Take in rugged mountains, pristine fjords, and lush wine country on this diverse 14-day journey through Chile's greatest highlights. Start in the country's far south, where you'll hike through the wilds of Torres del Paine National Park, visit penguins on the Strait of Magellan, and horseback ride across a traditional Patagonian estancia. Head north to kayak and climb through the spectacular scenery of the Lake District, then wind down with a final three days in Santiago. After a trip filled with activity and adventure, enjoy a change of pace as you explore the vibrant capital and take relaxing day trips to the nearby wine country and colorful villages of the Pacific coast.

Highlights

  • Visit the penguin colony of Isla Magdalena
  • Experience Torres del Paine National Park
  • Visit a traditional Patagonian estancia
  • Kayak through pristine fjords
  • Go wine tasting in the Casablanca Valley

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Santiago & Fly to Punta Arenas Punta Arenas
Day 2 Visit the Isla Magdalena Penguin Colony Punta Arenas
Day 3 Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 4 Torres del Paine Full-Day Private Tour Torres del Paine
Day 5 Hike to the Base of the Towers - Return to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 6 Day Trip to a Patagonian Estancia Puerto Natales
Day 7 Fly from Punta Arenas to Puerto Montt & Transfer to Puerto Varas Puerto Varas
Day 8 Osorno Volcano, Petrohué Falls, Todos los Santos Lake Puerto Varas
Day 9 Kayaking on the Reloncaví Fjord Puerto Varas
Day 10 Free Day in Puerto Varas Puerto Varas
Day 11 Puerto Varas to Santiago Santiago
Day 12 Day trip to Viña del Mar & Valparaiso Santiago
Day 13 Casablanca Valley Wine Tour Santiago
Day 14 Say Goodbye to Santiago!  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Santiago & Fly to Punta Arenas

The charming coastal town of Punta Arenas
The charming coastal town of Punta Arenas

When your international flight to Santiago International Airport touches down, catch a short domestic flight to Punta Arenas. Upon arrival at this small Patagonian city, transfer to your hotel and get settled in.

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, Punta Arenas was home to the creme de la creme of Patagonian society in its heyday. Today, it's a popular tourist destination that provides easy access to some of the most impressive natural attractions in Patagonia, like Torres del Paine National Park and Magdalena Island. There are also several sites in and around town that deserve your attention.

Suggested activities include:

  • Stroll the Plaza Muñoz Guerrero, the perfect starting point for a walk around the city. 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), it's surrounded by impressive architecture, like grand neoclassical mansions once owned by the monied sheep-ranching families of the 19th century.

  • Tour the Palacio Sara Braun, one of the imposing mansions 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. 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. 

  • Visit the Reserva Nacional Magallanes. If you're interested in an active excursion just outside the city, head a few miles west of Punta Arenas to this 33,000-acre forested reserve (known locally as Parque Japonés). The self-guided nature trail lined with lenga and coigue trees 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 see your first Patagonian sunset.

Be sure to head out in the evening and enjoy a local dinner. 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 2: Visit the Isla Magdalena Penguin Colony

Visit a penguin colony on Magdalena Island
Visit a penguin colony on 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. 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 onshore. During this time, you'll follow a 2,624-foot (800 m) 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.

Day 3: Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales' colorful waterfront
Puerto Natales' colorful waterfront

In the morning, catch a bus bound for Puerto Natales.  This trip will take about five hours (depending on congestion at the border), and along the way, you'll get your first glimpses of the Patagonian Pampas. If you're lucky, you may spot some of the local wildlife, including guanaco and nandu.

Upon arrival, settle into your accommodation and then head to the Dittmar Adventures office for a trip briefing, where you'll 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.

The small port city of Puerto Natales 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. Enjoy the town's 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 your walk, check out one of the numerous restaurant options in town for dinner.

Day 4: Torres del Paine Full-Day Private Tour

The Paine River's Salto Grande waterfall
The Paine River's Salto Grande waterfall

Today, you will be picked up and embark on a journey around Torres del Paine National Park.

Explore Torres del Paine's unique ecosystem and impressive viewpoints at your own pace. Throughout the day, you will be transported to different areas of the park that serve as the perfect bases for viewing wildlife and stunning landscapes as well as embarking on some short hikes. Against the backdrop of the park's iconic horn-shaped peaks and glacial lakes, you'll enjoy a picnic lunch before being transferred back to your accommodation at the end of the day. 

Day 5: Hike to the Base of the Towers - Return to Puerto Natales

At the base of Torres del Paine
At the base of Torres del Paine

After breakfast, you'll head up to the base of Torres del Paine on one of the most popular hiking routes in the park. Although it can be completed in less than a day, this hike is strenuous and requires a good level of physical fitness. However, the stunning views at the base of the Paine Massif make it well worth the effort. 

The trekking route covers 11 miles (18 km) and lasts about nine hours. Every step of the way, you will enjoy views of beautiful scenery comprised of rivers, native forests, mountain peaks, and narrow valleys. You'll likely even spot some impressive local avian varieties, like condors and black eagles. 

Your route begins at the Las Torres Hostel and takes you over the Ascencio River, at which point you'll ascend about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) to a lookout featuring panoramic views of the valley below. Then you'll continue through sections of lenga forest until the remaining 45-minute stretch, which is a steep ascent that involves a hard scramble over a moraine to the final path leading up to the viewpoint. 

This is the hardest portion of the hike, but once you arrive at the lagoon at the base of the Paine Massif, you'll be rewarded with views of the soaring Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Paine). You'll have ample time to rest by the lagoon and marvel at the amazing rock formations as you enjoy a delicious picnic lunch.

Afterward, you'll begin the return trip back down the trail. The descent takes approximately four hours. After your hike, you'll transfer back to Puerto Natales.

Day 6: Day Trip to a Patagonian Estancia

Horseback riding with a view
Horseback riding with a view

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll set off to visit the beautiful Estancia La Peninsula. This full-day tour is the perfect way to learn about daily life at a working Patagonian ranch.

The adventure starts with a 30-minute boat ride through the fjords before arriving at the ranch for a welcome pastry and cup of coffee. From here, you will have the chance to choose between a variety of activities such as horseback riding, hiking, or taking a land tour in a 4x4 vehicle. You'll then enjoy a traditional barbecue followed by a demonstration of sheep shearing and wool classification. You will also have a chance to meet the estancia's resident sheepdogs.

At the end of the tour, return by boat to Puerto Natales, where you will have the rest of the evening to enjoy at leisure.

Day 7: Fly from Punta Arenas to Puerto Montt & Transfer to Puerto Varas

The village of Puerto Varas
The village of Puerto Varas

This morning starts with a transfer by bus to the Punta Arenas Airport (PUQ) and a short flight to Puerto Montt, a port city in southern Chile that is also known as a gateway to the Andes Mountains and Patagonian fjords. Upon arrival, meet your English-speaking guide, who will transport you in a private vehicle to Puerto Varas.

From here, drop your luggage at the hotel, enjoy lunch, and then rejoin your guide for a tour of the charming little village of Puerto Varas, next to Llanquihue Lake. Enjoy the village's mix of German architecture and Mapuche indigenous cultural influence.

If there's extra time in the afternoon, head out of town for other scenic stops and views of the snowcapped Osorno Volcano. At the end of the day, drive back to your hotel in Puerto Varas to explore the Ciudad de las Rosas (City of Roses) at night.

Day 8: Osorno Volcano, Petrohué Falls, Todos los Santos Lake

Hiking up to Osorno
Hiking up to Osorno

After breakfast in Puerto Varas, a driver will pick you up for a full-day scenic tour of the area, including the most famous sites such as Osorno Volcano, the Petrohué waterfalls, and Todos los Santos Lake

The first part of the drive takes you along the shores of Llanquihue Lake, where you'll pass the mouth of Río Pescado (Fish River). You'll also pass by the villages of La Poza and Los Riscos before reaching Ensenada, a small town that sits at the foot of Osorno Volcano. You'll begin a hike up to Osorno, stopping at different vantage points for photo opportunities.

After hiking back down, continue toward the waterfalls of the Río Petrohué. Fed by the nearby Lago Todos Los Santos, the Petrohué is famous for its electric blue waters and cascading waterfalls that have carved a network of chutes into the surrounding basaltic lava rock. There are various pathways all around that offer different vantage points where you can observe the thundering falls in all their glory.

The tour finishes with a visit to the turquoise waters of Todos los Santos (All Saints Lake) before returning to Puerto Varas in time to enjoy dinner in town.

Day 9: Kayaking on the Reloncaví Fjord

Kayaking on the Reloncaví Estuary
Kayaking on the Reloncaví Estuary

Start today with a morning departure from your hotel in Puerto Varas, driving 40 minutes east along the shore of Lago Llanquihue to the town of Ensenada. This will be the base for today's kayak excursion. Here you'll pick up your gear and choose between a single or tandem expedition. After driving another 30 minutes, you'll arrive at the town of Ralún and the mouth of Patagonia's northernmost fjord: Reloncaví.

You'll put in on the shores of this estuary and begin the journey south. Soon enough it will be time for lunch, and there's a perfect spot for it on a peninsula with a small cove lined with green meadows. Here Señora Yolanda will welcome you to her family farm, and everyone will share a mate (an herbal tea beverage) around a wood stove. After enjoying a traditional lunch and some freshly brewed coffee, you'll take a short tour around the woods. Then it's time to get back on the water.

The schedule for the rest of the trip involves little more than enjoying the scenery as you glide along the surface of the fjord. Surrounding you are vast panoramas featuring the snowcapped Yate and Hornopirén volcanoes, while sea lions, dolphins, and the occasional penguin frolic in the waters alongside.

The kayak excursion comes to an end at Cochamó, a village that sits on the coast between the Andes and the Pacific. You'll leave the water behind, change your clothes, drop off your gear, and hop in a waiting van that will transport you back to Puerto Varas. You should arrive in town at around 7 pm.

Day 10: Free Day in Puerto Varas

Enjoy a day spent relaxing in beautiful Puerto Varas
Enjoy a day spent relaxing in beautiful Puerto Varas

Today is a free day to relax and enjoy the charming town of Puerto Varas!

Day 11: Puerto Varas to Santiago

Take a cable car up to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal
Take a cable car up to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal

This morning you'll transfer to El Tepual Airport (Puerto Montt) for your flight north to Santiago. Upon arrival, a driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel, where you'll have the rest of the day free to explore the city at your leisure. 

Suggested activities include:

  • Hike to the top of Cerro San Cristobal for the most magnificent views in Santiago. When visiting any new city, it's a good idea to 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. Enjoy the reconnoitering, and if you aren't the hiking type, not to worry: you can catch a scenic gondola to the top.

  • Stroll the cobblestone streets of Barrio Bellavista. On the north side of Santiago, you'll find this trendy enclave, at once fashionable and bohemian. Brightly painted old houses adorned with graffiti art sit alongside modern shopping complexes featuring an eclectic array of eateries and bars. It's a great place to come for dinner out, a glass or two of Chilean red, and people watching from a patio table.

  • Visit 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 founded 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.

  • Snap pics in front of the Palacio de la Moneda. Chile's opulent Presidential Palace (known simply as "La Moneda") is just a short stroll from the Plaza de Armas, and like the plaza, it's filled with history. 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. Today the country is under democratic rule, and visitors are welcome to visit the palace. 

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 12: Day trip to Viña del Mar & Valparaiso

The colorful streets of Valparaíso
The colorful streets of Valparaíso

Today you'll leave the capital on an excursion to central Chile's Pacific Coast, where you'll visit 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 twentieth-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 stop is the port city of Valparaiso, located adjacent to Viña del Mar. This colorful metropolis is the artistic and bohemian soul of the country, 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 13: Casablanca Valley Wine Tour

Go wine tasting in the Casablanca Valley
Go wine tasting in the Casablanca Valley

Today, you'll head an hour west to Casablanca Valley. This fertile region near the Pacific coast is ideal for growing grapes, as the sea breezes come in from offshore and provide the perfect weather conditions for them to thrive. It's also an area famous for producing wine through organic, all-natural methods.

You'll tour two wineries on this trip—the first is Casa Marín. Besides producing top-quality wines, Casa Marín is famous for being Chile's first female-founded bodega. The vineyard here sits on rolling hills above the town of Lo Abarca, just over a mile from the Pacific. The tour includes a stroll around the grounds and facilities to get a sense of the ambiance and terroir and a tasting of three wines.

The second winery on the schedule is Viñedo Matetic, a larger, well-known vineyard. A bilingual guide offers a tour of the grounds, including the vineyards and the panoramic views of the valley that surrounds them. After learning a bit about the growing process, the tour culminates with a tasting in the underground cellar, where you can also purchase select bottles.

After the tour, return to your hotel in Santiago and enjoy the evening at your leisure.

Day 14: Say Goodbye to Santiago!

Catch a final glimpse of the Andes from your departing flight
Catch a final glimpse of the Andes from your departing flight

Today you'll bid Chile farewell and transfer to Santiago Airport (SCL) for your flight home. 

Map

Map of Wonders of Chile: Patagonia, Lake District & Santiago - 14 Days
Map of Wonders of Chile: Patagonia, Lake District & Santiago - 14 Days