I know that 10 days in Chile is not enough (especially if you add a side trip to Bolivia to your Chile itinerary) but sometimes that’s all you have. And that was the case with me too.
I planned my trip to Chile carefully so I could use my time there in the best possible way and see all the best Chile attractions. I must say I was really satisfied with my 10 days in Chile itinerary and I’m happy to share it here with you.
Of course, I could have visited some other places, divide my time between destinations differently but overall I could really see a lot and most importantly I visited places that have been on my bucket list since I was a teenager.
I hope this Chile itinerary will inspire you to visit this amazing part of the world too, it is truly spectacular and definitely worth the long trip down there!
Table of contents
- 1 Visiting Chile – practical information
- 2 Chile itinerary
- 2.1 Day 0: arrival
- 2.2 Day 1: Santiago de Chile
- 2.3 Day 2: Day trip from Santiago to Valparaiso
- 2.4 Day 3: Punta Arenas
- 2.5 Day 4: Day trip to Torres del Paine
- 2.6 Day 5: Punta Arenas – Santiago
- 2.7 Day 6: Santiago – Calama – Uyuni
- 2.8 Day 7: Uyuni
- 2.9 Day 8: Uyuni – San Pedro de Atacama
- 2.10 Day 9: Atacama tour
- 2.11 Day 10: Atacama – Santiago
- 2.12 Day 11: Santiago – departure
- 3 Final thoughts on spending 10 days in Chile
- 4 Travel Resources
Visiting Chile – practical information
Before you visit Chile you might need some practical information to plan your trip there in the best and most effective way. I put together a small guide to visiting Chile with all the info you might need – click here to read my Chile travel tips!
And now, let me share with you my 10 days in Chile itinerary. In fact, there are 11 days included but one of them was a complete waste of time and I wouldn’t count it in the overall trip as all I did was watching Netflix then.
Day 0: arrival
I don’t really count that day to my Chile itinerary either as I arrived late in the evening and I made it from the airport to the hotel at around 10 pm. I was so tired after the long journey from Barcelona + the jetlag that I fell asleep almost right away.
How to get from the airport to the center:
I used public transport when going from Santiago airport to the city center and it was really easy. There is a bus that departs from in front of the airport exit no 4, it goes every 10 minutes between 6:00 am and 11:30 pm and once per hour during the night.
The bus goes to the Los Heroes metro station via Las Rejas, Universidad de Santiago, Pajaritos, and Estación Central metro stations. You buy the ticket in front of the bus, when I used it in May 2019 one-way ticket was 1 900 CLP, return 3 400 CLP.
The taxi and uber from the airport to the center should be around 20.000 CLP.
Where I stayed:
I’ve decided to stay in downtown Santiago since I didn’t have all that much time and I wanted to be close to most of the attractions. The thing is, central Santiago is where people go to work but in the evening it felt a bit deserted. I didn’t mind it all that much since my jetlag was killing me but you might want to stay in a more eventful neighborhood like Barrio Italia or Bario Bellavista.
I stayed at Che Lagarto Hostel Santiago and I can definitely recommend this place. Other places in central Santiago worth recommending include:
- Hotel Cumbres Lastarria (9.2/10)
- Hotel Altiplanico Bellas Artes (9.0/10)
- Hotel Plaza San Francisco (9.1/10)
Day 1: Santiago de Chile
Because of the jetlag, I had an early start on my first day in Chile. I wanted to focus on central Santiago only since I didn’t know when I will be dead tired again (did I mention jetlag is a bitch?). Fortunately, there are plenty of things to do and see in Santiago so I wasn’t bored at all!
I’m a sucker for good views and beautiful interiors and that’s what my first day in Chile was about. Central Santiago is full of interesting buildings, I had some of them on my list while others (like the National Library or Estación Mapocho) I found randomly.
Wandering around randomly and finding all the great spots was a real highlight for me. The architecture was really impressive, the kind I like the most, a nice mix of 19th and 20th centuries styles, with some nice details, passages or yard that hide real gems.
As for the views, I climbed to Santa Lucía Hill, and normally the view from there should be good, with the Andes just outside of the city. But since it was hazed a bit the view wasn’t as impressive as I expected.
That’s also why I skipped another viewpoint, probably the most popular one in Santiago – from San Cristóbal Hill. At least I could see a bit of the Andes in the background and the city didn’t look bad either.
Places I visited on that day:
- Chilean National Library
- Santa Lucía Hill
- Plaza de Armas
- Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral
- The Main Post Office
- Central Market
- Mercado Tirso de Molina
- Estación Mapocho
- Plaza de la Constitución
- and numerous random streets in the Downtown
Day 2: Day trip from Santiago to Valparaiso
Before I even found cheap flights to Chile I knew there is one place, in particular, I need to see there and that’s Valparaiso, one of the most popular day trips from Santiago. From the moment I saw this colorful street art heaven I kept dreaming about going there and see all these amazing works in real life.
Valparaiso is like a madman dream. The whole city is basically covered in all kinds of colorful street art and what’s more, there are a few funiculars connecting lower and upper parts of the neighborhoods – for the person who likes both of things it’s like a paradise.
Fortunately, Santiago to Valparaiso day trip is super easy to do and that’s where I went on my second day in Chile. Even if this is the second-largest city in Chile, it didn’t felt that way, it was more like this sleepy town where life goes by slowly.
The bus station is located a short walk from the center of the city and all the main Valparaiso attractions. But the truth is, the best things to do in Valparaiso is to just wander around and enjoy the colorful city with all its quirks. At least that’s what I did and I enjoyed Valparaiso to the fullest.
The number of street art works is simply overwhelming, you can see some good paintings on every second home and corner and sometimes you don’t know where to look, there are so many of them! This is why I wanted to visit Valparaiso really badly and that’s the thing that definitely didn’t disappoint me.
Since the city is located on the picturesque hills there are a few funiculars you can use for a little fee – they are a must to get a feel of Valparaiso.
I spent a few hours in the city and would have gladly stayed longer. While one day in Valparaiso might not be enough to get to know the city properly, it can give you a good feel of the place.
How to get from Santiago to Valparaiso:
This is actually super easy. There are frequent bus connections, every 20 minutes or so, and the journey takes around 90 minutes.
First, you need to get to Pajaritos bus station and then see which bus departs first – the two main companies serving this route are Turbus and Pullman (they have similar prices and standards). I got the return ticket for 5 800 CLP (one-way was 3000 CLP) and the bus left within 10 minutes.
If you don’t want to use public transport you can go for the tour from Santiago to Valparaiso (sometimes together with another nearby coastal town, Vina del Mar). Here are some popular tours:
- Valparaiso and Viña del Mar Day Tour
- Valparaíso Tour with Funicular Ride
- Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, & Casablanca Valley Tour
- Highlights of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar
Day 3: Punta Arenas
Early in the morning, I left Santiago for Punta Arenas – the largest city and the tourist center of Chilean Patagonia, located some 2 thousand kilometers from the capital.
There are frequent flights operated by three airlines, connecting Santiago and Punta Arenas – I used the local airline Sky since their schedule worked the best for me and the price was very fine.
Unfortunately, I arrived in Punta Arenas on May 1st – Labour Day – so basically everything was closed (I had to do some grocery shopping at the gas station). The weather also didn’t help as it was gloomy and just sad so I did nothing on that day, just hid in my hostel room, edited pictures, and watched movies on Netflix.
I don’t really count this day as a valid one in my Chile itinerary since there were no activities involved. But if this was a regular day, in the summer season I would most likely go to one of the tours that depart from Punta Arenas (that already didn’t run when I arrived).
Here are some of the Punta Arenas tours you can take:
- Full-Day Whales, Penguins, and Glaciers Tour
- Strait of Magellan Park and Bulnes Fort
- Walk with Penguins on Magdalena & Marta Island
- King Penguin & Tierra del Fuego Tour
Where I stayed: Hostal Torres del Paine 2 (9.0/10) – it was cozy, clean and with friendly staff. The location was very good too, a few minutes walk from the main square of Punta Arenas.
Other recommended places to stay in Punta Arenas:
Day 4: Day trip to Torres del Paine
I started the day very early as I had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning but I didn’t mind it all that much as this was the day my childhood dream was about to make true – I was going to Terres del Paine National Park! It’s a bit of a journey from Punta Arenas (Puerto Natales, located a bit up north, is a bit more popular departure point for Torres del Paine tour), around 4 hours one-way, but it’s definitely worth the trip.
Torres del Paine was the reason why I went all the way to Patagonia or even to Chile. The magnificent mountains are so beautiful they seem unreal and no pictures can show you how impressive they really are.
Since I only had 10 days in Chile, a day trip to Torres del Paine must have been enough for me, but I would gladly have stayed there for a few days and go hiking to see more of this amazing area. But even during this day trip, I could see quite a bit as we stopped in various locations in the Torres del Paine National Park (there are so many amazing viewpoints that you don’t need to climb to!), as well as in Mylodon Cave and eventually in Puerto Natales.
We were back in Punta Arenas around 8 in the evening, just in time for dinner in one of the restaurants in the city. It was a long day but I enjoyed every single minute of it!
Day 5: Punta Arenas – Santiago
It was my third day in Punta Arenas and I finally could see the city before catching the flight back to Santiago in the evening. There are a few interesting things to do in Punta Arenas but the city is compact enough that you can easily walk everywhere.
Don’t miss the local cemetery with some impressive mausoleums of the aristocratic families. You might also notice that many of the surnames sound Croatian – that’s why there was a big diaspora from Croatia, they arrived in Patagonia in the second half of the 19th century, shortly after Punta Arenas was founded.
Other interesting places in the city include Plaza de Armas and its surrounding, with some nice architecture and the monument of Magellan, the embankment with the “Punta Arenas” sign or Cerro de la Cruz – the best viewpoint in the city.
There are also a few really nice cafes in the city where you can relax and have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.
If you would like to see Punta Arenas with a guide the tour might be a good option – click here for the details.
Where I stayed: since I arrived late in the evening (at 10 pm) at Santiago airport and I had my next flight at 7 in the morning I’ve decided to stay in the Holiday Inn at the airport. It was a bit expensive but that few hours of sleep in a comfortable bed was bliss, especially before a long travel day I had ahead. Click here for the details of the hotel.
Day 6: Santiago – Calama – Uyuni
This day was spent on traveling only and I saw nothing but a beautiful landscape of northern Chile and Bolivia.
I took the early morning flight to Calama – the city known as the getaway to the Atacama. But instead of going there right away I did a little detour on my Chile trip and went to Bolivia to see the famous Salar de Uyuni. I figured that since I’m so close it would be a pity to miss this place, even if it basically required two days of traveling there and back.
So, after arriving in Calama I went to the local bus station to catch the bus to Uyuni across the border. The journey took less than 7 hours but the views along the way were really amazing.
I arrived in Uyuni when it was already dark so I could really see the city. Besides, the altitude of over 3,600 meters above the sea level affected me a bit (after all I came here directly from altitude 0 in Punta Arenas) and I was so tired I went to sleep almost right away.
Where I stayed: Le Ciel d’Uyuni (8.0/10)
Other recommended places to stay in Uyuni:
Day 7: Uyuni
I prebooked my Salar de Uyuni tour so I didn’t need to look for one when I arrived in the town – this shouldn’t be difficult anyway as Uyuni lives off tourists and there are tour agencies on every corner.
A popular option is to take a 3-days tour from Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama and see all the highlights along the way. Since I had a very limited time I had to skip it and do only a day tour. But that was fine too.
Before the tour departed I went for a quick walk around the city – it’s small and nice but nothing really special. The Salar de Uyuni tour I took was good but similar to all the other day trips there – even if there are many companies offering the tour to the salt flats, they are all exactly the same.
Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world and the area is really vast but there are a few places where all the tours meet and it can get a bit crowded. You can expect more people at the trains graveyard, the market with souvenirs and Isla del Pescado but other than that there will be only you and your tourmates. In my group, there were six people and I think that’s the standard size.
Salar de Uyuni is a truly spectacular place and one of the world’s wonders of nature. Just like with Torres del Paine, no pictures can show how incredible the salt flats are – all you can see around are white layers of salt that spread for kilometers in front of you. This is definitely a must-visit place in South America.
Here are Salar de Uyuni tours you might want to book:
Day 8: Uyuni – San Pedro de Atacama
Another day that I spent traveling, this time from Uyuni back to Chile. My next stop was San Pedro de Atacama – the main tourist hub on the Atacama desert – the driest place in the world.
I took the direct bus from Uyuni, it left the Bolivian town very early in the morning and arrived at the final destinations a bit over 10 hours later (that included 2 hours spent at the border). Fortunately, the bus was comfortable enough so the trip wasn’t that bad.
I still had some time to walk around San Pedro de Atacama on that day – it’s a small but pleasant town in the desert that aims at tourists so in the central part you will mostly see tour companies, bike rental shops or a few restaurants. Still, it’s a nice, quiet, and relaxing place to be in.
Where to stay in San Pedro de Atacama
Day 9: Atacama tour
I wanted to see more of Atacama than San Pedro de Atacama and the surrounding (which was great anyway) so decided to go for a tour of the desert. There are many options to choose from and I’m sure no matter which tour you decide to take, it will be amazing.
I went for the one covering Miscanti Lake and Miniques Lagoon, Piedras Rojas, Tuyajto Lagoon and Chaxa Lagoon on the Atacama Salt Flats inside Flamingos National Reserve. This was again a long and busy day but the views were incredible and so breathtaking. I can easily say Atacama was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, I didn’t expect such beauty there!
Here are tours from San Pedro de Atacama you might be interested in:
- Piedras Rojas, Altiplanics Lagoons & Salar Full-Day Tour
- Salar de Atacama, Altiplanic Lagoons, and Toconao Day Tour
- Cejar and Tebinquinche Lagoons
- Hidden Lagoons of Baltinache
Day 10: Atacama – Santiago
I was considering going for another tour on that day, to the geysers, but I’ve decided to stay in San Pedro de Atacama. I was already a bit tired and there were a few places near the town that I wanted to see so I actually ended up hiking for some 15 km in a beautiful area.
Most of the visitors go to the nearby Valle de la Luna but since I’ve seen a bit of it from the bus I went to another valley – Valle de la Muerte. And it was a great decision!
The valley was mostly empty and the views were yet again incredible. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the highest point as I had to go back to the town to catch the transfer back to the airport in Calama. But what I’ve seen was already enough to impress and amaze me!
Where I stayed: since I arrived in Santiago again late in the evening and I had a flight back to Barcelona the next evening I figured an airport hotel is a good option again so I don’t need to go back and forth to the center with my backpack. Besides, after these busy 10 days in Chile, I really needed to splurge a bit and to eat a proper, European breakfast. Yes, it was a bit expensive but I don’t regret a single penny.
Day 11: Santiago – departure
After a well-deserved rest, I left for central Santiago to see a few more places that I missed at the beginning of the trip. It was again a busy day since Santiago offers so much.
This time I focused on some less-known attractions and so I visited Centro Cultural Palacio de La Moneda (a cultural center located in the presidential palace), Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights, commemorating the victims of Pinochet regime between 1973 and 1990), Parque Quinta Normal, Barrio Italia (a charming, colorful and bohemian part of Santiago), Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Barrio Bellavista (another cool and artsy neighborhood) and finally Centre Gabriela Mistral (another cultural center).
It was not everything I wanted to see in Santiago as the capital of Chile had so many cool spots that stole my heart. But it was time for me to leave Chile, tired but satisfied with all the incredible places I’ve managed to see.
Final thoughts on spending 10 days in Chile
While I know that 10 days in Chile is not enough o put all the great places in the country (especially if you add a side trip to Bolivia to your Chile itinerary), it is already enough to see some of the main attractions, to get a feel of the country and to meet some friendly people.
Of course, I would have loved to stay there longer, to go to Easter Island, Lauca National Park, Chiloé National Park or Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park or to spend more time in Patagonia and Atacama that I both loved. But since my time in Chile was very limited I had to focus only on the highlights and I think I did a pretty good job covering them all.
So if you are wondering if it’s possible to see Chile in 10 days I can confidently say that yes, it is. And this Chile itinerary shows you how to do it.
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