1. Chile Overview Itinerary
Approximate Time: 2 Weeks
Chile is a popular travel destination in South America. It's geography and long narrow shape can make it difficult to navigate, so flights can really help your travel experience be more efficient. Flights are generally available to even the most remote parts of the country. Buses are definitely an option for those who are on a tight budget and have more time to spare. They are generally reliable and convenient and offer a great way to see the countryside. This itinerary begins and ends in the city of Santiago. It also takes you through some of the main highlights of the country.
Santiago is the capital of Chile. There are many museums, theaters, restaurants and bars that you can enjoy while you're in the city. It's also centrally located so it makes a great base for exploring the country. If you have time, there are also many day trips you can do from the city. Whether you're looking for wineries, mountains, or the coast, it's not that far from the country's capital city.
After you've had some time in Santiago, you can fly to Calama and then catch a ride to San Pedro de Atacama. This oasis town in Northern Chile is a popular travel destination, in part, because of the impressive desert landscape that is nearby. Visit the Los Flamencos National Reserve to see some of the most beautiful sights. Some of the must see sights of the area include the Geysers del Tatio, about 100 kilometers from town. These are among the highest geysers in the world. Also make sure you visit Valle de la Luna, which is part of the Salt Mountain Range and has impressive formations in a shockingly barren landscape. Make sure you are there to see the sunset.
From San Pedro de Atacama, return to Calama and catch a flight to Puerto Montt. Puerto Montt is a fast growing city in the Lake District of Chile. You can spend some time there or you can continue on to the small town of Puerto Varas. This scenic town offers a lot to do in the form of day trips or hiking options. You could visit the nearby Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, where you'd see the Petrohue Falls and Lake Todos los Santos. Both Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes are also close by. If you're interested in such activities as flyfishing, kayaking or rafting, there are places to do these as well.
From Puerto Varas, make your way back to Puerto Montt where you can catch a flight to Punta Arenas. Punta Arenas is in the far south of Chile. It's the largest city on the Strait of Magellan. There are some interesting things to do in town, but also many activities outside of town. Visit the Seno Otway penguin colony north of the city during the spring months. Go whale watching at Rey Jorge Island Natural Sea Park, or visit Pali Aike National Park.
Torres del Paine National Park is a must see area outside of Punta Arenas. You have several options if you choose to stay in the park. There are campsites around or you can stay at one of the Refugios. Refugios are basic lodgings where you can reserve a dorm bed. If you choose to stay in a Refugios, it is important to make reservations well in advance. The park itself is located near mountains, lakes, and glaciers. It is named for three large rock towers. Other sights within the park include the Cuernos del Paine, Grey Glacier, Lago Grey, Lago Pehoe, Lago Nordenskjold and Lago Sarmiento. There are several multi day or single day hikes you can do within the park so consider your options and plan in advance.
From Torres del Paine National Park return to Punta Arenas and then catch a flight back to Santiago where you can complete your trip.