I'm off to Chile with my wife Feb 18th - Mar 4th. We're both 30 and like the outdoors, things out of the way and unique experiences. We normally rent a car when we go places because of this... We were thinking of the following for a 2 week trip:
- Go down to Patagonia area perhaps with a trip through Carretera Austral (4-5 days?)
- See the lake District (5-6 days?)
- Pop by Valparaiso area
- Maybe a quick tour through some wine areas near Santiago.
1) Knowing that we like the outdoors, have we chosen our trip wisely in Chile?
2) In the places we've listed, are there places that we HAVE to go or places we HAVE to stay (Pucon in lake district? Someplace in Patagonia that we must see etc.)
3) Any suggestions on travelling mode for the different places? We could drive or fly to patagonia and then bus/drive to lake district. I don't mind spending the money since we only have 2 weeks, but I don't want to break the bank either...
In Valpariso/Vina del Mar, you can take elevators up the sides of the hill, they are really old and definetly unique. On one of them the top has an outdoor bazaar and a museum. By the harbor, you can take a boat tour of the city for 2 dollars a person, great for pictures, but not recomended if you get sea sick easily. For Chile in general, if you have never been, the prime hours for going out are 8 am to noon, and then 4 to whenever. Going out between noon and 4 for any tourist related activity is usless, plus its really hot then and the sun is brutal.
If you would consider going farther north, in the first region you can go see San Pedro de Atacama which is a historic Atacamanian (indian) city preserved in its original layout. Definitly worth seeing, it is in the middle of the desert, but there are some oasis' and valle de la luna. Valle de la luna is where they tested the mars rover because the enviroment is so like the moon, it is beautiful at sunset, but come earlier to explore because the park closes at dusk. Also, near San Pedro there are geysers where you can have a guided tour. You wake up at 4 am and take a bus so so see them at dawn. I cant fully describe it, but a trip to Chile would not be complete without a visit to San Pedro. There are plenty of cheap campgrounds, hostels and hotels in the city. Tour companies also offer sand boarding and horse tours of the desert.
Fly Santiago to Calama and get the minibus to San Pedro de Atacama.
The Atacama desert is drop-dead.
Geysers, salt lagoons, snow-capped volcanoes, etc.
Check out my Chile pics.
You could overnight bus from Santiago to the Lake District. I took a semi-cama (sleeper bus, but the seats only recline 75%, not a full bed) to Pto. Varas. It's a good base for the lake district (a nicer town than Pto. Montt).
As for getting to Patagonia, might as well fly if you only have two weeks. Otherwise you'd probably waste a couple days in travelling.
In Patagonia, make sure to see Torres Del Paine national park. When there, you can arrange a glacier hike on Glacier Grey, or if you have time, pop across the border and check out the Glacier at Moreno in Argentina. Also, take in a Penguin colony. They are REALLY funny and cute.
As for a winery, if you just want a quick tour, there is a tour that is available at the Concha y Toro winery just outside Santiago. You can get there on the public transportation. Check out the Concha y Toro website for details.
if you have only two weeks to visit Chile and you want experiences more related to adventure i would skeep san pedro, even though is one of the most beatiful places in my country, but have few activities if you compared with the lake district or the areas around Torres del Paine.
Around santiago you can do a nice trekking route in reserva de la naturaleza Hierba Loca Natures sanctuary near santiago to the mountains no more than one hour from santiago by car or bus you can reach Paloma glacier after two days of trekking or do tha short trekk to the waterfall wich took one two days round.
Valparaiso is a must! if you are planning o spend days around Santiago, if you like birdwatching, you can visit reserva el Yali wich is a RAMSAR site in santo domingo county, 75 kilometers south of Valparaiso.
I aggre that Puerto varas is a best city to stay, from where you can visit the lake district, actually theres a new company PATACAM, which has a bus circuit around the lake district, they had a Hopp on and hopp off system so you can fixed the trip at your own interest, but i think the only travel during high season.
i woul skeep caretera austral, cause the roads are real bad, is expensive to took the ferrys, even though the landscapes are great.