turquoise waters, picturesque surroundings, and the unique marble caves along its shoreline. Once in town, you'll check into your hotel and will have the rest of the day free.
Day 6: Marble Caves Kayak TourPuerto Río Tranquilo is the base for boat tours to the Capillas de Mármol, a network of marble caves near the lakeshore—and that's just where you're headed. This three-hour kayak tour leaves in the morning from the pier at Puerto Río Tranquilo. During the trip, you'll paddle up to many of these remarkable geological formations, which are the result of thousands of years of erosion. You'll get so close that you'll clearly see the deep white crevices at the base of these giant marble pillars as they shine iridescent in the reflection of the water. Be sure to take plenty of photos!
Day 7: San Rafael & Glacier Boat Trip
Depart Río Tranquilo bright and early for the 47-mile (75 km) transfer west to Bahía Exploradores (Explorers' Bay). This bay sits at the western end of Valle Exploradores (Explorers' Valley), which is situated at the confluence of the Río Exploradores, where it meets Laguna San Rafael. This valley is notable for its temperate forests, home to exotic wildlife, including pudus and pumas.
Upon arrival, board a boat for an excursion on Laguna San Rafael. Enjoy breakfast as you cruise along the tranquil delta waters while admiring the beautiful scenery. After about 2.5 hours, you'll reach Laguna San Rafael National Park and the San Rafael Glacier.
Here, you can snap photos of floating blocks of ice and the various animals in the area, which include marine otters, sea lions, black-necked swans, and condors. Then, enjoy a light lunch followed by a glass of whiskey chilled with ancient ice from the nearby glacier. Later in the afternoon, you'll return to the pier at Bahía Exploradores and transfer back to Puerto Río Tranquilo, arriving in time for dinner.
Day 8: Fly to Punta Arenas
In the morning, you'll transfer back to Balmaceda by car and catch a 1.5-hour flight farther south into 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, on the Strait of Magellan, in its heyday, Punta Arenas was home to the crème de la crème of Patagonian society.
Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel. Then, you can spend the rest of the day exploring. Perhaps visit Plaza de Armas, the city's leafy central plaza, which is lined with French street lamps and surrounded by grand neoclassical mansions once owned by the moneyed sheep-ranching families of the 19th century. If you like, watch the sun go down at Mirador Cerro de la Cruz, a viewpoint looking out over the city to the Strait of Magellan.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 9: Visit Penguin Colony, Transfer to Torres del Paine
This half-day tour begins bright and early. You'll transfer from downtown Punta Arenas by vehicle 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.
Later, you'll arrive at Isla Magdalena, where you'll disembark and spend one hour onshore. During this time, you'll enjoy the company of the island's penguin residents, walking alongside these waddling birds on a trail leading to an old lighthouse. Afterward, you'll return to Punta Arenas, then meet your driver for a four-hour scenic drive north to Torres del Paine National Park. This legendary protected area covers 700 square miles (1,810 sq km) in Chilean Patagonia and is renowned for its circuit treks. Upon arrival in the evening, you'll check into your accommodation.
Days 10-11: Explore Torres del Paine National Park
Wake up early and enjoy sunrise views over Torres del Paine's jagged granite peaks. Be sure to eat a hearty breakfast because both today and tomorrow, you'll have the freedom to explore the park any way you wish. If you'd prefer a half-day trip, scenic, easy hikes will take you around famous lakes and glaciers in the park. These include stops at famous landmarks like Salto Grande, a thundering waterfall that channels water between the lakes of Nordenskjöld and Pehoé.
Or you can opt for a full-day trek. The most famous is the hike to Base Torres. This 11-mile (18 km) excursion begins on a scenic trail up Mount Almirante Nieto, which features expansive views of 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, Condor's Nest, and Glacier Torre. After admiring the views, you'll hike back down the trail.
Day 12: Transfer to El Calafate (Argentina)
It's time to say goodbye to Torres del Paine and hello to Argentine Patagonia! After a relaxing morning (or an early morning hike if you'd prefer), you'll meet your driver for the 3.5-hour drive across the border into Argentina and El Calafate. Sitting on the southern shore of Lago Argentino, this town is the gateway to the massive Southern Patagonian Ice Field, home to Los Glaciares National Park. Within this protected area is the region's star, Perito Moreno, a 96-square-mile (250 sq km) ice formation that is one of the few advancing glaciers in the world.
Upon arrival at El Calafate, another transfer will take you to your hotel. You can spend the rest of the day relaxing or wander around and enjoy the quaint cafés and souvenir shops in town. Perhaps learn about nearby glaciers on a visit to the Glaciarium, a multimedia center with an ice museum, various interactive displays, and educational information regarding glaciers. A real treat is throwing on a coat, boots, and gloves and enjoying a drink at the museum's Branca Glacio Bar, Argentina's first ice bar.
Day 13: Perito Moreno Glacier Hike
Get ready for a hiking experience unlike any other, as today, you'll be trekking across the surface of Perito Moreno, perhaps the most famous glacier in the world. It begins after breakfast when you hop in a car and transfer west along the lake into Los Glaciares National Park. Upon arrival at the glacier, your group will meet with certified bilingual guides for safety instructions and receive your ice ax, crampons, and other gear. Then, it's time to ascend the glacier.
Not to worry, as this is a perfectly safe activity. More than that, this is the best way to experience the glacier up close, as you'll be treated to views and vantage points regular tourists don't get to see. Plus, it's the thrill of a lifetime traversing deep blue ice crevices and hiking over meltwater streams.
After your expedition, you'll transfer to a nearby network of walkways running along the lakeshore. Here, you can enjoy wide, sweeping views of the glacier and snap plenty of highly Instagrammable pics. Afterward, you'll transfer back to your hotel in El Calafate.
Day 14: Transfer to El ChalténIn the morning, a driver will pick you up for the three-hour drive north to El Chaltén. This town lies right above Lago Viedma and is a major hub in Patagonia for mountain hikes. If the skies are clear on the drive in, you'll have incredible views of the iconic massif of Mount Fitz Roy. Once in town, your driver will drop you off at your hotel, and you'll have the rest of the day free. You can embark on short hikes or spend time relaxing at one of El Chaltén's many cafés and craft beer bars.
Day 15: Hike Laguna de Los Tres
After an early breakfast at the hotel, you'll meet your guide and head out on one of the most famous day hikes in El Chaltén: the trail up to Laguna de los Tres. Starting in town, the route covers 14 miles (23 km) and takes 8-9 hours to complete. During the trek, you'll pass through native lenga forests and stop at incredible viewpoints looking out to the Fitz Roy Valley and Piedras Blancas Glacier.
Then, cross a suspension bridge to reach Río Blanco Base Camp, which is a hub for rock climbers. From there, it's a final push to Mirador Laguna de los Tres, which looks out to the gorgeous lagoon and affords panoramic views of three surrounding peaks: Fitz Roy, Poincenot, and Torre. After a break for lunch, you'll have some time to relax and enjoy the scenery before descending back to El Chaltén.
Day 16: Transfer to El Calafate, Fly to Ushuaia
Transfer back to El Calafate this morning, where you'll board a 1.5-hour flight to Ushuaia and the Tierra del Fuego region of Patagonia. Considered the southernmost city in the world, it's situated between the jagged peaks of the Martial Mountains and the silver waters of the Beagle Channel, the same waterway Charles Darwin explored when he arrived on the HMS Beagle almost 200 years ago. Upon arrival at the airport, another driver will transfer you to your hotel. After checking in, you can head out on a self-guided walking tour.
You'll find the most activity in Ushuaia's colorful downtown area. Here there are cafés and restaurants where you can stop and try centolla (king crab), a regional specialty. If you like, stroll down the scenic waterfront and visit the Museo del Fin del Mundo (End of the World Museum). It's a small museum but is packed with fine exhibits detailing the area's natural and Indigenous history.
Day 17: Trekking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego National Park
A shuttle will pick you up in the morning at your hotel in Ushuaia for the transfer to Tierra del Fuego National Park. Located just outside the city, this vast protected area encompasses 155,000 acres (62,726 ha) of pristine wilderness that includes subantarctic forests and a rugged coastline.
Upon arrival in Ensenada Bay, you'll have a spectacular view of the Beagle Channel. There, you'll embark on a 4-mile (6 km) coastal walk amid the unique flora and fauna of the region. Interesting animals here include woodpeckers, guanacos, and foxes. In addition, you'll see traces of the Yámana Indigenous settlements that once existed in the region.
After three hours, you'll arrive at Lago Roca, where a picnic lunch will be served. Then, you'll hop in a canoe and paddle down the Río Lapataia until you reach the southern end of the Pan-American Highway, the world's longest drivable road. This transcontinental route begins in Alaska and covers the entire length of the Americas. At the end of the afternoon, you'll return to your hotel in Ushuaia.
Day 18: Tierra del Fuego Off-Road Adventure
Go off the beaten path—quite literally—on a fun and scenic off-road adventure through the wilds of Tierra del Fuego. In the morning, you'll meet your driver, hop in a Land Rover, and head out along dirt and mud tracks through native forests and across rushing rivers to the bottom of a remote valley and the banks of Lago Escondido (Hidden Lake). Continuing on, you'll pass the enormous Lago Fagnano, as well as more green valleys, mountain passes, an old sawmill, and some beaver dams. There will be a break for a traditional barbecue lunch served with glasses of malbec before returning to Ushuaia in the afternoon.
Day 19: Fly to Buenos Aires, Optional Activities
Say your goodbyes to Patagonia this morning as you transfer to the airport in Ushuaia and catch a 3.5-hour flight north to Buenos Aires. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel. Then you'll want to head out and explore Argentina's capital, a massive metropolis home to around 15 million people that sits on the estuary of the Río de la Plata.
You can begin at the famous Obelisco monument. Located in the city center, it sits in the middle of 9 de Julio Ave, the world's widest city street (it spans a whopping 16 lanes). From there, you can walk to the Teatro Colón. This neoclassical opera house has been one of the most handsome buildings in Buenos Aires since its opening in 1908.
Head east from the opera house to Puerto Madero, an upscale waterfront neighborhood. Nearby is the pink-hued Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace), while farther south, you can stroll the cobbled streets of romantic San Telmo, the oldest neighborhood in the city. When dinnertime arrives, do like the locals and head to a parrilla (steakhouse) to enjoy a thick, juicy steak drizzled with chimichurri sauce.
Day 20: Buenos Aires Bike Tour, Dinner & Tango Show
Today, you'll experience the city on two wheels as opposed to two feet. On this full-day bicycle tour, you'll zip along the capital and visit every major neighborhood in and around the center of Buenos Aires. Moreover, you can choose to do so on a bambucicleta, an eco-friendly bike handmade from, you guessed it, bamboo. It's a fun and exciting way to engage in responsible tourism in the city.
Meet your guide in the morning at Plaza San Martín, near the city center, and head out. First up is the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve, an 865-acre (350 ha) protected area fronting the water. Then continue to the historic La Boca neighborhood and La Bombonera, the most famous futból stadium in the country. Also here is colorful Caminito Street. After a lunch break in San Telmo, you'll travel to the famous Recoleta Cemetery, where Eva Perón is buried, and finish in the trendy neighborhood of Palermo, notable for its expansive parks designed by legendary landscape architect Charles Thays.