16 days in Chile, December-January

Jun 29th, 2010, 08:07 AM
  #1  
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16 days in Chile, December-January

We're putting off Peru again to visit a relative in Chile this winter. We have 16 days in-country and are completely torn about how to spend them. We'll spend a couple of days in Santiago visiting and then we'll go either north or south.

I am leaning strongly toward going north to the Atacama desert but I just feel like I will miss so much if we skip the Lake District and Patagonia.

We'd love your guidance. We love hiking and biking and the outdoors. We'd love to see as much natural beauty as possible. I also am very interested in having an opportunity to sample the local rural culture. We have zero interest in beaches and do not scuba. If we went to a coast it would be for maybe a half day of snorkeling and that's it unless there's another compelling reason to go (wildlife viewing, etc). We spend time on our vacations very actively, cramming as much as possible in and moving around a lot.

Tentatively think we'd like to hit:
Santiago
Arica
Iquique
San Pedro de Atacama

Is this enough for 16 days or would you add other areas?

Or would you scrap this and head south? If so, do you suggest an itinerary?

THANKS Fodorites!
schlegal1 is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 03:36 PM
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Easy for me..if you like scenery, wildlife and hiking head to Torres del Paine.
mlgb is offline  
Jun 30th, 2010, 06:16 AM
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Do you think that has the type of variety that seems to be available in the north?
schlegal1 is offline  
Jun 30th, 2010, 06:40 AM
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Whichever way you go you will be missing something. Sixteen days is not a lot.

With your 2-3 days in Santiago (maybe day trip to Valparaíso), 3-4 in San Pedro, a couple each in Arica and Iquique? You still have some time in hand if you wanted to take a night bus south, or fly, and spend 2-3 days. Have you looked at flights in the north? A lot will depend on how you can link up your flights. If trying to do the southern lakes for a couple of days, do it at the beginning as it will be less crowded before January 1st.

Have a look at this new service in Iquique which takes you by train through the desert to the geoglyphs and then back to Iquique by road, taking in the old nitrate towns. It only goes on Saturdays but seems an excellent way of taking in the sights in a fun way.
http://transatacama.com/

A visit to Patagonia really cannot be combined with the north in the time you have. It also requires a good deal more planning. You really have to decide what you want to see and what sort of terrain interests you. Often that depends on the scenery you already know at home. People who know forests and lakes often want to see something different and are less thrilled by the lake district here, although we have volcanoes as well!
Huentetu is offline  
Jun 30th, 2010, 06:47 AM
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It's so tempting to try and cram in both the desert and Patagonia but as much as we usually are on the go during vacation, even I think that's too much moving around. And our budget won't allow more than a couple of in-country flights.

I am curious about your comment, Huentetu, that Patagonia involves more planning. Do you mean it's more crowded and requires more advance-booking? Or that there's more to coordinate transportation wise? Or something else entirely?

Is it possible to combine the lake district with Patagonia--I look at sample itineraries a lot to get a feel for what's possible but I don't often see that combo.
schlegal1 is offline  
Jun 30th, 2010, 07:55 AM
  #6  
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Thoughts on:
Santiago 3 days
Fly to Puerto Montt - 4 days Lake District
Fly to Punta Arenas - 5 days Torres del Paine (trek the W?)

That leaves 4 days to play with. Where should I put them?
schlegal1 is offline  
Jun 30th, 2010, 08:03 AM
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Probably need one more day in torres del paine plus some travel time to get to/from there, huh?
schlegal1 is offline  
Jun 30th, 2010, 09:09 AM
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If you want to go to Patagonia, specifically Torres del Paine, you need to reserve everything as soon as possible even if you are staying in shared accomodation lodges or camping. It all gets booked up months in advance. You also need to reserve your flights to Punta Arenas. You won't really be able to book your ground transportation from abroad. A lot of people get their lodging option in Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales to do it for them.You need to decide what sort of trekking you hope to do there. If going for the multi-day W then you need to book the appropriate lodges along the way. The other option is to stay in one of the few Hosterías like Hostería Torres and use it as a base for day trips. There is also the uber expensive Explora, but they include day trips and all meals.
You need: one day fly to Punta Arenas and take ground transport to Puerto Natales. A night in Puerto Natales. Ground transport to Torres del Paine and six days for the W. The same time frame on the return.
What you get in Torres del Paine is breathtaking scenery, weather permitting, and a chance to trek, see some wildlife. You will be in a national park so not really in contact with any local culture. Puerto Natales exists as a service town for tourism in that area.
You can do a short visit to the lake district as well as TdP, but you could also use the days to cross to El Calafate in Argentina and see the other side of Patagonia. The two sides are different enough to make it an interesting possibility.
Huentetu is offline  
Jun 30th, 2010, 10:14 AM
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Most of the above info is good, but you don't really need 6 days to do the hiking of the W. However since it isn't exactly cheap to get to TdP, the more days the better!

First, I think the you could easily skip the Glacier Grey leg. The best legs are to the Towers (Las Torres leg) one full day; the the walk on the north side of Lago Nordenskjold (one full day); and the French Valley walk (allow another day). Allow a full day to tranfer into the park and see the south side "Full Paine". You need another day to transfer out of Paine Grande across the Lago Pehoe and out of the park. You can speed the transfers up if you are comfortable with renting a car, also you may want to drive in or out from El Calafate to include the Argentine side.

If you want to do parts of the W book your "refugios" (=lodges) in advance at Fantastico Sur (east end) and Vertice Patagonia (west end). You can also stay in the hotel (hosteria=hotel) at Las Torres, they have a separate website although owned by the same people as Fantastico Sur. The hotel has both an all-inclusive or a B&B rate.

www.lastorres.com
http://www.fslodges.com/en.html
http://www.verticepatagonia.com

also see for lots of good info

http://www.torresdelpaine.com/ingles/index.asp

and my trip report
http://www.fodors.com/community/sout...-del-paine.cfm
mlgb is offline  
Jul 1st, 2010, 07:26 AM
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Thanks for the info! I wasn't aware of how quickly things booked up. If we decide for sure on TdP we will book asap.

mlgb--I will check out your trip report!
schlegal1 is offline  
Jul 14th, 2010, 11:10 AM
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I lived up to 2009 in Chile for 9 years. Answer some of my questions, and I can then respond: Are you interested in wine? Do you want to go on long hikes in days or hours? Are you open to renting a car or SUV and drive a few places? Do you like trains? Would you consider crossing to down near Osorno? If so, I have a the most scenic place in the world to go to. What is your motivation to go to Iquiqui? Mark
Dr_Swammy is offline  
Jul 15th, 2010, 01:14 PM
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You cannot go to Chile and not see at least one winery. Check this out.

http://www.chilean-wine.com/wineries...santiago-chile
or
http://www.chilean-wine.com/chile-wine-tour
borisg is offline  
Jul 16th, 2010, 07:57 AM
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Hi--Thanks for offering more help!

Wine is of passing interest only. We like wine but know little about it. We've visited many wineries and vineyards here in the U.S. so unless Chile offers something totally different, we probably will not go to one.

We are open to driving if the roads are well-made and easily navigable.

We love hiking for hours or for days. My max-out on camping is probably around 5 days.

Looks like Osorno Volcano is near Torres del Paine? I am notoriously bad at gauging distance so please correct any idiocy on my part here. But it looks like it is difficult to get to?

We are going to have a lot of travel time as it is so i want to make it count. So if we fly to one city I want to be able to spend several days taking in a number of different sites. So Iquique is on the itinerary as I have seen that it is standard for most trips into the North--we haven't made any real decisions yet.
schlegal1 is offline  
Jul 16th, 2010, 09:07 AM
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No, the two places are not near each other. You can fly from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas, though (over 800 miles) or take a Navimag ferry (3 1/2 days) to Puerto Natales. You can't really drive between the two places through Chile, although there would be a long route via Argentina.

I spoke to a few people who did the Navimag and they would not do it again.
mlgb is offline  
Jul 16th, 2010, 10:02 AM
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Hi,

Just curious about your plans for Arica and Iquique. We did not goto Arica, but drove from Calama/San Pedro to Iquique, spent time there, and visited Volcan Isluga National Park. I'm not sure I would do it again. How would you be getting to Iquique and Arica? I found the drive pretty boring between Calama and Iquique, except for one spot where we stopped at Geoglyphs, and the copper town, Humberstone. The city of Iquique was fine, the beach nice (except for the tsunami evacuation, but this was just after the earthquake and officials were overly cautious), and the sand dune interesting, but given how far it is from the rest of Chile, I'm not sure it is worth the bother.

The drive to Isluga was not (to me) as scenic as the drives into the Andes from San Pedro. There was a different kind of cactus, but I didn't find it enough different to warrant the time and distance, and the roads were confusing once you got into the park. There was little by the way of administration that we were able to locate, just some workers fixing a part of the road. There was a lot of construction on the highway too, and it was the only place we got a little lost (or that we needed 7 wheel drive) in 2-1/2 weeks in Chile. The best map we could find was not very good or very accurate. It was a very long day trip, although I think there are places to stay overnight in Colchane. I don't think there is gas anywhere on the highways going toward Boliva, and that made it somewhat stressful for us--to make sure we could make it back to Pozo Almonte, where there was gas.

Let me know if you had other questions. Personally, I think the recommendations for Torres del Paine and/or the Lake district are good. I would highly recommend TdP over the "Norte Grande" if you haven't been there.
traveler318 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 10:31 AM
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I think we are going to pin down some plans for the Lake District and TdP in the next couple of weeks. Thanks for all the help. As you can see from my naive questions, i needed it all !
schlegal1 is offline  
Jul 21st, 2010, 06:32 AM
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Ok, so I think our itinerary is going to be something like:
1 day for arrival
2 days Santiago
4 Days Lake District
5 days Laguna San Rafael
5 days TdP
1 day for return to Santiago
1 day for departure

subject to rearrangement depending on availability in TdP and departure times for a cruise in Laguna San Rafael.
schlegal1 is offline  
Jul 28th, 2010, 09:14 PM
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First, I've never been to TdP or San Rafael so I probably shouldn't even comment. But I have done a fair amount of travel in my life and if you budget allows, why couldn't you see both the extreme south and the extreme north? there are flights (not too expensive) that make it possible.

What I mean is, if you trim one day off San Rafael and one day off TdP, you could easily fly from the south to the north and return to stgo in time for your flight home.

Unless you think you might return to Chile in the future, I would pack as much as I could in this one trip.

As for wineries, if you've been to some in the US, no need to go to one in Chile. Pretty much the same experience.

Have a wonderful trip!
screen_name_taken is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2010, 10:35 AM
  #19  
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I toyed with the idea of doing north and south but seeing the expense of TdP I nixed it. We love to really pack a lot into trips and don't plan to return to Chile soon but "doing it all" just won't work for this trip.
schlegal1 is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2010, 11:53 AM
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Shaving 2 days would not give you time to go north. It would take more time than you think to do it. From TdP to Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas (all by ground transport), flight to Santiago, separate flight to the north. There are your two days right there.
Your present itinerary looks alright but where have you built in the travel time between lake district/San Rafael/Torres del Paine?
Huentetu is offline  

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