A Two-Week Chile Travel Itinerary

San Pedro de Atacama | © Marcin Kurek / Shutterstock
San Pedro de Atacama | © Marcin Kurek / Shutterstock
Photo of Lucy Pierce
4 December 2017

¡Bienvenido! Two weeks in Chile should give you sufficient time to see the highlights, from the busy metropolis of Santiago, the quirky and colourful streets of Valparaíso, traditional life on Chiloé for both penguins and Chilotes, the jagged peaks of the Andes side by side the stretching glaciers in Patagonia and the dry dusty Atacama, where the formidable sunsets give way to the celestial skies.

Santiago: Days 1–2

Day 1: Santiago

Awaken in your chic hotel and enjoy a hearty breakfast before setting off on a walking tour of the city. Begin with the stunning neoclassical La Moneda, then onto the Plaza de Armas, where you should visit the Catedral Metropolitana before investigating the many varieties of fish at Mercado Central. Walk east towards Parque Forestal, where you will find the Bellas Artes Museum, either grab a bite to eat or a coffee in the quaint Lastarria neighbourhood, before walking through Parque Forestal to Bellavista. Here you will find famous Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda’s house La Chascona. Discover the neighbourhood’s street art, then visit the zoo or take the funicular to the top of Cerro San Cristobal to watch the sunset. Enjoy a typical Chilean meal and pisco sour in the buzzing Bellavista.

Plaza de Armas, Santiago | © Peter Collins / Flickr

Day 2: Santiago & a vineyard

History enthusiasts should visit the Museum of Human Rights in Quinta Normal—although it is very shocking, the history is extremely interesting. After that you can visit Calle Londres or Villa Grimaldi, which gives another perspective of the despicable things that happened under the Pinochet dictatorship. For a lighter afternoon, visit one of Santiago’s surrounding vineyards, whether it’s Concha Y Toro, Santa Rita or Cousiño Macul, taste the Syrahs and Carménères.

Mendoza vineyard | © Wikimedia

Valparaíso: Day 3

Day 3: Valparaíso day trip

Hop on a bus towards the coastal city of Valparaíso, known for its incredible street art and bohemian vibe. Stroll around Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion and you’ll be sure to spot the colourful murals stretching up the sides of buildings. Here there are a number of restaurants and cafés to re-energize at after walking up and down the steep hills! After lunch, visit La Sebastiana, Neruda’s second house which overlooks the bay. If you are here on a weekend, the city has a wild nightlife!

The colourful houses of Valparaíso | ©Mariamichelle/Pixabay

Chiloé: Days 4–6

Day 4: Santiago–Castro

Fly from Santiago to Puerto Montt; from there you can take a bus to Castro where the colourful wooden palafitos will be awaiting you! Spend the afternoon spotting penguins on the Monumento Natural Islotes de Puñihuil—it is the only place in the world where you can see Magallanic and Humboldt penguins in the same place. For your evening meal, you absolutely must have a curanto, the local dish of Chiloé, consisting of meat, fish, potatoes and vegetables.

Chiloé | © sunsinger / Shutterstock

Day 5: Castro–Puerto Montt

Discover Castro’s artisan craft market, where you will see many wool-knitted items, handmade jewelry and much more, making the perfect presents. After which, the impressive Chiloé churches are beckoning you; the Churches of San Francisco and Rilán are both in Castro, while the Iglesia Nercón isn’t far. Make your journey back to Puerto Montt for your morning flight to Patagonia.

Church altar in Chiloe | © paz guentelican/Flickr

Patagonia: Days 6–10

Day 6: Puerto Montt–Punta Arenas–Torres del Paine

Although it will take the best part of a day to get to the Torres del Paine, it’ll be worth it when you get there. Take a morning flight from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas, which takes just over two hours, then drive to the Torres del Paine National Park via Puerto Natales. Spend the afternoon and evening relaxing, preparing for a big day tomorrow. There are a number of stunning hotels with incredible views over the national park, or if you’re on a budget you can stay either in the rustic refugios, or camp in one of the many campsites.

Tierra Patagonia | © Courtesy of Tierra

Day 7: Torres del Paine

If you are a keen hiker and wanted to conquer the W-trek, you will need more time in Torres del Paine as it takes four to five days. You can, however, trek to the base of the Torres in one day, which we recommend you do today after an early night, weather dependant. Take a picnic with you and hike up to the stunning glacial lake that sits underneath the towering peaks of the Torres. After that you definitely would’ve earned some spa time!

Las Torres, Chile | Douglas Scortegagna/Flickr

Day 8: Torres del Paine

Wake up to incredible views of the national park and get ready for another epic day in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Your morning will consist of an easy three-hour walk around Las Cornisas, seeing the peaks from another angle, the rugged landscape and the stunning turquoise Lake Pehoé. For the afternoon, take a boat trip out to the Grey Glacier and see this looming mass of ice up close, or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, you can go on a five-hour ice hike across the top of it.

Torres del Paine | © MonicaVolpin/Pixabay

Day 9: Torres del Paine–Punta Arenas

Watch the stunning views as you drive back down to Punta Arenas. This is not a journey to nap on: there’s a high chance there will be a number of photo stops! Once you have arrived Punta Arenas, take an afternoon tour to Isla Magdalena where 60,000 breeding pairs of Magellanic penguins rule the island.

Isla Magdalena | © Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero/flickr

Day 10: Punta Arenas–Santiago

Your last day in Patagonia should be spent at Parque Pinguino Rey, where eight king penguins live—the only colony outside Antarctica. The owner found them, ironically, in Bahia Inútil (Useless Bay) and has been preserving the area ever since, opening the park in 2011 for tourists. Take an evening flight back to Santiago and spend the night near to the airport for an early flight up to San Pedro de Atacama.

Penguino Rey | © Jose Luis Hidalgo R./Flickr

Atacama: Days 10–14

Day 11: Santiago–Calama

Take an early flight out of the capital to Calama, which is the nearest airport to San Pedro de Atacama. Once you’ve arrived in the dusty village, check in to your hotel or hostel and book yourself onto an afternoon tour of Valle de la Luna, where you will see an epic sunset over the incredible landscape. Have a quiet night, and treat yourself to some delicious Chilean cuisine before an early start.

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

Day 12: San Pedro de Atacama

Rise and shine! Tours for Geysers el Tatio tend to leave Atacama bright and early at 4am. Don’t forget to wrap up warm and take some coca leaf tea, which helps with the altitude as the Geysers are at 4,320 meters (14,175 feet), making them the highest in the world. After you’ve learned about the history of the geysers, you can jump into one of the hot springs—just be warned: it’s freezing when you get out! After an early morning, the only way to spend your afternoon is at the Termas Puritama, a collection of eight natural hot pools among the vegetation and the steep valley.

Geysers | © Nico Kaiser/Flickr

Day 13: San Pedro de Atacama

Today’s the day to discover the incredible Lagunas Altiplánicas, Piedras Rojas and the Salar de Atacama, which again are at high altitude. It’s impossible not to be blown away by these views. Equally, it’s hard to take a bad photo, with stretching azure blue lakes magnifying the snow-capped peaks of the Andes, followed by the volcanic red rocks against the green lake. And finally, the rugged salt flats where flamingoes linger in the crystal clear blue lakes. Romantics and stargazers will love looking at the celestial sky and trying to spot the milky way.

This gorgeous photograph, taken in the Atacama Desert in Chile, shows star trails circling the South Celestial Pole, over a cacti-dominated still landscape. The star trails show the apparent path of the stars in the sky as the Earth slowly rotates, and are captured by taking long-exposure shots. A final deeper exposure was superimposed over the magnificent trails, revealing many more, fainter stars and, just rising above the horizon, the southern Milky Way, with its patches of dark dust and the well-known pinkish glow of the Carina Nebula. Towards the right, the satellite galaxies of the Milky Way, the Large (top-centre) and Small (bottom-right) Magellanic Clouds, can also be seen.

Day 14: Calama—Santiago

Unfortunately the time has come to leave, after a whirlwind two weeks of a jam-packed itinerary, it’s time to relax and reflect on all the wonderful views and vistas. Have a tranquil afternoon perusing the interior design shops and antique markets of Barrio Italia before treating yourself to one of Santiago’s finest restaurants, which of course, must be complemented with Chilean wine.

Silverside fish | Courtesy of Peumayen Ancestral Food

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