Chile Travel Guide

Chile is an extraordinary country. From north to south, it measures more than 4,000 km, and at its widest point, it barely reaches 240 km. This vast expanse means it traverses at least seven distinct climates, ranging from the driest desert in the world to the extreme cold of Chilean Patagonia, making it truly unique.

I spent seven weeks backpacking from north to south through what is my favorite country among all those who have visited South America. With this guide, I aim to help you plan your trip in the best possible way, always mindful of your budget.

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Lago Pehoe a Torres del paine vicino al Mirador Britannico.

Pehoé Lake, Torres del Paine.

When to visit Chile

Given the country’s nature, it is difficult to determine the best time to visit unless you are talking about individual regions.

Northern Chile and the Atacama Desert

It can be visited throughout the year, with the summer period (December – March) slightly warmer, although nights are still cool due to the altitude. During winter, sparse thunderstorm precipitation can occur. 

Santiago and the centre of Chile

The climate here is Mediterranean, with temperatures ranging from 0 to 13 degrees in winter (June-August) and hot summers (December-March) with temperatures between 15 and 35 degrees. The entire area can be visited throughout the year.

Patagonia and Lake region

We’re discussing a vast region where the climate becomes more extreme the further south you travel. Some areas, particularly Patagonia, become somewhat inaccessible during the winter months (June-August), with many tourism-related facilities closed. Generally, it’s strongly discouraged to visit from May to September.

Summer (December-March) is the optimal time to visit southern Chile. However, it’s also when masses of tourists flock to the region. National parks like Torres del Paine are overrun, and reservations for campgrounds and lodges must be made months in advance. October, November, and April might be the best times to visit this area.

Easter Island

Summer (December-March) is undoubtedly the most popular period. However, during the rest of the year, the climate remains temperate, ensuring that the island can still be visited.

In conclusion, if you are planning a trip to Chile that includes Chilean Patagonia, and the southern region in general, the ideal time, balancing climate, crowd levels, and prices, is probably October-November and March-April.

Le statue dell'isola di Pasqua

Easter Island.

Documents and vaccinations to enter Chile

Most passport holders receive a free 90-day tourist visa when they enter the country. 

It is possible to renew a visa by leaving the country and then re-entering the same day; this process called a “visa-run”, is theoretically repeatable indefinitely. 

Chile requires no mandatory vaccinations, but vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B are recommended.

What to do and see in Chile

Don’t let the distances scare you away; internal flights are quite affordable, and the only must-see destination north of Santiago is San Pedro de Atacama; for everything else, head south, where the natural beauty of this country lies.

This guide expresses prices in the local currency called “Chilean Pesos,” often abbreviated as “CLP.” The exchange rate at the time of publication of this article is 1€ = 1000 CLP. I suggest you look at this page to see the current exchange rate.

Dove andare e cosa vedere in Cile. Mappa delle destinazioni turistiche.

N.b. Several times throughout the guide, you will find links to Upgrade to the pro version if you want offline navigation directly from the Alltrails app. However, you can get around this by downloading the coordinates from the site’s desktop version in “Google Earth KML” format and then uploading them to organic maps, which is by far one of my favourite travel apps.



Santiago de Chile, known simply as “Santiago,” is the country’s capital and cultural and economic center. The city is home to about a third of the entire population. Given its geographical location, it is one of the few places in the world where you can go skiing in the nearby Andes and then dip in the ocean, all on the same day!

What to do and see in Santiago

As always, I recommend joining a free walking tour in a big city. Take a look here. In any case, below, I list what I think are the most exciting things to do, aside from the classic downtown walk to Plaza de Armas (Google Maps) and a visit to the Presidential Palace (Google Maps).

Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos

This museum (Google Maps) collects testimonies, films, and documents regarding the period of dictatorship under General Pinochet. The visit is free and very interesting. Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.

It’s about an hour’s walk from downtown by going through barrio Brasil-which is nice-or alternatively, you can take the metro by getting off at Quinta Normal.

Across the street is a park with other museums, including the Natural History Museum (Google Maps), which is free and not bad at all.

Cerro San Cristobal

Cerro San Cristobal (Google Maps) is located within the “Parque San Cristobal,” and you have a great view of the city from the top. You can go up by cable car ($1500 one way, $2000 round trip) or walk for about 40 minutes. The park has a botanical garden, a zoo, and a swimming pool.

Other nice parks include Parque Las Esculturas (Google Maps) and Parque Cerro Santa Lucia (Google Maps), near downtown.

Vista di Santiago dal Cerro San Cristobal.

Cerro San Cristobal.

Barrio Bellavista

The Bellavista neighborhood, situated between Cerro San Cristobal and Parque Cerro Santa Lucia, is packed with bars, restaurants, and graffiti. It’s known as the city’s hipster district, boasting a youthful and alternative vibe. It’s perfect for a night out or a leisurely walk in the afternoon.

These are just a few of the many activities that Santiago offers. They should keep you busy for a couple of days before you move on to more exciting destinations.

Where to sleep in Santiago?

Eco-Hostal Tambo Verde is well located, offers a great breakfast included in the price, and is among the cheapest options downtown. Hostel Forestal is perfect for those looking for modestly priced hotel service in the center of town.


Often called Valpo, especially by locals, it is located about 120 km west of Santiago. The town is mainly famous for its colorful houses and the numerous graffiti covering them, including garbage trucks!

What to do and see in Valparaìso

The city has no particular attraction that must be seen; the attraction here is the city itself. I advise walking through its streets and Cerros (hills) focusing primarily on Cerro Alegre (Google Maps) and Concepción (Google Maps). 

Have fun unearthing the best graffiti, perhaps by joining the enjoyable free walking tour or getting lost in its streets. Be sure to take one of its famous public elevators (300 pesos) at least once, which helps with the ups and downs characterizing this city.

Murales Opera di Inti Castro a Valparaiso.


Where to sleep in Valparaìso?

Casa Volante Hostal is located in the heart of Cerro Conception. It is not among the cheapest options, but the location is just perfect.

How to reach Valparaìso?

From Santiago, buses depart frequently, with trips lasting about 2 hours and costing approximately 3000 CLP. To reach the bus terminal, take the number 1 metro line and get off at the Pajaritos stop.

From La Serena, buses depart roughly every hour, and the journey takes about 7 hours, costing between 15000 and 20000 CLP.

La Serena

The city serves as an excellent midway point for travelers heading further north into Chile or southward. It’s an ideal base for exploring the nearby Elqui Valley, known for its many astronomical observatories due to optimal conditions for space observation. The valley also boasts numerous vineyards and wineries.

What to do and see in La Serena

The city has as many as 29 churches, the most interesting of which include Iglesia Santo Domingo (Google Maps) and Iglesia San Francisco (Google Maps), built in the early 1600s and is the oldest in the city. Other notable sites include Plaza de Armas (Google Maps), the archaeological museum (Google Maps) where you can see a rapa nui moai (one of the Easter Island heads), and the Japanese Garden (Google Maps).

Mamalluca Observatory

Several observatories, including Cerro Tololo, can be visited, but the Mamalluca Observatory, specifically built to educate tourists and foster tourism in the area, is the most popular. Any hostel or hotel organizes tours to the observatory, which typically last from 19:00 to 23:00 and are conducted in English or Spanish. In addition to gaining valuable information, you can capture photos of celestial bodies observed through the telescope. The price of the tour ranges from 15000 to 20000 CLP.

If you choose to stay overnight in Vicuña, you can go directly to the observatory office to book your visit; in that case, the cost should be 5000 CLP.

Elqui Valley

The valley is very picturesque; in addition to hosting many observatories, it’s known for wine and pisco production, with green vineyards contrasting against barren peaks on both sides. There are a couple of villages along the valley, with Vicuña being the largest and where the Mamalluca Observatory is located. I had been recommended Pisco Elqui but found it a bit dull. I made a quick visit and then joined a tour of the Los Nichos distillery not far away, which, for 1,000 pesos, offers a guided tour (in Spanish) complete with a final tasting. Tours theoretically are every day at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, 4:00 pm, and 5:00 pm. 

Buses from La Serana to La Valle del Elqui leave every hour from under the pedestrian bridge that crosses the main road in front of the “Puerta del Mar” shopping center. The ticket costs between 2000 and 3000 CLP depending on the destination within the Valley.

I vigneti della valla del Elqui.

Elqui Valley.

Where to sleep in La Serena?

El Arbol Hostel is fantastic. Clean and well maintained, with great staff and a delicious breakfast. It’s hard to find any fault with this hostel!

How to reach La Serena?

From San Pedro de Atacama, it is 30000-4000 Pesos and about 16 hours of travel time, while from Santiago, it is 10000- 15000 Pesos, 6-7 hours.

San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro, along with Easter Island and Torres del Paine, is one of Chile’s three most popular tourist destinations. The city is an ideal base for exploring the wonders of the surrounding Atacama Desert and the Los Flamencos National Reserve.

What to do and see in San Pedro de Atacama

So many activities are offered in the city: archaeological sites, horseback riding tours, lagoons, geysers, volcanoes to climb, and more. Unfortunately, all of these activities require participation in tours because public transportation in the area is virtually nonexistent. Below, I list some low-cost activities and others that, despite the price, I would recommend.

DIY Valley of the Moon

The cheapest way to visit these sites is to rent a bike from one of the many stores/hostels offering the service (around 3,000 pesos for 6 hours seems pretty standard).

From downtown San Pedro to Tres Marias (Google Maps), where the Valley of the Moon “ends,” it’s about 17 km, mainly flat through surreal landscapes. Start early in the morning to avoid the heat, and take plenty of water. If you’re up for it, I recommend starting the DIY tour with a visit to the Mirador de Kari (Google Maps), where you get a great view from the top of the valley. Then, proceed to visit the valley.

Admission costs 2,500 pesos before noon and 3,000 pesos in the afternoon.

The alternative is to join a tour (about 12,000 pesos plus admission) that provides transportation. Of course, I recommend the bike!

La valle della Luna a San Pedro de Atacama vista dal Mirador de Kari - Piedra del Coyote

Mirador de Kari.

Valle de la Muerte and sandboarding

Like many deserts, the Atacama Desert has its dunes. The most popular is in the Valle de la Muerte (Google Maps), where all the tours take people sandboarding.

The alternative is to rent a bike and board for 6,000 pesos and reach the site by bike (about 8 km). Going up the dune is tiring, so if you are in a couple or group, renting a board for every 2-3 people is worth it so you can rest while the others go down.

Entrance to Valle de la Muerte costs 3,000 pesos.

A few words about other tours available in San Pedro de Atacama

As mentioned above, many activities and tours are offered in the city. I want to mention two tours briefly; the first is the so-called “star tour”, which I did not personally participate in but had been recommended to me by some friends. The tour starts with an explanation of the various constellations, how to recognize some stars/planets, etc., and ends with the use of a telescope.

Another top-rated tour I strongly recommend is the 3-day tour arriving in Uyuni, Bolivia.

The itinerary from the various agencies is pretty much standard. It will take you to see some genuinely incredible sites: colorful lagoons filled with flamingos, geysers, snow-capped volcanoes, hot springs, curious rock formations, and much more, all the way to the Salt Desert in Bolivia, where, if you wish, you can get off and continue the trip to Bolivia or stay aboard the jeep and return to San Pedro.

You travel in large 7-seater jeeps, sleep in basic accommodations along the way, and everything is included in the price. Although I have heard some unpleasant tales, I have to say that our driver was professional and friendly. The trip indeed cannot be called comfortable, but for those used to backpacking, it is no big deal, and in any case, it is worth it. The tour, in essence, is identical to what many do from Uyuni, only in reverse, and it is 30/40% more expensive.

If you want to read what the 3-day tour includes in detail, then I suggest you check out this article

One agency is worth the other, so take a tour around San Pedro and choose the cheapest one. The price should be around 90,000 CLP. To this price should be added 150 Bolivianos for the entrance to the Reserva Natural de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa.

Gayser del tatio deserto di atacama.

Geyser del Tatio.

How to reach San Pedro de Atacama?

From Iquique, it is a 6-7 hour journey, costing 15,000-20,000 CLP. La Serena is around 30,000-40,000 Pesos with a travel time of about 16 hours. There are also buses to Argentina that depart a couple of times a week and a daily connection to Uyuni. From Santiago, if you are not planning to stop in La Serena, it’s better to fly; if booked in advance, you can pay even less than 20,000 CLP.

Where to sleep in San Pedro de Atacama?

Hostal Open House is among the cheapest options downtown. Rey Lagarto Hostel is another option that is a bit outside. 


It is a coastal city in northern Chile that is not part of the classic itinerary. It has little to offer besides an excellent year-round climate and numerous beaches. It is worth considering as a stop if you are arriving or are headed to Peru without going through Bolivia or even if you want to get to Bolivia without visiting the country’s south.

What to do and see in Iquique

As mentioned above, relaxing on the beach is the main attraction, but sandboarding and surfing are also possible. Another interesting aspect is a duty-free area where shopping can be done.

Where to sleep in Iquique?

Aotea Hostel Iquique is a good hostel with helpful staff, a well-stocked kitchen, and a great atmosphere.

Vista di Iquique dall'alto.




Pucon is a small town in the middle of the Lakes Region. It is a trendy destination for both local and foreign tourists. From the city built on the shores of Lake Villarica, there are fantastic views of the volcano, and for nature lovers, there is certainly no shortage of activities.

What to do and see in Pucon

As mentioned above, there are a lot of different activities and excursions to do—fishing, rafting, kayaking, skiing from May to October, hiking, and much more. As always, i list only a few “must-do” and low-cost activities.

Villarica Volcano

Let’s start with the attraction for which many travelers come to Pucon. Villarica volcano is one of the few volcanoes in the world with an active lava lake. Once you get to the volcano’s top, you are likely to see lava inside the crater bubbling up. 

The ascent to the volcano is achievable for anyone in decent shape, especially if you take the ski lift for the first part (10,000 CLP). The only “issue” is that it’s mandatory to be accompanied by a guide, and a tour costs an average of 85,000 CLP. So, it’s not exactly the typical low-cost activity for backpackers. Despite many describing it as a beautiful experience, I couldn’t justify the expense, knowing that I would see the lava lake of Masaya volcano in Nicaragua a few months later.

For more information, please see this excellent article.

Salto El Claro Waterfall in Pucon

This is a low-cost activity. Salto El Claro (Google Maps) is a lovely waterfall only 6 km from the centre of Pucon and can, therefore, be easily reached on foot (if you want, you can take a collective for a good part of the way). 

Many hostels provide a map like this one, which I recommend following as, oddly enough, does not have the last part of the trail loaded, and you would end up on the wrong side of the waterfall–as I did!

In conclusion, visiting El Claro Waterfall is an excellent way to spend the day without spending a fortune. Recommended.

La cascata Salto El Claro vicino a Pucon in Cile

Salto El Claro.

El Cañi Reserve

The reserve is located about 20 km from Pucon and is spectacular. Admission costs 5000 CLP, and an excellent map is provided, complete with an explanation of the flora and fauna present. The “Sendero autoguidado” is doable in one day; it is about 7 hours (round trip) and culminates with a spectacular viewpoint from where you can see four volcanoes (Villarrica, Quetrupillán, Lanín y Llaima).

The hike is highly recommended, and if you’re interested, it’s also possible to camp at the base of the viewpoint on the shores of one of the many lagoons, which is a truly incredible place.

You can reach the reserve by public transportation from the rural transportation terminal. Here, you’ll find an excellent summary table with bus schedules that go to the reserve, as well as to Huerquehue Park and the Los Pozones spa, which I’ll talk about later. (I’d still recommend asking the hostel/hotel for confirmation or going directly to the terminal).

Huerquehue National Park

The park is about an hour’s bus ride from Pucon, and admission costs 5000 CLP during the high season and 2500 CLP during the low season. There are several well-marked trails to follow here.

The Los Lagos trail (All Trails) is the most popular and scenic, with a walking time of about 6-7 hours. If you wish, you can explore additional trails, but keep in mind that except for January and February, when there is a 7:30 p.m. bus, you should catch the 5:10 p.m. bus. In any case, many hostels have a park map with helpful information.

Vista dal Mirador della riserva El cani a Pucon in Cile

El Cañi Reserve.

Los Pozones 

After so much trekking, a visit to the hot springs is always welcome. It consists of five pools near a river in a lovely setting. The water is between 30 and 40 degrees, and it is considered especially pleasant to visit in winter for obvious reasons. Admission to the hot springs for up to 3 hours costs 8000 CLP, and the bus costs 3000 CLP (round trip). 

Where to sleep in Pucon?

Chili Kiwi Lakefront Backpackers is by far the best hostel in Puco. It has a well-stocked kitchen, great staff, and, all in all, a great environment. It is not a party hostel. During the high season, it pays to book in advance.

How to reach Pucon?

Several night buses starting at 15,000 to 20,000 pesos from Santiago and Valparaiso to the north. From Valdivia, it is about 3 hours.

Puerto Varas

Puerto Varas is another small town in the lake region that, in some ways, is much like Pucon but is less touristy and not part of the classic travellers’ itinerary.

What to do and see in Puerto Varas

There are several options for day trips: hiking, fishing, kayaking, rafting, and skiing on Osorno Volcano, which has a chairlift open year-round.

Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park

Founded in 1926, Vicente Pérez Rosales is the oldest national park in Chile. Within it, we find Lago Todos los Santos, Saltos de Petrohué, and as many as three volcanoes—Osorno, Tronador, and Puntiagudo. Access to the park is free, and plenty of one- and multi-day excursions exist. The tourist office in downtown Puerto Varas provides a reasonably detailed map with the various trails and times; those with camping gear can spend much more time exploring the park. The following is my itinerary for a day hike.

Some minibuses leave from downtown Puerto Varas bound for Petrohue every hour (starting at 9 am, 2000 CLP round trip). Once you reach the last stop, I recommend taking the “Sendero Paso Desolacion.” After a flat first part, you start climbing the slopes of Osorno Volcano, with incredible views of the lake below on your right and the volcano itself on your left. The trail is about 13 km long, but I recommend walking only the first 5-6 as you will be very tight on time (All Trails). Maybe in January and February, the buses leave earlier and return earlier, giving you more time; I was there in April.

In any case, after doing part of the trail, I recommend either going back to the parking lot and trying hitchhiking (extremely common in Chile) or waiting for the first minibus back to Puerto Varas and getting off after about 6 km at the Saltos de Petrohué (Google Maps). This is a series of photogenic small waterfalls with the Osorno volcano in the background. The entrance fee is 5000 CLP, which is, in my opinion, a bit too much, but I’ll leave that for you to decide. The alternative is to return to Puerto Varas without making this stop.

Cascate Salto de Petrohue con vulcano Osorno sullo sfondo a Puerto Varas in Cile.

Saltos de Petrohué.


This is a small town not far from Puerto Varas, founded by German immigrants in 1856, and the German influence is still very evident. Some buildings are well preserved, so much so that it could feel like mid-nineteenth-century Germany.

What has just been described is part of “Frutillar Bajo,” while “Frutillar Alto” is the new part of the village, so it is not as pretty and of tourist interest. The town is easily explored on foot.

Numerous minibusses leave at all hours of the day from downtown Puerto Varas.

Where to sleep in Puerto Varas?

Casa Azul is a fantastic hostel. The interior is neat, the staff is friendly and helpful, and the kitchen is spacious and well-stocked. This is one of the best hostels I have ever stayed in, and I cannot recommend it enough. There are also several private rooms.

How to reach Puerto Varas?

From Pucon, it is about 5 hours, 10000 CLP with JAC. From Santiago, it is 13-14 hours. To the south, there are frequent minibus connections with Puerto Montt (800 CLP).

Sentiero al paso de la desolacion Parco nazionale parco nazionale Vicente Pérez Rosales

Sendero Paso Desolacion.

Puerto Montt

Puerto Montt is not a particularly pretty port city that, for most travelers, serves as a starting point for exploring the Carretera Austral, the nearby island of Chiloe, taking a fjord cruise to Puerto Natales, or simply ending their adventure in Chile and crossing the border to Bariloche in Argentina.

Regarding the Puerto Montt – Puerto Natales cruise, this is the reference site; the trip lasts four days and three nights, and prices vary greatly depending on cabin type and time of year but start at a minimum of $400 for a dormitory bed during high season.

From Puerto Montt to Bariloche it takes 6-7 hours by bus, costing 10,000-15,000 CLP.

Where to sleep in Puerto Montt?

Casa Perla is the cheapest option in town. The environment is homely, as the owners (amiable) live inside the house. It is not the best of accommodations, but for spending a night, it is just fine; the included breakfast is a bonus.

How to reach Puerto Montt?

From Pucon, it is about 6 hours, 10000 CLP with JAC. There are frequent minibus connections with Puerto Varas (800 CLP). From Santiago, if booked in advance, it is cheaper to fly. Also, flights to and from Punta Arenas (near Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine) are cheap if booked in advance.


Chiloé is the largest island in Chile and a popular tourist destination during the summertime. I haven’t personally visited the island due to time constraints, but it’s said to have an exceptional character, as confirmed by many other travelers.

In any case, I’ll leave you with this article, which will give you an idea about the island. 

How to reach Chiloé?

Some buses leave practically at all hours of the day from Puerto Montt. It is about 3 hours, 6000 CLP.

La Carretera Austral

The Carretera Austral is a 1240-kilometer-long road from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins. Construction began in 1970 and is still a work in progress. Many sections are still unpaved and not in excellent condition. The road passes through spectacular landscapes in a sparsely populated area where wilderness still reigns.

With this mini-guide, I want to cover the most popular destinations and provide helpful information to enjoy this fantastic adventure to the fullest, always keeping an eye on the budget, as the whole area is costly compared to the rest of Chile, which is not a very low-cost country to begin with.

First, if you are really on a budget, I recommend stocking up on food in Puerto Montt, where there is a big supermarket. I also recommend withdrawing enough cash. There is a Banco Security counter in Puerto Montt, which, along with Banco Internacional, are the only two Chilean banks that do not charge any withdrawal fees.

Puerto Bertrand lungo la carettera austral in Cile

Puerto Bertrand.

How to travel along the Carretera Austral?

There are four ways to travel along the road:

  1. Hitchhiking is extremely popular, especially among backpackers. It’s a widespread practice in Chile. However, especially during January and February, the competition among hitchhikers is high, with the risk of getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. Therefore, it’s advisable to bring a tent.
  2. Public transportation exists along the road, but it’s much more expensive than in the rest of the country, and for specific routes, it’s infrequent, requiring good planning. If you decide to rely on public transportation, I recommend buying tickets for the next destination asap, as there is a risk of running out of seats, especially during January-February is likely.
  3. Renting a car in Puerto Montt costs about 25-30€ per day, which isn’t that bad if split with a couple of people.
  4. Cycling is a popular option. It’s a destination favored by bicycle tourists worldwide, but some people do it on foot as well.

I used a combination of public transportation and hitchhiking. Below, I list the most popular stops along the way.


It is a small town at the beginning of Carretera Austral that was partially destroyed by the eruption of the nearby volcano in 2008.

The main attraction here is Parque Pumalin, which came into existence in 1991 after Douglas Tompkins (founder of “The North Face” brand) acquired about 42,000 acres. In the following years, he purchased another 700,000 acres, creating a series of trails, campgrounds, and publicly accessible facilities.

Here you can find all available trails, campground information, park history, etc.

I did the only trail to Chaiten Volcano (All Trails), which I recommend. It is a 2-3 hour round trip to get to the smoking base of the volcano and then down the same trail. The scenery, given the recent eruption, is awe-inspiring.

I reached the beginning of the trail, a few kilometers north of Chaiten, by hitchhiking. Still, a day tour of the volcano included transportation and a guide, which should cost about 5,000 CLP.

Il sentiero che porta alla base del vulcano Chaiten.

View from Chaiten volcano.

How to reach Chaiten?

From Puerto Montt, the bus leaves every morning at 7:00 am; the trip between fjords and snow-capped mountains is very scenic. It takes about 8 hours, including two ferry crossings, costing 14,000 CLP. There is also a ferry that arrives weekly from Chiloé.

Where to sleep in Chaiten?

I slept at Hostel Las Nalcas, which seems to be the cheapest option in town. The lady is friendly, and there is access to the kitchen. The cost is 10,000 CLP per night in the dormitory. All in all, I recommend it.


It is a small village surrounded by mountains, only 16 km from the border with Argentina. Many people visit this small village nestled among the hills primarily for rafting; there are level 4 and 5 rapids along the beautiful river. The cost is about 45,000 CLP for a half-day tour.

In addition to rafting, there are a couple of scenic spots around town, including the nearby “Reserva Nacional Futaleufu,” which offers a couple of marked trails (free admission). The tourist office (Google Maps) near the plaza provides maps of the area’s trails.

How to reach Futaleufu?

Two buses a day make the Chaiten-Futaleufu route. It takes about 4 hours, and the cost is only 2000 CLP (the state subsidises them).

From Esquel to Argentina, it is about 3 hours, 4500 CLP.

Where to sleep in Futaleufu?

Hostal y Cabanas Los Abuelos is the only real hostel in the village, and it costs 10,000 CLP for a dormitory bed. There are, however, plenty of accommodations scattered around the town that offer private rooms for the same price.

Vista dal Mirador el condor alla riserva di futalefu.

Mirador El Condor, Reserva Nacional Futaleufu.


It is a small German-influenced town overlooking one of the many fjords characterizing the region. There isn’t much to do in the city except for a viewpoint (not too impressive either), but it serves as a good base for exploring the nearby Queulat National Park (11000 CLP), where you can see the majestic Ventisquero Colgante Glacier (hanging glacier). You have to book your visit on the official website. A little further south (Google Maps) you can visit the fascinating Bosque Encantado (3000 CLP).

Luckily, it is possible to hitchhike to both places on the same day, then return to Puyuhuapi to spend the night and depart for Coyhaique the following day. Theoretically, there is even a private bus that leaves if there are enough people interested in the Puyuhuapi -> Queulat -> Bosque Encantado -> Puyuhuapi “tour.”

From what I remember, only two buses a week run the Puyuhuapi -> Coyhaique route, but things may have changed, and it is worth talking to locals as some of these companies do not have websites.

How to reach Puyuhuapi?

From what I know, there are only two buses a week that travel the Chaiten -> Puyuhuapi route, and these typically run on Wednesdays and Sundays during the summer. In any case, I recommend checking the website. I hitchhiked the stretch of road.

Where to sleep in Puyuhuapi?

Hostel Evelyn on the left along the main road toward the end of the village is the cheapest option, at 8000 CLP, but in all honesty, it is not the best.

Il ghiacciaio sospeso ventisquero colgante.

Ventisquero Colgante.


It is the largest town along the Carretera Austral. There are two supermarkets here with decent prices compared to the rest of the region, so I recommend stocking up. Coyhaique National Reserve is not far from town, but from what I’ve read, it doesn’t seem to be anything spectacular. My advice is to take advantage of the supermarket, spend the night, and continue past it the next day.

How do you reach Coyhaique?

In addition to the two becker buses that run the Chaiten -> Puyuhuapi route a week, there should be another minibus that only runs the Puyuhuapi – Coyhaique route once a week. I hitchhiked this stretch of road.

Villa Cerro Castillo

About 100 km south of Coyhaique, crossing the highest pass on the Carretera Austral at 1100 m, you’ll find the small town of Villa Cerro Castillo. Here, the main attraction is the nature reserve of the same name.

If you have camping gear, it is possible to complete some multi-day treks. Otherwise, I recommend the day hike to the lagoon below Cerro Castillo (All trails). The hike is spectacular and highly recommended. At an average pace, it is about 3-4 hours up and 2-3 hours down.

Entry to the reserve costs 5,000 CLP, but in early April, no one was there to collect the money.

Il Cerro Castillo in Cile.

Cerro Castillo.

Where to sleep in Villa Cerro Castillo?

Sendero Patagonia is by far the best hostel along the Carretera Austral: hot water, a nice kitchen, Wi-Fi, and a heated common area. Especially during the high season, I recommend booking well in advance on their website. They also allow camping. The owners are friendly and know the area very well, so they can give you all the information you need to spend one or more days trekking inside Cerro Castillo Reserve. Highly recommended.

How to reach Villa Cerro Castillo?

Some minibusses run the Coyhaique – Cochrane route daily; one company is called Buses Don Carlos, with daily departures at 9:30 am. You can find the complete list of companies here (day abbreviations are in Spanish). I hitchhiked this stretch of road.

Puerto Rio Tranquilo

It is located about three hours south of Villa Cerro Castillo. A visit to the “Capillas de Mármol” marble caves (Google Maps) is highly recommended here. The excursion costs between 5,000 and 10,000 CLP; the price is negotiable as many companies you find at the port compete and are willing to drop prices to fill the boat. Tours start at all hours of the day, so if possible, I recommend waiting for a sunny time so that the caves’ colors and the water render more vibrantly.

Many end or begin their adventure along the Carretera Austral in Puerto Rio Tranquilo and cross the border into Argentina. To do so, one must first head to Chile Chico, where a company operates the route daily (17,000 CLP). From the border, there is a minibus shuttle to Los Antiguos; the alternative is to walk for about an hour and a half. Once in Los Antiguos, buses along Ruta 40 are frequent.

Le grotte di marmo a Puerto Rio Tranquilo.

Capillas de Mármol.

Where to sleep in Puerto Rio Tranquilo?

Hospedaje y camping bellavista is really good. The place has a clean, spacious common area, a well-stocked kitchen, hot water, and wifi. They have private rooms and dorms.

How to reach Puerto Rio Tranquilo?

From Argentina, follow the instructions above. When coming from Villa Cerro Castillo, you can take any minibus that runs the Coyhaique – Cochrane route daily. For this stretch of the road, after attempting to hitchhike for a couple of hours in Villa Cerro Castillo, I boarded the second bus of the day, paying around 7000 CLP.


The drive to Cochrane, the second largest town after Coyhaique along the Carretera Austral, is scenic. Once in town, there is a fairly large supermarket on either side of the main square, free wifi around the central park, and a bank. Here, I recommend stocking up on food if you need it.

About 5 km from town is the Tamango National Reserve, which can be easily visited in a day and offers many excellent, well-maintained trails. This is the trail I hiked.

For the more adventurous and prepared, a trail network allows you to cross the entire Tamango Reserve, enter Parque Patagonia further north, and reach Chile Chico in 3 to 5 days. Find a description of the hike here.

Il lago cochrane alla riserva nazionale tamango.

 Lake Cochrane, Tamango National Reserve.

Where to sleep in Cochrane?

There are several accommodations and hostels scattered around the city. I was approached by a lady who offered me a private room for 8000 CLP while using the wifi in the plaza. The address should be 200 Teniente Merino. In any case, there is no shortage of options.

How to reach Cochrane?

This is the same bus “line” that covers Villa Cerro Castillo and Puerto Rio Tranquilo, so you can take any minibus that runs the Coyhaique – Cochrane route daily. I hitchhiked early in the morning; after 10 minutes, a couple of Chilean tourists headed to Caleta Tortel gave me a ride.

Caleta Tortel

It’s an attractive little town, picturesque and unique because there are no roads, only a system of wooden boardwalks connecting various points. The town was first connected by land to the rest of Chile only in 2003 and immediately became a significant tourist attraction.

In addition to strolling along the boardwalks and savoring the magical atmosphere of this small village lost in the Chilean fjords, I recommend climbing to the Mirador Cerro Vijia (Google Maps), which overlooks the town on the left and the mouth of the Rio Cochrane on the right, with the mountains in the background.

Il Mirador Cerro Vijia a Caleta tortel in Cile.

Mirador Cerro Vijia.

From here, you have two options to continue your journey south, besides, of course, turning back to Chile Chico and crossing the border, or perhaps reaching Puerto Montt to fly to Punta Arenas (or whatever other route you have in mind!):

  1. Reaching Villa O’Higgins (where the Carretera Austral officially ends), theoretically, there is also a direct bus that covers the Caleta Tortel – Villa O’Higgins route, but I am not sure. There isn’t much to do here, and getting there is simply a matter of principle for many. Crossing the border into El Chalten in Argentina is possible, but it’s not easy. There are no roads, and the only way to do it is by taking a ferry (plus an optional second one) that leaves only a couple of times a week during the summer season and then walking a minimum of 22km (34km if you do not take the second ferry). The whole thing is generally done in two days and thus requires camping gear. An extremely detailed article with prices and route descriptions can be found here.
  2. The second option is a spectacular trip through the fjords aboard a ferry that covers the Puerto Yungay – Caleta Tortel – Puerto Natales (Torres del Paine) route in about two days. The trip costs 125,000 CLP, including food. Departures vary depending on the time of year, and booking in advance during peak season is highly advisable. This is the reference site. 

 Where to sleep in Caleta Tortel?

Hospedaje Giselle is the cheapest option in the village; the common area where the kitchen is located is well heated, there is a hot shower, and overall, it is a reasonable accommodation, 10000 CLP. 

How to reach Caleta Tortel?

At least 2-3 companies cover the Cochrane – Caleta Tortel route almost daily. During the high season, I recommend you inquire and buy your ticket when you arrive in Cochrane. I took the bus for fear of missing the ferry I had already paid for, but as always, hitchhiking was an option.

What has been described so far are the most popular stops along the Carretera Austral, but they’re not the only ones. If your budget allows, plenty of tours, such as the one to the San Rafael Lagoon from Puerto Rio Tranquilo or the O’Higgins Glacier, would be spectacular.

Le passerelle di Caleta Tortel in Cile.

Caleta Tortel.

Punta Arenas

It is the largest city in southern Chile. Many travelers use it solely as an arrival point to move on to Puerto Natales and visit nearby Torres del Paine National Park since flights from Santiago and Puerto Montt are quite cheap.

I haven’t been to Punta Arenas as my ferry from Caleta Tortel went directly to Puerto Natales, where I was to meet my sister flying in from Santiago. While waiting, she visited Porvenir by ferry, a small fishing village on the other side of the Strait of Magellan. Nothing exceptional, apparently, but an excellent way to spend a day, perhaps while waiting to catch a plane.

Another popular excursion from Punta Arenas is to Magdalena Island, which has a massive colony of penguins. However, the ferry is quite expensive.

How to get to Punta Arenas?

There are frequent buses to Puerto Natales, which is about 3 hours away, while to Ushuaia is about 12 hours. As I said before, flights from Santiago and Puerto Montt can be cheap.

Where to sleep in Punta Arenas?

Hostel Entre Vientos is an excellent hostel with breakfast.

Puerto Natales

If you want to explore the famous Torres del Paine National Park, you will likely have to go through Puerto Natales sooner or later. Here, you can find several stores that rent camping gear in case you need it, and a supermarket with reasonable prices where you can stock up.

This is an excellent guide for independently organizing your trek to Torres del Paine.

Le torri a Torres del Paine.

Torres del Paine.

I want to stress that campsites/refugios should be booked VERY far in advance and, if possible, avoid January and February, when the park is overrun with tourists.For the rest, consult the guidebook that was just mentioned.

That being said, the park is truly stunning. I strongly recommend doing at least the W circuit. Still, if for whatever reasons you were not able to (physical condition or complete campsites/refuges, for example), then there is always the option of visiting the park in the day and seeing at least Grey Glacier and the towers, returning to Puerto Natales for the night.

Where to sleep in Puerto Natales?

Hostel 53 Sur is an excellent family-run hostel that offers a delicious breakfast buffet at an extremely cheap price.

How to reach Puerto Natales?

From Punta Arenas, buses are frequent, about 3 hours. Buses from El Calafate and El Chalten in Argentina are also frequent. From Caleta Tortel, you can travel along the Carretera Austral by ferry.

If you found this article helpful, please consider purchasing your travel insurance through one of the links on this site, doing so supports my work at no additional cost to you. For EU & UK Residents, i recommend True Traveller. For everyone else i recommend HeyMondo (5% discount). Thanks!

Suggested itineraries in Chile

To visit all the places I have mentioned so far requires at least 5-6 weeks. Below, I list possible itineraries of 2, 3, and 4 or more weeks. As with any country, there is no perfect itinerary given a time frame, and it is especially true here in Chile, where some may visit Patagonia alone, while others explore only the north. So, take what follows as inspiration and modify or create the itinerary according to your interests and budget!

15-day itinerary in Chile

This itinerary is designed for a 15-day trip to Chile, including the famous W trek to Torres del Paine and the Atacama Desert, along with the 3-day tour to the Salar de Uyuni, probably Chile’s two most popular destinations/activities. Given the distance between these places and the short time frame, long travel and at least three flights are necessary.

The following itinerary can be tiring and requires excellent planning to fit in all the flights; ideally, you should have a few extra days.

Itinerario di due settimane in Cile, cosa fare, dovere andare.

15-day itinerary in Chile

This itinerary is designed for a 15-day trip to Chile, including the famous W trek to Torres del Paine and the Atacama Desert, along with the 3-day tour to the Salar de Uyuni, probably Chile’s two most popular destinations/activities. Given the distance between these places and the short time frame, long travel and at least three flights are necessary.

The following itinerary can be tiring and requires excellent planning to fit in all the flights; ideally, you should have a few extra days. 

Santiago (1 night)

Day 1:

Recover from the jet lag and explore the city perhaps by joining the free walking tour. Head up to Cerro San Cristobal for the sunset.

Valparaìso (1 night)

Day 2:

In the morning, take the bus to Valparìso and spend the afternoon exploring the town, perhaps join the free walking tour.

San Pedro de Atacama (5 nights)

Day 3:

Spend the day in Valparaiso and then take an overnight bus to San Pedro, or return to Santiago and take a flight.

Day 4:

Rent a bike, or join a tour to visit the Valley of the Moon. Book a 3-day tour of the Salar de Uyuni for the next day.

Day 5:

First day of the tour.

Day 6:

Second day of the tour.

Day 7:

Third day of the tour. Return to San Pedro. Before returning to Santiago, you will probably have to spend the night in San Pedro.

Punta Arenas (1 night)

Day 8:

Given the tight schedule, I recommend booking a flight to Santiago and then flying to Punta Arenas. Spend the night here.

Puerto Natales (5 nights)

Day 9:

Transfer from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales. Preparation for the next day’s trek.

Day 10:

Day one of the W trek to Torres del Paine.

Day 11:

Day two of Trekking W in Torres del Paine.

Day 12:

Day three of Trekking W in Torres del Paine. 

Day 13:

Day four of Trekking W in Torres del Paine.

Day 14:

Day five of Trekking W in Torres del Paine. Return to Puerto Natales and possibly spend the night in Punta Arenas.

Day 15:

Flight to Santiago. Return to Italy.

3-week itinerary in Chile between North and South

I believe three weeks is the ideal length to follow the two-week itinerary described without rushing from place to place and perhaps spend a few more days along the various destinations without necessarily hurrying from place to place.

For this itinerary, as for the two-week itinerary, if you are not interested in visiting Torres del Paine and avoiding all the costs involved, once back in Santiago, you could head south and spend the saved time between Pucon, Puerto Varas, and Chiloé.

3-week itinerary in Chilean Patagonia

This itinerary is dedicated only to southern Chile and includes the Carretera Austral and Torres del Paine. If you are a lover of nature, trekking, and camping, then follow this itinerary.

Santiago (1 night)

Day 1:

Recover from the jet lag and explore the city perhaps by joining the free walking tour. Head up to Cerro San Cristobal for the sunset.

Pucon(3 nights)

Day 2:Spend the morning in Santiago, perhaps visiting the Museo DeLos Derechos Humanos. Take an overnight bus to Pucon.

Day 3:Visit the El Cani Reserve or the Huerquehue National Park. 

Day 4:Climb the Villarica volcano if your budget/strength allows, or visit the nearby Salto El Claro waterfall or Los Pozones hot springs.

Puerto Montt (1 night)

Day 5:Take a bus from Pucon to Puerto Montt. Stock up on food and money to prepare for the Carretera Austral. 

Carretera Austral (10 – 15 days)

Count at least ten days to travel the route, starting with the Puerto Montt – Chaitén bus. If you also want to visit Chiloé, add at least two more days. From Chaitén, I think the must-see stops are Quelat Park, Bosque Encantado, Villa Cerro Castillo, and Puerto Rio Tranquilo. To continue south once you get to Cochrane without wasting too much time, see what inspires you more between the Caleta Tortel – Puerto Natales ferry and the adventurous crossing from Villa O’Higgins.

Puerto Natales (5 nights)

Once you arrive in Puerto Natales, you need at least five nights (including when you come into town) to complete the W trek in Torres del Paine.Finish with a bus to Punta Arenas and a flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago.I included Pucon in the itinerary to break up the bus trip, but if you prefer, you could take a Santiago – Puerto Montt flight. Doing so could save you some time, and perhaps you could spend a couple of days in El Chaltén or El Calafate in Argentina before heading down to Puerto Natales. The same goes for those who decide to cross the border at Chile Chico (which many people do).

Itinerary of 4 weeks or more in Chile

With a month or more to spare, I would personally start with a round-trip flight to San Pedro de Atacama and then continue the 3-week itinerary that includes the Carretera Austral just described.

How to get around Chile

Buses in Chile

The bus system is efficient, although it is on average more expensive than in other South American countries like Bolivia and Peru; It is significantly cheaper than in neighbouring Argentina, and the service provided is of an excellent standard with new, clean, and on-time buses. For the entire country, except Patagonia, I strongly recommend Turbus. They offer excellent service with frequent departures, often at a better price than their competitors. Other good companies are Condor, Pullman, Cruz del Sur, and JAC.For long distances, there are different types of buses: “cama” buses are the most comfortable, with only three rows of seats instead of four. This layout provides incredibly spacious seats that recline up to 160 degrees.


Traghetto da Puerto Montt a Chaiten

Puerto Montt – Chaiten by “bus”.

Taxi in Chile

AI cabs are legally required to use a taximeter, although it is always good to get an idea of how much a particular route should cost, perhaps by asking your hostel/hotel. A helpful site to roughly determine the cost is taximeter .cl. Expect a flat rate for rides to and from the airport.

Tourists fall prey to many tricks by taxi drivers, such as lengthening the route for no reason, using lower denomination bills that look alike, etc.

In big cities, Uber works and is probably the cheapest and safest option.

Planes in Chile

The three airlines that operate domestic flights in Chile are LATAM, Sky Airlines, and JetSMART. Beware of prices shown by Latam, which are often for residents only.

The only airline to fly to Easter Island is LATAM from Santiago.

Flights, if booked in advance with Sky and JetSMART, are cheap. So, if you have a well-defined itinerary, I recommend booking as early as possible, especially for flights to and from Punta Arenas.   


Chile is described by many as a hitchhiker’s paradise. It is seen as something extremely normal by the locals, and especially along the main roads, it is straightforward. Twice, I walked along the road without even hitchhiking, and a car stopped and asked if I needed a ride.

Along the Carretera Austral, hitchhiking is extremely popular as a form of travel. Since there is not a lot of traffic, you are likely to wait longer, but it is always a matter of time before someone gives you a ride.

Backpacking Chile: costs

How much does a trip to Chile cost? 


As mentioned, although the cost of buses is not at the level of countries like Bolivia and Peru, it remains cheap.

For other countries, I almost always advise buying one’s ticket at the terminal by negotiating. Still, from personal experience, this is not the case in Chile; here, buying online in advance is often much more advantageous, especially with the two largest companies, Turbus and Pullman.

The price at the bus terminal is rarely negotiable, although it is always worth trying, especially for smaller companies.

The same applies to domestic flights; they are not too expensive if booked in advance. 


Food is not expensive by European standards but definitely more expensive than in other South American countries; expect to pay at least 4000 CLP for a daily menu. 

In a medium-high restaurant, expect to pay at least 20,000 CLP.

I recommend the empanada diet for backpackers who don’t feel like cooking; the most common ones are baked and cost 500-800 CLP, two of them make for a good meal.


A dormitory bed can cost anywhere between 6,500 and 10,000 CLP. A private room is approximately 15,000 to 20,000 CLP. Most hostels provide a kitchen.

A budget hotel costs a double room, about 20,000 to 25,000 CLP per night.

For tent travelers, campsites normally cost a maximum of 5,000 CLP per night. Free camping is allowed outside the national parks where, instead, it is necessary to camp within the designated areas.

NB: All payments in local currency are subject to VAT, which is 19%. Those visiting the country on tourist visas, however, can pay in U.S. dollars or by card, thus avoiding VAT.


Organized tours in Chile are not cheap; in fact, the same tour to the Salar de Uyuni costs almost 50 percent more than in Bolivia. However, on the positive side, virtually all the activities and sights I have mentioned can be done independently. Entrance fees to parks and reserves usually range between 3,000 and 5,000 CLP, except for Torres del Paine, which costs 18,000 CLP for foreigners.

To conclude, Chile is certainly not one of the cheapest countries in South America, and the further south you go (especially south of Puerto Montt), the higher the prices will rise, particularly in food and transportation.

La valle della luna in bicicletta

Valley of the Moon.

Backpacking Chile: safety and security

Is Chile safe? The answer is yes. Chile is one of the safest countries in Latin America, perhaps the safest.

Its cities are no more dangerous than many large European cities. Although, mainly in Santiago, as in any large city, common sense is a must. Some neighborhoods are best avoided; otherwise, you should have no problem.

In any case, I recommend you read my list of tips for safe travel. Chileans are generally extremely friendly and kind people.

Are you planning a trip to Chile? Check out these posts:

The best cards for traveling

What to bring on your trip

Do you have any questions? Updated information? Feel free to leave a comment or message me on Instagram!

If you found this article helpful, please consider purchasing your travel insurance through one of the links on this site, doing so supports my work at no additional cost to you. For EU & UK Residents, i recommend True Traveller. For everyone else i recommend HeyMondo (5% discount). Thanks!

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