We walked Montivideo. It is very easy to do. We enjoyed the city square and did a bit of shopping. We also stopped and enjoyed a drink at an outdoor cafe.
In Puerto Madryn, we took the Shore Excursions tour to Punta Tombo. We were met on the pier by a driver, (cannot remember his name but it was French and he was charming), who drove the four of us to the penguin colony. He was very informative and very knowledgeable. The drive is long, almost two hours each way, but I love penguins, sooooo..... (Photos to follow).
In Punta Arenas, we booked again with Shore Excursions and went to Otway Sound Penguin Reserve. Not that many penguins were still there but I got some good photos and the scenery was beautiful. I think it was worth it. A small bus of approximately 18 or so, and they willingly dropped us off in the middle of town at the end to do some shopping. Our friends went sea-kayaking. I don't know who they booked with but it was literally half of what the HAL people were paying on the same tour. I think they had hoped it would be a bit more scenic but they paddled with a lot of porpoises.
In Ushuaia, we had our third and final tour with Shore Excursions. There was some confusion about our pick-up time because the ship arrived early. Nevertheless, Macarena, the guide, and the driver showed up. Unfortunately, about half an hour into the trip, the bus broke down and they had to call for another, which arrived in about an hour. As a result, the guide was determined to show us every last bit of the 'End of the World' and it was too long. We really didn't need to visit the beaver dam and peat bog. Most people wanted some time back in town to shop but we, and all tours, like HAL, had to stop at the park's 'information centre', and their prices were outrageous. Normal stuff.....
In our last stop, in Puerto Montt, we used a company called GV Tours and they were very efficient, with a nice small bus. The tour included all the well known stops and lunch with wine or beer and a Pisco Sour. Gail, the owner, was very pleasant and helpful. Puerto Montt is the best place to buy local sweaters for $20 to $25. There is an avenue about a block from the port that is lined with vendors (about 4 blocks long).
In Valparaiso, we used a company called South Excursions to get us from Valpo to Santiago, via a vineyard, which included tours of both towns and lasted about 7 or 8 hours. Our guide was very good.
We stayed at a very small boutique-type hotel, Manoir Atkinson, in the 'hip' part of Valpo. It is very quaint (no elevator), great service, good European-type breakfast, and there is a small rooftop terrace with great views of the city and port. Great location (except I spent the entire time sick in bed. Fortunately, really nice linens!) There were some great restaurants and some interesting shops. The views are wonderful and this is where you will find some amazing street art.
We found a great handicraft market in Santiago, called Los Dominicos, an artisan craft market where we did lots of shopping. A MUST for different items, mostly made there by the artisans, and quite reasonable. I would again recommend $US if you are low on Chilean pesos. We used the subway system to get around. Not too hard.
Our hotel in Santiago was the Hotel Orly, again a small-boutique like hotel with a very good breakfast. We had an apartment efficiency in a building down the street, which was great so we could reorganize our luggage. The hotel arranged for an excellent transfer to the airport which cost us $61 US for four of us in a large van that could hold all of our luggage.