Chile, self-drive holiday suggested routes

by on 20th September, 2019


Chile’s long thin geography gives it an amazing variety of landscapes and topography which can be explored in full on a self drive holiday.

The country boasts awe inspiring desert landscapes, majestic mountain scenery, craggy rocky coasts, lush forests, pristine lakes and much more.

We have put together our favourite self-drive tours, which we think are the best way to sample some of Chile’s fabulous attractions. The tours we suggest can, of course, be tailored to suit, whether in terms of length, places of interest, budget etc.




Green Patagonia – Self-drive Chile’s Lakes, Volcanoes and Forests.

8 Days / 7 nights

Pick up car: Puerto Montt airport.

Drop off car: Temuco airport.

Explore Chile’s incredible Lake District also know as “Green Patagonia”. Majestic snow capped volcanoes look down on emerald and turquoise colored lakes surrounded by lush cold rain forest. Colorful towns and villages await to be explored as well as incredible nature. Enjoy stunning nature and experience the cultural contrasts on this self drive holiday.

Chile self drive map Green Patagonia

Route map Green Patagonia


Day 1 / Puerto Montt Airport – Puerto Varas

Pick up the car at Puerto Montt airport and drive 25 Km to the town of Puerto Varas.

Puerto Varas is a picturesque town on the shores of Lake Llanquihue looking across to the Osorno Volcano.

Overnight in Puerto Varas.


Day 2 / Puerto Varas

From Puerto Varas head off to explore the surrounding area. Possibilites include the Reloncavi Sound, Lake Todos Los Santos, Petrohue Falls and Osorono Volcano.


Day 3 / Puerto Varas – Lake Puyehue

Head north to Lake Puyehue driving around 130 Km. Stops en route can the picturesque towns of Frutillar with its colonists museum and Puerto Octay.

Overnight Lake Puyehue.


Day 4 / Lake Puyehue – Valdivia

Set off heading north west to the city of Valdivia 170 Km away. Valdivia is the only city in Chile which is on a navigable river. The coastal forts at Corral and Niebla are worth a visit.

Overnight in Valdivia.


Day 5 / Valdivia – Huilo Huilo Reserve

Head east for approximately  170 Km to the Huilo Huilo reserve.There are several scenic routes to choose from. The Huilo Biological Reserve is a private reserve and ecotourism project and includes 600 km² of native forest in Chile dedicated to wildlife conservation and tourism.

Overnight Huilo Huilo reserve.


Day 6 / Huilo Huilo Reserve – Pucon

Another scenic drive heading north for 120 Km to the town of Pucon on the shores of Lake Villarrica. En route you can take a 60 Km round trip detour to the Termas Geometricas  hot springs.

Overnight Pucon.


Day 7 / Pucon

Based in Pucon head off to explore the surrounding area. Options can include the Huife Hot Springs, Lake Caburga, the indigenous town of Currarehue.

Overnight Pucon.


Day 8 / Pucon – Temuco Airport

Drive 90 Km to Temuco airport to drop off your car.

El Claro Waterfall, Pucon, Green Patagonia Chile

El Claro waterfall, Pucon



Chile Central Valley – Self-Drive and enjoy wine and sea

8 Days / 7 nights

Pick up car: Concepcion airport.

Drop off car: Santiago airport.

Chile’s central valley is the country’s orchard. Most of its fruit for export is produced in this area as well as world famous wines. The Chilean “Huaso” or cowboy hails from this part and many of the rural traditions are part of Chilean folklore. The Chilean coast, with its rugged beauty, is a great way to end this journey. Enjoy wonderful scenery, taste great wines, and delight in the best Chile has to offer whether it be fruit, vegetables, meat or incredible seafood.

Chile self drive map Central Valley

Route map Central Valley


Day 1 / Concepcion Airport – Saltos de Laja

Pick up your car hire at Concepcion airport and drive 100 Km south east to Saltos de Laja – the Laja Falls.

Overnight in the vicinity of Saltos de Laja.


Day 2 / Saltos de Laja – Chillan

Drive 80 Km north to Chillan.

You could take a scenic side trip from here into the Andes heading towards the Termas de Chillan Ski resort which is 80 Km into the Andes.

Overnight in Chillan (or at the Termas de Chillan).


Day 3 / Chillan – Santa Cruz

Head North for 270 Km to Santa Cruz in the Colchagua Valley in the heart of Chile’s wine country.

Stops can be made in the towns of Talca and Curico and even visit a winery en route.

Overnight in Santa Cruz.


Day 4 / Santa Cruz

Take this day to explore what Santa Cruz and the Colchagua Valley has to offer. Rural traditions, wineries or even the coastal village of Pichilemu, famous for its surf waves, 90 Km to the west.

Overnight in Santa Cruz.


Day 5 / Santa Cruz – Algarrobo

Head north west 170 Km along the “Fruit trail” to the coastal town of Algarrobo.

Overnight in Algarrobo.


Day 6 / Algarrobo – Zapallar

Head north 180 Km to the coastal town of Zapallar. On this drive take in the cities of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar and then head along the coastal route to the charming town of Zapallar.

Overnight in Zapallar.


Day 7 / Zapallar

Day to explore the small coastal villages, find a great place for a sea food lunch or just relax.

Overnight in Zapallar.


Day 8 / Zapallar – Santiago Airport

Head south east driving 170 Km to Santiago airport.

Colchagua Valley, Chile

Colchagua Valley




Chile – Self drive Chile’s Atacama desert, coast and valleys

8 Days / 7 nights

Pick up car: Copiapo airport.

Drop off car: Santiago airport.

Take in the incredible Atacama Desert, and if in luck, the desert in bloom. Experience the wildlife in the Humboldt Penguin National Park. Be star struck by the sky at night, experience why the Elqui Valley is seen as a mystical destination, and finish driving along Chile’s rugged Pacific coast taking in the beauty and the incredible sun sets over the sea.

Chile self drive map Atacama Santiago

Route map Atacama to Santiago


Day 1 / Copiapo – Bahia Inglesa

Pick up the car at Copiapo airport in the Atacama Desert.

Drive 70 km west to the coastal town of Bahia Inglesa, popular because of its turquoise waters and sheltered coves.

Overnight Bahia Inglesa.


Day 2 / Bahia Inglesa – Punta Choros

Head south 380 km to Punta Choros, a small peninsula from where there is access to the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve. You may be in luck (more likely from July to November) if in that particular year there was rain and the phenomenon of the flowering desert occurs. Stop en route to visit the desert town of Vallenar to give you an idea of what life is like in the desert.

Overnight Punta Choros.


Day 3 / Punta Choros

Day free to explore. Take a boat trip to Isla Damas, daily in high season (December through March) and  in low season (April through November) Wednesday to Sunday.  Depending on the season you may see penguins (December to March), dolphins, sea lions and marine otters as well as many sea birds.

Overnight Punta Choros.


Day 4 / Punta Choros –  Vicuna

Head south then east for 180 km to Vicuña in the heart of the Elqui Valley. This is the centre of Chile’s Pisco production – an area that boasts incredibly clear skies and the valley is full of mysticism.

Overnight  in Vicuña.


Day 5 / Vicuna

Day to explore the Elqui Valley. Visit a Pisco distillery, explore the valley’s villages, star gaze at night. Overnight  in Vicuña.


Day 6 / Vicuna – Tongoy

Head west to the city of La Serena and explore. Then continue driving south to the coastal town of Tongoy. Distance 120 km.

Overnight  in Tongoy.


Day 7 / Tongoy – Zapallar

Drive 300 km south along the coast to the town of Zapallar. Zapallar is known for its picturesque setting with hiking hiking trails offering panoramic views and great seafront restaurants.

Overnight in Zapallar.


Day 8 / Zapallar – Santiago Airport


Head south east driving 170 Km to Santiago airport.

Beach, La Serena, Chile

La Serena



These are just some of many possibilities for a self drive holiday itinerary in Chile.

For some of the practicalities of driving in Chile go to our guide to driving a hire car in Chile.

Do get in touch with us at Andean Trails and start planning your self-drive Chile tour.


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