Argentina and Chile are best done together. Due to its proximity and the length requires to traverse from north to south, it is most efficient to zig-zag your way through the two countries. This will become very useful when you get to Patagonia where the area covers both countries, and due to its remoteness and costly price, traveling back and forth could cost you more than necessary.
In this guide, I will take you from the desert of Atacama to the island life of Easter Island, through tropical forest of Iguazu falls and the snowy mountain range of Patagonia, all in one itinerary. You can find adventure anywhere you are in these 2 countries, and this itinerary will take you to all of them.
Why go to Argentina and Chile?
For Chile, the famous Atacama desert which is considered to be the place that has the clearest sky in the world for stargazing is located in the north, the famous Torres del Paine national park in the South and the Easter Island in the west.
For Argentina, you have the Iguazu Falls in the north and many diverse spots in Patagonia in the south. You combine these 2 countries, and you get one of the best trips you will ever have, from tropical to snow, islands to a desert, what more could one ask for.
When To Go
Since the length of both countries covers more than 4,300 km, it will depend entirely on where you are.
For Patagonia (South of Chile and Argentina), November to March is high season and even though it is not a bad idea to come during this time to maximize the chance of getting good weather, you will also have to deal with the crowds and the overbooked buses and tours. The best time to avoid the crowd is the shoulder season from October to November where the crowd is manageable plus you get the beautiful spring landscape.
For Easter Island, Late January to mid-February is the best time as the annual Tapati festival is taking place with concerts and events all over the island.
For Iguazu Falls, February to March is recommended as the water level is still quite high and the sky is mostly clear. It can be quite humid during this time but you will cool off immediately once you get close to the falls.
For Atacama desert, any time between September to March is good but be sure to be in the Atacama during the moonless nights to see the stars.
How to Get Here
Browse through Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight from where you live to Santiago (SCL) and from there, you can find either an overnight bus or a cheap flight to Atacama airport (CJC). To find a cheap flight, I would recommend you browse through Skyscanner or Momondo before to compare prices so you will get the cheapest one possible.
How To Get Around
Argentina and Chile are not cheap countries so buses are the perfect solution for long distance trip. Overnight buses, though not very punctual, are very comfortable covers most of the popular tourist location. Be sure to get the Cama seat for your overnight buses.
San Pedro de Atacama - Hostel Rural - 17.69 USD/Night
Antofagasta - EiLe Hostel - 19.04 USD/Night
La Serena - Hostal El Arbol - 12.85 USD/Night
Valparaiso - Nómada Eco Hostel - 13.30 USD/Night - Well located, the fastest internet I have ever experienced.
Santiago - La Chimba Hostel - 16.00 USD/Night
Easter Island - Vaianny Guesthouse - 38 USD/Night
Pucon - Hostel French Andes - 13.10 USD/Night - Very Cozy!
San Carlos de Bariloche - Hostel Achalay - 13.89 USD/Night
El Chalten - Lo de Trivi - 11.00 USD/Night
El Calafate - I Keu Ken Hostel - 10.74 USD/Night
Puerto Natales - The Singing Lamb Backpackers - 20.00 USD/Night - Be sure to book in advanced during high season.
Ushuaia - Antarctica Hostel - 25.26 USD/Night - Be sure to book in advanced during high season.
Buenos Aires - Hotel Bolivar - 18.94 USD/Night
Iguazu Falls - Hostel Bambu Mini - 14.52 USD/Night
Internet with Entel sim card in Chile is very good throughout the country even in the Easter Island and Patagonia. The speed is reliable and it is affordable. For more info, read here.
Argentina, on the other hand, is quite a mixed bag. The internet by Claro works well in big cities like Buenos Aires but in Patagonia, it didn't work 60% of the time and in El Chalten, no signal anywhere. Even though the internet package has unlimited data, they capped the data each day to 50MB and you have to pay extra to get the speed back, with another 50MB capped. That is bullsh*t if you asked me but there were not many options available. For more info, read here.
Traveling here, on average, will cost you more than traveling in most countries out there. You can expect to spend around 45 - 65 USD per day per person with food, accommodation and transportation.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Argentina and Chile, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure. They have a simple and flexible search system that allowed me to find the right insurance for the right amount of time at an affordable price in seconds. If you need a travel insurance, give WorldNomads.com a try.
Two Months Itinerary
San Pedro de Atacama (3 nights)
If you are coming from Boliva, San Pedro de Atacama is where you will spend time getting use to Chile so spend your first day walking around the town square and in the evening, rent a bike and go up the Valle de la Luna for a beautiful sunset. At night, go on a Star Tour organized by SpaceObs and gaze at the stars in one of the clearest sky you will ever see.
The next morning, you can go on a Geyser tour that starts at 4 AM to catch the sunrise at Geysers del Tatio, one of the largest geyser site in the world. Be prepared for the cold since you will be going up to 4,200m above sea level. You will be back by afternoon so you can take this time to rest.
The final day, go on a day tour to Lagunas Altiplanicas, the Chilean version of the salt flat. Stunning landscape all around with a chance of spotting flamingos in their habitats.
Antofagasta (2 nights)
One of the most surreal experience in Chile was to see the Hand of the Desert, an art installation that was built in the middle of no where in Atacama desert, but getting here was not so easy. First you have to base yourself in Antofagasta, where you will have to rent a car and drive 30 minutes out of the city to see the statue. After that, you can drive down a little further and visit the Very Large Telescope, a telescope facility operated by the European Southern Observatory on Cerro Paranal. If you are in Antofagasta during the weekend, you can get a full day tour that would both include a visit to the Hand and the observatory.
La Serena (3 nights)
La Serena is the second oldest city in Chile, only second to Santiago and here you can easily spend 3 days exploring the valleys and beaches surrounding La Serena. On you first day, spend sometime to absorb the unique old town of La Serena, follows by a rest day at the beach, and then the last day you can go on a day tour to explore the beautiful nature around the Elqui valley.
Valparaiso (2 nights)
Valparaiso is known for its colorful street art and that is the thing you should on your full day in the city. You can take a tour but I preferred walking around, discovering each work of street art at my own pace. There are many beautiful graffitis scattered all over the hills of Valparaiso and in between are small cozy cafes where you can indulge yourself in the finest coffee overlooking the the colorful streets of Valparaiso.
Santiago (4 nights)
Santiago is one of the safest capital city in South America and it is easily one of my favorite place to spend time in. There are quite a few must-see places in Santiago such as the view from San Cristóbal Hill, Museum of Memory and Human Rights, Santiago Metropolitan Cathedra and the Huerfanos street in down town Santiago. Spend a few days learning the history of Chile in the museum and explore the nightlife the city has to offer.
Easter Island (6 nights)
Easter island is the highlight of my trip in Chile. There are many things you can do in this little island like a visit to the Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum to learn the Rapanui history, the Orongo crater, Ahu Tongariki for the best sunrise of your life, Rano Raraku where all the moai heads were made, Anakena beach for a nice relaxing swim in the early morning, and if you are there during the end of January, attend the Tapati festival and enjoy the music and dance performed by the locals.
You can rent a quad bike and explore around the island as you please. Make sure to go out at night during moonless nights for the best stargazing experience you will ever have.
Pucon (3 nights)
If the weather permits, with a tour, you can summit the Villarrica volcano and spot spewing lava inside the crater. The tour operator will provide you all the necessary gear to traverse the snow capped volcano so you do not have to prepare your equipment before hand. It takes around 4 hours to climb up so you need to be in shape. Also, you will have the chance to slide down the volcano with a slate!
There are many other adventures you can participate here from fishing to hiking in the Huerquehue National Park so if you are looking for an adventure, you will find them here.
San Carlos de Bariloche (3 nights)
Bariloche is like a little Switzerland of Argentina. The city is located by a beautiful lake with many mountains surround the city so naturally, I would recommend you to go up. You can either hike or take the cable car up to the Cerro Campanario and appreciate what Bariloche has to offer. You can also cruise across the Lago Nahuel Huapi, see the Black Glacier, explore the caves of the old volcano or simply walk around the city center and see why it is like Switzerland.
El Chalten (3 nights)
El Chalten is a hippie mountain town with a view of Fitz Roy peak, one of the most well known peak in Patagonina. You can hike to a lookout point 30 minutes away from El Chalten and watch the sunset or you can spend 8 - 10 hours hiking the Laguna de los Tres trail to see Fitz Roy peak up-close. You can also camp at the base of the trail for a night and hike to the lake to see Fitz Roy at your own time. Another recommended trail to hike is Laguna Torre, which takes around 6 - 7 hours. As impressive as the Laguna de los Tres trail.
Note: Internet access, ATM, and credit cards are unusable here so prepare enough money before you arrive.
El Calafate (3 nights)
Go on a day tour to see the famous Perito Moreno glacier and spend a day walking around the park. The massive scale of the glacier is best appreciated in all angles. If you have an extra day, you can also do a glacier walk on the Perito Moreno glacier itself and explore the ice cave only accessible by foot.
Puerto Natalas (2 - 5 nights)
Puerto Natales is a base to launch yourself into Torres del Paine park. The city itself is nothing to brag about so I would suggest you go straight to the national park. Doing the W-trek through the Torres del Paine national park is highly recommended if you have a chance to do it. It takes 4 - 5 days to complete the loop and you will be sleeping in mountain huts provided by the park. You will have to book these huts several weeks in advanced though so please plan before you arrive. If you can not book these huts in time, you can hike to Cordillera Paine independently and see the best of Torres del Paine without staying overnight.
Ushuaia (3 nights)
You will literally be at the end of the world here as this is one of the last civilization at the most southern tip of the world. This is where you can launch yourself into Antarctica if you have 8000 USD to spare. If not, you can spend a day hiking in Tierra del Fuego national park among the rare plantation only found in this part of the world. The next day you can rest from all the hiking by taking a boat tour to the Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse and spend a day enjoying fresh food in Ushuaia city.
Buenos Aires (4 nights)
Buenos Aires is the capital city of Argentina, and with most capital cities come many things to keep you busy for a few days. Now that you are back from Patagonia, you can spend sometime spoiling yourself by trying the famous Argentinian beef in one of the many restaurant in San Telmo, learn the national dance moves of Argentina, the Tango, or learn the history of the country by visiting the many museums available in the city such as the National History Museum and the Falkland Islands War Memorial. You can also spend a day exploring the La Boca district and get a photo of you with the colorful houses of La Boca.
Iguazu Falls (4 nights)
Last but not least, you can take an overnight bus or if you are lucky enough to find a cheap flight, fly to Iguazu Falls and spend a day exploring the Argentinian side of the falls and another on the Brazilian side. I highly recommend you explore both sides as each side offers different takes on this wonder of the world. If you have an extra day, you can stay on the Brazilian side and go on a helicopter tour to really appreciate the scale of Iguazu Falls.
That is it for a 2 months-ish itinerary through Chile and Argentina. Did I miss anything from the list? Please let me know in the comments below.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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