A One-Week Itinerary to Chile: Santiago, Valparaíso and Atacama

Salar de Atacama © Nicolas de Camaret
Salar de Atacama © Nicolas de Camaret
Photo of Lucy Pierce
20 November 2017

Discover some of the Chilean highlights with this itinerary that focuses on the two largest Chilean cities: the capital, Santiago, and the colourful Valparaíso. This itinerary also fits in a wine tour as well as a trip to the astounding San Pedro de Atacama.

Day 1: Santiago

Wake up in the heart of this bustling metropolis in one of Santiago’s chic hotels, enjoy a leisurely breakfast before embarking on a walking tour. Begin with the Presidential Palace of La Moneda, before heading to Plaza de Armas and Mercado Central. Gaze at the art in the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino and the Museo de Bellas Artes, then grab a coffee in one of Lastarria’s best cafés.

Once you’ve had a caffeine fix, amble up Cerro Santa Lucia that offers great views over the city, before strolling through Parque Forestal to Bellavista. Grab a bite to eat in Barrio Bellavista before discovering the quirks of Pablo Neruda’s Santiago house, La Chascona. After that you can visit the Santiago Zoo or hop on the funicular to the top of Cerro San Cristobal where you can witness the incredible sunset over the city. Discuss the highlights of your day over the national drink, a pisco sour.

La Moneda | © saramatos/Pixabay

Day 2: Valparaíso day trip

Head to the bus station outside the Universidad de Santiago metro station and jump on the bus to Valparaíso for the day. Once you’ve arrived in this bustling port city, you can enjoy the murals of street art and the smell of the sea air.

Head towards Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion where there are a number of cafés and restaurants, and each corner you turn boasts colourful street art. Dine on one of the terraces overlooking the bay and treat yourself to a pisco sour. After lunch, visit the beloved Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s second house La Sebastiana. If you are visiting on the weekend, Valparaíso is known for its buzzing nightlife.

Valparaíso | © Mariamichelle/Pixabay

Day 3: Santiago & vineyard tour

History and politics fanatics should visit the Museum of Human Rights, although it is very sobering, it’s also very informative. You can also visit Calle Londres and Villa Grimaldi if you want to know more about what happened under the Pinochet dictatorship.

For a rather more relaxed afternoon, take a wine tour in one of the many fabulous vineyards, whether you go to Cousiño Macul, the humongous Concha Y Toro or the boutique Santa Rita, the afternoon will be spent learning about the wine-making process and of course wine tasting. Once you have returned to Santiago, choose from one of the many fabulous restaurants to dine at.

Santa Rita | © Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr

Day 4: Santiago to Atacama

Escape the busy Santiago by flying to Calama, from where you can easily get a transfer to the tranquil village of San Pedro de Atacama and enjoy the epic scenery as you journey through the jagged valleys of the desert. Settle into your hotel and relax before the Valle de la Luna afternoon tour. Here you will see some of the incredible vistas that Atacama has to offer, looking very similar to what you’d expect on Mars. Have a relaxed evening and eat some typical Chilean cuisine – we’d recommend Pastel del choclo before getting an early night in preparation for an early start.

The surreal landscapes of the Valley of the Moon in the Atacama Desert | © sunsinger / Shutterstock

Day 5: Atacama

Get up bright and early to visit the Geysers el Tatio – although don’t forget to wrap up warm and take some coca leaf tea, as it’s a great help with the altitude. The Geysers are located 4,320 metres above sea level, making them the highest geyser fields in the world. During the tour you will see a hot spring where you can relax, but just brace yourself for the cold as you get out. After an early morning, you deserve some R&R, and the Termas Puritama is the best place to do this – among the vegetation in the valley, the setting really is something else.

Spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing before going stargazing – the celestial sky really is magnificent in the Atacama desert as you are so far away from any big cities and their pollution, as well as experiencing darker skies and higher altitude. Learn from the astronomer how to read the sky and try to spot the rings of Saturn.

Star gazing in San Pedro de Atacama | © European Southern Observatory/Flickr

Day 6: Atacama

Another day in paradise, the penultimate day covers the incredible Piedras Rojas, Lagunas Altiplanicas, and the Salar de Atacama. These locations will spark the photographer in you, it’s virtually impossible to take a bad picture when the scenery is so stunning. Soak in the stretching blue lakes that magnify the towering snowy peaks of the Andes, followed by the red rocks that neighbour a milky green lake and finally the rugged salt flats where you will find the gorgeously pink flamingos pottering around. Treat yourself to a special meal in one of the many enticing restaurants in the heart of San Pedro, maybe even compliment it with a bottle of fine Chilean wine.

Salar de Atacama | © Nicolas de Camaret/Flickr

Day 7: Atacama to Santiago

Back to Santiago you go! After a busy week you deserve a relaxing final day, so head down to the quaint village-like Barrio Italia and enjoy some window shopping: peruse the interior design shops, independent fashion stores, and the antique markets before indulging in your last Chilean feast. Your last destination should be the Costanera Centre – this looming pyramid of glass is the tallest building in South America. Take a lift up to Sky Costanera and watch the sun set over the city.

View from Costanera | © Lucy Pierce / Culture Trip

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