Contrasts of Chile

The Atacama Desert, Lakes District and Patagonia

On this 14 day trip we will visit the highlights of Chile and experience the diversity and contrasts in nature, climate, geography, and culture that this long and narrow country has to offer. Starting in the capital, Santiago de Chile, we will fly to the far north, and then visit the Atacama Desert, the Lake District, and end the trip in the far South of Patagonia.

The Atacama Desert

Descending from the Altiplano to the Atacama Desert – the driest desert on earth stretching along the Chilean coast to the south – one encounters contradictory and unusual manifestations of water. Among these, the oasis of San Pedro de Atacama is an absolute ‘must’ to visit; it was the center of a Paleolithic culture that built impressive rock fortresses on the steep mountains encircling the green valley. It contrasts with the eerily silent landscape of the nearby Valley of the Moon with its tiny but beautiful salt ponds and the backdrop of snow-capped volcanoes. At the huge Atacama Salt Lake, a former inland sea formed millions of years ago; it is a unique experience to view the vast plain of salt crusts with its octagonal-shaped crystals and to admire the lagoons reflecting the towering volcanoes. The El Tatio Geysers are another highlight; they are a geothermal field of fumaroles, small geysers, multicolored craters and nearby hot springs inviting you to a comforting bath. What a variety of forms and states water can take in the world’s driest desert! Another rewarding.

The Lakes District

Famous for its spectacular panorama of bright emerald and turquoise lakes whose surfaces mirror snow-capped volcanoes and sprawling forests, Chile’s Lake District is picture perfect. Rolling hills scattered with hundreds of lakes and lagoons give the district its name. It is one of the most popular travel destinations in Chile; numerous visitors are not only attracted by the beauty but also by the varied outdoor activities available, its well-structured tourism infrastructure, and the countless national parks and nature reserves. The Lake District covers two regions of Chile, the Ninth Region – more commonly known as La Araucanía – and the Tenth Region – Los Lagos. It is home to the indigenous Mapuche who defended their land against the Spanish conquistadores for 300 years. German settlers came and cleared the land, felling timber for their typical shingled houses. Both ethnic groups have left their mark on the region in architecture, art, and food.

Patagonia

The most famous region of Chile, Chilean Patagonia offers all the dramatic landscape one would expect from the world’s ultimate land’s end. Here the South American continent falls away in a dazzling explosion of islands, glaciers, icebergs and mountains. It is one of Mother Nature’s grand finales. Chilean Patagonia consists of sub regions: the northern Aisen Region and, to its south, the Magallanes Region. Aisen is home to Laguna San Rafael National Park and the Austral Road (Carretera Austral). The Carretera Austral has become one of the most important attractions in Patagonia because it allows you to enter into a territory that still is open to discoveries: Northern Patagonia with its large extensions of cold forests, national parks, glaciers, gigantic ice fields, lagoons, fiords, rivers, and lakes. It is an ideal territory for adventure tourism, fishing, trekking, hiking, kayaking, rafting, and observing flora and fauna in its most natural state. Southern Patagonia hosts the incomparable Torres del Paine National Park.

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Itinerary

Day 1

Santiago, Chile

Transfer to your hotel.

Day 2

Santiago

This morning’s city tour will provide an insight into the Chilean capital’s colonial past, as well as its modern business hub. We will start at the Alameda Bernardo O’Higgins, Santiago’s main avenue, visiting La Moneda Presidential Palace after which we will walk through the pedestrian streets of Huérfanos and Ahumada, where the main commercial activity of the city is concentrated. Afterwards we will visit the famous Plaza de Armas, the main square of the city which is surrounded by the Metropolitan Cathedral and other historical buildings such as the City Hall and the Post Office, both dating from colonial times. Continue to the Santa Lucia hill, upon which the Spanish founded Santiago in 1541. Cross the river to visit Bellavista, the cultural and artistic neighbourhood of Santiago and then travel along the shores of the Mapocho River to Santa Maria de Manquehue for a spectacular view of the city. Finally visit Los Dominicos handicraft market. Rest of the day at leisure. B

Day 3

Santiago – Calama – San Pedro – Valle de la Luna

Very early this morning transfer to the airport for your flight to Calama where, on arrival, you are met and transferred to San Pedro de Atacama. San Pedro is an unusually colourful village at 2,000 m / 6,560 ft above sea level, in the middle of a green oasis. In the afternoon you will be taken into mystifying Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) with its backdrop of snow-capped volcanoes. Climb a sand dune to observe the beauty of the scenery intensify during sunset. Return to your hotel in San Pedro. B

Day 4

San Pedro – Toconao & the Atacama Salt Lake

Today a full day tour. After breakfast we will visit San Pedro de Atacama – the centre of a Palaeolithic civilization that built impressive rock fortresses on the mountains encircling the green valley. The colonial church was constructed in 1577 and is the largest and most beautiful church in the region. The extraordinary archaeological of Padre Gustavo Le Paige shows, among its many archaeological pre-Hispanic artefacts, several amazingly well preserved mummies, including one known as ‘Miss Chile’. After this visit travel 4 km to reach the pre-Columbian village Tulor with an approx. age of 3,000 years. The archaeological remains are the oldest evidence of human settlement in the valley. Continue to Pukara de Quitor, a fortress, which was conquered in 1540 by the Spanish conquistadors defeating the Incan troops who, in turn, had captured it from the pre-Incan cultures and extended the fortification. A box lunch is provided. In the afternoon continue to Toconao, a village where the locals dedicate themselves to the manufacture of white, volcanic, stone sculptures. Continue on to the huge Atacama Salt Lake, an inland sea formed millions of years ago. The vast emptiness with the white salt crusts stretched out in front of you as far as your eyes can see. It simply is one of the most spectacular and dramatic landscapes in Chile. Return to your hotel in San Pedro. BL

Day 5

San Pedro – El Tatio & Machuca

Today, depart very early at 4:00 a.m. (dress in warm clothes) in order to see the El Tatio Geyser at an altitude of 4,300m., the highest geothermal field in, the world flanked by soaring peaks. Powerful spurts of steam shoot out at dawn from various blowholes and condense in the cold air. The steaming ponds are encrusted with brilliant salt crystals that reflect the metal blue sky at dawn; along with the rising columns of steam they make for a breathtaking sight. On the return from the geysers to San Pedro, we will visit the village of Machuca, located at 3,400 mt above sea level. Only a few shepherds still live in this former rest place for the ancient llama caravans that travelled the Inca Trail. It is an amazing place in the middle of the highland with a spectacular view of the Andes and the Atacama Salt Lake. Return to your hotel in San Pedro and time at leisure this afternoon. B

Day 6

San Pedro / Calama – Santiago- Puerto Montt – Puerto Varas

After breakfast you are met and transferred to Calama airport for the flight to Santiago to connect with the flight to Puerto Montt. On arrival you are met and transferred to our hotel in Puerto Varas with a short city tour of Puerto Montt en route. Puerto Varas, also known as the ‘City of Roses’, is located on the shores of Lake Llanquihue, Chile’s second largest lake. The volcanoes Osorno and Calbuco are reflected in the crystal clear water. Time at leisure this afternoon. B

Day 7

Puerto Varas – Peulla – Puerto Varas

Today a full day tour to Peulla. Travel along the shoreline of Lake Llanquihue to the Petrohué Falls in the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park. Continue on to Petrohué to board a catamaran to cross Lake Todos los Santas (the Emerald Lake) to Peulla, enjoying beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. Here there is time for lunch and to explore the beautiful surroundings of Peulla with maybe a walk to the waterfall ‘Cascada de la Novia’ through the native, Valdivian rainforest. In the late afternoon return by boat to Petrohué and by bus to your hotel in Puerto Varas. B

Day 8

Puerto Varas – Chiloé Island – Puerto Varas

Today a magical, full-day tour to the Chiloé Archipelago starting with a 30 minutes ferry crossing, where dolphins and sea lions may be seen. Arriving on Chiloé Big Island we will drive to the bay of Ancúd where we will stop to visit the town with its local craft and fish market and the famous fortress San Antonio, the last Spanish bastion in Chile. Your guide will explain the myths and history of Chiloé and introduce you to the typical life on this beautiful island. Continue along a gravel road towards the West Pacific Coast. It takes about one hour to reach two small islands where Humboldt and Magellan penguins breed together during summer time. Take a short walk on the beautiful, white, sand beach and maybe meet some local fishermen collecting their prey of crabs. Afterwards, weather permitting, zodiacs will be used to get close to these islands to observe the penguins. Sea lions, pelicans, cormorants and other wildlife may also be seen. In the afternoon return to your hotel in Puerto Varas. B

Day 9

Puerto Varas – Frutillar Alto – Puerto Varas

This morning travel to Frutillar, a charming village on the bank of the huge Llanquihue Lake. The village is noted for the German influence on the architecture through the immigrants who arrived around 1853. Here we will take a walk to visit some restored colonial houses. You will learn about the history of this picturesque town from the time of German settlement. Afterwards we will visit the open-air German museum dedicated to these pioneers. In the afternoon return to your hotel Puerto Varas and rest of the day at leisure. B

Day 10

Puerto Varas – Puerto Montt – Punta Arenas – Torres del Paine

Early morning transfer from the hotel in Puerto Varas to Puerto Montt airport for the flight to Punta Arenas. On arriving Puerto Arenas we are met and driven north towards the penguin colony located at Otway strait. Driving along the coast of the Strait of Magellan we will have nice views of the Arctic waters of Tierra del Fuego. Seno Otway is a smaller penguin colony, with an estimated 3.000 penguins. From October to March the penguins can be seen here breeding and raising their young. A volunteer study group has developed the site with roped walkways and lookout posts, including a peek-a-boo wall where you can watch the penguins diving into the ocean. In the afternoon continue the journey (total driving time 6 hours) to Torres del Paine National Park and our hotel which is situated right inside the Park. B

Day 11

Torres del Paine

Today a full day tour of this magnificent Park, a must-see for any traveller to Chile. The excursion will include Lago Grey (Lake Grey) including a cruise on the lake to view it’s imposing glacier; the Salto Grande, the Salto Chico, Lake Pehoé, Lake Nordenskjöld, and Lake Sarmiento. Short hiking excursions (moderate fitness required) will allow us to observe various kinds of wildlife: guanacos, flamingos, ñandús, and condors, among others. A picnic lunch will be served on the way. BL

Day 12

Torres del Paine – Puerto Natales & Posada Estancia Rio Verde

Depart early this morning for the drive to Puerto Natales and Posada Estancia Rio Verde, a Patagonian sheep farm. En route visit the huge ‘Cueva del Milodón’ (Milodón Cave), a declared Natural Monument, where the German settler Hermann Eberhard found a prehistoric animal, Milodón, in 1896. We will continue our tour and stop in Cerro Castillo, a charming border town, to have coffee or tea. Afterwards, we will drive south to the Estancia where dinner is included tonight. BD

Day 13

Estancia – Puerto Natales – Punta Arenas – Santiago

Depart the Estancia this morning and transfer to Punta Arenas airport, via Puerto Natales, for the flight to Santiago. On arrival in Santiago, be met and transferred to your hotel. Evening at leisure. B

Day 14

Santiago

The last day is free for private sightseeing in Santiago. Accommodation is provided for day use. Late this evening you are transferred to the airport for your onward flight. B

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  • B: BREAKFAST
  • L: LUNCH
  • D: DINNER

Dates and cost

ALL YEAR

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All tour costs are inclusive of economy class domestic airfares and taxes.

Tour costs shown are per person quoted in Australian dollars and are subject to change due to exchange rate variations and other factors. Please check with us at the time of booking.

What’s included

  • Economy class domestic air tickets required as per the itinerary
  • Accommodation based on twin/double share with private facilities at first class hotels or best available
  • Meals as specified in the detailed itinerary
  • All transfers, sightseeing, boat trips, train journeys and touring as indicated in the specific detailed tour itinerary
  • Porterage at airports only
  • Local English speaking guides throughout each of the tours
  • Entrance fees as required throughout sightseeing tours/park entry fees as applicable
  • All currently applicable service charges and taxes.

What’s not included

  • International flights and taxes
  • Excess baggage on any flight, vaccination costs, passport or visa fees and travel insurance
  • Any other meals or sightseeing not specified in the detailed itinerary
  • Items of a personal nature such as drinks, laundry, telephone and other communication charges, personal gratuities to Tour Leaders, Local Guides and Driver(s)
  • Any other item not specifically mentioned as being included.

How to Book

To ensure your place on this exciting adventure, please contact us to reserve a place, then complete the Booking Form and return to us with your deposit. Reservations are established when you receive written confirmation and acceptance of the deposit and Booking Form.

Deposit required: $2,000 per person
Balance due: 75 days prior to departure
If booking within
75 days of departure:
Full payment must be made

Travel insurance is strongly recommended and Adventure Associates will be pleased to forward a selection of insurance proposal forms.

Cancellations

Written instructions only will be accepted by Adventure Associates to cancel a reservation. Cancellation charges are subject to regulations of airlines, coach and tour operators, hotels and other principals involved. If it is necessary to cancel your arrangements, the following non-refundable charges will apply.

More than 100 days prior to departure $1500 per person
Between 99 and 75 days prior to departure Full loss of deposit per person
Between 74 and 35 days prior to departure 75% of tour cost per person
On or within 34 days prior to departure No Refund

All cancellation charges will be strictly applied. If the cancellation charge is more than your advance payment you remain liable for the difference. For these and other reasons mentioned above you are strongly recommended to take out travel insurance. Once the Land Tour has departed there will be no refund for any unused portions of the trip.

Glacier AtacamaVolcano (1) Tour costs shown are per person, quoted in Australian Dollars and are subject to change due to exchange rate variations and other factors. Please check with us at the time of booking.