CL6 The Nature of Chile TOUR

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Featuring the Atacama & Patagonia

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Maipo-heart of Chile's wine country; Exploring Torres del Paine National Park; Catamaran cruise through the icy waters of the Chilean fjords; Chilean Lakes District; Atacama Desert and Valley of the Moon; Vibrant Santiago

  • DATES & PRICES
  • FULL ITINERARY
  • MAP & HOTELS
  • TRIP INFORMATION

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (if applicable) - All pricing reflects per-person Land Only expenses, however, we can book flights from virtually every city. Please call us for an air quote.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Sat 17 Oct 2015Sat 31 Oct 2015 $6990
Sat 06 Feb 2016Sat 20 Feb 2016 $6990
Sat 15 Oct 2016Sat 29 Oct 2016 $6990

Optional Single Supplement: $1100 (number of singles limited).
This tour may require a mandatory single supplement charge of $540, if twin-sharing accommodation is unavailable.


Tour Overview


After a spot of exploration in the ever-vibrant capital city, Santiago, we make headway for the Chilean Central Valley, a region that enjoys international recognition as one of the best wine production areas in the world. We travel through charming traditional villages steeped in history that lie nestled on the slopes of the Andes Mountains and make our way to the UNESCO-designated Torres del Paine National Park and into the natural wonderland of Patagonia to see some of Mother Nature’s finest accomplishments. After taking to the chilly fjord waters in a catamaran for an unforgettable voyage amid unimaginable iceberg and glacier sceneries, we head inland to explore the high Atacama Desert, the driest region on Earth, to see gurgling hotsprings and gushing geysers, before returning to the bustling capital to bring this magnificent tour to an end.

Regions visited: South America
Countries visited: Chile


Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Day 1 Arrive in Santiago, Chile
Today we arrive Santiago de Chile.

NOTE: This itinerary is based on air schedules that can change without notice. Though this program should provide a very good sense of how this tour will be accomplished, some adjustment/s may be required up to the time of departure.

Overnight in Santiago.

Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Santiago: Vina del Mar & Valparaiso
Today we visit Vina del Mar and Valparaiso, founded in the XVI century. Valparaiso (literally in Spanish: Paradise Valley) is one of Chile's most important seaports and an increasingly vital cultural center. The city is located in central Chile, where it is capital of the Region of Valparaiso. Although Santiago is Chile's official capital, Valparaiso houses the National Congress. Built upon dozens of steep hillsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Valparaiso boasts a labyrinth of streets and cobblestone alleyways, embodying a rich architectural and cultural legacy. Valparaiso is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is often considered to be one of Latin America's most intriguing urban areas.

We also visit La Sebastiana, another of poet Pablo Neruda's homes-turned-museums, and ride one of the city's many elevators, an effective mode of moving about this largely vertical port back at the turn of the century. Ascendor Artilleria, built in 1898, is one of the oldest still in operation and offers a beautiful view of the ocean.

After some time to explore we return to Santiago.

Overnight in Santiago.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Santiago - Maipo Valley - Punta Arenas
Today's excursion takes us south of Santiago to visit the scenic Maipo Valley and one of the area's most important wineries, Concha y Toro. Our visit will start in Don Melchor square, where your guide will invite to enjoy a panoramic view of the Pirque vineyard, while tasting a glass of its world class wine with its unique flavors and bouquet. Glass in hand, you will stroll through the winery's century old vineyard. You will also visit the Pirque's House, the residence of the Concha y Toro family, and where Chile's largest winery was founded a century ago.

At some point today, we will also visit Santiago's Plaza de Armas. As the midpoint of the Spanish settlement of 1541, the square was once a military training ground -- hence its name-- but with time it became the focus of Santiago's social and commercial life with some of the nation's most accomplished architecture.

Later today we drive to Santiago Airport and take our flight south to Punta Arenas in Patagonia. Punta Arenas is located at the foot of the Andes on the western side of the Straits of Magellan facing the island of Tierra del Fuego. This is a port that attracts commerce and shipping from all over the South Atlantic. Founded in 1848, the city was originally a military garrison and a penal settlement. Port facilities soon became established as a stop over for shipping en route to California during the Gold Rush. The population increased and the town developed as a result of the wool boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During the last quarter of the 19th century, 300 purebred sheep were imported from the Falkland Islands. Such was the success of subsequent breeding that by the turn of the century there were almost two million sheep in the territory. Immigrants from all over western Europe were attracted to the area, bringing with them major developments to fishing and farming.

Overnight in Punta Arenas.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 4 Punta Arenas - Torres del Paine
This morning we travel by road into Torres del Paine National Park. The Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine) are spectacular granite pillars which soar almost vertically more than 2000m (6,000 feet) above the Patagonian landscape. The park in which the high peaks sit may be considered the finest national park in all of South America. With turquoise lakes, roaring waterfalls, rivers and creeks, dense forests and sprawling glaciers this is an unequalled destination.

Overnight in Torres del Paine National Park. Hotel Torres or similar.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 5 Torres del Paine National Park
We spend the entire day in Torres del Paine National Park.

Some say Paine was an early settler. Others say the name comes from an ancient Indian word meaning blue -- hearkening to the intense blue of the area's lakes. Wherever the name comes from or means, this is a spectacular park, comparable to Yellowstone or Yosemite in the US. Founded in 1959, Torres del Paine takes in 180,000 ha (450,000 acres). In 1978 UNESCO gave the park World Heritage status, recognizing it as a biosphere especially worthy of international recognition.

The park is part of the Paine Massif, which lies inside the continent from, or east of, the high central Andean spine. The massif are medium high mountains emerging suddenly from the plains of the Patagonian steppes. The mountains are granite, capped by crumbly sedimentary rock that used to lie on the valley floor. Before the park was acquired by the Chilean government, it belonged to ranchers who overgrazed and also burned down forests to increase pasture area.

The park is still recovering from this devastation, and will be for a while, but it's a chance to see what nature will do, if given a chance. Natural recovery can also be seen, though the glaciers of the park are in quick retreat--up to 17 m (56 ft) a year for the last 90 years, creating a fascinating study of plant succession and soil build-up from bare rock to forest. The flora of the park ranges from grassland to southern beech forests. Many parts of the park were too remote for the cattle ranchers, and exist today in a pristine state.

The animal stars of the park are the Guanacos -- wild South American cameloids, related to the domesticated llama and alpaca -- and the Rheas, an ostrich-like bird. Native peoples hunted both across the plains, using every part for food and shelter. When the Europeans came, the Guanaco were slaughtered to make way for cattle and almost became extinct.

We will travel through the park in our coach stopping at various points of interest and scenic viewpoints. We will also have an opportunity to walk one of the many easy-going trails that afford expansive views of the mountains and glaciers for which Patagonia is famous.

Overnight in Torres del Paine National Park. Hotel Torres or similar.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 6 Torres del Paine National Park - Punta Arenas
We have some free time this morning for relaxation or a leisurely hike to Paine Cascades for a view of Los Torres.

Later this morning we depart Torres del Paine and travel back to Punta Arenas.

Overnight in Punta Arenas.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 7 Punta Arenas - Balmaceda - Puerto Chacabuco
Early this morning we fly to Balmaceda and transfer to Puerto Chacabuco and the Hotel Loberias del Sur. To get there we travel part of the Austral Road which goes through Llanquihue and Palena provinces on the side of the continent, up to Aysen region passing by the beautiful city of Coyhaique. On the ride to the hotel you will have an opportunity to appreciate a small sample of the astonishing landscape at this latitude.

Overnight in Puerto Chacabuco. Hotel Loberias del Sur.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Laguna San Rafael
At 8:00 am we will take part in an unforgettable trip on board a large catamaran that will take us through islands, channels, and fiords until we reach the Laguna San Rafael at about 2:00 pm. The main attraction is the peacefulness of this lagoon with a surface of 170 square kilometers--floes and snowdrifts, ice chunks falling constantly and thunderously.

Then, on a zodiac, you will get in closer contact with San Rafael snowdrifts and a number of floes moving around. Upon the end of the excursion you can taste a whisky on the rocks made with cubes more than 20,000 years old! We will stay here for 2-3 hours and then return to Puerto Chacabuco for about 9:00 pm.

For more information on this excursion you can click on www.catamaranesdelsur.cl.

Overnight in Puerto Chacabuco. Hotel Loberias del Sur.

Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 9 Aiken del Sur Private Park
At 9:00 am a bus will take us from the Hotel Loberias del Sur to the recently inaugurated Aiken del Sur Private Park.

The Aiken del Sur Park offers natural beauty on the shores of Lago Riesco. The lake has a surface of 14 sq km, quiet and blue crystal clear waters. There is also a waterfall 22 meters high, native woodlands with perennial species, annual plants, moss and liverworts, widespread prairies where aged myrtles and tepa trees mix together; taro and mallin plants, and swamp lands.

We stop at the Visitors' Center with interactive exhibitions giving information on local flora, fauna and anthropology. There are also paths with catwalks, bridges, observatory points, and resting places that will give information on the bio-geographical history of each place by means of educational stations. There you will enjoy the wonderful sceneries of the lake, river and hills that make up the Andes mountain range in the Patagonia. You will also have the opportunity to hear the singing of local birds such as the Chucao and Hueta.

Here we have a traditional "Patagonian Lamb Barbeque" (vegetarian options available).

After lunch, visitors may rest or walk across the other two easy footpaths in the park.

Overnight in Puerto Chacabuco. Hotel Loberias del Sur.

Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 10 Puerto Chacabuco - Balmaceda - Puerto Varas
This morning we travel back to Balmaceda Airport from where we fly to Puerto Varas, the main gateway to the southern Lake District (we may have to fly to Puerto Montt and drive the short distance to Pto Varas). Puerto Varas is one of southern Chile's most important cities with a spectacular setting at the north end of the Golfo de Reloncavi. Time permitting we will visit the colourful local market.

Overnight in Puerto Varas.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 11 Puerto Varas Area
The area around Puerto Varas is a region of spectacular lakes and mountains. We drive along the shore of Lake Llonquihue to the Petrohue waterfall (Salto del Petohue), an amazing series of oddly twisting water chutes. These chutes were formed by a crystallized black volcanic rock that is particularly resistant to erosion. The water at Rio Petrohue is bright green due to the presence of algae. On a clear day this drive is spectacular with the snow-capped peak of the Osorno Volcano looming above us.

From the town of Petrohue we take a boat ride on the azure-blue waters of Lago Todos los Santos to the town of Puella, a small village that serves as a stopping point on the route to Argentina. We will spend a short time here; the Cascada de Los Novios (a waterfall) is a short walk from the village. We return to Puerto Varas.

Overnight in Puerto Varas.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 12 Puerto Varas - San Pedro de Atacama
Today we catch our flight to Calama (via Santiago). On arrival we transfer to our hotel in San Pedro de Atacama, elevation 2300 m (7,600 ft). This is the high Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth. No significant precipitation has been reported here since the Spanish colonial period.

At dusk we drive to the Valley of the Moon to see the sunset in this bizarre lunar landscape formed by erosion of the salt mountains. Light reflecting off the salt crystals is an eerie sight. We return to San Pedro after sunset.

Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 13 Atacama Area
This morning we visit San Pedro's Archaealogical Museum, considered one of the best in South America. It is famous for its wonderful collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, particularly the mummies, marvelously preserved in the dry desert air, that pre-date those in Egypt.

In the afternoon we'll drive from San Pedro to the town of Toconao. The church and houses in this picturesque village are built of bricks of white volcanic stone. From Tocanao we continue to the Salar de Atacama, the world's largest salt lake. Rich in minerals, including borax and lithium, it is home to flamingos and many other bird species. At Lago Chaxa, part of the Reserva Nacional de los Flamingos, one often can get quite close to flamingos in their natural habitat.

Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 14 Atacama Area
We leave the hotel at 04:00 to see the spectacular geysers of El Tatio, elevation 4400m (14,500 ft), arriving before sunrise. Super-heated water gurgles in the frozen ground and emerges violently as steam in over 100 geysers, boiling pools, and fumaroles. The display is finished by 10:00. We then proceed to the hotspring called Termas de Puritama where we can enjoy a relaxing soak in the warm pools before returning to San Pedro.

In the afternoon we visit Tulor, a 2,800 year old site where evidence of the earliest habitation in the region was found.

Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 15 Atacama - Santiago - Depart
Today we drive to Calama for our flight to Santiago.

Flight timing permitting, you may choose to visit the Pre-columbian Art Museum, which has one of the most complete collections of ceramics, ancient textiles and relics of the local culture.

Later we transfer to the airport for our evening flight homeward.

BUEN VIAJE!

Meal plan: breakfast

Tour Map

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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.


Hotel List


The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.


Hotel Diego De Velazquez

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Santiago
Country: Chile

The warm welcome to all those who choose us for your trip to Santiago de Chile, sure the stay, location
... services are created so they can enjoy an unforgettable trip for those traveling on tourism, recreation, work, studies, or incentives. We are the alternative to Providence to start from Hotel Diego de Velazquez, the starting point to enjoy the exciting city, capital of Chile.
All an experienced hospitality team, whose mission is service, expect each of whom form Hotel Diego Velazquez, to fully and unforgettable trip.

Read More.

Cabanas del Paine

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Torres Del Paine
Country: Chile

The Hosteria Cabanas Del Paine Hotel provides 4 pavilions of lodging where each with comfortable rooms all with living room
... a wonderful view to Serrano River and Paine mountain range.

There is a dining room with grill and with a capacity for 80 people and a bar to enjoy the regional gastronomy.


Read More.

Loberias del Sur Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Puerto Chacabuco
Country: Chile

Along with Catamarans del Sur and Aiken del Sur Park, the hotel is part of an overall product that responds
... the highest standard of international quality, and offers all the services needed to relax and enjoy the nature of this exceptional natural zone. Loberias del Sur has a capacity of 120 beds, divided in 60 double and single rooms. Each room was built with native wood of the area. Room service in all rooms, sauna access, spa, gymnasium and wireless internet.


Read More.


Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Inclusions

Breakfast and dinner (hotels & local restaurants) daily; some lunches as per the itinerary. All transport, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for ship's crew, local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters. Domestic flights via local scheduled carriers as per the itinerary. Airport transfers for land & air customers and for early arriving / late departing land & air customers who book their extra hotel nights through us.

Exclusions

Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), international (if applicable) and domestic air taxes, visa / arrival / departure fees, excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs, shopping, and visas.

Seasonality and Weather

Weather conditions can vary greatly from place to place. Much of our time is spent in the south where conditions can be very changeable at any time of year. We visit in the Austral summer (Nov-Mar), when Santiago and Atacama are hot and Patagonia is at its warmest. That said you must also be prepared for cold, windy, possibly rainy conditions.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Ground transport by private air-conditioned motor coach, 24-36 seats depending on ultimate group size (see 'group size'). Though we will have some full bus days, road travel is not particularly arduous as roads are generally in good condition, though a little winding on some stretches. Internal flights via domestic carriers. Numerous optional walking opportunities and walking tours on uneven surfaces.

Accommodation

Well-located, air- conditioned / heated, mid-range hotels and inns (3-star) used throughout. All hotels have en suite toilet and bath, though some may have shower only. Porter service is usually available (see 'inclusions') though you should be independent with your luggage, especially at airports. Single rooms are limited and likely smaller than twins.

Staff and Support

Tour Leader and local step-on guides, driver. Catamaran crew and naturalist guides.

Group Size

10-21 (plus Tour Leader)

CL6 TRIP DETAILS

DURATION15 days

TOUR STARTSantiago

TOUR ENDSantiago