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3 Weeks in Chile: The Ultimate Travel Itinerary

Chile Itinerary for 3 Weeks, Chile, Patagonia, Travel Itinerary

Ready to set off the most incredible journey across Chile? You better be! There is plenty to discover and we are here to help you plan your 3-week itinerary to Chile, to see the best it has to offer. We are Jan and Karin, and we share our own travel experience so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes and be free to enjoy your holiday to the fullest. 

The driest place in the world? Check. The magnificent glaciers and majestic mountains in Patagonia? Check. The end of the world at Magellan Strait? Check. And there’s plenty of other places you can’t miss out on, the Easter Island for instance.  

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Practical tips before you start exploring Chile 

North to south Chile measures almost 5 000 km (2 690 mi). Well, that’s impressive. What’s most impressive, is it has four types of climates! The Atacama Desert in the north is like the driest place on earth and southern Patagonia is in a subarctic zone. What am I trying to say?  

  • 3 weeks in Chile is just to cover the most famous must-see places. 
  • The Multi-City flight ticket is a must.  
  • To rent a car is also essential, otherwise you will need around 3 months to travel the whole of Chile. 
  • If you’re thinking about what kind of clothes to pack, try the whole wardrobe. 

Now that this is clear, I tried my best to sum up all the must-see places into 3 weeks in Chile. This is my Chile Itinerary for 3 weeks, day by day. Buckle up your seatbelts and pay attention. 

Day 1: Santiago de Chile 

Chile Itinerary, Santiago de Chile 
Santiago de Chile

We arrived in the morning, so we had the whole day to tick off the must-see places in Chile. And as there are very few of them, we were done by noon. On the other side, it’s wise to plan a light itinerary for the first day 

Santiago lies in the -4 GMT zone, so the jet lag is not as terrible as one might imagine, but still. Take a stroll through the old town and the Metropolitan Park, get yourself something tasty (and glass to your collection) at Hard Rock Café, and call it a day.   

  • Distance: 9 km (5.6 mi) 

Day 2: Valparaíso and Isla Negra  

Valparaíso, Murals, Street Art, Chile

Good morning, Chile! Get up early and drive to Valparaíso. In case you came from Europe, that won’t be a problem. Thanks to jet lag, you’ll be up early either way. This artistic city is tied to Santiago with a motorway, so we were there within an hour and a half. There are no monuments or museums, but the city itself is a must-see place! It’s one of the oldest towns on both American continents and nowadays it’s home to street art from all over the world. It reminds me of San Francisco with all the hills and lifts, only with a stronger Latino feel, more colorful and bohemian. The tour of the Valparaiso highlights takes approximately 4 hours. It depends on how much time you take to admire the murals and coastal views. 

Get back to your car and drive south on Route-68 until you’ll see the exit to F-90 which will take you to Isla Negra—the most interesting house set in the wonderful place. It’s mostly famous as the residence of Nobel-prize writer Pablo Neruda. I’m not a super huge fan of his, but the place is simply too amazing to miss out on. The romantic setting on the shores of the Pacific Ocean and the sophisticated layout will take your breath away! 

This is a whole-day trip, go to Valparaíso in the morning, have lunch there and save Isla Negra for the afternoon. You get back to Santiago right on time for dinner and perhaps a drink? 

Read more: The detailed info about Santiago, Valparaíso, and Isla Negra, including the maps and opening hours, is also to be found in the article about Things to do in Santiago de Chile and Surrounding

  • Distance: 307 km (191 mi) 
  • Locations: Santiago, Valparaíso, Isla Negra 
  • Accommodation: stay in Santiago 

Day 3: El Cajón del Maipo & San Francisco Glacier 

San Francisco Glacier, Santiago de Chile, Travel Itinerary

One of our day trips from Santiago was to Maipo Canyon. Want to see the most awe-inspiring views around Santiago? This is it. There are many 6K mountains, which makes this place ideal for hikes and climbing. It was the first time that I saw such huge mountains face to face, and I was stunned. 

One of the must-see places around is El Yeso dam and San Francisco Glacier. The vistas are going to make your jaw drop. There are plenty of hiking routes to take, however, due to limited time we decided only to hike to San Francisco Glacier, which was amazing. For more details read points number 2 and 3 in my article about the best of Santiago and surroundings I pointed out earlier. 

  • Distance: 216 km (134 mi) 
  • Locations: Santiago, El Cajón del Maipo, San Francisco Glacier 
  • Accommodation: stay in Santiago 

Day 4: San Pedro de Atacama  

Valle de la Luna, Great Dune, Sunset, San Pedro

Originally, I didn’t want to go there, but Karin insisted, so… you probably know how it ended. She was right though, it was breathtaking. The heart of the Chilean desert offers beautiful landscapes with 6 000 m volcanos all around, skies of thousand colors, and vast dunes and rock formations.   

The flight from Santiago to Calama takes around 2 hours, then you need to get to San Pedro by shuttle bus, or in a rented car (better option, as you will need it for the other trips). The route to San Pedro takes slightly more than an hour, so if you leave Santiago in the morning, you’ll manage to get to San Pedro by noon.  

Tip: San Pedro de Atacama is the only place in Chile, where you need a petrol-engine car because of the high altitude (the diesel engines are struggling in such conditions). Plus, it’s a desert with dusty roads everywhere, so I recommend renting an off-road model.  

There are many interesting places around San Pedro you should squeeze in your itinerary, but this afternoon, start easy with a trip to Valle de la Luna. It’s most famous for its splendid sunset landscape but there are also great dunes and amazing rock formations to check out. 

  • Distance: 117 km (72.7 mi) from Calama to San Pedro (including the surroundings) + 1 500 km (953 mi) flight from Santiago to Calama  
  • Locations: Santiago, Calama, San Pedro de Atacama, Valle de la Luna 
  • Accommodation: Hotel Pascual Andino | Hotel Desértica 

Day 5: El Tatio Geyser Field  

El Tatio Geysers, San Pedro de Atacama

Get up very early in the morning to make the best out of the El Tatio Geysers—the top highlight around San Pedro. If you’re from Europe, the jet lag will prevent you to sleep anyway. The geyser field is the highest in the world at 4 320 m (14 173 ft) above sea level. That means two things: wear layers, it’s really cold up there, and be aware of the mountain sickness. Karin could talk, fortunately, the coca-leaves tea helped. 

In my opinion, the best thing about El Tatio is the route up there. You need to set off super early to experience hot steam (they are not visible in the afternoon) which also means, you’ll get to see the desert waking up. And that’s magic I can’t describe.  

One of the best photo spots is Vado Rió Putana approximately halfway to El Tatio. The wetlands are full of life in the morning and the volcano serves as a perfect backdrop. Even the photos wouldn’t do it justice, so no oversleep! 

Tip: Book the visit of Termas de Puritama 2 days ahead and soak in the natural hot spring on your way back to San Pedro. 

  • Distance: 158 km (98 mi) out and back 
  • Locations: El Tatio Geysers (Vado Río Putana, Termas de Puritama) 
  • Accommodation: same as day 4 

Day 6: Salar de Atacama 

Salar de Atacama, Laguna Chaxa, Flamengos

The other one-day trip will be to the salt flats of Atacama. The large salty lagoons in high altitudes are filled with flamingos and breathtaking at a first sight. Laguna Chaxa Park is a part of Los Flamencos National Reserve located 60 km south of San Pedro and comprises several highlights, including the two perfectly round-shaped lagoons Ojos de Salar. 

Further south incredible Altiplano Lagoons lie at the feet of the massive volcanos. The two lagoons Miscanti y Miñiques used to be one until the petrified lava split them in two. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, a hat, and lip balm, as there’s no way to hide and the average temperature moves around 40 °C (104 °F). 

  • Distance:  232 km (144 mi) out and back 
  • Locations: Laguna Chaxa Park, Ojos de Salar, Miscanti and Miñiques lagoons 
  • Accommodation: same as day 4 

Day 7: The Death/Mars Valley and The Devil’s Throat 

Valle da la Muerte, Mars Valley, San Pedro

The last day in San Pedro will belong to death! Nah… let’s leave the Death Valley to California. In San Pedro, it’s called Mars Valley (Valle de Marte), the Death Valley is just the outcome of the silly linguistic distortion. 

Is there a life on Mars, David Bowie asked. Well, in San Pedro Mars Valley, there is! It lies on the edge of the town with its majestic dunes and rugged landscape and it’s one of the most popular tourists’ destinations in the Atacama. Moreover, there’s an ancient rock fortress towering over the valley and a Devil’s Throat viewpoint just a stone’s throw away.  

It’s all within 7 km (4.3 mi) from San Pedro, so it’s easily accessible by car, bike, or even by foot (not recommended due to the unbearable heat).  

Read more: The practical information about entrance fees and facts, as well as more photos, are covered in the extra article about Top Places in San Pedro de Atacama

  • Distance:  14 km (8.6 mi) out to Devil’s Throat and back, count with some extra distance walking around 
  • Locations: Valle de la Muerte, Pukará de Quitor, Devil’s throat 
  • Accommodation: same as day 4 

Day 8: Calama – Puerto Montt – Puerto Varas 

Puerto Varas, Southern Chile, Lake District

But back to the track, we stayed for 3 nights in Puerto Varas, and honestly, I think that’s not enough to enjoy all the region has to offer. However, you would need at least a month to explore Chile properly. Upon arrival, I think the best thing is to get settled in your hotel and head out to one of the many great restaurants for Pil Pil—a delicious Chilean meal. Take some time to relax and refill the batteries

  • Distance: thousands of miles and then around 20 km (12.5 mi) from airport to Puerto Varas  
  • Locations: Calama, Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas 
  • Accommodation: Hotel Cumbres | Solace Hotel 

Day 9: Vicente Perez Rosales and Petrohué Waterfalls 

etrouhé Waterfalls, Patagonia, hike 

Petrohué Waterfalls stand on the way to Vicente Perez Rosales National Park about an hour’s drive from Puerto Varas. We planned this as a whole day trip, so we had enough time for a hike. The crystal-clear waterfalls running down the pitch-black volcanic rock are literally amazing.  

The waterfalls are at the very beginning of the park, continue further and try one of the hikes around the lake, with a view of Osorno Volcano. Just don’t plan this for January, or you’ll get eaten alive by the blood-sucking Chilean horse flies.  

For detailed information about the hikes, maps, and other useful tips, check the Lakes District Top 10 article. 

  • Distance: 55 km (34 mi) to the park + hikes 
  • Locations: Vicente Perez Rosales NP, Petrohué Waterfalls 
  • Accommodation: same as day 8 

Day 10: Puerto Varas – Pucón  

Pucón, Villarrica, Hotels

Pucón is a super cute city on the shores of Lake Villarrica with cozy cafés, good restaurants, and nice beaches. The plan for the rest of the day is clear: fill your belly, book a tour to Villarrica volcano, take a stroll on the beach, and call it a night, you will need all the strength you can muster for tomorrow. 

Our Tips for 3 Weeks in Chile:  
🥾 Pack for all seasons, from north to south side of Chile, there’s every possible weather situation you can think of.  
🚗 Always rent a car for transport if you want to make the most of it. Otherwise, it’s too complicated to get anywhere. 
💰 Carry some change in your pocket, it might be a problem to find the ATM somewhere in the wilderness. And stack up on cash for the Easter Islands. The exchange rate there is much higher than on the mainland.  
🍲 Gourmet tip: Be sure to try the Pil Pil, it’s delicious. 

Day 11: Villarrica Climb and Spa 

Villarrica Climb, Ascent, Patagonia Trek, Volcano

Now, I understand, this is not for everyone. It’s really challenging, so you don’t feel like it, just don’t go there. There are plenty of other options to fill out your day with. Try out the hot spring baths of Termas Geometricas for instance (excellent, especially after the hike).  

  • Distance: 20 km (12.5 mi) in a bus + around 1 500 m (4 921 ft) ascent 
  • Locations: Pucón, Villarrica Volcano 
  • Accommodation: same as day 10 

Day 12: Huerquehue National Park 

Huerquehue NP, Patagonia, Chile Travel itinerary

ANext to Villarica NP, there’s another extremely beautiful National Park Huerguehue. It’s situated 35 km (22 mi) northeast of Pucón and offers plenty of amazing hiking routes. It’s one of the oldest NP in Chile, dating back to 1912. We gave it a whole day to explore and to visit the Tres Saltos Waterfalls on our way back.  Check my article on the 8 Highlights of Patagonia for more info about the hikes and possibilities. 

  • Distance: 35 km (22 mi) by car + whatever hike you choose
  • Locations: Pucón, Huerquehue NP 
  • Accommodation: same as day 10 

Day 13: Back to Puerto Montt and off to Punta Arenas (Magellan Strait) 

Punta Arenas, Patagonia, Chile
The end of the world in Punta Arenas

First, you need to get back to Puerto Montt to return the car and hop on a plane. That will take you around 4 hours. Counting in the 2 hours flight and some time reserved for all the necessities, you can be in Punta Arenas early in the afternoon.  

What we liked in Punta Arenas? Here is the list:  

Punta Arenas is as south as you’ll get on your way. Located on the Magellan Strait, it’s Chile’s southernmost city. Take the afternoon to explore the town. I promise you’ll feel like you are in the Antarctica drawing-room, with gusts as strong as 100 km (62 mi) per hour it’s tough weather out there. There’s nothing much to explore, it’s more about the atmosphere, so 4 or 5 hours are more than enough

Day 14: Puerto Natales and Cuevas del Milodon  

Puerto Natales, Chile Itinerary

The next stop on your way is Puerto Natales, the harbor town 250 km northwest of Punta Arenas and technically an entrance gate to Torres del Paine National Park. Hit highway number 9 and you’ll get to Puerto Natales in less than 3 hours. The park’s official websites issued a handy road map you can download to get your bearings around the area.  
The next stop on your way is Puerto Natales, the harbor town 250 km northwest of Punta Arenas and technically an entrance gate to Torres del Paine National Park. Hit highway number 9 and you’ll get to Puerto Natales in less than 3 hours. The park’s official websites issued a handy road map you can download to get your bearings around the area.  

Outside the city, around 20 minutes by car, lies Cueva del Milodon. The large cave used to be a refuge for many giant prehistoric animals. There’s a museum, several caves, and a rock formation called Silla del Diablo you can explore. Plan around 3 hours for the visit including the route there and back again (not that you would find a dragon in the cave). 

Cueva del Milodon, Patagonia, Chile

Then I would head back to the city for a good meal and a restful sleep before the upcoming trip to Torres del Paine. Honestly, there’s nothing to do in the town itself except filling your memory card with epic ocean landscape photos or trying Chilean cuisine. So, if you somehow manage to spare some time to kill, the waterfront is your place to go. 

  • Distance: 310 km (193 mi) 
  • Locations: Puerto Natales, Cueva del Milodon, Silla del Diablo 
  • Accommodation: Hotel Vendaval | AKA Patagonia 

Day 15: Condor & Cuernos Viewpoints  

Condor Lookout, Patagonia, Torres del Paine

And, finally, the crown jewel of Chilean Patagonia: Torres del Paine National Park. Earlier I wrote down an extensive article about the highlights, treks, tips and tricks, hotel, and more. Now, I’m going to focus on the logistics and schedule

It’s 80 km (50 mi) from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine. I prefer to stay in the town and travel back and forth to different destinations in the park. There are many accommodation options in Torres del Paine, I just think the service quality doesn’t match the high prices (but if you wish to live in the rough wilderness, check the tips in the article I mentioned above).  

Counting an hour and a half to Torres del Paine and the same amount of time back, let’s say, you have approximately 8 hours flat for hiking (I did count in the lunch break). Anyway, it’s the best activity to do in Torres del Paine.  

Drive to the Pehoé lake and try out the Condor Lookout, it’s an easy short hike, suitable for anyone. The route then continues along the lakeshore further north. You can pop in one of the hosterias on the way for lunch and continue to Cuernos Lookout, a truly spectacular hike that offers breathtaking views of Salto Grande waterfall for almost zero effort

Salto Grande Waterfall, Torres del Paine, Itinerary, Chile

  • Distance: 17.5 km (11 mi) of hiking + 212 km (132 mi) of driving 
  • Locations: Lake Pehoé, Condor Lookout, Salto Grande Waterfall, Cuernos del Paine lookout, Lake Nordenskjöld 
  • Accommodation: same as day 14 

Day: 16: Glacier Grey Kayaking  

Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine, Kayaking

Don’t forget to pack warm clothes and some snacks with you, as it’s a whole day trip. The expedition lasts about 2.5 hours, plus the ferry ride (1.5 hours there and back) and traveling between Torres del Paine and Puerto Natales. However, it’s an absolute must. I would say, you weren’t to Torres del Paine if you haven’t seen the Glacier Grey.  

  • Distance: — 
  • Locations: Lake Grey, Glacier Grey 
  • Accommodation: same as day 14 

Day 17: Las Torres Trek 

Las Torres, Torres del Paine hiking, Patagonia, Chile

The last day in Torres del Paine! Well, the Las Torres Trek is mandatory…after all, the three “Towers of Paine” peaks are the most iconic landmarks of Torres del Paine and the whole national park carries its name.  

It starts in front of Hotel Las Torres, which is less than 2 hours’ drive from Puerto Natales. The hike to Las Torres is quite challenging though, so plan from 7 to 8 hours for the hike to enjoy the views. As you can see from my face above, it’s tough but wonderful. I think the photo can’t do it justice. 

  • Distance: 17.5 km (10.8 mi) of hiking + 244 km (156 mi) of driving 
  • Locations: Lago Torres, Torres del Paine 
  • Accommodation: same as day 14 

Day 18: Flight to Santiago and Off to Easter Islands 

Traveling, Flight, Sunset, Chile itinerary

Yes, I’m sorry to inform you, this is another transport day. Many people think that they will do Easter Island as a one-day trip from Santiago. Sure, if you want to spend 10 hours on a plane and 2 on the actual island, as it lies exactly 3 746 km (2 327 mi) west of Chile.  

One step at the time, first get back to Punta Arenas, return the car and hop on the plane to Santiago. As there are only two or three flights a day to Easter Island even in the high season, be sure to plan the flight from Punta Arenas accordingly. The flight from Santiago to Easter Island may also be delayed due to strong winds (quite usually), so save yourself a good book for this travel. 

Although the traveling is lengthy and exhausting in this case, Easter Island is one of the most mysterious places on the planet, so you can’t simply miss out on it. Don’t you think, it would be a shame to visit Chile and not go the extra mile (several thousands in this case) to see the Moai statues in real life? 😉  

Tip: LATAM is the only airline operating between Easter Island and Chile. Look up the flights directly from their official website in the Chilean version. It’s known that the website charges significantly more in the US version, even in the low season. 

  • Distance: few thousand kilometers by plane 
  • Locations: Punta Arenas, Santiago de Chile, Easter Island 
  • Accommodation: Hotel Hare Uta | Nayara Hangaora 

Day 19: Easter Island’s Maoi 

Rapa Nui, Maoi statues, Easter Island

Let the Easter Island adventure begin! The one thing you’ve been craving to see is Moai statues, right? Well, they’re all over the island. The most famous ones are to be found in the Rano Raraku quarry which is part of the Rapa Nui National Park.  

Easter Island is pretty small, so don’t worry that you’ll have just two days to spend there. From the capital Hanga Roa, which is basically the only proper city on the island, it’s just 13 km (8 mi) to this place. So, this is the only place I won’t tell you to rent a car at. You can rent a bike though, or scooter in case you’re really worn off at this point. 

My advice, get up early to catch the sunrise at Rano Raku and immerse in the proper magical atmosphere of this place. There’s one road leading along the entire east coast with the statues scattered around.  

There are tour guides that will passionately talk to you about the Rapa Nui culture in English, but I recommend reading up on it in advance and going on your own, not only you will be free to move at your own pace around the island, but you’ll also avoid the crowds and enjoy the sunrise on your own. Moreover, you’ll have the chance to take the best shots of the landscape with only the freely grazing horses to pose for the pictures. 

There’s a map of the suggested route with the main points of interest

  • Distance: 42 km (26 mi) 
  • Locations: Rano Raraku, Papa Vaka Petroglyphes, Hanga Roa 
  • Accommodation: same as day 18 

Day 20: Mysterious Orongo Village and Ahu Tahai 

Maioi statues, Ahu Tahai, Orongo Village

On the second day, I suggest heading out to Orongo stone village, where you can still see the remnants of the previous inhabitant’s architecture. On top of that, the little hill Rano Kau is a dormant volcano with a freshwater lake in the crater and a stunning view. 

For the rest of the day, you can visit the Rapa Nui Museum in Hanga Roa, kick back on the beach, see one of the cultural dancing shows, have something to eat, and watch the sunset at the magical Ahu Tahai monument right on the edge of the city. 

  • Distance: 15 km (9.3 mi), counting the trip to Orongo and back with a stroll around the city 
  • Locations: Orongo village, Rano Kau viewpoint, Ahu Tahai, Hanga Roa 
  • Accommodation: same as day 18 

Day 21: Back to Santiago, back to home  

Chile Itinerary, Patagonia, travel guide
No, I was not that happy about leaving… I was just that happy about the business class service 

And here we are, the sudden end of our glorious adventure. As I said earlier, the more time you have for Chile, the better. This three-week itinerary covers the must-see places in Chile, but there’s always more. Chile is a large country and there’s something amazing at every corner. 

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6 Responses

    1. Hi Laura, We spent close to USD 10,000 over almost 3 weeks, but we weren’t being exactly stingy. You could surely spend less (but also more). I think it’s important to realize that Chile is the most expensive country in South America, on par with Western Europe and just a little bit cheaper than the US. Happy travels!

  1. Hey Jan, sounds like a lovely time you had! Was safety an issue at any point during your trip?

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