Two-Week Foodie & Nature Road Trip Across Chile

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Advisor - Barbara Zerbe
Curated By

Barbara Zerbe

  • Chile

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • City Travel

  • Couples Travel

  • Digital Nomad Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • International Travel

  • Road Trip Travel

  • Mountains

  • Outdoors

  • Local Culture

city with green mountains in the background
Curator’s statement

Chile has an amazing and diverse landscape with dramatic deserts, sandy beaches, volcanic rainforests and glaciers. Driving through the country is easy and a car gives you the freedom to reach some truly beautiful less-populated areas if you aren't afraid to get off the paved road. There's plenty for your palette to explore. Seafood is the best as the entire country is lined by cool Pacific waters while the eastern border of the Andes creates ideal wine-growing regions. The mountains, the volcano, the lakes and the river make this region an endless playground for exploring nature and adventure travel.

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Days 1-3: Santiago

aerial view of city during daytime

We enjoyed staying in the Bellas Artes district. It was easy to get to other parts of the city plus had plenty of food and culture. It is where we began our habit of tasting pisco sours and ceviche just about every day of this trip. The performing arts school put on entertaining free performances in Plaza Camilo Mori every night.

You can easily spend a day just exploring Bellas Artes. Take the funicular to the top of Cerro San Cristobal. The funicular is a great experience in itself and you will be rewarded with a full view of the city and the surrounding mountains. Afterward, pop into the Pablo Neurda house for a tour. Finish off with dinner and cocktails at Sarita Colonia restaurant which offers a kitschy and delicious twist on Peruvian dishes.

Get ready for a long day of walking (or just take an Uber) to Lastarria. We started the day wandering up to Cerro Santa Lucia and Castillo Hildago. The gardens are a respite from the dry concrete of the city and the old castle offers another beautiful view of the city. Salvador Cocina y Café was a great stop for lunch among the local business people.

Next, wander through Plaza de Armas and make your way to explore the indigenous art of Chile at Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino. If you still have the energy for braving crowds and peddlers or want a taste of seafood, you can wander over to the 1800s seafood Mercado Central de Santiago.

Back in Bellas Artes, be sure to make a reservation for dinner at Peumayén Ancestral Food. The 25-piece indigenous-inspired tasting menu is a great follow-up to the museum.

If you are in town on a Thursday, grab an uber to the Condes neighborhood and warm up your Chilean wine palette. Les Dix Vins has oysters and sparkling wine on Thursdays and the staff is very knowledgeable and friendly. There is also a good wine shop to buy a few bottles.

A car isn't recommended in Santiago and it was very easy to use Uber. So you can pick a car at various rental places in the city when it is time to hit the road and return it at the airport at the end of your trip.

Days 4-5: Santiago to Pucon via Chillan

green filed with flowers during daytime

You could make this trip in one day, but we found it easier to enjoy the drive and break it up into two days. We stayed overnight in the city of Chillan. We also took some time to stop in the Araucania town of Temuco. We headed straight for the open-air mercado where we wandered through stalls of glorious food, ate the best ceviche, carne skewers and tried the Chilean favorite drink of Mote Con Huesillos (peach juice and wheat seeds). It was Sunday and many places were closed, but the nearby Araucania village was a popular recommendation that we were not able to explore. As soon as you leave Chillan and enter the forest area, the scenery becomes ever-changing and lusher with multiple volcanos in the background.

Advisor - Barbara Zerbe

A note from Barbara

Be prepared to pay cash for toll roads constantly. Our rental car covered tolls around the city, but soon we were dishing out pesos. I think we spent approximately $70 U.S. in tolls for the entire trip.

Days 6-7: Pucon & Valdivia

waterfall surrounded by trees and greenery

Pucon and the active Villarica volcano are just a taste of the beautiful natural wonderland of Southern Chile. If you are staying at a place like Cabañas Vistas Pucon, it may be tempting to just lay in the window bench reading, daydreaming interrupted only by soaking in your own personal wooden hot tub, but there is so much natural beauty to explore. I am an avid hiker and the Sendero Mirado de los Crateres is one of the best I've ever taken. It requires more off-road driving to get to the trailhead, but the 5-6 mile hike up partially up the volcano is worth it.

On another day, we did a much shorter, but still spectacular hike to El Salto de Claro (waterfall) and then drove to go spend a couple of hours soaking in the natural termes (hot springs). We drove for two hours one day towards the coast to visit the town of Valdivia. It was a cute port area. We saw some additional scenery and tasted more ceviche and seafood. In hindsight, I might have preferred another day around Pucon at the lake or whitewater rafting.

Day 8-9: Pucon to Vina del Mar via Curico

snow-covered mountain with red bush in the foreground

This stretch was an even longer drive and I'm glad we stopped. We opted to stay near the coast for four days, but I wish we had spent a couple of those days in the wine region. It would have been good to take an extra night in Curcio and take a wine tour during the day - or splurge and stay a night at the glorious Vik. Another option would be to take a day off of Santiago or do a day wine tour from there, but I liked the time to recover from jet lag at the beginning of the trip.

Days 10-14: Vina del Mar

beach during daytime

We thought it would be nice to finish our trip with a few days at the beach. While a nice and breezy change from Santiago, it was a little cooler than expected. We were only able to spend a few hours at the beach on one day. That's probably a good thing because due to the hole in the ozone layer, the sun is extra strong here. It was a quick Uber ride to neighboring Valparaiso where we enjoyed wandering the unique and hilly streets. No building is left uncovered as colorful street art and artists are everywhere.

In Vina del Mar we continued our culinary exploration of pisco sours and ceviche. Don Willy's is a small restaurant with a delicious 5-course chef's tasting of Chilean dishes and generous wine pairings. La Vinoteca was another favorite spot that allowed us to taste more of the local Chilean wine.

When it was time to leave, we packed up and made the two-hour drive to the Santiago airport. The international terminal had long lines so give yourself plenty of time.

Need to Know

For a different route, you can go to Vina del Mar after Santiago and then drive even further south to Puerto Montt and fly out of that area.

Advisor - Barbara Zerbe

Travel Advisor

Barbara Zerbe

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Chile.