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No other country in the world offers such extreme contrasts as the long, thin nation of Chile – from Atacama in the north, which is the world’s driest desert, to the wilds of Patagonia and the Torres del Paine National Park located almost at the southern tip of South America. On this small group tour you will experience the extremes and spend time in the capital Santiago.
Day 1: UK to Santiago Depart from the UK on your overnight flight to Chile, via Madrid.
Day 2: Santiago On arrival in Santiago you will transfer to your central city hotel where you will spend one night. Your sightseeing begins this afternoon with an introductory tour of the city, which has a particular focus on cuisine. See the presidential palace and the streets and plazas of downtown, including the Plaza des Armas. The group will then be joined by a chef’s assistant who will accompany you to the fruit and vegetable market and the historic central market as you buy the ingredients for this evening’s dinner. The day concludes at a local restaurant where the chef prepares dinner you watch and enjoy a traditional pisco sour drink. Stay: Cumbres Lastarria. D.
Day 3: Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama Following breakfast, you’ll fly northwards to Calama before transferring to the oasis of San Pedro de Atacama. This morning there’s the opportunity to discover more of the origin of the Atacama culture with a visit to the pre-Columbian Fort of Quitor. The next stop is the archaeological site of Tulor, the remains of a settlement believed to date back approximately 2000 years. At lunch there’s the opportunity to share traditional fare with local people before you travel onwards Death and Moon Valleys and the Kari Canyon. The highlight of the day has to this evening’s opportunity to experience sunset over Moon Valley while sipping on a pisco sour. Approx. Journey time: 3½ hours. Stay: Cumbres San Pedro de Atacama. B, L.
Day 4: San Pedro de Atacama Head into the Cordillera Domeyko mountain range to see the prehistoric petroglyphs at Yerbas Buenas, an often overlooked yet fascinating site. From here you’ll continue through a winding valley to the remote town of Matancilla and the naturally beautiful Rainbow Valley where millions of years of erosion have exposed the minerals in the rock leaving a kaleidoscope of colours. You will then come to the village of Rio Grande, an oasis village with a population of approximately 100. Enjoy a picnic lunch here before meeting a lican-antai potter who creates plates and utensils. Tonight there’s the opportunity to witness what is likely to be some of the clearest night sky you have ever experienced as you join an astronomical tour (not available during a full moon). Stay: Cumbres San Pedro de Atacama. B, L.
Day 5: San Pedro de Atacama Today you’ll head south from San Pedro de Atacama and explore the region’s incredible lagoons and salt lakes. The exploration will begin as you make your way to the largest salt flat in Chile – the Salar de Atacama – which is surrounded by the high peaks of the Andes. Here you may be lucky enough to see flamingos in their natural habitat at Laguna Chaxa, which is part of the Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos. You will then ascend into the Altiplano to an altitude of 4200 metres for incredible views over the Meñiques and Miscanti lagoons. On the return journey to San Pedro the first stop will be in the village of Socaire. Your time here provides more opportunities to learn more about the daily life of the lican-antai people as you meet members of a local family. Following a picnic lunch the group will continue on to the oasis village of Toconao. Stay: Cumbres San Pedro de Atacama. B, L.
Day 6: San Pedro de Atacama to Santiago This morning’s sightseeing takes you to the El Tatio geothermal field which lies close to the Bolivian border. An early start is rewarded as you watch the plumes of water and steam erupt from over 80 vents in the early morning light. You will have some time to walk around this incredible geothermal field before continuing on to the popular Puritama hot springs where you can soak in the natural thermal pools. En route to the airport at Calama you will visit a number of desert settlements including the riverside village of Caspana and the Spanish colonial village of Chiu Chiu, as well as the pre-Columbian ruins of Lasana. You will fly to Santiago where you will stay a further two nights. Approx. Journey time: 3½ hours. Stay: Cumbres Lastarria. B, L.
Day 7: Santiago Today you will leave the capital and head west to the Pacific Ocean coast for a tour of the colourful hillside city of Valparaiso, visiting the coast town of Isla Negra and the house of the Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda en route. In Valparaiso explore the maze of steep streets that ascend from the waterfront up the famous ‘cerros’, or hills. Travel through the Casablanca valley, where you will stop for wine tasting at one of Chile’s vineyards. Stay: Cumbres Lastarria. B, L.
Day 8: Santiago to Punta Arenas Today’s flight takes you south to the Patagonian city of Punta Arenas where you will join an afternoon city tour following lunch at your hotel. Stay: Cabo de Hornos. B, L.
Day 9: Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales For those travelling between November and March the day begins with a trip to see the colony of magellanic penguins which live on Magdalena Island. Following a two and a half hour boat trip you will arrive on the island where you can follow a marked trail through the colony, up to the island’s lighthouse. The amount of penguins you will encounter is quite incredible. Return to the mainland before your transfer to the city of Puerto Natales where you will stay two nights. Guests travelling between April and September will transfer to Puerto Natales in the morning. Stay: Altiplanico Sur or similar. B, L.
Day 10: Puerto Natales This morning you will travel north along the Seno de Ultima Esperanza into the heart of Patagonia and the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park for a full day’s exploration. You will be able to witness the spectacular Paine Mountains and pass through wild Patagonian landscapes as you make your way along the shore of Lago Grey en route to the Grey Glacier. Here you will board a boat for a closer view of the glacier’s face. Stay: Hotel Costaustralis. B, L.
Day 11: Puerto Natales to Santiago Today you will make the return journey south to Punta Arenas, stopping for lunch at a local estancia en route. Fly back north over the glaciers of the Southern Patagonian Icefield and along the Andes to Santiago where you will spend one final night. Stay: Cumbres Lastarria. B, L.
Day 12: Santiago to UK Your final morning in Chile includes a visit to the famed Concha y Toro vineyard in the beautiful Maipo Valley, which was established in 1883. It is here that Casillero del Diablo, arguably Chile’s most famous export, is produced. Before you transfer to the airport for your overnight flight to the UK you will have the opportunity to try some of the world-famous wine varieties. B.