Relish in the freedom found in your self-drive itinerary in Chile and Argentina’s Lake Districts. Bask in the rejuvenating warmth of natural hot springs, ride horses along the Patagonian Steppe and follow the paths of legendary gauchos. Listen to the ice crunch beneath your feet as you traverse a snowcapped volcanic peak, and then wander through the majesty of the renowned national parks. Linger in the storybook charms of quiet alpine villages, and travel at your preferred pace. From luxurious...
Santiago – Arrive Santiago, Chile for an Introductory Tour of the Capital
Chile’s capital city brings cultural charm through the natural splendor of the Andes Mountains. The ridges border Santiago to the east and provide a rich soil to the neighboring valleys and freshwater from the snowmelt. Sycamore trees shade the boulevards as skyscrapers add a sense of contemporary height to the relaxed pace of the bohemian neighborhoods outside of the commercial center. Your flight will land at Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport, and your private transfer will meet you upon arrival. Your hotel will blend intimacy with luxury and provide a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere in the heart of the city in the Providencia district with its elegant French architectural façade.
Your guide will greet you in the lobby eager to lead you through an in-depth introductory cultural tour of Santiago, bringing you through Plaza de Armas to see the presidential palace of La Moneda. You will have an intimate view of the true culture of the city at the Central Market. Fishmongers offer elaborate displays of mussels, prawns, and sea bass as restaurants beneath the steel-framed dome fill the market with the scent of hardy stews and grilled squid dressed in lime and garlic. Produce stalls display mounds of custard apple and prickly pears, and vendors use the fresh fruit to create balanced juices for passersby, including a favorite of passion fruit and strawberry.
Pucon – Travel South to Temuco and Enjoy a Scenic Drive to Pucon
The morning light will glare off of the glass windows of the high-rises that decorate the Central Business District. The aroma of decadent coffee beans sourced from around South America emanates from the cafe located on a small lane of the Providencia district. Baristas prepare elaborate confections and drinks balanced between sweet, bitter, and creamy. After breakfast, your private transfer will greet you at the hotel and escort you to the airport for your short flight to Temuco.
Palm trees line the main plaza of Anibal Pinto, and Mapuche culture layers the Municipal Market, where vendors present hand-woven textiles, elegant woodwork, comfortable ponchos, and handcrafted mate gourds. Men enjoy the sunlight and sip the herbaceous tea from their polished gourd as passersby browse the shimmering jewelry inspired by Mapuche tradition. You will pick up your car at the airport and spend some time exploring Temuco, the birthplace and former home of Chile’s most famous poet, Pablo Neruda. The produce market of Feria Libre fills with the aromas of fresh strawberries and Chilean wineberry, known as maqui.
The peak of Cerro Ñielol soars above the city that is covered with a lush canopy at the height of nearly 1,100 feet above sea level. Hand-carved totems adorn the open spaces of the forest as a monument to the Indigenous peoples. You will take to the road on a scenic drive along the plains where sheep and cows graze as the forest trees return near the mountain slopes. The snow-capped peak of Villarrica Volcano comes into view, and you will reach the comforts of your beautiful hotel outside of Pucon, located on more than 55 acres of land that overlook the banks of the Liucura River.
Pucon – Relish a Full Day Excursion into the Landscapes around Pucon
In the morning, you can hear the rushing waters of the river beside your room. The dining room fills with a mixture of aromas, from roasted coffee beans to freshly baked pastries, along with hints of steeping tea drifting out of handmade mate gourds. The sunlight shines over the turquoise waters of Lake Villarrica as the wake brushes against the fine-grained black sand beaches near the promenade of Pucon. Pine-knotted shops offer a sense of traditional alpine ambiance amongst the bustling pace along the main street of Libertador, which leads to a small wharf that looks out to the snowcapped peak in the distance. Smoke puffs out of the summit of Villarrica Volcano and after wandering the casual culture and ambiance of town, you can make your way to the stunning Caburgua Water Pools in the Valdivian Rainforest.
Trees create a thick border to Caburgua Lake, which feeds the underground water system that leads to the natural pools. The sounds of splashing water emanate from the small cascades that are hidden by the overhanging trees. The sunlight shimmers over the turquoise and indigo hues of the water and you can dip your fingers into the water and feel the refreshing cold temperature contrasting with the summer heat that lingers in the oak and chestnut trees. Fire trees have brigh red and flowering spindles that contrast with the bright greens and blues of the landscape. A nearby guesthouse offers a comfortable atmosphere for visitors to relax, sip fresh-brewed tea, and enjoy a delectable pastry.
Huilo Huilo – Travel to the Lake District to Visit Villarrica National Park
In the morning, the town of Pucon fills with the scent of melted chocolate that drifts from the local confectionary. The evergreen trees border the town and glow with emerald hues below the opulent whitecap of Villarrica Volcano. Venture out into the landscape as evergreen trees fill the air with the scent of pine. Villarrica National Park encompasses nearly 155,700 acres of protected araucarias and woodlands native to Chile. Traverse the Villarrica Crater trail and pass beneath the forest canopy and over the undulating hills. The ascent leads you over ash and granite before reaching the snowline.
The trees have dispersed below and provide a stunning view of the surrounding mountains and glistening lakes below. You will strap crampons onto your feet for control over the icy snow that spreads along the summit. At nearly 1,000 feet above the valley floor, you will reach the end of the hike and find the mild crater absent of earlier steam and smoke. The interior has a chocolaty hue of rocks that are steam like a geyser to naturally release pressure. You will return to your car and continue to Huilo Huilo, a biological reserve that protects the Patagonian Rainforest that is nestled against the rolling peaks of the Andes Mountains. Your eco-friendly lodge will blend into the trees and offer stunning views of the soaring canopy and familiar snow-capped volcanic peaks of the Lakes District.
Huilo Huilo – Enjoy a Waterfall Trek and Excursion into the Forest Canopy
Enjoy the morning light as it filters through the trees and beams onto the rainforest floor. The aroma of pine drifts through the window and fades beneath the herbaceous scent of mate tea that lingers in the dining room. Your car will allow for the freedom to roam around Chile’s Lakes District at your leisure, venturing into the pristine waters of the Fuy River or seeking out the stunning Huilo Huilo cascade, which reaches a height of more than 130 feet. The river creates staggering whitewater that rushes between the granite mountains that are carpeted in greenery.
Mist rises from the waiting pool and sprays the surrounding trees, brush, and eager spectators. You will make your way into the trees to experience one of South America’s longest zip lines and fly through the ancient treetops. The excursion takes you nearly 300 feet above the forest floor, across four stages to reach nearly a full mile in total. Your guide will secure you in your harness and to the line, and you will leap from the wooden platform and glide over the trees in view of the Andean peaks. The wind will brush against your cheeks and ruffle your sleeves as your eyes are wide open so as to enjoy the distinctive view of the treetops that blur past.
San Martin de Los Andes – Cross the Andes into Argentina on a Scenic Drive
The waters of Lake Pirihueico glisten against the emerald trees and the bordering mountains. The Fui River feeds the lake, adding to the water’s surface area of 15 square miles. After breakfast, you will take your car and board the Pirihueico Ferry. The scenic boat ride allows the fresh air of the lake to drift over brush your skin as the refreshing aroma of pine drifts from the dense forest and trees that hang along the ridges of the Andean Mountains. The relaxing journey gives you time to enjoy the scenery as you pass the tree-clad promontories and kayakers will delight in the breadth of the lake.
Once at Puerto Pirihueico, you will continue to the Hua Hum Pass and cross into Argentina. The scenery will delight you in Argentina with evergreen forest, captivating aromas, and enchanting mountain peaks that are adorned with vibrant streams. You will reach your accommodation on the outskirts of San Martin de Los Andes, known for vast meadows that lead to the base of the looming foothills. Gauchos wrangle cattle and the aromas of a slow-cooked meats drift from the barbecue. Brown trout leap from the rushing waters of the nearby stream and the glittering pool on the property offer a reflective view of the surrounding landscape.
San Martin de Los Andes – Enjoy Culture and Countryside in San Martin
The tranquil ambiance around the estancia stems from the cattle that graze on the plai, and the serene alpine panorama can be seen from your room. On the outskirts of the ranch stands the town of San Martin de los Andes, a picturesque setting nestled on the valley floor. Pine-knotted buildings add to the luster of the alpine atmosphere with stores that display artisanal crafts and hand-woven clothing in their windows. The waters of Lacar Lake brush against the western edges of town and the day is yours to enjoy the relaxed pace of the mountain town or take to the countryside on a guided excursion.
Mount a horse under the watchful eye of your gaucho guide for an unforgettable journey into the woods. The trail will lead you along the vast plain with open views to the Andean peaks topped with snow. Alpines blossom with bright purple petals and the plains lead you to the beech forest along a narrow trail that follows the old Mapuche routes. The landscape will give way to black volcanic formations garnished with bubbling streams that are fed by melting glaciers. The gauchos share their mate tea, allowing the herbaceous aroma to overtake the pine. Their gourds are heavy in their hands as they cling to the polished wood tighter than the reins on the horse.
Villa la Angostura – Drive the Route of the Seven Lakes to Villa la Angostura
The sunlight washes over the greenery of the plains and along the lands of your estancia. The gauchos have already tended to the cattle and continue to sip their mate tea, using a thermos of hot water to refill their gourd at will. After breakfast, you will climb into your car eager to travel the gorgeous Road of the Seven Lakes, known for connecting San Martin de los Andes with Villa la Angostura over a stretch of more than 160 miles.
Venture to the shores of Lake Hermosa Valley, which German families settled in the 1940s with an inn and a sawmill. The wheel continues adorn the former banks of the passing river, which has shifted since. Red deer graze in the forest underbrush to relish the seclusion and lush foliage. The road brings you to the stunning Vullinaco Waterfall as the river careens over the granite cliff and is split by a narrow boulder along the edges of the precipice. The oak and pine trees frame the falls and accentuate the thunderous sounds with rustling leaves.
On a quieter section of the road, you will find an old wooden bridge ruined with time. The crystal blue water below reflects the antique structure, along with the bordering trees that lead to a view of the mountains. A narrow isthmus separates the gorgeous lakes of Villarino and Falkner, and you will have a view of the waters from above after crossing the narrow strip of land. Stop at leisure to revel in the natural beauty found along Argentina’s most beautiful drive before reaching Villa la Angostura.
Villa la Angostura – Delight in a Full Day Tour of Arrayanes National Park
Wake up to a remarkable view of the rich and reflective waters of Nahuel Huapi Lake and the snow-capped peaks of the Andean Mountains. The alpine ambiance of your accommodation will bring comfort and luxury with a morning that blends the aromas of pine, roasted coffee, and fresh-backed medialunas, a traditional pastry similar to croissants. After breakfast, you can make your way into Arrayanes National Park to view the stunning features of the Red Tree, along with the natural splendor of the national park that covers more than 4,330 acres.
Lengas trees spread across the lakeside, many of which were saplings more than four centuries ago. The Arrayanes trees blossom with white flowers that stand out against the cinnamon colored bark on the thin, long branches. You will touch your fingers to the smooth texture of the branches and find the canopy growing to a height of nearly 50 feet. Pudu, the world’s smallest deer, graze in the underbrush. They can grow up to 17 inches tall at the shoulder and with males growing small horns often hidden under tufts of hair. Their timid nature makes them hard to see amongst the cinnamon hues of the Arrayanes, but your guide will keep the footsteps quiet to hear if a deer forages nearby.
Puerto Varas – Return to Chile through Stunning Puyehue National Park
You will make your way back into Chile today as you travel the scenic roads that lead through Puyehue National Park. You have spent days roaming through the undulating hills that are blanketed with evergreen trees and adorned with soaring mountaintops, but the majesty of the landscape will continue to draw your attention and admiration. En route to the national park, you will pass grazing cows in the foreground as the tree line draws your eye to the dramatic snow-capped peak of Osorno Volcano, which reaches an elevation of 8,700 feet above sea level.
Inside the park, you traverse the trails leading to Salt del Indio, and the trail extends to a length of nearly 2,330 feet. The lush forest overtakes the path and shields you from the sky and the sunlight. The waterfall cascades over the cliff at the ends, divided by a rugged escarpment and adorned with dangling vines. Whitewater rolls over boulders and rocks that line the bed of the pool and lead into the Gol-Gol River. Coigue trees that are more than 800 years old line the riverbanks as layers of ash and pumice from the 2015 Puyehue Volcanic eruption linger around the national park. Bask in the natural hot springs along the foothills of the Caulle Mountain Range and allow the warmth of the waters to relax you before continuing on your journey to Puerto Varas.
Puerto Varas – Tour History, Culture, and Beauty around Llanquihue Lake
In the morning, you will have a stunning view of the glistening waters of Lake Llanquihue and the volcano chain associated with the Calbuco Mountains. The alpine décor brings an intimate ambiance and is accentuated by the sweet aroma of rich hot chocolate. Fires roar in the lobby and add to the cozy setting. The day is yours to discover the beauty of the surrounding lakeshores. The town of Puerto Varas maintains a connection to its German roots set amongst the natural beauty of the Patagonian landscape. Half-timbered homes line the streets along manicured gardens as visitors and locals alike take to the water on kayaks. Salmon linger in the cold water of the Petrohue River and the scent of coffee blends with the spiced aroma of the forest.
Learn about the regional culture and its connection to the 19th-century Central European settlers at the Fierro Museum. The space displays arts and antiques associated with Puerto Varas, including fine paintings that capture the evolution of the town. The diverse techniques used by the artists distinguish the differences between those influenced by European art or Indigenous peoples, with some artists take elements from both styles as they create. The museum is situated within a storybook-style home adorned with a wooden staircase and balcony that offers a marvelous view that leads to Osorno Volcano.
Puerto Varas – Return the Car and Depart for Home
The architectural heritage of Puerto Varas embodies the rich connection to the past. Red-tiled roofs glow along the spires and sloped contours of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish Church. The Yunge House was erected in the 1930s and gained prominence due to its figure erected almost entirely out of wood. The gabled roof draws the eye of passersby with elements of neo-Gothic style. At breakfast, you will find the alluring aroma of fresh coffee filling the dining room and then bask in the rich flavor while staring out at the unfettered view of the lake. When you are ready, you can step into the car and make your way to Puerto Montt. Later on, you will return your car to El Tepual Airport and check into your flight ready to return home.
- Drive along Argentina’s celebrated Route of the Seven Lakes, renowned for its endless beauty of rainforest, volcanic peaks, and indigo colored lakes
- Bask in the warmth and comfort of natural hot springs in Puyehue National Park
- Venture to the top of Villarrica Volcano on a guided tour and follow the manicured trails up the steep slope to glance into the active crater
- Delight in a unique excursion across the Patagonian plain and through the dense forests on horseback guided by an Argentine gaucho
- Traverse the enchanting treetops of the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve on a guided zip-line tour through the forest canopy
- Visit the Fierro Museum in Puerto Varas for unique insight into the blend of cultures of 19th-century German settlers and Indigenous peoples
- Discover the stunning Caburgua Water Pools outside of Pucon, which are fed by two enchanting waterfalls
- Enjoy a private tour of Santiago upon your arrival in Chile for an immersive experience in the vibrant Central Market and along the bustling city plazas
The pristine beauty and rugged allure of Patagonia await you on your 12-day road trip through Chile and Argentina. Your journey begins with your arrival in Santiago, Chile, and the capital city offers art and architecture, movement and style. Your private transfer will greet you at Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport and escort you to your hotel in the heart of the city. Enjoy a private tour for an in-depth view of the history and culture of Chile’s capital, from the life at the Central Market to the elegance of the presidential palace.
The next day, you will return to the airport for your flight to Temuco. Land there, and then collect your car and set out into the Lake District at your preferred pace. Wander around the charms of Temuco before venturing to your luxury boutique hotel found on the fringe of Pucon. The following day is yours to explore the countryside at your leisure, taking to the enchanting alpine streets of town or traversing the trails that edge Caburgua Lake to reach the hidden, eponymous pools. Travel to Huilo Huilo Reserve the next day with a stop en route at Villarrica National Park to enjoy a guided tour of the spectacular grounds and reach the summit of Villarrica Volcano. In the evening, you can settle into the comforts of your hotel that looks over the treetops of the rainforest.
Follow the trails around Huilo Huilo the next morning to discover the many lakes and enchanting waterfalls. In the afternoon, you will take to the treetops on a zip-line tour, allowing you to glide effortlessly through the canopy. Wake the next day and take your car on the ferry to cross Pirihueico Lake. Follow Hua Hum Pass into Argentina and relish the scenic drive that leads to an estancia near San Martin de Los Andes. The next day, you can explore the landscape under the guidance of a professional gaucho and horseback ride over the plains and through the forest. Enjoy mate tea and a barbecue lunch before returning to the estate. Drive along the most beautiful road in Argentina the next day as you follow the Route of the Seven Lakes. Revel in the stunning scenery of Patagonia before arriving in Villa la Angostura.
The next day, your guide will lead you through the ancient trees in search of pudu, a small deer, and of the distinctive Arrayanes trees. Return to Chile the next day by way of the Puyehue National Park. Visit the hot springs or follow the trails to find waterfalls, rivers, and lakes, and then relax at your beautiful accommodation on the shores of Lake Llanquihue. Relish in the beauty found around Puerto Varas and the surrounding natural splendor at your own pace. Enjoy the views of Osorno Volcano, visit the Fierro Museum, or take to the waters on a kayak excursion. Conclude as you return your car at El Tepual Airport in Puerto Montt before boarding your flight home.
$2,995 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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