A 2-week Chile itinerary will allow you to cover lots of ground while getting a real sense of the country. There are so many amazing things to do in Chile and you want to give yourself enough time to see a few of them.
Chile is an incredible country with spectacular nature attractions, diverse landscapes and abundant wildlife.
From the driest place in the world the Atacama desert to the snowy peaks of the Andes, from the sandy beaches of Viña del Mar to the massive glaciers of Patagonia, every corner of the country has something unique to impress travelers from all over the world.
Best Season for Traveling Chile
Summer, from November to March, is the best time to travel to Chile especially if you’re planning to visit the Patagonia region.
If you want to skip the crowds and enjoy the good weather I’d suggest traveling in November or March when it’s still nice and warm but there are significantly fewer people.
January and February, the summer holiday in Chile and Argentina, are the busiest months for traveling.
Many locals spend the summer holiday exploring their own country, thousands of people head to places like Atacama, Patagonia, and the coast.
The border season, September-October and April-May, is, in general, a good time for traveling due to the reduced number of tourists and cheaper accommodation prices.
It’s however not a very good time for visiting Patagonia or hiking in Torres del Paine, since it gets rainy and quite cold there.
Best Ways of Traveling Around Chile
Flying is the fastest way of moving between the places that are far apart like Santiago de Chile, Atacama Desert and Patagonia.
Some places like Easter Island can be reached only by air.
Buses work great for middle distance traveling e.g. from Santiago to the Lake District. There are many long-distance overnight buses from the capital to the different parts of the country including Atacama and Patagonia.
It’ll take much longer to get there by bus but it’s cheaper than flying.
Renting a car is a good option if you’re a couple of people sharing it.
Having a car is great for traveling through Patagonia or exploring the Atacama desert where the attractions are quite far apart and there is no public transport that can be used to reach them.
The best way to visit many places and to spend as little time as possible commuting between them is to combine flying and renting a car.
You can fly from Santiago to Atacama or Puerto Natales and rent a car there.
Day 1 Chile Itinerary: Santiago de Chile
If you arrive in Santiago in the morning or afternoon you’ll still have some time to do some sightseeing in the city.
Start your day in Santiago visiting San Cristobal Hill, one of the hills within the city with great views of the historical center.
The area around the hill is very green and beautiful; Japanese Garden, open-air sculpture museum, Metropolitan Park and a funicular. One can spend a couple of hours walking around San Cristobal Hill.
From there head to the Central Market, about 1,5km away from the Hill.
The market is huge with a great variety of local products from fresh seafood and vegetables to empanadas, cheeses, and sweets. The market is open every day from 6am to 5pm. You can have lunch here; there are several restaurants and take-away places.
From the Mercado it’s just 400m to Plaza de Armas the main square in Santiago. There are several beautiful historical buildings in the Plaza.
Barrio Bellavista the area next to San Cristobal Hill is the best area to go out in Santiago.
Many bars and restaurants open here till early morning. The main party street here is Pio Nono. On Friday and Saturday night the barrio gets very busy.
If you arrive in the evening you can go out for dinner or a couple of drinks in Bellavista. It’s not recommended to visit any park or Cerros at night time in Santiago.
Days 2-4: The Atacama desert
There is a lot to see in the driest desert in the world besides sand and dunes.
Atacama has enough to keep you busy for a week or two. The best place to be based to explore the area is the small town of San Pedro de Atacama located in the heart of the desert.
San Pedro is a very nice place with many hotels, hostels, restaurants and tour agencies. It’s easy to find accommodation or arrange a tour here.
December – January is the busiest time in Atacama with many international and local tourists coming here for holiday. If you’re planning your trip for that time it’s better to book accommodation and activities in advance.
Day 2. Laguna Cejar, Death Valley, Moon Valley
Regardless if you fly or take a night bus from Santiago it’ll take you some time to get to your hotel, check-in, etc. Don’t schedule any activities for the morning.
Later in the day you can start exploring the Atacama desert by visiting one of the famous lagoons and valleys.
Most of the attractions in Atacama are accessible only by car; there is no public transport going there and they’re too far to cycle from San Pedro. Whether you decide to rent a car or to join a tour; it’ll take at least a couple of hours to visit a lagoon or a valley.
Laguna Cejar is one of the main attractions to visit in the desert.
It’s a beautiful blue color lake with a very high concentration of salt in its water. Swimming in Laguna Cejar is like swimming in the Dead Sea, you just float on the surface.
You can take a tour like this one that will allow you to see all of this without having to make your own way to this famous lagoon.
After visiting Laguna Cejar it’s time to see other highlights of the Atacama desert; the Moon Valley and the Death Valley.
Both are located close enough to the town for cycling, it is about 7km one way.
There are many bicycle rental places in San Pedro you can rent a bicycle for a couple of hours to get to the valleys and back. Sunset is the best time to visit both Valleys.
Massive sand dunes, bizarre shaped rocks of different shades of red and orange look especially impressive at sundown. The best views of the area you can get from one of the view-points e.g. Mirador Piedra del Coyote.
Day 3. Salar de Atacama, Laguna Chaxa, Lagunas Altiplanicas, stargazing in the desert.
Prepare for a very busy day with a lot to see and experience.
You can start by visiting Salar de Atacama and the stunning Laguna Chaxa.
The Salar is the biggest salt flat in Chile, the landscape there is spectacular; bare land covered in a thin layer of salt, rugged rocks, colorful lakes and lagoons surrounded by the snowy peaks of the Andes. Salar de Atacama is a great place for photos.
Laguna Chaxa is located within the Salar, it is famous for flamingos feeding in its waters.
The Laguna is one of the best places in Chile to see these birds from closeby.
From Laguna Chaxa head to another group of lakes called Lagunas Altiplanicas.
There are two lakes that form the group; Laguna Miscanti and Laguna Miñiques. The lakes are famous for their turquoise color water. On a sunny and not windy day the surfaces of the lakes look like two gigantic mirrors with a perfect reflection of the nearby mountains, clouds and the sky.
It’ll take pretty much the whole day to visit all these attractions, you can expect to be back in San Pedro by the evening.
This Get Your Guide Tour of the salt flats has several great reviews and includes tons of stops throughout the Atacama Desert.
The Atacama desert is one of the best places in the world for stargazing.
To see the incredible night sky with millions of stars you can just walk out of the town into the desert.
If you want to get an ultimate stargazing experience consider doing an astronomical tour during which you’ll learn a lot about stars and constellations, and get a chance to observe the night sky through a telescope.
This night tour is absolutely incredible if this is something that interests you.
Day 4. El Tatio geyser field
Visiting El Tatio geyser field is a must-do in the Atacama desert.
The field is located high in the Andes, at about 4300m above sea level, it’s the highest geyser field in the world and the largest of its kind in the Southern hemisphere.
There are more than 80 geysers and a hundred small fumaroles in the area.
Joining a tour is probably the easiest and the cheapest way of getting there.
Most tours leave very early in the morning to make it in time for the sunrise.
You can watch a beautiful sunrise in the desert while soaking in the hot water of one of the thermal pools. It gets quite cold at night and early morning sitting in a hot pool when the outside temperature is below 0ºC is a real pleasure.
The tour takes 6-7 hours, make sure to book a flight or buy a bus ticket for late afternoon/evening to have enough time to get back. Alternatively, you can take a tour like this one so that you don’t want to worry about the bus network picking you up in time.
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Day 5-6. Valparaíso/Viña del Mar
Both cities are sort of merged together, it’s very easy to commute between them.
Valparaiso is the art capital of Chile while Viña del Mar is a popular beach destination. Where to stay is up to you. If you want to be close to the beach, choose a hotel near Playa Blanca or Playa de los Cañones in Viña.
If you prefer staying in a vibrant neighborhood with many bars and restaurants, Concepcion or Bellavista in Valparaiso are great areas to stay.
Day 5 Chile Itinerary: Valparaiso
Spend a day exploring the artistic neighborhoods of Valparaiso.
Valparaiso has many Cerros (hills); the colorful narrow streets of the historical center climbing up and down create a feeling of walking through a maze. Luckily there are several old funiculars that can take you up or down, using them is very cheap.
Start your day in the Cerro Bellavista neighborhood.
To get there take Espiritu Santo Ascensor, an old funicular that will take you to the top of the hill. One of the must-see places in Valparaiso is Museo a Cielo Abierto, an open-air museum with dozens of stunning murals painted on the walls of the houses by Chilean artists.
The Museum was opened 30 years ago and till now it is one of the most interesting places to visit in the city.
All three main Cerros; Cerro Bellavista, Cerro Concepcion and La Sebastiana, are full of murals and street art.
Wandering along the narrow cobbled streets of these neighborhoods you can discover many beautiful corners e.g. stairs painted like a rainbow or a piano keyboard. One can spend hours exploring the streets of Bellavista or Concepcion. There are a couple of great look-outs in the area with some stunning views of the coast and the city.
Riding an old tram through the city is another fun thing to do in Valparaiso. The tram line goes past the main tourist attractions in downtown; it’s a good way to see the city.
Valparaiso is an amazing place to come for New Year’s Eve. The city is famous for fireworks and all-night street parties.
Whether you want to have a romantic dinner or go out for a beer there are plenty of places in Valparaiso to choose from.
Day 6. Viña del Mar
Chilling on the beach in Viña del Mar after the previous days filled with activities is a great way to recharge and prepare for the second half of the trip.
There are a couple of nice beaches in Viña e.g. Playa El Sol, Las Salinas, Los Marineros, etc. If you like being active you can rent a bodyboard or a paddleboard on the beach.
If you get tired of the beach you can visit Viña del Mar Botanical Garden. It’s quite big and beautiful; ponds and streams, wooden bridges, big trees, flower beds, etc.
Day 7-9 of the Chile Itinerary: Lake District
There are a couple of very nice towns in the Lake District to choose from. Pucon and Puerto Varas are probably the most scenic towns where you can practice several outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, climbing, swimming, etc.
Day 7-8. Pucon
Pucon is a small town about 800km south from Santiago. It’s located in the heart of the Lake District on the shore of Lake Villarrica.
Despite its small size, there are many things to do around Pucon; hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, parasailing, paddleboarding, skiing and snowboarding in winter. Pucon is often called the adventure capital of Chile.
Recommended activities in Pucon
- Hiking to El Mirador Los Crateres – stunning views of the area and the volcano
- Walking to the top of the Villarrica Volcano (only with a tour)
- Hiking to El Claro Waterfall – a short hike through the forest to a beautiful hidden waterfall with a small pool
- Pichillancahue Glacier Hike – a hike to the most accessible glacier in the region
- Renting a kayak and rowing around the beautiful Villarrica Lake
- Tandem parasailing on the lake
- Chilling on one of the sandy beaches at the lake
Day 9 Chile Itinerary Puerto Varas
You can stay for 3 days in Pucon and do different activities in the area or spend 1 or 2 days there and move to Puerto Varas, another popular tourist place in the Lake District.
The town is located on the shore of Lake Llanquihue. It offers great views of the perfect cone peak of the Osorno Volcano, the most active volcano in Chile.
There are several hiking trails around Puerto Varas e.g. Osorno Volcano, Petrohue Falls. Water activities like kayaking, parasailing, paddleboarding, etc. can be practiced on the lake.
Days 10-13. Torres del Paine National Park
This is without a doubt one of the most popular and famous things to do in Chile, and for good reason.
If you enjoy hiking, this will be a paradise for you. Here are a few things to do and hikes to enjoy while you’re there.
Option 1. Day 10-13 hiking the W-trek
Torres del Paine is a must-visit place in Chile. It’s a real hiking paradise. The highlights of the area are Mirador Los Torres, Grey Glacier, Pehoe Lake, Nordenskjold Lake, and Skottsberg Lake. You can see these attractions on one of the multi-day treks or by doing day hikes.
There are several trails inside the park including two long-distance treks, the O-Circuit and the W-trek, and multiple day-hikes.
For those who want to spend a couple of days hiking in Torres, the W-trek is a perfect route.
It takes 4-5 days to complete. Trekkers can carry their own gear and food and camp along the way or stay in refugios with full board.
Option 2. Day 10-13 Torres del Paine, day hikes
If a multi-day hike is not your cup of tea you can stay at one of the hotels inside the park and do shorter day hikes to see the main attractions.
The best way will be to stay for a day or two at Hotel/campsite Las Torres (eastern part of the park) and from there hike to Mirador Las Torres and Nordenskjold Lake, then move to Refugio/campsite Paine Grande (western part of the park). From here you can access Grey Glacier, Pehoe and Skottsberg Lakes as well as Frances and Britanico view-points.
Option 3. Days 10-11 Torres del Paine, day hikes. Day 12-13 El Calafate, Perito Moreno Glacier
As an alternative, you can spend half of the time (2-3 days) exploring Torres del Paine and do a 2-day trip to El Calafate to see Perito Moreno Glacier. El Calafate is a small town in Argentina not far from the border with Chile, about 270km from Puerto Natales.
The town is a gateway to Los Glaciares National Park. There are many hotels, hostels, restaurants and souvenir shops in El Calafate. It’s possible to visit Perito Moreno Glacier as a day trip from Puerto Natales.
This tour is a great option if you don’t feel that you are a very experienced hiker and you want to have a guide with you. It’s fully guided and includes food and drink along the way.
I always think taking a guided hike is a great way to learn more about the national park in a new country. Even though I have a lot of hiking experience, I don’t know this new place at all and there’s always something new to learn.
Day 14 – The last day of your Chile Itinerary: Santiago de Chile
You can spend some time sightseeing, buying souvenirs and trying the local food at the Central Market.
If you have enough time you can do a day tour from Santiago to Maipo Valley and visit a couple of wine farms to do some wine tasting. Chile has some great wines and the Valley is one of the best wine areas in the country.
Visiting Maipo Valley is a great way to finish your holiday and to enjoy a day out in the wine region of Chile.
Is there a better way to finish a trip than a tour of a wine region? This will ensure that you don’t get behind the wheel and you can enjoy all of the samplings that you want.
This tour is one of the best, especially if you want to book before you arrive in Santiago.
If you have 3 weeks to spend in Chile you can extend this itinerary by adding to it two Chilean islands; Easter Island and Chiloe.
Easter Island, 2-3 days
Easter Island is one of the most famous islands in the world. Flying from Santiago is the only way of getting there. The Island is 3500km away from the mainland. Easter Island is famous for its rock statues called moai, there are about 1000 of them spread around the island. It’s believed that they were built by the Polynesian tribes that arrived on the island in 1200AD.
A couple of days are enough to visit the island, its surface is only 163 square kilometers.
The must-visit places on the island
- Ahu Tongariki, the sunrise is the best time to visit this place
- Ahu Akivi, the sacred site known as a celestial observatory
- Rano Raraku, a volcanic crater with a couple of moai statues around
- Anakena Beach with Ahu Nau Nau, the best-preserved platform with moai statues on the island.
Chiloe Island, 2-3 days
Chiloe Island is another interesting island in Chile. Unlike Easter Island, Chiloe is easy to access from the mainland by a 15-minute ferry ride.
Chiloe is a beautiful place with a couple of small towns, unique cultures, and untouched nature.
The highlights of the island are; small fishermen’s villages of Castro and Ancud with their colorful wooden houses, Chiloe National Park with several hiking trails, Tepuhueico Park with a fantastic indigenous forest, many birds and deer.
Food on Chiloe is another highlight; a traditional dish called Curanto is a must-try here.
It consists of seafood, meat, potatoes, and vegetables.
The unique thing about the Curanto is the way it’s prepared. Each layer of ingredients is wrapped in fig or cabbage leaves and put into a hole that is dug in the ground.
The bottom of the hole is covered with hot stones heated on a bonfire. The top of the hole is covered with wet sacks and grass. Cooking in this pit creates an effect similar to cooking in a pressure cooker. It takes about 1 hour to cook.
About the Authors
Campbell & Alya from Stingy Nomads are an adventurous travel couple based in Cape Town where they spend three to four months every year. The rest of the time they travel the world seeking new adventures. Hiking, long-distance walking, and diving are their favorite activities.