I decided to go kinda big for my first trip to South America – one week didn’t seem like enough, nor did one country. A group of five of us got together to see which countries we wanted to visit most, and we very quickly landed on Argentina and Chile.
We wanted a mix of activities, types of cities, and locations, so we landed on three different cities in Argentina and two in Chile, with room for day trips. The only thing I would change about our trip would be to double the length of time so we could have seen more places, but for the amount of time we had, it was the perfect way to experience so much of what both countries have to offer.
Transit trip: figure out which cities you want to go to during your trip, and the search flight options for all of them to see what will get you the best deal. We ended choosing to book one multi-city trip for our international flight (NYC-Mendoza and Santiago-NYC) and then we booked our internal transit separately to keep the cost down as much as possible. Most people thing flying into the largest cities is cheapest, but check your internal flights as well – we opted to fly into Mendoza vs Buenos Aires because our internal flight were all going to connect through BA, so by having that be our second Argentina city to visit, we avoided connecting flights for our internal travel. Also, for your flights between cities, look for early AM flights so you can make the most of the day in your destination – they also tend to be cheaper if you book earlier flights as they’re less desirable time slots, and you can always sleep on the plane!
If you’re looking to follow our itinerary (I’m biased, but I’d recommend it!), read on to see what you can go with two weeks in Mendoza, Buenos Aires, San Carlos de Bariloche, Temuco, Valparaiso, and Santiago.
First stop: Mendoza, Argentina (3 days)
Mendoza is the heart of wine country in Argentina, so it’s a must-visit if you’re at all into wine. We weren’t particularly familiar with Argentinian wines coming into the trip, but we absolutely loved our time in this area. But don’t worry if you’re not a huge wine fan, because there’s so much more to do than just drink wine in Mendoza! Check out this post for tips on where to stay and how to fill your days in Mendoza
Second stop: Buenos Aires, Argentina (3 days)
Buenos Aires is the heart of Argentina. It gets a really bad reputation for theft and pick-pockets, but so long as you’re smart and watch your bags, you’ll be fine. We didn’t feel unsafe once while we were visiting. There is so much to see and do in Buenos Aires, so if you have more time, plan to spend a little longer than 3 days here. Otherwise, check here for how I’d recommend you spend your three days
Third stop: San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina (3 days)
Bariloche is where you’ll get to experience a bit of Patagonia as the town is situated on the northern end of the region. You’ll definitely be able to tell the difference between Patagonia and Mendoza/Buenos Aires, and it’s much more accessible if you only have limited time versus trying to fly all the way down to somewhere like Ushuaia. Bariloche was one of my favorite parts of this trip, and I’d go back in a heartbeat and do the exact same things over and over again. Here‘s what I’d recommend you see during your visit
Fourth stop: Temuco, Chile (1 day)
Temuco was really just our connecting point between Argentina and Chile. Flights between the two countries can be pretty pricey, not to mention there’s always a connection in Buenos Aires, so we opted to take a bus across the border instead so we could see more scenery. From Temuco, we flew up to Santiago where we rented a car for the short drive to Valpo. Temuco is a small town, so you don’t need to spend more than a day here. Some of the popular sights include Cerro Nielol, Feria Libre/Mapuche Market, and if you’re looking for a great place to grab dinner, check out Tradiciones Zuny
Fifth stop: Valparaíso, Chile (3 days)
Valpo isn’t called the jewel of the pacific for nothing. To say this beautiful coastal town is colorful would be an understatement, and it has some of the best seafood I’ve ever had in my life. But be prepared to walk a bit, especially up some pretty steep hills. There are funiculars for most of the hills, but chances are you’ll still have a bit of hiking to do at some point in your visit, so pack sturdy walking shoes! Read here for how to make the most of your time in Valpo, including a day trip up the coast to Zapallar, Concón, and to nearby Viña del Mar
Final stop: Santiago, Chile (3 days)
We opted to make Santiago our final destination as it was the easiest hub to fly back to NYC from, and it was the perfect way to end our trip. We also opted for an overnight flight back to the US, so we had a full third day in Santiago but only had to pay for 2 nights of the hotel. That’s always something to consider if you’re looking to cut back on costs wherever possible. For recommendations on what to see in Santiago, as well as where to have one of the most inventive meals and now one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, check here
Here are some additional tips for your trip to Argentina and Chile:
- For US citizens, you are not required to obtain a tourist visa for visits under 90 days to either Chile or Argentina. Up until 2016, US citizens were required to pay a reciprocity fee of $160 to the Argentinian government before arriving in the country, though that requirement has since been suspended (take the opportunity and go now before they bring it back!)
- Both countries prefer USD in cash to local currency, so bring some cash with you. You’ll get better exchange rates, and especially in Chile, you’ll avoid the 21% hotel VAT if you pay for your hotels in physical USD currency
Questions or comments? Leave me a note below, and share your favorite places to visit in Argentina and Chile!