When we jumped on the $200 error fare to Santiago, I’ll be honest, I had NO idea what we were going to do for a week (okay, eight days) in Chile. I assumed we’d have to stick to a bunch of day trips from Santiago (which, upon my research, really wouldn’t have been such a bad trip at all!) and that getting down to Patagonia was going to cost an arm and a leg.
Luckily, once I put my travel research hat on I realized that wouldn’t have to be the case at all.
If you’re not one for action-packed trips and like a more leisurely pace, this itinerary may not be for you, but hopefully anyone reading gets some good tips and ideas out of here anyway!
Day 1: Arrive in Santiago. It probably depends where you are flying from, but we took an 8-hour redeye flight from Mexico City. We’re both lucky enough that we sleep relatively well on planes, and always try to hit the ground running after an overnight flight. We spent the afternoon exploring Santiago – eating, drinking, and taking it all in.
Day 2: Day trip to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. We were flying out early the next morning so an overnight trip wasn’t an option for us – it made for a pretty long day but I knew we wanted to fit in a trip to the graffitied city. This happened to be on a Sunday, and if that happens to you be forewarned that many restaurants will be closed, but we found a hilltop spot and then enjoyed wandering around the streets and checking out all of the art. We also weren’t sure when we would want to head back to Santiago so did not buy a bus ticket in advance – typically not an issue but at the end of the weekend everyone else was heading back to Santiago as well – we opted to take an Uber home rather than a bus that would have gotten us in after midnight. You live and you learn, right?
Day 3: Travel to Puerto Natales in Patagonia. Be prepared for a long day. This involved a 3-hour flight south to Punta Arenas (hello, 600-miles from Antartica!) and then another 2 1/2 hour bus ride north to Puerto Natales. We opted to fly their budget airlines, SKY Airlines, which got us there safe and sound, and then Bus Sur for the comfortable bus ride. Tip: You can buy your tickets online beforehand and choose your seats. Once we arrived, we settled into our hotel and then took a taxi over to The Singular Hotel for a relaxing late afternoon bottle of Chilean wine and snacks.
Day 4: Today’s the day! You’re going to spend the entire day exploring Torres del Paine. Obviously, due to our time constraints, we did not have time to do any of the 5-day treks, so we opted for a full-day tour allowing us to check out many amazing sites along the way and go for short walks and hikes as well.
Day 5: After your full day in Torres, followed by another delicious dinner in Puerto Natales (seriously – head over to our blog about Patagonia to check out where we ate!) you’re back on the bus and headed to the airport. While another long day, we were scheduled to arrive back in Santiago around 5pm, giving us a bit of time to relax before dinner. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed for a few hours so we didn’t end up arriving in Santiago until 8pm. Luckily I had made dinner reservations a block from our hotel and they still seated us an hour after our reservation time!
Day 6: Back at the airport. Yeah, I know! But there are no direct flights from Punta Arenas to Calamia so we were stuck with an overnight in Santiago. There are a couple of flights a day to Calamia but we chose to take the earliest one to maximize our time in San Pedro de Atacama. The flight was much shorter (under 2 hours) but make sure to maximize anytime you have to nap! Once we arrived in Atacama we dropped our stuff, headed to the hot springs, and then Valle de La Luna.
Day 7: Exploring Atacama. We had rented a car which gave us the flexibility to sleep in a little bit later than if we had booked a tour. We spent the day driving around, basically following the tour route that looked the most interesting to us, while avoiding all of the tourists. Want to learn more about what we did? Read more here!
Day 8: It’s time to start the long journey home. It’s still dark out when we leave our hotel – we’re catching the earlier flight to avoid any potential delays that could force us to miss our flight back home. When we arrive in Santiago we still have about 8 hours to kill so we head to the fish market, the yarn street, the historic center, and pretty much just walk the city until we’re in need of pisco sours, Chilean wine, and snacks to get us through. The sun sets and we are on another redeye back to Mexico City.
Once I started researching Chile I realized there was so much greatness all over the country – while we saw A LOT we barely scratched the surface of mountains, lakes, and wine country to see!
Where should we go the next time we make it down to Chile?