You will be met at the airport by a member of our staff in Santiago and transferred to your central hotel. On your city tour this afternoon (or on the last day of the trip, depending on arrival times), you can appreciate the history, culture, and architecture of this cosmopolitan city. Visit the church of San Francisco, pass by the palace of Cousino Macul, and visit the old, traditional neighborhoods. You’ll also pass La Moneda, the seat of the government, and the presidential palace before reaching the historical center of Santiago. The historical district includes the Plaza de Armas, the central post office, and the Museum of Natural History. Later you will reach Santa Lucía Hill, cross the Mapocho River, and pass through the bohemian quarter of Bellavista. Then you will ascend San Cristobal Hill, where you will have a beautiful view of Santiago with the Andes Mountains towering in the background. You will continue westward and drive through traditional Providencia to the modern areas of Santiago and its various commercial centers (Santa Maria de Maquehue, Vitacura, and Las Condes) until arriving at the base of the Andes. After this tour, you will return to your hotel, and the rest of the day is at your leisure.
Santiago is filled with marvelous sights, both old and new
Lodging: Hotel Bonaparte (or similar)
Day 2 Santiago/Punta Arenas, Horseback Riding - Saturday
Fly from Santiago to Punta Arenas, one of the world's southernmost cities, where you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel, conveniently located a very short stroll just a couple of blocks from the heart of downtown and its many shops and restaurants. In the afternoon, join a small group fo horseback riding at Agua Fresca Bay.
Strait of Magellan at dawn (used with permission, Wikinmedia Commons)
Meals: Breakfast Lodging: Hotel Rey Don Felipe (or similar)
Day 3 Punta Arenas, Kayaking - Sunday
Make your way back to Agua Fresca Bay this morning. This time you'll enjoy a kayaking trip on the beautiful blue waters. Then the afternoon is free for exploring in and around Punta Arenas, on your own. Head back to your hotel to rest up for traveling to Torres del Paine National Park and your trekking adventure.
Ferdinand Magellan monument, Punta Arenas
Meals: Breakfast Lodging: Hotel Rey Don Felipe (or similar)
Day 4 Punta Arenas / Torres del Paine - Monday
After an early breakfast, set out on a five-hour drive (~216 miles) to the famous Torres del Paine National Park. Along the way, you will stop in Puerto Natales to see the town and enjoy lunch. You may leave any unnecessary luggage in our local office before you take the short walk to see the enormous Cueva del Milodon, a giant geological wonder that once sheltered the remains of a prehistoric sloth. In the southern hemisphere’s summer, the sun sets around 11:00 pm, giving you plenty of light to admire the landscape and the craggy mountains as you enter Torres del Paine National Park. You will be treated to a wonderful dinner upon arrival, then you'll spend the night at EcoCamp Patagonia.
EcoCamp Patagonia is a type of luxury camp similar in concept to the famous African lodges. It is an environmentally friendly camp, especially important in a national park with the characteristics of Torres del Paine. It was designed with comfort in mind, yet stresses the importance of interfering as little as possible with the natural surroundings. You will sleep in big, comfortable two-meter-high domed tents that have wooden floors and are resistant to the strongest winds, rain, and even Patagonian snow. They are each equipped with 2-3 single beds, sheets, blankets, and down comforters. The EcoCamp has a large dome communal tent equipped with a living area, a dining room, and a fully equipped kitchen run by a chef. The EcoCamp also includes a bathroom module/cabin with composting toilets, showers, and solar-heated hot water. (*Single travelers will share accommodations with passengers of the same gender)
Your first views of the mountains are sure to amaze (photo: Bo Stern)
Today's 5- to 6-hour hike starts at the EcoCamp and ends at Refugio Los Cuernos. The trail passes under the Cuernos del Paine peaks, which are crowned by the two beautiful black slate "horns" for which the trail is named. (Please note: Your clothes and personal belongings needed for the next two nights are transported separately in duffel bags by porters). Your overnight stay is at Refugio Los Cuernos.
Refugio Los Cuernos is a typical mountain hut. It is open to visitors of Torres del Paine. The Refugio has shared rooms for 4 to 6 people. The beds are single and bunk-style, and you will be provided with a sleeping bag and a polar fleece liner (although you may want to bring your own sleeping bag liner for comfort). The bathrooms are also shared, and they have hot water. The Refugio is heated and has a very comfortable dining area.
The famous silhouette of The Horns (photo: Bo Stern)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Lodging: Refugio Los Cuernos
Day 6 French Valley - Wednesday
Today the trekking will go over a distance of 5 miles (2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours) up to Campamento Italiano and will then continue to Mirador del Frances (2 miles, 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours roundtrip). Mirador del Frances is one of the most spectacular cirques in the Paine range. The trail from Camp Pehoe runs through an undulating terrain of mixed grassland and light forest until it meets River Frances and Camp Italiano. From here, follow the river upstream until you reach El Mirador, a lookout point facing Glacier Frances, which descends from Paine Grande (the highest summit in the Paine range). From this vantage point, enjoy a magnificent and broad view of the lakes below. There is an optional two-hour trek to Mirador Britanico. Your duffel bags will be carried by porters from Refugio Los Cuernos to Paine Grande Lodge.
Explore forest areas and river valleys (photo: Bo Stern)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Lodging: Paine Grande Lodge
Day 7 Pehoe-Grey Glacier - Thursday
Today you will hike about four hours from Paine Grande Lodge to the northern end of Lago Grey where you'll board the boat that will take you alongside the majestic Grey Glacier. We will have ample time to marvel at this mighty glacier before the boat crosses Lago Grey (40 minutes). If the weather conditions do not allow for navigation on Lake Grey, you will instead hike to the Grey Glacier (6-8 hours roundtrip) and then board a catamaran at Pudeto to cross Lake Pehoe. Later today, transfer from Lake Grey's southern end back to EcoCamp Patagonia (1-1/2 hours) for dinner and your overnight stay.
Get up close and personal with Grey Glacier (photo: Bo Stern)
The exact hiking itinerary for the next two days is weather-dependent and may be reversed. If you have a clear day, enjoy an all-day hike (6 miles, 8 hours roundtrip) to the foot of the impressive granite massif of El Paine, where the towers rise majestically before you and the glacial lake is visible below. It is truly some of the most beautiful scenery in the world! The famous Torres del Paine (9,400 feet) consist of three gigantic granite monoliths, all that remain of a great cirque that has been sheared away over time by the forces of glacial ice. If it is cloudy with no chances to view the Torres del Paine, hike to Laguna Azul instead. Return to EcoCamp Patagonia for your overnight stay.
View massive mountains above glacial lakes (photo: Bo Stern)
Today hike for about 40 minutes to the lookout point of Laguna Azul, where you have a beautiful view of Laguna Azul and the spectacular Torres del Paine. Then continue along the eastern side of Lago Sarmiento until you reach the calcium formations at its shores. Here, you will have a good chance to see guanacos and other wildlife. Later you will trek through the Paso Las Cornizas (three hours) with views of the Paine River, Lake Pehoe, and the massif of Paine. Depending on the group, you might also hike to the lookout point Toro (1 to 1-½ hours), which offers fantastic views of Lake Toro and the typical pampa (steppe) landscape. Once back at EcoCamp Patagonia enjoy a farewell dinner. Overnight at the EcoCamp.
Early this morning, you'll board the vehicle back to Punta Arenas and arrive at the airport with plenty of time to catch the evening flight back to Santiago. Here, you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Punta Arenas with the Straits of Magellan beyond (used with permission, Wikimedia Commons)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch Lodging: Hotel Bonaparte (or similar)
Day 11 Santiago / Onward - Monday
Transfer to the Santiago airport for your international flight.
JOURNEYS International has specialized in ecotourism since 1978. We offer you the best nature tours, safaris, treks, adventure travel, family and cultural trips on earth. Whether you call it an eco vacation, adventure travel, ecotravel, ecotour, sustainable travel or responsible travel, for nearly 30 years we have been creating ecologically sensitive and culturally responsible travel to exotic destinations around the world. Specialty ecotrips include women's tours, Kilimanjaro climbs, exploration cruises, festival trips, student group trips and cross cultural and wildlife safaris. Read more about JOURNEYS International.