Chile is one of the longest countries in the world and it might as well be the narrowest. Why am I telling you? Because that means ideal conditions for a road trip! Chile really grew on me, but at the same time, I can objectively say: it’s amazing and full of twists. Here’s a 2-week itinerary for the best of Chile, from my own experience.
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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?
- 2 weeks are not nearly enough to experience the best of Chile.
- 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.
Now that this is clear, I tried my best to sum up all the must-see places into 2 weeks in Chile. This is my Chile Itinerary for 2 weeks, day by day.
Day 1: Santiago de Chile
The Chilean capital Santiago de Chile is most likely the first stop on your Chile vacation. Honestly? It’s a good base for your day-trips adventures, but nothing special to see there. The sightseeing tour is for 3-4 hours top, if you have time, you can also hike in Cajón del Maipo, which is literally outside the city.
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.
Read more: To give you an idea of how to spend your time in Santiago, check out the 10 Places to Visit in Santiago de Chile, or Not.
- Distance: 9 km (5.6 mi)
- Locations: Plaza de Armas, Bellavista district, Cerro San Cristóbal
- Accommodation: Hotel Magnolia |Boutique Hotel Castillo Rojo
Day 2: Valparaíso and Isla Negra
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 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?
- Distance: 307 km (191 mi)
- Locations: Santiago, Valparaíso, Isla Negra
- Accommodation: stay in Santiago
Day 3: San Pedro de Atacama
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 if you plan on spending only two weeks in Chile, you’ll need to settle with the demo version: Valle de la Luna, Valle de la Muerte, and the Devil’s Throat viewpoint. It’s all close by, so you can explore the Valle la Muerte and the surrounding in the afternoon and save the Moon Valley for the evening. It’s most famous for its splendid sunset landscape anyway.
- 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, Valle de la Muerte, Devil’s throat
- Accommodation: Hotel Pascual Andino | Hotel Desértica
Day 4: El Tatio Geyser Field
Get up very early in the morning to make the best out of the El Tatio Geysers—the top highlight around San Pedro. 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 a hot steam (they are not visible in the afternoon) which also means, you’ll get to see the desert waking up. And that’s a 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.
Read more: The practical information, as well as more photos, are covered in the extra article about Top Places in San Pedro de Atacama.
- Distance: 158 km (98 mi) out and back
- Locations: El Tatio Geysers (Vado Río Putana, Termas de Puritama)
- Accommodation: same as day 3
Day 5: Calama – Puerto Montt – Puerto Varas
Chilean Lakes District awaits you! Time to hop on the plane and move across half of Chile. Too bad the transport takes almost the whole day, but it’s worth it, believe me. Flight from Calama to Puerto Montt takes 4 or 5 hours (depending on the flight). There, I suggest to rent a car and drive to Puerto Varas, the ultimate base for Lakes District, which takes less than 30 minutes. All in all, prepare yourself for some 5-6 hours of traveling. Exhausting, I know. We should invest more in teleportation research.
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, if you decided to spend only 2 weeks in Chile, you got to cut back. The best thing upon arrival, I think, 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 6: Vicente Perez Rosales and Petrohué Waterfalls
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 can explore the park properly. 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 5
Day 7: Puerto Varas – Pucón
Now it’s time to move further north. The road to Pucón takes around 3.5 hours. A car with cruise control is essential, otherwise, it’s even more exhausting.
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.
- Distance: 321 km (200 mi)
- Locations: Puerto Varas, motorway, Pucón
- Accommodation: Maki Hotel | Hotel Antumalal
Day 8: Villarrica Climb and Spa
Climbing Villarrica is one of the most badass things I’ve done in my life. Although I thought I would stumble, slip, and kill myself there at least three times during the ascent, I would do it again, happily. It was filled with adrenalin, beautiful, rewarding, and in the end also fun. I wrote down everything about this thrilling experience in All You Need to Know About Climbing Villarrica in 4 Steps.
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. Kayaking on Lake Villarrica for starters, try out the hot spring baths of Termas Geometricas (excellent, especially after the hike) or hike in the oldest Chilean National Park Huerquehue.
- Distance: 20 km (12.5 mi) in a bus + around 1 500 m (4 921 ft) ascent
- Locations: Pucón, Villarrica Volcano, (Huerquehue NP)
- Accommodation: same as day 7
Our Tips for 2 Weeks in Chile: 🥾 Pack for all seasons, from north to south side of Chile, there’s every possible weather situation you can think of. 🚣 Book your kayak tour to Glacier Gray: Big Foot Patagonia Adventure 🚗 Always rent a car for transport if you want to make the most of it. Otherwise, it’s too complicated to get anywhere.
Day 9: Back to Puerto Montt and off to Punta Arenas (Magellan Strait)
First, you need to get back in 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 reserve for all the necessities, you can be in Punta Arenas early in the afternoon.
What we really 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 a 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.
- Distance: few thousand kilometers by plane
- Locations: Punta Arenas, Magellan Strait
- Accommodation: Patagonia Apart Hotel – Suite | Apart Hotel Endurance
Day 10: Transport to Puerto Natales and Cuevas del Milodon
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 the motorway 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).
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 11: Condor & Cuernos Viewpoints
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.
- 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 10
Day: 12: Glacier Grey Kayaking
Absolutely the best thing to do in Torres del Paine! You need to book the tour in advance, as you have to plan out the time of the tour together with the ferry journey. The practical info about times, prices, and the exciting experience itself are to be found in the Torres del Paine Highlights article.
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 10
Day 13: Las Torres Trek
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 10
Day 14: Back to Santiago, back to home
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 two-week itinerary is like a crash course to what is an absolute must in Chile, but there’s actually much more.
Anyhow, there are some flights directly from Puerto Natales, or you can fly from Punta Arenas. I recommend Latam Airlines (as always) because Sky is a nuisance to travel with.
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