TIME SPENT AT DESTINATION: 8 Days
APPROXIMATE TOTAL COST PER PERSON: $2,200
Chile may sound like some distant South American country that is too far and expensive to visit, but if you look at flights, it may just change your mind. In only 9 hours from Houston, you can find yourself at the bottom of the World in one of the most amazing countries you will ever visit. You can meet people all the time who fly to Hawaii for vacations in the same amount of time.
And, it’s a trip you can do in less than 10 days if you simply plan it right! No need for extended time off work or month-long vacations and outrageous budgets you may not have. We’re showing you how you can travel to Chile’s Santiago and Patagonia on a budget in under 10 days!
During the duration of our trip, we visited Chile’s capital of Santiago, Vina Santa Rita, Punta Arenas, Torres Del Paine National Park (Patagonia), and Puerto Natales.
Santiago: There is something different about this city. The moment you land you feel at home. Not a lot of cities with close to 6 million people will make you feel this way. Major cities like NYC, Paris, and Rome are all captivating but can often make you feel like a lost tourist.
Santiago has the opposite effect. Maybe it’s the friendly locals that welcome you with open arms, giving you a feeling like you can move there and fit right in from day one. Maybe it’s the surrounding mountains giving the city a big hug that makes it so inviting? Perhaps the rolling green hills dividing city neighborhoods.
You’ll just have to judge yourself. The astonishing culinary scene, both modern and long-standing multi-cultural neighborhoods, surrounding vineyards, and architecture can keep you drawn in for days.
Buy yourself a trusty hard copy travel guide for great unbiased opinions of what you must see and do. Cerro Santa Lucia lookout, Mercado Central fish market, and the modern Patio Bellavista outdoor restaurant and bar area are a great start! Stay at the ICON hotel for an incredible rooftop pool/bar experience. Mercure Santiago Centro is just as good but closer to popular spots in the city. Time spent: 4 days
Vina Santa Rita: When it comes to vineyards around Santiago the options are endless. There are short day trips to take through Santiago’s countryside to taste some delicious Chilean wine. Vina Santa Rita is roughly 45 mins away from Santiago, and you can choose to travel there alone or take a ride with a tour guide. A quick search on Viator will land you a trusted tour you can book in advance that includes transportation!
This colonial mansion turned vineyard takes you back in time to the 1800s with tons of history, war stories, and beautiful surroundings. The tour ends with some wine tasting in their old cellar and a chance to purchase all their wine at their store. Definitely a great time if you’re up for it.
Puerto Natales: The moment you arrive here you can just feel how far south you are on the globe. Weather-beaten sidings on buildings that look almost bulletproof, rocking fishing boats in a small port, and not much to do besides cozy up in a hotel or coffee shop. The town has its sleepy charm for sure.
It’s a common stopping point for people on their way to Patagonia. A lot of adventurers and travelers alike sharing stories of where they are going or just came back from. When you’re there, grab a beer or delicious food at their popular Cerveceria Baguales or warm up with coffee at plenty of local cafes next door. Weskar Patagonian Lodge is a great place to stay for views, value, and great food. Hotel Vendaval offers the same great things but is closer to town. Time spent: 2 days
Torres Del Paine: One of the most iconic and recognizable places in the Patagonia mountains, the iconic mountain range that inspires adventurers across the globe and the logo behind the Patagonia clothing brand.
It's a place that will literally take your breath away.
Not a lot of natural spots in this World have this effect but Torres Del Paine does. Massive jagged peaks piercing through often seen rain clouds. If you’re lucky the weather will clear and you'll see mountain formations and ranges you will never forget. They look like art, shaped by brutal south Chilean winds, and painted with minerals. Daily drives and hikes around the park give a laid-back experience where you can choose how long you stay. But, if you have time, you can stay longer and do the 5 day W trek on foot, camping at bases already set up for you.
If you’re looking for a once in a lifetime hotel experience go for the Patagonia Eco Camp. You will sleep in personal huts right next to the mountains, have warm meals waiting for you when you get back from hikes, and even have a chance to warm up in a common area and have some drinks with fellow adventurers. Time spent: 2 days
When you do visit Chile, here are some helpful tips for visiting this destination:
- Santiago is a busy city with tough drinking and driving laws as well as paid street parking everywhere. Skip the rental car and opt for rideshares like uber that are commonly used and reliable there.
- Be prepared to speak a little “restaurant” Spanish. Most locals know a little English but it is tough to communicate if you know zero Spanish. Google translate always helps!
- If you fly south to see Patagonia you will land in Punta Arenas. Renting a car is easy and prices are reasonable. Insurance in mandatory though, so be prepared to pay a little extra. The drive down is nice and easy and Puerto Natales is a great stopping point. There are buses that drive to the park as well if want to save money.
- We downloaded Google maps on our cellphones (before our trip) and used GPS in airplane mode. Some places are remote and had no service, so this saved us. Torres del Paine has no service at all
Can't-Miss: This one is easy – Torres del Paine. If you’re flying to Chile and skip the Patagonia mountains you’re nuts. This is a life-changing place. The captivating scenery will humble you and make you appreciate our planet on a different level. You will want to go back the moment you leave.
When you think of South America many things can come to your mind. Sunny beaches of Brazil, hiking Machu Picchu, or steak and wine in Argentina. But if you do think about visiting that continent be sure to add Chile to your list. It’s a very safe and inviting country that is affordable to reach and easy to get around in. You will love the overall balance of the place with nature, food, great cities, ocean, and mountains.