It’s true, Chile is one of the top South American countries for a road trip. On a Chile road trip, you could find yourself driving across mirrored salt flats, past giant flocks of flamingos, through the country’s greatest cities, into prestigious wine regions, and even to Patagonia’s most coveted national parks. Not only do Chilean driving routes give you an unmatched opportunity to see some of the most unbelievably beautiful landscapes you’ll ever witness, but they also give you opportunities to have plenty of bucket list experiences

In this article, we share the five very best routes to take on your Chile Road trip for an adventure you’ll treasure forever. Between them, they show you how to explore all of Chile’s highlights from the northern desert to Patagonia’s southern tip. Which of these Chile road trips would you most like to take?

Chile Road Trip: The Wine Route

Sandwiched between the South Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains, the Chilean foothills are blessed with an optimal climate for wine-making. As a result, the country boasts an almost 800-mile-long wine region serving everything from the finest Cabernet Sauvignons in the world to Sauvignon Blancs. 

If you have the time and inclination, why not journey across the world’s longest wine route from Elqui Valley near La Serena to Cautin Valley near Temuco? If not, you can opt to drive north from Santiago to Elqui Valley, stopping at the Casablanca, Aconcagua, and Choapa valleys along the way. This route offers a mix of red and white grapes, established wineries and new, and both small local wineries and global ones.

Alternatively, head south on your Chile road trip from Santiago through the popular Maipo Valley to the Cachapoal, Maule, Bio-Bio, and Cautin Valley. Here, not only will you find some of Chile’s most prestigious wineries, but you will also find some of its most intriguing and unusual. Whichever wine route you choose, you’ll be blown away by the incredible variety of landscapes across the dramatic Chilean foothills.

Discover which Chilean wine regions you’d most like to visit here.

What to see and do en route

  • Learn about traditional Chilean wine-making
  • Take part in the wine-making process
  • Go horse-riding through the valleys
  • Go vineyard-hopping by bike
  • Go on hikes and other nature excursions
  • Take a cooking class to make Chilean cuisine

Chile Road Trip: The Desert Route

Covering an area larger than 100,000 km², the Atacama Desert in northern Chile is a vast and varied region full of adventurous roads, each one offering refreshingly different landscapes. One moment, you can be driving beside starch-white salt flats blending into the horizon, and the next driving between the Mars-like rock formations of Moon Valley. 

At the heart of it all is the buzzing little adobe town San Pedro de Atacama, where you’ll pick up your vehicle. Since there are but a few small settlements in the Atacama, San Pedro will be your base when exploring the region by car. The beauty of this is it allows you to spend your days driving to all the must-see spots and then return to the familiarity of your luxury hotel and the excitement of San Pedro’s shops and bars in the evening. 

As a place that is otherwise only possible to visit with guided tours, the Atacama is a smart choice for a Chile road trip. And if you’re feeling a greater sense of adventure, it’s even possible to go beyond the Atacama to the indigenous towns of northern Argentina or cross the world-renowned Bolivian Salt Flats.

What to see and do en route

  • Star gazing at the world’s clearest night sky
  • Float in the salty water of Laguna Cejar
  • Hike or bike through Moon Valley
  • Soak in the Puritama hot springs
  • Watch the sunrise behind El Tatio Geysers
  • See a staggering flock of flamingos at The Flamingos National Reserve
  • Learn about astronomy and the universe at the ALMA observatory

Chile Road Trip: The Lake District Route 

From its emerald lakes and coniferous forests to its snow-capped volcano peaks, the Chilean Lake District is arguably the most scenic driving route in the country. Not to mention the opportunities for great outdoor adventures and relaxing respites amongst nature. What more could you want on a Chile road trip?

It begins in Temuco where you will pick up your hire vehicle and continues 320 miles to Castro on the mystical island of Chiloé. Along the way, stop at the Lake District’s most stunning and exciting lakes to immerse in their natural beauty and splendor starting with Pucón on Lake Villarrica, an adrenaline-pumping adventure sports destination with hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and white water rafting.

Continuing south, the route will take you to the volcanoes of Villarrica National Park, the Alerce Andino rainforest biosphere reserve, and the tranquility of Puerto Varas. On the final stretch to Chiloé, stop at Puerto Montt, the gateway to the Andes to discover the life and culture of a remote city surrounded by stunning nature. Reaching Chiloé, a large island populated by small fishing towns and thick forests, you’ll be able to uncover the mystery and legends that have forever shrouded the island.

What to see and do en route

  • Go whitewater rafting in Pucón
  • Hike through Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park
  • Wander through the Alerce Andino rainforest
  • Admire the Villarrica volcanoes
  • Take a boat tour of Puerto Varas
  • Explore Puerto Montt
  • Go wildlife spotting on Chiloé Island

Chile Road Trip: The Patagonia Route

Perito Moreno Glacier - El Calafate

Since the breathtaking mountainous region of Patagonia spans the southern tip of Chile and Argentina, this epic route crosses both borders. It begins in Argentina’s El Calafate, the gateway to Patagonia where you can admire the illustrious Perito Moreno Glacier. When your spirit is satisfied, pick up your hire vehicle to take a short trip north to El Chalten where you can hike to Laguna Los Tres to peak of Mount Fitz Roy.

Afterward, the journey resumes 165 miles south, crossing the border to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile to see the Grey Glacier and the base of the park’s world-famous mountain peak. Following the road 150 miles further south, you’ll reach Punt Arenas, Chile’s southernmost city which is surrounded by an epic archipelago known for its oceanic scenery and rare penguin colonies.

Covering over 300 miles, the route from El Calafate to Punt Arenas will provide you with a Patagonian experience that trumps most. But since you’ve made it this far, why not complete your Chile road trip by continuing all the way to the end of the world? From Punt Arenas, you can drive a further 400 miles crossing back into Argentina and through the cinematic landscapes of Tierra del Fuego (another top Patagonian destination) to Ushuaia, the city at the southern tip of South America. 

What to see and do en route

  • Go on one of the famous hikes
  • Hike to the peak of Mount Fitz Roy
  • Take a boat tour to Perito Moreno Glacier
  • Drive through Tierra del Fuego
  • Go wildlife spotting on a Punt Arenas boat tour
  • Hike to the base of Torres del Paine peak
  • Stay at a traditional estancia

Chile Road Trip: The Variety Route

If you’re looking for a driving route with variety, then head to Santiago to pick up your hire car and continue south until you reach Puerto Montt. Stretching around 640 miles altogether, this route incorporates must-see cities for some urban action, the southern wine regions for a taste of the good life, and the gorgeous Chilean Lake District for a dose of nature. 

Start by exploring the nation’s cosmopolitan capital of Santiago for the museums and restaurants and its bohemian neighbor Valpraiso for the street art and chilled vibes. Once you’ve had your fill of the city head towards the quiet and quintessential wine regions of central Chile as you drive south of Santiago. Stopping by the Maipo, Cachapoal, Maule, Bio-Bio, and Cautin valleys, you will learn all about Chilean viticulture, discover your favorite blends, and even learn to pair them with your own homemade Chilean dishes.

After a relaxed and slow-paced saunter through the valleys, it’s time to pick up the pace with some outdoor adventure in Pucón as you reach the Chilean Lake District. Start with a bike ride and then dare yourself to try whitewater rafting before continuing to Villarrica National Park to witness its impressive volcanic landscape. When you reach Puerto Montt, you can celebrate the end of your incredible Chile Road Trip with a traditional meal in one of the town’s top local restaurants.

What to see and do en route

  • See the sights of Santiago
  • Join a street art tour of Valpraiso
  • Go horseriding through the Maule Valley
  • Stay at a wine estancia
  • Learn to make Chilean cuisine
  • Go hiking, cycling, and kayaking around the lakes
  • Visit the Villarrica volcanoes

Tailor your very own Chile road trip route

Of course, these Chile road trips offer examples of the incredible places you can go and experiences you can bank en route, and if you like the sound of that, check out our other Chile adventures here. Any of these routes can be tailored to include anything and everything on your Chile road trip bucket list. Talk to our Chile vacation experts to arrange everything from the perfect hire car to the perfect hotels and excursions by messaging us here or calling on +1 855 217 9045.