Updated July 16th, 2018.
Chile provides extraordinary variety for travellers of all kinds, including geographic landscapes ranging from the high alpine arid deserts of the north to the rugged, mysterious beauties of Patagonia.
Chile offers a cultural boon, with a mix of the innovative modernities of Santiago and Valparaíso and traditional indigenous influences of especially the Aymara in the north and Mapuche in the south.
While not the most inexpensive place to visit in South America, prices are reasonable and provide basic comforts and a few luxuries. Enjoy the fresh seafood, high quality and low-cost wines, and phenomenal natural sights!
Santiago Start – Week One
Begin your trip flying or bussing into the cosmopolitan Chilean capital.
Take three to four days exploring the walkable city’s intriguing museums during the day (including the Pinochet-era Museum of Memories and Human Rights), and buzzing gastronomic and bar scene at night (especially the Providencia and Bellavista neighbourhoods).
Devote an afternoon to hiking San Cristobal Hill for amazing views of the city with the Andes as a backdrop. Take a day trip to the Concha y Toro vineyard, the largest and one of the most reputable in all of South America. Castillo Surfista is a great hostel to base out of.
Valparaíso Visit – Week One
From Santiago, hop on a two-hour bus up and over a mountain pass down through lush farmland to the funky port city of Valparaíso, once the UNESCO Cultural Capital of the world.
Spend two days exploring the incredibly photogenic city by foot, walking all amongst the multiple cerros, or hills (Concepción and Alegre being among the best).
Make sure not to miss the museum that was Pablo Neruda’s house, La Sebastiana, set at a stunning vantage point overlooking the city.
Be sure to save room for a chorrillana at Jotacruz, and explore the bar scene on Calle Ecuador. Hostal Volante is a good bet, tucked in a narrow alleyway stripped with street art.
For the athletically inclined, take a day trip to climb nearby Cerro La Campana, whose summit affords incredible views that span the entire width of Chile, from the Pacific Ocean to the high Andes.
Lively Lakes – Week Two
Bus down to Pucón, a small buzzing town on the edge of Lago Villarrica. Spend four days hiking on volcanoes, rafting in national parks, and swimming in hot springs.
Bus down to Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas for more of the same, and take a few days to explore the stunning Parque Nacional Vicente Rosales.
Patagonian Panoramas – Week Two to Three
From Puerto Montt fly to Punta Arenas and transfer by bus to the quaint town of Puerto Natales. Spend a day preparing for the backcountry experience of your life before heading to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine to tackle the world-renowned “W” loop.
Spend five days in the otherworldly beauty of the park, either camping or staying in mountain refugios situated along the way. Bring a camera and good rain gear for the unpredictable wildness of this amazing landscape.
Atacama Adventures – Week Three
Fly north to the regional hub of Calama and take a short bus ride to San Pedro de Atacama. Spend four to five days renting bikes, hiking around, and taking in the nearby sights, including geyser fields, salt flats, and high alpine lakes.
Coastal Chile – Week Four
Bus up to the port city of Iquique and the justifiably renowned Backpacker’s Hostel. Spend three days on the beach, surfing and paragliding to your heart’s content. Check out the eerie ghost town of Humberstone as a side trip.
The final stop on the northern swing is Arica, reached by bus and lying on the border with Chile.
Spend three days on the beach based at Hostel Sunny Days, a quiet spot run by a friendly Kiwi expat and his Chilean wife and including a phenomenal all you can eat breakfast.
Make sure to take a day or two exploring Parque Nacional Lauca, an amazing high-alpine collection of volcanoes and lakes up near the Bolivian border. The small town of Putre makes a nice stopover for lunch or for a night.
After your month concludes, head north to Peru or Bolivia via Arica or transfer out via Santiago. Enjoy your time in this crazy, skinny, beautiful country. ¡Vamos Chile!
This itinerary was written by Max Nathanson – Following graduation from the University of Colorado, Max made good use of his college degree in political science and history and moved to Chile to work on a farm run by a crazy second cousin.
What followed was an endless supply of adventures and empanadas that took him not only up and down the length of Chile but was impulsively extended to the rest of an amazing continent!
He is all about sports, the outdoors, food, good beer, exercise, travel, family, friends, photography, reading, and the occasional game of table tennis. Check out his personal blog The Active Holiday!