Arrive in at any time. There are no planned activities, so check into our hotel and enjoy the city. Santiago is Chile’s largest city and capital, with internationally recognized vineyards and Andean ski resorts very close by. Explore the many museums and parks, and visit the vibrant neighbourhood of Bellavista to see some handicrafts and trendy cafés. Day-trips include a trip to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, Chile’s premier beach resort, and to Isla Negra, Pablo Neruda’s seaside home. Although Santiago covers an immense area, the central core of the city is relatively small. It is a roughly triangular shaped region, bounded in the north by the Río Mapocho, in the west by the Via Norte Sur and in the south by the Avenida del Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins (more commonly known as the Alameda). The apex of the triangle is the Plaza Baquedano, where O'Higgins forms a junction with two of Santiago's other main thoroughfares, Avenidas Providencia and Vicuña MacKenna. The centre of this triangle is the Plaza de Armas, the chief plaza of Santiago, bounded on its northern side by the main post office and on the western side by the cathedral. The streets between the Plaza de Armas and O'Higgins are wall-to-wall shops, restaurants, snack and fast food bars, cinemas, expensive hotels and office blocks. The Presidential Palace, La Moneda, is on Avenida Moneda, facing the Plaza de la Constitución. Near the Plaza de Armas is the National Congress building. One of Santiago's main parks, Cerro Santa Lucía, is in the triangle facing O'Higgins. The other main park is Cerro San Cristobal, or Huelén, in the Mapuche tongue. It is a large hill that rises dramatically from the plain to the north of Avenida Providencia. Between this avenue and the mountain, on either side of the Avenida Pío Nono, is Santiago's 'Paris quarter', the barrio Bella Vista. There are many beautifully landscaped parks and gardens, artists' colonies, and impressive views over the city, including the snow-capped peaks of the Andes (when the weather and thick smog permit).
After a full day exploring the capital city we will board a night bus bound for Pucón, in the Lake District. This is a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, with activities galore. Some of these include a volcano climb, hiking in one of the many national parks, rafting, mountain biking and skiing/snowboarding (in season). There are few areas in the world that can match the Chilean Lake District for scenic grandeur. South of the Rio Toltén and sprawled across the provinces of Valdivia, Osorno and Llanquihué, you'll find everything from snow-capped mountains to deep blue and emerald lakes, smoking volcanoes, forests and glaciers. This is a favourite vacation ground for domestic tourists, visitors from across the Andes, and around the globe. The region’s architecture is unique in that older structures are wooden and resemble central European homes and churches of the 19th Century. This is due to the significant number of immigrants, largely Germany, Switzerland, Austria and some Italian, who settled here over the last half of that century. The regional cuisine also reflects this, with many restaurants specializing in kuchen and other baked delicacies. Seafood dishes abound in this region. Of particular interest to visitors is the curanto Chilote, a hearty seafood stew that’ll leave you ready for a siesta. Villarica is one of the chief resort towns of the Lake District, with impressive views of the active Volcan Villarica. This is a beautiful place to hike, boat, or to sit back and take in the beautiful scenery and reflect on your trip so far. Pucón, the nation’s outdoors and adventure tourism capital, is located on the eastern end of Lago Villarica, opposite the town of Villarica. We spend a couple of days exploring the area, where there are endless options for outdoor pursuits like kayaking, rafting, hiking, mountain biking, wind surfing and horseback riding. Accommodation for these nights may be multishare Approximate Distance: 789km Estimated Travel Time: 10 hours
A trip further south brings us to the city of Puerto Montt. This is Chile’s most important southern port and it is the gateway for explorers going further south into Patagonia. Take a day trip to the island of Chiloé and sample the seafood! In Puerto Montt there are still many reminders of its German influenced past. Germans settled the area in the mid-19th century and many houses are of northern European design, faced with unpainted shingles, high-pitched roofs and quaint, ornate balconies. Though timber houses make up a large share of Puerto Montt's housing, the pioneer image has long since faded. The large cathedral in the main square, built in 1856 entirely of redwood, is the oldest building in the city and one of the most important reminders of the city's early days. Now, it is the gateway to the southern end of the Lake District, and for the Chilean Patagonia. Accommodation for these nights may be multishare Approximate Distance: 340km Estimated Travel Time: 5-6 hours
After a beautiful journey through the mountains of upper Patagonia we will cross over into Argentina and arrive in Bariloche. Situated on the beautiful shore of Lake Nahuel Huapi, Bariloche is a year-round playground for skiers, hikers and outdoors enthusiasts of all types. A popular resort town for Argentines, the spectacular surroundings of Bariloche offer loads of outdoor options, like hiking, biking, paragliding, lake tours, and skiing/snowboarding (in season). Bariloche is also famous for its quality and quantity of chocolate. So, wander around the city, enjoy the landscapes and eat chocolate! The urban centre of the Argentine Lake District, San Carlos de Bariloche in many ways resembles alpine resorts of Europe. During winter ski season, the town fills to capacity with jovial Argentinean and Brazilian vacationers whose favourite pastime seems to be eating and drinking. Their gusto is understandable; Bariloche has some of the best food in the country. Sample a beefy parrillada, or a variety of fresh salmon or lake trout, then work it off during a day hike around Cerro Catedral or while practicing your salsa at one of the town's salsotecas. Accommodation for these nights may be multishare Approximate Distance: 400km Estimated Travel Time: 6-7 hours
A long bus journey carries us out of upper Patagonia and to the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires. Approximate Distance: 1640km Estimated Travel Time: 21 hours
Known as the ‘Paris of the Americas,’ Buenos Aires is a vibrant city full of life. Visit the districts of La Boca, Recoleta, and San Telmo or catch a tango show at one of the many famous tanguerías. Wander the pedestrian walkways and see some dancing in the streets. Whatever you do, Buenos Aires is sure to leave lasting memories. The capital city of Argentina, Buenos Aires is the ultimate cosmopolitan city. Travellers find that it has more in common with the cities of Europe than the rest of South America. Nearly 40 per cent of Argentina’s 33 million citizens live in Greater Buenos Aires, and the Porteños are justifiably proud of their home. The city is comprised of a number of distinct neighbourhoods, some of which have become top tourist draws. For many, the highlight of their time in the capital is a visit to San Telmo for the weekend antiques market and street artists’ displays. La Boca was originally settled by the successive waves of immigrants that contribute to the capital’s unique character. Its brightly coloured walls and buildings draw Porteños and tourists alike. Posh Recoleta, with its cafés, museums and cemetery, is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. During colonial days, Buenos Aires was the seat of the Viceroy of La Plata. Almost completely rebuilt since the turn of the century, the heart of the city is the Plaza de Mayo, with the historic Cabildo (Town Hall), where the Independence movement was first planned, the Casa Rosada (Government Palace) and the Cathedral, where San Martín, the father of Argentine independence, is buried. When you are done exploring, settle your weary feet and enjoy a drink in one of the many sidewalk cafés and restaurants, and you will begin to understand the contemplative Argentine way of life. Buenos Aires will be your last chance, while in Argentina, to try the succulent bifé and parrilladas, so dig in and enjoy!