Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > South America
Reload this Page >

Itinerary Feedback Requested: 3 Weeks Chile and Argentina

Itinerary Feedback Requested: 3 Weeks Chile and Argentina

Feb 17th, 2019, 05:14 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 17
Itinerary Feedback Requested: 3 Weeks Chile and Argentina

Hi travelers,

My husband and I are planning our first trip to South American for December 2019. The plan is to fly Chicago - Santiago on Nov 30 / Dec 1 and return via Buenos Aires on Dec 23 / 24. This is our itinerary after a few rounds of edits based on reading the forum, books, research so hopefully, it's pretty close. We have not booked anything yet so open/able to adjust based on feedback. Would love to get some feedback from the experts!

Overall, looking for feedback on our pace, any trouble areas you see, and any must-see/must-do favorites in any of these destinations. Again, have never been to South America and I am beginning to understand just how vast it is so want to make sure we are being smart.

Santiago - 3 nights

Atacama - 3 nights
- Looking to stay at Terrantai Lodge
- Recos for excursion companies, must see stops.

Valparaiso - 3 nights
- Best way to get from Santiago Airport to Valparaiso?
- Recos for wine tours? Casablanca Valley or Maipo Valley?

Southern Patagonia - 4 nights
- Looking to stay at Patagonia Camp. Fav excursions from anyone who has stayed there?

Stella Australis - Puerto Arenas to Ushuaia - 4 nights
- This would be Dec 14-18 so building other trip dates around this.

Ushuaia - 2 nights
- Initially, we were just going to do one night here but it sounds like this is a bigger destination than we initially realized. Worth 2 nights? Fav things to do?

Buenos Aires - 3 nights

Appreciate any/all constructive feedback!


tera_denten is offline  
Feb 17th, 2019, 05:46 AM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 25,308
We just returned from 4+ weeks in SA, including many of the places on your itinerary. Before I comment, could you tell us a little about yourselves, including your age and the level of activity you like to engage in, your travel style, what youíre interested in seeing and doing?
sf7307 is offline  
Feb 17th, 2019, 06:24 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 17
Hi sf7307 - Apologies I should have included that. We are in our early 30's and well traveled. This will be our first trip to South America, and the last big trip before starting a family. So we specifically want it to be more of an adventure than, say, a few weeks in Europe.

We love city life (we live in downtown Chicago) and are excited for food and culture. We are thinking of doing a cooking class in Santiago so we can recreate favorites when we return home. Definitely looking to include a least a day for wine culture, though not sure if it should be Casablanca or Maipo. We have been to Tuscany and Napa a few times and generally just love getting into the country and seeing how wine and local foods are made, and of course, tasting everything. While in cities, we like to primarily explore on foot.

Museums in moderation -- only the really highly recommended or unique ones. We are the type to learn a ton about the history of a place before we go and watch every documentary we can find, then just enjoy exploring while we are there and take any chance to mix with locals.

Atacama made the list initially for stargazing. We also like the stark contrast between Atacama and Southern Patagonia and the cruise to Ushuaia. Need to research more but also looking forward to seeing the Salt Flats, Moon Valley, and the Gysers. We can't afford the luxury all-inclusive here (opting to divert those funds to the cruise portion) so need to find tour companies for all the excursions.

Southern Patagonia and the cruise on Stellas Australis are a bucket list items. We have not done anything like this before. We are not cruise people, but this sounds more like an expedition/adventure than a cruise. A little out of our comfort zone but that is also what has us super excited. Looking to just embrace the adventure of it all. In terms of activity level, we are by no means experienced trekkers but are game for (guided) excursions. No multiday treks for us. We learned of Patagonia Camp from some like-minded friends who honeymooned there and loved it.

Ushuaia and Buenos Aires were late additions to our trip once we realized that flying open jaw out of BA seemed smoother than working our way back into Chile after the cruise. We do very much like the idea of some sunshine in BA before headed back to wintery Chicago.

I hope that helps! Can't wait to hear your feedback!

tera_denten is offline  
Feb 17th, 2019, 07:27 AM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 25,308
Iíll definitely respond later today. I have a few things to say!!
sf7307 is offline  
Feb 17th, 2019, 12:01 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 952
We were in Argentina and Chile in December. I think our experiences in a couple of the places we went to while in Chile might interest you. Since we were primarily interested in tasting reds, so we chose the Maipo Valley for a full day wine tour. We booked the “Maipo Valley Wine Tour from Santiago w/sommelier led tour”. Mick the owner (and a sommelier) of the company “Ride de Vuelta” led the tour. It was advertised as a small group tour and fortunately we were the only two on it, which made it even better. We visited four wineries, one of which had a restaurant where we ate a great lunch (extra). I’d highly recommend this tour. Mick is very personable and knowledgeable. On another day on our way back to Santiago we briefly stopped in the Casablana Valley for a tasting of mainly whites at one of the wineries there. It was part of our day trip to Valaparasio and Vina del Mar. After much prior research we felt the Casablanca Valley was known more for whites and we wanted reds, specifically the Carmeneres in the Maipo Valley. In Santiago we spent a few hours in the incredible Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino. This was an amazing museum. We could have stayed much longer.
kathleen is offline  
Feb 19th, 2019, 09:21 AM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 25,308
Sorry I haven’t responded yet. I wanted my DH to have some input and he and I were traveling separately over the weekend. We’re in the same city now so we’ll reply later today. P.S. part of my reply will be by PM.
sf7307 is offline  
Feb 19th, 2019, 05:05 PM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 25,308
OK, here goes (LOL):

We just returned from South America. We did a similar trip but with an extensive trek in the middle. We flew intoSantiago, drove straight to Valparaiso (2 nights), back to Santiago (2 nights) , took the luxury bus over the Andes to Mendoza (Malbec country) (2nifhts) , flew back to Santiago (overnight airport - the Ho,day Inn is very nice and super convenient) and on to Punta Arenas, where we met up with our trekking group, trekked for two weeks, flewEl Calafate toUshuaia (1 night), Stella Australis (4 nights), flew Punta Arenas to Buenos Aires (via Santiago) and connected to Iguasu Falks (2 nights), back to BA (4 nights) and home. We’re in our late 60s but very active and our travel “style” seems to be similar to yours. Tbat’s all by way of background.

We dont know Patagonia Camp but it looks very cool. What would you be doing during your4 days there? We hiked to the towers (the toughest hike we did in two weeks), the Cuernos, Grey Glacier. If possible, fly into Puerto Natales (we started in Punta Arenas and the first day’s drive is quite long) It’s all beautiful. be aware, when they say you can experience all kinds of weather in the same day, they aren’t kidding!). It’simperative to Have rain pants and jacket and waterproof gloves. The single best item I had was a lightweight “Buff” which Igot in Puerto Natales and served to cover my ears, as a headband to keep my hair out of my eyes, etc. layer, layer, layer. I will say that the first few days, I wore long underwearbottoms and found them very warm and constrictibg during hikes, so I stopped using them as did most in our group of 10. Dontbe deceived by the pretty puctures in the brochure - the weather is completely unpredictable. High winds are normal, axis rain. We also had warm days.

Grey Glacier is great, but if you want to see a really impressive sight, try to get to El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier. (You can fly to Ushuaia and BA from El Calafate.

Re air transport, we used Sky, KLM, LATAM and Aerolineas Argentina. If you search fares between cities, you’ll sometimes find steep discounts. Check Expedia, Kayak, etc.

Back to your itinerary. 3 nights in Santiago is fine if it inches your day of arrival. It’s really a 2-day town. There aren’t many specific sights that are must-see, but it’s got good restaurants and it’s generally a very pleasant city.

3 nights in Valparaiso is too many unless you’re using it as a base for wine country. It’s basically a 1 to 1-1/2 day walking town. We really enjoyed our time there but again, not many specific must-see sights. You can arrange wine country excursions from there.

To get to Valparaiso, you can take a bus, car service, or drive yourself. We rented a car from OClock. It’s off-airport but very convenient and relatively inexpensive. They speak some English in the office. The car was practically new. The drive was easy until we got to Valparaiso, which is very hilly with extremely narrow and winding streets, many of which are one way. We had arranged for parking through our hotel for $20 a night. We really liked the hotel by the way - the Fauna. Upscale but funky, in a great location.

Instead of of doing the wine country near Santiago and Valparaiso, we took a trip to Mendoza. The kyxury bus over the Andes was interesting (very comfortable), although to be honest the views were actually much more spectacular from the air on the return trip. Mendoza itself is a fairly large city, but a good base for wine country excursions. We did a fun bike/winery tour with Martin’s Bikes.

Ushuaia and Stella. Ushuaia is a tourist town that exists mostly because of the ships and the parks. We didn’t use it as a base, except to board the Stella Australis. Now about the Stella which is the main reason I wanted to write this. Now understand that we were just post-trek. The ship is small -an expedition ship rather than a large cruise ship. Activities are limited. Basically, each day, you take a morning excursion after breakfast and an excursion in mid-afternoon. Each involves a short (but fun) Zodiac ride usually in a fjord to view glaciers or take a short (1-1/2 hours usually) hike with a guide (to beautiful views - glaciers , sea lions, penguins (my main reason for going). Note that you can get to Magdalena Island directly from Punta Arenas. None of the excursions is particularly challenging. That is probably because the average age of cruisers seemed to be north of 60 (some in their 70s and 80s). The only cruisers much younger were with their parents. We met some super-nice people. Note than in between excursions and meals there are no activities - so it’s scenery-watching, schmoozing, or napping. Again, our view is undoubtedly colored by the fact that we had seen so much on our Patagonia trek that what we saw on the cruise wasn’t that impressive to us (it would have been though to anyone who had not been in Patagonia).

Iguasu Falls - worth the detour!! Particularly if you decide to splurge, the Belmont Las Cataratas Hotel on the Brazil side is gorgeous, albeit a tad expensive and challenging to get to. We wished we had stayed another day. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll tell you more.

Buenos Aires is a huge city with some museums (we didn’t go to any) and interesting neighborhoods, and excellent restaurants. I would definitely recommend the tour of Teatro Colon. The Botanical Garden is beautiful and I would take a city tour that takes you to La Boca Recoleta Cemetery at a minimum. We were not impressed with the Sunday Market in San Telmo at all. Ice cream in BA is fantastic. We ate a couple of steaks, with our meal ar Don Julio being a highlight. 3 nights is good. We stayed in Palermo Soho which I’d equate to Greenwich Village (or Wicker Park - lots of boutiques, restaurants, bars). Many other people choose to stay in Recoketa which is more like the Gold Coast. Many places close for siesta.

That’s probably enough for you to digest. If you have more questions, please ask!!

sf7307 is offline  
Feb 20th, 2019, 12:27 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 24,608
I spent a couple of months doing a loop from Rio to Santiago via Patagonia, criss-crossing the Andes, in 2012 - click on my name for my profile to find the TR. I thought the scenery far outshone the cities, and the glaciers around El Calafate and the stunning waterfalls at Iguasu were high points. So I would reduce the time in Santiago, Valpo and BA to make time for Iguasu. I did not go to Ushuaia, as I thought I might wind up there if I ever went to Antarctica, so can't comment on that leg.
thursdaysd is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
South America
Aug 20th, 2018 09:27 PM
South America
Jan 21st, 2015 05:17 PM
South America
Nov 5th, 2013 05:31 AM
Mexico & Central America
Jun 6th, 2007 05:13 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:36 AM.