Boundless Journeys - vacations and travel

Chile: Lake District and Patagonia

Chile
,  Patagonia
,  South America
,  Lake District
,  Torres del Paine
,  Puerto Varas
,  Punta Arenas
,  Chiloe Island
,  Osorno Volcano
,  Petrohue River, Chile, South America

from $5,295* per person 10 Days February, November
Comfort accommodations Exertion level: 3
Operator: Boundless Journeys 16 people max
  • Airport near puerto varas, chile
  • Active & Adventure trips
With snowy volcanoes and turquoise rivers in the Lake District, expansive beaches and temperate rainforests on Chiloé Island, and the amazing mountain-scapes of legendary Patagonia, Chile is a true paradise for an adventure vacation. Our hiking and walking tour visits three separate regions, because to visit just one would not do justice to the wonders that Chile offers. We begin our tour of Chile in the Lake District, where mountains seem close enough to touch, temperate rainforests stand tall with ancient alerce trees, and rivers sparkle like jewels. Our days are spent hiking and walking in Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, Chile's oldest national park.

Next, we explore mystical Chiloé Island. Chiloé still supports a traditional culture of subsistence farmers, fishermen, and craftspeople, and a rich mythology populated by trolls, sea monsters, and eerie ghost ships. Chiloé balances unbridled nature with one of South America's most remarkable traditional cultures, and is renowned for its seafood, its woolen handicrafts, and the warmth of its people. After a whitewater ride down the Petrohue River, we travel further south to Patagonia and the ends of the earth.

The showpiece of this wild land is Torres del Paine National Park, a World Biosphere Reserve. In this region of Chile, glaciers, lakes, and towering mountains collide gloriously. The Torres del Paine are spectacular granite pillars that soar almost vertically above the Patagonian steppe. Hiking past cascading waterfalls, along sprawling glaciers, through dense forests, and the chance to see a Patagonian guanaco, a creature related to the camel, make this a truly awesome South American adventure. Our evenings under the southern skies are spent in style, as we retire to comfortable hotels, plentiful seafood, and distinctive Chilean wines.

Locations visited/nearby

Chile , Patagonia , South America , Lake District , Torres del Paine , Puerto Varas , Punta Arenas , Chiloe Island , Osorno Volcano , Petrohue River, Chile, South America

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Itinerary

DAY 1
Arrival in Puerto Varas

Walk – easy, 2-3 hours on country roads.

A brief drive along the shores of Lake Llanquihue brings us to the village of Frutillar, settled in the 1850’s by Austrian immigrants. From the outskirts of town a short walk on country roads brings us to a farm where we are welcomed for lunch. The farm, overlooking the lake and surrounded by fields of lavender, is the perfect setting for an introduction to the cultural and natural riches to be encountered on our trip.

After lunch, we continue our walk through the surrounding countryside into the village itself. Boasting an impressive opera house, streets lined with steep-roofed homes adorned with lace curtains and flower boxes, and surrounded by beautiful gardens, it is a town best visited on foot.

The University of Chile maintains a forest reserve above the town that helps us to appreciate what it must have been like for the first immigrants who moved into the temperate rainforest that once surrounded the lake.

Later today we return to Puerto Varas on the shores of Lake Llanquihue, South America's third largest lake. Puerto Varas is a charming resort town with magnificent views of both the Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes.
Hotel Cumbres Patagonicas, Puerto Varas

DAY 2
Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park

Hike – moderate, 5-6 hours on hiking trails. Begin at 2600’, highest point 3600’, descend to 650’.

Our walk today begins with an ascent up a river valley on the northwestern flank of the Osorno volcano, compared by many to Japan’s Mount Fuji. We first follow an abandoned road through temperate rain forest, and then take a switchback trail to reach a saddle between Osorno and La Picada, the jagged remains of a far older volcano. As we walk through this area we see evidence of 19th -century eruptions making the place well deserving of its name “Paso Desolacion”. At the far end of the pass we reach a spot where, weather permitting, we enjoy spectacular views of Lake Todos los Santos, of which Teddy Roosevelt once wrote, “Surely there can be no more beautiful lake anywhere than this!” We stop here to rest and enjoy a picnic lunch, then descend to the lake and the little port of Petrohue, where our vehicle awaits us.

We are treated to a special dinner this evening at a private location with beautiful gardens and local cuisine.
Hotel Cumbres Patagonicas, Puerto Varas

DAY 3
Chiloé Island and penguin excursion

Walk – easy, 1-2 hours.

We depart Puerto Varas this morning for Chiloé Island, South America’s second largest island, and home to one of Chile’s most well-preserved traditional cultures. A short ferry ride brings us to Chiloé, where we explore its rich mythology and the unique lifestyle of the locals rooted in its isolated location.

Upon arrival, we stop for a short walk along the water to a midday meal of fresh seafood caught in the surrounding waters. After lunch, we continue along the water with an opportunity to see a variety of bird life, including black-necked swans and egrets. The highlight of the afternoon is a boat ride around a small island which is the only site in the world where Humboldt and Magellanic penguins nest together. Late afternoon, we return to Puerto Varas.
Hotel Cumbres Patagonicas, Puerto Varas

DAY 4
Rafting the Petrohue River

Whitewater rafting – moderate, 3-4 hours.

Today we have the option of paddling down one of Chile’s most beautiful rivers, the Petrohue. A raft trip on this Class III section of river provides exciting rapids, as well as opportunities to float through quiet sections while taking in the splendor of Vincente Pérez Rosales National Park. Our expert guides lead us down a stretch of river which passes through breathtaking scenery and offers views of the surrounding volcanoes. Alternatively, you may choose to spend the morning exploring the shores of Lake Llanquihue and the town of Puerto Varas.

The afternoon is yours to do as you choose. Those wishing for more adventure may go horseback riding (at an additional expense) in the foothills of Calbuco volcano, while those wishing for a more relaxing afternoon can visit the local fish market in Puerto Montt for a truly delectable experience. For dinner this evening, you are free to explore the restaurants of Puerto Varas.
Hotel Cumbres Patagonicas, Puerto Varas

DAY 5
Travel to Patagonia

Today is the longest travel day of the trip, but our destination is a worthy one: the incomparable Patagonia in the far south of Chile. Our journey begins with a short drive from Puerto Varas to the Puerto Montt Airport. From here we take a two-hour flight to Punta Arenas. Upon arrival, we board our private coach for the three-hour transfer to Puerto Natales, with brief stops en route to stretch our legs before arriving early in the afternoon. Puerto Natales is the gateway to the Torres del Paine National Park and is situated on the waters of Last Hope Sound. After a refreshing stop, we continue for two and a half hours to a classic Patagonian estancia on the border of the Torres del Paine National Park. The estancia is a cattle ranch and lodge that has been in the same family since the turn of the century. Here we spend the night and prepare for our adventures in the heart of the park.
Estancia Lazo, Torres del Paine National Park

DAY 6
Estancia Lazo to Río Paine; Lago Grey

Hike – easy to moderate, 4-6 hours on hiking trails. Begin at 1000’, highest point 1100’, descend to 150’.

This morning we begin our hike from the estancia into Torres del Paine National Park, the striking mountainous and glacial region that was declared a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 1978. Our route takes us along the shores of the Laguna Verde with the Paine Massif to our right. We carry our lunch and find a sheltered viewpoint among a forest of native trees. Our trail makes a final descent along a narrow path and through a series of switchbacks before arriving at Toro Lake, the largest lake within the park and an excellent place for views of the Paine mountain range’s impressive towers. Our coach awaits us at the trail’s end along the Río Paine.

We next visit Lago Grey and walk the beach, watching icebergs floating on the lake with the mighty Cuernos del Paine – magnificent mountains aptly named for their shape, seemingly sculpted by the wind into curved peaks – as a backdrop. Arriving early evening at our scenically located hotel, we enjoy the warmth and excellent cuisine of our home in the heart of the park for the next three nights.
Hosteria Las Torres, Torres del Paine National Park

DAY 7
Las Torres

Hike – moderate to strenuous, 8-10 hours on hiking trails; Begin and end at 500’, highest point 2,300’. (There is an option to horseback ride to 1500’ and continue on foot, or enjoy a less strenuous hike with a private guide, for an additional fee).

Today begins from our lodge, and another full day of hiking in the park brings us near the base of the Torres (towers). The towers are dramatic granite peaks for which Torres del Paine National Park was named. Our route from the lodge ascends a series of switchbacks for approximately one hour and continues through the Ascensio River valley, where the vertical towers are visible in the distance, and spectacular views of Lake Nordenskjöld are behind us. The hike to the towers is certainly a highlight of any Patagonian experience. Our trail descends gradually to Refugio Chileno, an alpine refuge which has views of Mount Almirante Nieto and its glaciers across the valley. Beyond the refugio our path leads further up the valley through beach forest and along the small Ascensio River.

Our trail continues further into the valley and the towers grow around each bend, their enormity coming into perspective. Our destination is a viewpoint and lunch spot at the base of the three towers: Torre Monzino at 8,500 feet, Torre Agostini at 9,300 feet and Torre Central at 9,000 feet. From the viewpoint, our trail descends back into the valley from where we have come, providing expansive views into the distance.

We arrive back at our lodge late in the afternoon, and may have time to enjoy an evening horseback ride (at an additional expense) over the surrounding plains, or simply relax, before dinner.
Hosteria Las Torres, Torres del Paine National Park

DAY 8
Laguna Azul

Hike – moderate, 7-9 hours on hiking trails (alternate option 3-4 hours). Begin and end at 600’, highest point 1,150’.

Our hike today is on the eastern side of the Paine Massif and leads us through grassy plains, providing especially striking views of the towers. Wildlife is abundant in this area of the park and we may spot herds of guanaco (llama-like mammals) or the rhea, a flightless bird similar to the ostrich. Andean condors, buff-necked ibis, and upland geese are also among the birds we may encounter.

This is a full day of hiking in the park, and as such we carry our lunch and find a scenic spot to rest amidst the wonder of this magnificent landscape. Returning by bus to our hotel, we stop en route at the impressive Paine Waterfalls, a powerful gorge carved out of the Paine River.
Hosteria Las Torres, Torres del Paine National Park

DAY 9
Guarderia Laguna Amarga to Porteria Lago Sarmiento; Transfer to Punta Arenas (6-hour drive in a private coach) with several stops en route

Hike – easy to moderate, 2-4 hours on hiking trails. Begin and end at 1,000’, highest point 1,150’.

This morning we have time for one final hike through Torres del Paine National Park before our return trip to Punta Arenas. The hike provides the opportunity to enjoy the view of this incredible landscape and reflect on our adventure in what is truly some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

Following our morning hike we are met by our coach at the trail’s end for our drive back to Punta Arenas. We make several stops on the return journey to break up the drive and to stretch our legs. Our lunch break is at a historic estancia before arriving early evening in Punta Arenas for our final dinner together at our hotel.

Punta Arenas, located on the Straights of Magellan across from the island of Tierra del Fuego, claims to be the southernmost city in the world. Situated astride one of the world’s historic trade routes, its prosperity has risen and fallen over time. Punta Arenas enjoyed its first great boom during the California Gold Rush, when it served as a haven for great clipper ships. Although the port’s importance diminished after the opening of the Panama Canal, the city reached even greater prosperity early in the 1900’s as the center of Chile’s international wool trade. Today, Punta Arenas reflects a great mix of cultures, from English sheep ranchers to Portuguese sailors, and it remains an utterly fascinating testament to Chile’s rich history. Punta Arenas is without a doubt a fitting place to conclude our adventure in Patagonia with a celebratory farewell dinner.
Hotel Cabo de Hornos, Punta Arenas

DAY 10
Departure from Punta Arenas

Today you are free to depart at your leisure. Transfers to the airport are provided throughout the day depending on your departure time. If you are departing later in the day, you may find it interesting to tour Punta Arenas and visit the port, viewing the ships and myriad seabirds. Many historic sites from the city’s early 19th-century prosperity are within easy walking distance of our hotel.

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