When I think of Chile, the first thing that comes to my mind is, Patagonia – that far away land with fierce Andean peaks and gusty winds that can swipe you off your feet. But Chile is so much more than that. Chile is about barren deserts and moon-like landscapes; it is about colorful cities, beaches, and fjords; it’s about the best wines in the world or, it can even be a Polynesian island with mysterious archeology. So how do you squeeze all that crazy diversity in 10 days? You simply cannot do it all. You have to choose. Wisely. So after long debates, we came up with the following 10-day itinerary for Chile.
Day 1: Valparaiso
We arrived in Santiago around 11 pm. Uber works very well there, so it was easy to get to the city. Another option is to rent a car directly at the arrivals hall and drive yourself to the city. Be aware that in the busy season (November – March) is quite difficult to find rental cars, so I advise you to book online. Since we didn’t book ahead, we only found available cars at Alamo. It is one of the cheapest rental companies, so obviously the cars are not the best.
The first day of our trip was dedicated to Valparaiso – a coastal town full of art, which is around 1,5 h drive from Santiago. An interesting detail about this city is the elevators or ascensores that can take you quickly up and down to the main viewpoints. The ascensores in fact, funiculars, are quite old, to be honest, but it is an original way of exploring the city.
Otherwise, you can simply get lost in the bohemian streets that will let your creative mind wondering about the meaning behind the multicolored graffiti. The highest concentration of art is in Cerro Alegre and Cerro Conception, where you can find as well a plethora of restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops.
Our favorite café in Valparaiso was Café Brighton, close to Paseo Atkinson. It is a great place for a sundowner, from where you have a nice lookout over the city. I highly recommend it!
Whilst the art is really beautiful in this city, I have to mention one downside – in some places, especially the narrow streets and stairs of the paseos, you will feel a strong smell of pee, which can let’s say, diminish your experience.
Valparaiso has a rich history and beauty but I felt that is not really taken good care of, so it is up to you if you want to add this on your travel itinerary.
Day 2: Renaca Beach and BodegaRE winery
Next on our 10 Day itinerary Chile trip was Vina del Mar – a seaside city just next to Valparaiso, with gorgeous beaches. The most famous beach is, Renaca. The ocean is quite aggressive here and not inviting at all for swimming, but you can stroll along the water and play with the mammoth waves or, simply chill in one of the cafes.
Further up Vina del Mar is the city of Concon where you can visit the Concon dunes. I live in a sandpit, and I have seen plenty of dunes before, but I have never seen one giant dune in the city itself, just next to the ocean. This is what made Concon dunes unique, at least for me. It is very windy there, so leave that dress for the beach time.
We finished the day with a visit to a winery – a must in Chile! We chose BodegaRe mostly for its convenient location on our way back to Santiago. I wouldn’t say that it’s the best winery in terms of size or décor, but there are some interesting facts about it. The first thing is how they store the grapes in special handmade clay pots. The second is, the quirky combination of grapes creating conceptual wines like Chardonnoir (combining Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), which weirdly enough is a white wine or, Syranoir (combining Syrah and Pinot Noir).
There are different wine tasting packages you can choose from. We took the one with 5 wines and left the winery very happy!
Day 3-4: Easter Island
Only by hearing the name of this island, you are instantly intrigued. Why and who named it like that? Where is it? What is there?
Apart from its name, what appealed to me, was its remoteness and, of course, the uncracked mysteries behind the famous Moai statues. I wrote a whole post about this beautiful island. Check it out if you want to know how to get cheap flights there and what are the best things to do.
Unfortunately, we only had two compressed days on this magnificent island, but it was just enough to visit everything. I would have added one or two more days to take it easier, but hot on the heels of Easter Island was coming – Patagonia. No time to waste!
Day 5: Flying out and flying in
To reach Patagonia, you will need to sacrifice another day or two from your trip, depending on where are you flying from. The flight from Easter Island to Santiago took us approximately 4,5 h and another 3 h flight to Punta Arenas. From here you will need to take a 3 h bus to Puerto Natales. This is the closest point to Torres del Paine National Park, which is another 2 h drive from here. Arghh! I know, you feel like you are going down the rabbit hole, but trust me; it’s worth the efforts.
There is a simplified version of this itinerary by flying directly to Puerto Natales, but the flights are not daily there. So check if it coincides with your calendar. LATAM and Sky Airline operate these flights.
Day 6: Punta Arenas
As I mentioned earlier, it takes time to reach Patagonia, due to bus and flight schedules. As we arrived late in Punta Arenas, we couldn’t take a bus to Puerto Natales straight away. So we spend the night in Punta Arenas. We booked Hostal Patagonia and were very happy with the cleanliness and location. Also, it is very close to the bus station.
Many buses go to Puerto Natales, operated by Bus Sur and Bus Fernandez. We didn’t book the tickets in advance, but I suggest you do so in order not to waste time. You can book them via busbud.com. When we arrived at the counter, there were no tickets for the next bus, only after 2 hours, so we had to wait. We left the luggage in the locker and went to discover this almost “end of the world” southern city.
Punta Arenas is located on the north side of Strait Magellan. No wonder, on its waterfront, you will find the statue of the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan who made it until here. I couldn’t believe I was in a place that I’ve only heard of in my geography classes.
We strolled along the promenade, which by the way is very close to the bus station. As we walked, we found a quaint café – Imago Libro Arte, where we stopped for a delicious coffee break. The atmosphere there is super cool. Lots of solo travelers scribbling something in their dusty journals.
Around 12:45 PM we took the bus to Puerto Natales and reached there at 16:00. Puerto Natales is a charming little town, full of backpackers. There are plenty of hostels and boutique hotels you can choose from. We stayed in El Muelle Hotel and liked it a lot.
The rest of the day we spent it to organize our 2 days for Torres del Paine. First things first, rent a car. Which was sooo problematic. Almost no available cars left in town. So again, try to book in advance in high season, to avoid this sort of surprises. We almost lost hope and promised that next time we will prepare more thorough for our trip. Right. I guess we will forever be incurable disorganized travelers because we found a car at Avis. By pure luck.
We finished the day with a nice dinner at a local restaurant – El Bote. After two Calafate sour – a must-try drink once in Patagonia, similar to Pisco sour but made of Calafate berries – we were all set for sleep and for the next big day.
Day 7: Mirador Torres del Paine hike
There is an official flag of Chile and there is the unofficial one, represented by the archetypal three peaks bathing their triumphant image in the turquoise waters of the lagoon.
Mirador Torres del Paine is the Mecca of the Chilean Patagonia, but you have to earn it. Good things don’t come easily in life, right? The only way to reach Mirador Torres del Paine is by hiking, be it one day-hike, or as part of W (4-5 days) or O (7-9 days) treks. The treks grant their name to the shape of the trail that reminds letters W and O.
Due to time constraints, I did only the one-day hike, which was one of the highlights of my trip. I have narrated this particular hike in a separate post, where I describe in detail what to expect from the hike, the level of difficulty and how to get there.
Day 8: Explore Torres del Paine by car
Next day, my feet were out of service after the hike, so we decided to explore Torres del Paine National Park by car.
There is only one road that you can drive inside the park, with an abundance of blue lagoons with rugged mountains along. The sightseeing spots are well marked with signs, that repetitively state the word “Mirador”, which translates as “viewpoint”.
We stopped at so many miradors, but the one that broke our hearts with its dazzling beauty was – Mirador Cuernos. And it wasn’t only the view of the mountains that beguiled us, but the walking path itself towards them.
The hiking trail towards Mirador Cuernos starts at Salto Grande waterfall and is a leisurely 1 h walk through a grassy field scattered with white trees humbled by the Patagonian winds. It was super quiet. I think the silence was reaching 100 Decibels in my ears and at that point, I felt like I was in a whimsical kingdom.
Another highlight of the day was Lago Grey. You can go to the Hotel Lago Grey, from where you can take a boat tour on the lake to see Glacier Grey, or you can do a hike and admire it from afar.
As we arrived late we didn’t catch the boat, so we just walked on the black sand beach. You can stay here or continue walking around the little island for a better view of the glacier.
To go back to Puerto Natales, we took another road Y-290 with new scenery, so that was very enjoyable.
We finished the day AND the whole trip with a delicious dinner at El Asadero Patagonico restaurant. If you appreciate a good steak, that is the place to be.
Day 9-10: Flying back home
Long way to fly back to Dubai…
I must add that 2 days are not enough for Patagonia. There was still the French Valley hike I didn’t do, the Perito Moreno Glacier and Fitz Roy on the Argentinian side I didn’t see, but my vacation was too short to encompass everything.
I left something for when I come back… And I will come back to explore more of uncharted Patagonia!
What I liked most?
The sunrise at Tongariki on Easter Island was a memorable experience, as well as seeing the iconic granite towers of Torres del Paine. Snapped!