Chile Ultimate Adventure ? Atacama to Patagonia

Trip Length 12 Days
Group Size 14
Difficulty
Starting from
$7,999 for REI Members
$8,499 for non-members
Departures Mar 2020-Dec 2020

From wine valleys to the Lake District, and from the arid Atacama to picturesque Patagonia, spend 12 days hiking, biking, rafting and adventuring through the varied landscapes of Chile.

Chile is a land of contrasts, embraced by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Andes mountains on the other. Stretching more than 3,000 miles from north to south, this narrow and diverse country allows visitors to experience a world of landscapes and cultures on one itinerary. Our trip begins in the metropolitan city of Santiago, then we head west to the famous Casablanca Wine Valley, north to the Atacama Desert, and south to the Lake District and Patagonia.

Every day is filled with a new adventure, activity and experience. In the Casablanca Valley we?ll cycle through vineyards, sample world class wine, and meet the masterminds behind the process. Our expansive three days in the Atacama will take us to flamingo-filled lagoons, hot springs nestled in the mountains, and through the mysteries of the night sky in one of the best places for celestial viewing in the world. As we journey from desert to water, the Lake District introduces rivers, lakes, emerald green forest, and snow-capped volcanoes. We raft and hike our way through this region, taking time to experience life in the mountain town of Puerto Varas along the way.

The culmination of our trip comes in the far south, at the tip of Chile and the end of the world?incomparable Patagonia. We explore the iconic trails of Torres del Paine National Park by day and enjoy the comforts of a lodge by night. We kayak among icebergs and paddle beneath stone spires reaching into the sky above. This trip is the ultimate adventure in a country that?s absolutely brimming with natural beauty.

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Trip Highlights

  • Cycle the Casablanca Wine Valley and sample Chile?s world-famous wines
  • Hike, bike and stargaze in the lunar landscapes of the Atacama Desert
  • Raft and hike rivers, lakes and volcanoes in the dramatic Lake District
  • Hike and kayak Patagonia?s world-renowned Torres del Paine National Park

Activities

This adventure is rated Moderate [3]. Trip members should be in good physical condition, capable of hiking up to 8 hours with distances ranging from 10-12 miles and 2,500-3,200' elevation gain. It is not necessary to be proficient in kayaking or cycling although it is beneficial to have some previous experience. You should be at ease in a small boat and know how to swim.

The trails are well maintained but can have steep ascents/descents with rocky, uneven terrain, scree and loose dirt. Some hikes will involve short sections of trail that are exposed.

  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain Biking
  • Rafting

What's Included

Accommodations in hotels as noted on itinerary (based on double occupancy); internal flights (listed as a separate mandatory fee), gratuities to support staff and drivers; meals as noted on the daily itinerary; English-speaking local guides; one group airport transfer on first and last days of trip; all activities as noted including entrance fees.

Accommodations

Hotels, 11 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. Walking city tour.

Our trip begins in Santiago, Chile?s vibrant capital city, full of character, a thriving arts culture, a buzzy restaurant scene, and plentiful green space. Embraced by the snow-capped Andes mountains, on a clear day Santiago boasts one of the most incredible city scenes in the world. After a quick trip briefing, we head out into the city on a walking tour with our local guide. Old-world colonial mansions and eclectic neighborhoods transition seamlessly to the skyscrapers of ?Sanhattan??a captivating fusion of tradition and modernity. We explore historic and cultural sites, including Barrios Lastarria and Paris y Londres, La Moneda (Presidential Palace), Plaza de Armas and Mercado Central?Chile?s largest fresh air market. Our tour ends at Cerro Santa Lucia, which boasts spectacular views of the city and its surroundings. Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner at a rooftop restaurant. Dinner included.

Walking: 3 hours

Day 2

Bike the famed vineyards of Casablanca Valley

A quick drive out of the city brings us to the world-famous Casablanca Valley. The valley?s cool coastal breeze makes the climate ideal for cycling, and also for growing Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, and Pinot Noir. We begin our biking adventure at the winery Emiliana, a true leader in the concepts of biodynamic and organic agriculture. After the tour, we hop on our bikes and pedal through rolling vineyards to La Recova, a boutique winery featuring award-winning wines and spectacular vistas. After a winery tour and tasting we sit down for a picnic lunch before heading back towards Santiago. This evening is free for you to explore Santiago and its many restaurants and cafes. Dinner on your own.

Biking: 20 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +350' / -350'

Day 3

Arrive in the Atacama Desert. Catch the sunset from a giant sand dune.

Today we fly north to the Atacama Desert. The Atacama Desert is an arid, high-altitude zone of stunning lunar landscapes?one of the most surreal places in the world. Expansive salt flats dotted with flamingos, dramatic gorges carved by the weather, and the looming presence of the Licancabur Volcano bring new meaning to the phrase ?natural wonder.? After settling in at the hotel, we head out to hike in Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley). From atop massive sand dunes we watch our first Atacaman sunset. Return to the hotel for dinner. All meals included.

Hiking: 3 miles

Day 4

Hike to hot springs and bike through the salt flats

We start our day with a hike through some of the Atacama?s most distinct terrain. A winding path leads us through a narrow gorge lined with giant cacti. We walk along a river, vital to the region, and see the stark contrast between the dry plateau and the river valley. At the end of our hike we emerge into a true oasis: a hot spring nestled in the mountains. We have time to soak and enjoy our lunch here. After relaxing at the hot springs awhile, we head back into valley and towards the Salar de Atacama, the largest salt flat in Chile. Once we?re fitted for our mountain bikes we?ll cycle across the flats. The salt flats are ringed by volcanoes and dotted with flamingo-filled lagoons, making for a truly unique cycling experience. Our final stop is a lagoon known for its high salt content, similar to the Dead Sea. We jump in and float a bit before heading further into the Salar to watch the sun go down over distant volcanoes. Return to the hotel. All meals included.

Hiking: 4 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,100? / -1,100?; Biking: 10 miles, Elevation gain/loss: Minimal

Day 5

Sunrise at the geysers. Hike among volcanoes by day and stargaze by night.

We rise bright and early for today?s adventure! The early morning is well worth the reward, as the world?s highest geothermal field is best seen in the morning light, when steam from the pools rises into the crisp morning air. Home to more than 80 active geysers, this is one of the world?s most extensive geothermal networks. As the sun rises, we?ll pause for breakfast and enjoy the warmth of the rising sun. Then we head to a nearby volcano known as Soquete. We walk around the volcano, catching unique vistas of the salar and the geysers while learning about the unique flora and fauna of this region from our guide. We?ll have a picnic lunch en route. Upon returning to town, we have the afternoon free to explore the San Pedro de Atacama. This quaint village is easy to walk around and has a number of restaurants and shops to visit. This evening, after dinner, we have a very special stargazing session with a local astronomer. The region?s altitude, minimal light pollution, and arid atmosphere make it one of the best places in the world for celestial viewing. All meals included.

Hiking: 3 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,500? / -1,500?; Starting elevation: 12,900?

Day 6

Arrive in the Lake District and raft the Petrohue

A short transfer to the airport in Calama brings us to our flight southward. We?ll pass through Santiago before arriving in the Lake District of Chile. Known for its emerald green hills, glittering waterways, lush jungles, and steaming volcanoes, it?s pretty much the antithesis of the Atacama. We settle into our hotel in Puerto Varas, an adventure hub famous for its volcano views, lakeside location, and unique architecture. This afternoon you can choose to relax in town or join an exciting whitewater adventure down the Class III rapids of the Petrohue River! Once we?re all back at the hotel, we have dinner. All meals included.

Rafting: 2 hours, Class III

Day 7

Hike Osorno Volcano and explore the town of Puerto Varas

The Osorno Volcano is a constant presence in the town of Puerta Varas. Snow-capped year-round, it towers above the lake and stands guard above the town. Our hike today takes us to the flanks of the volcano. Starting on one side of Osorno, we walk along the base, through volcanic sands and forest, to arrive on the other side. Along the way we get close-up views of the glaciers on top, as well as stunning views of the surrounding lakes and countryside. Lunch will be en route. After our hike we stop to visit the impressive Petrohue Waterfalls before heading back into town where we have a free evening. Dinner is on your own tonight, choose from many excellent restaurants in Puerto Varas.

Hiking: 7.5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,500' / -1,500'

Day 8

Fly to Patagonia and get our first views of Torres del Paine

Today we start the final leg south, to the end of the world and Torres del Paine, Patagonia. Upon arrival in Punta Arenas, we drive five hours to the world-famous Torres del Paine National Park. On the way, we stop in the small but lively town of Puerto Natales for lunch and a chance to stretch our legs. This is the last town before entering the park. We continue on our scenic drive and arrive in time to check into our hotel before dinner. Our guide will go over tomorrow?s itinerary and help prepare everyone for the day, covering topics such as what to wear and what to bring in your daypack. Afterward, we feast on the first of many meals with ingredients from the property?s own farm. All meals included.

Driving: 5 hours

Day 9

Hike to the Towers

Today we have the demanding, but highly rewarding hike towards the Paine Towers ahead of us. We follow a trail that leads across the Ascencio River, then climbs steeply uphill, parallel to the river's right bank. As we gain altitude, we have excellent vistas of the Paine River, winding its way through the surrounding countryside below. We cross a boulder moraine to reach the high cirque, where we find the basecamp from which expert climbers from around the world attempt to scale the Towers' walls. Before us lies an awe-inspiring landscape: the near-vertical granite Towers, rocky moraines, and hanging glaciers?all surrounding a lovely, vibrantly turquoise tarn. After a picnic lunch beneath the Towers we head back the way we came and return to the lodge. All meals included.

Hiking: 12 miles (8?9 hours), Elevation gain/loss: +4,000' / -4,000'

Day 10

Hike French Valley

We continue our time in Patagonia with another iconic hike along one of the legs of the W trek?the French Valley. Rising early, we drive through the park to the boat dock on Peho� Lake, where we board a catamaran for the 30-minute ride to its far side. From the arrival dock, our hike begins in the rolling foothills at the base of Paine Grande peak. We cross the French River on a foot bridge and follow a steep trail along the narrow gorge. Our route takes us through lenga forests on the southeastern slopes of Cerro Paine Grande and crosses a few small creeks. As we gain altitude, we scramble through rocky sections of the mountain's boulder moraines to a breathtaking lookout point. On a clear day, we have fantastic views of the high peaks that surround us from this extraordinarily beautiful cirque. All meals included.

Hiking: 10 miles (6?7 hours), Elevation gain/loss: + 1,550? / -1,550?; Boat ride: 30 mins

Day 11

Hike and kayak Grey Lake

Our final day in Patagonia features an exciting day of kayaking at Grey Lake. This morning we make our way to Grey Lake, in the western part of the park. After crossing a suspension bridge over the Pingo River, we continue through a forest until we reach the lakeshore where we can see Grey Glacier and the icebergs that calve off it. We walk back along the shore of the lake where we gear up for a three-hour paddle. Heading downstream on the Grey River, we paddle until we reach its confluence with the Serrano. A picnic lunch is served en route. In the afternoon, we head back to the lodge, where hot showers and dinner await. All meals included.

Hiking: 3 miles (2 hours), Elevation gain/loss: +450? / -450?; Kayaking: 3 hours

Day 12

Departure

We bid a fond farewell to Patagonia and start the 5-hour scenic drive back to Punta Arenas.

Driving: 5 hours

Gear List

This gear list has been created to help you choose the best equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff. The weather and other conditions at the time of your arrival will dictate what clothing and equipment you will be required to use each day and what (if anything) can be left behind. It may be a necessary precaution that you bring certain items on the list, even if it is uncertain whether or not they will be needed.

What to pack

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Travel documents

  • Airline Tickets (Confirmation and Itinerary)
  • Final Bulletin (emailed prior to departure date)
  • Passport

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.