Home » Penguin: Extremes of Chile
This comprehensive holiday shows off the variety of landscapes in the stunning Andean republic of Chile which runs down the Pacific coast from the Atacama desert to Patagonia, via sunny vineyards and the volcano-dotted lake district. Private travel and top quality hotels throughout.
Duration: 14 Days
If you are arriving on an international flight will be met at the airport by the tour leader or a local representative. There will be time to relax before your guided walking tour of the colonial centre of the city, and later you may be able to visit independently one or two of the many museums, markets and parks of this cosmopolitan capital. Santiago is laid out in a broad valley below the snow-capped Andes.
For a panoramic view over the city, visit Cerro Santa Lucía, a central, romantic park. For even more panoramic vistas, a cable car leads to the summit of San Cristóbal, where you can join Chilean families wandering along the leafy paths. Afterwards, have a beer at one of the pavement cafés in Bellavista. This is an Italian quarter of narrow streets peppered with bars and shops selling local lapis lazuli (only Chile and Afghanistan produce the stones in commercial quantities).
Today there is an optional visit to Chile's second city, Valparaíso (2 hours by bus). This lively seaport is built on a series of hills which form a backdrop to the wide bay, with views over the seaside resort of Viña del Mar. You can wander through the steep, winding streets and among the brightly-coloured colonial homes built for 19th century British and German merchants, or take a ride in one of the creaky wooden funiculars which link the cliff-top communities.
Time permitting, you may wish to visit one of the vineyards close to Santiago, to sample some highly respected Chilean wine.
Fly north to Calama (2 hours) where you will be driven (90mins) to the oasis of San Pedro de Atacama. San Pedro is a timeless adobe town with a laid back atmosphere and an erratic electricity supply. Its dusty streets are lined with bars, cafés and tour operators offering various excursions into the surrounding desert. The excellent museum here has a comprehensive history of the indigenous population and an interesting display of local archaeological discoveries.
On the guided excursion you arrive late in the afternoon at the Moon Valley (its name tells it all) to explore shady gorges and canyons formed over centuries by the erosion of salt mountains. Just before dusk, climb to the ridge of a vast golden sand dune to see the landscape lit up in different shades of pink, crimson and mandarin cast by the setting sun.
Explore the region's other-worldly landscape on a full day excursion to the Atacama salt flats and surrounding lakes. Across the dazzling, pitted surface of the salar, you'll see pink-tinged flamingos feeding, reflected in the glimmering pools. A dusty drive takes you through some tiny hamlets where Atacameños eke out a living in these harsh conditions, before continuing to Lakes Miscanti and Miñiques. Here you're left literally breathless - at over 4,000m the air is thin and cold. Take a walk around the lakeshore and picnic with a view of the volcanic cones perfectly reflected in the turquoise waters.
Breakfast and Lunch included.
Should you choose to take the morning optional excursion to El Tatio Geysers, be prepared for a very early start. But it's well worth it. You arrive on the pitted, craggy geyser field just before dawn, and as the sun rises and warms the earth, hot steam projects dramatically out of the crater into the freezing morning air, creating a wall of mist through which you can make out dark silhouettes against the penetrating sunlight.
Alternatively you may want to walk to Pukará de Quitor (3 km). This old Inca fortress has superb views of the mountains and volcanoes bordering Bolivia and Argentina.
Fly south via Santiago to Puerto Montt, and continue by road to Puerto Varas, situated on the shores of Lake Llanquihue (one of the largest natural lakes in South America), in the heart of the lake district. Towering snow-capped volcanoes punctuate a patchwork landscape of cultivated hills and pastures. The town sits in the shadows of the perfect conical peak of the Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes. Originally colonised by German immigrants, it has a distinctive, Bavarian feel, and many inhabitants are fair-haired and blue-eyed. There are some excellent seafood restaurants and cafés serving creamy küchen to while away your free time.
Today you will visit the Petrohué Falls where you stand on wooden walkways and gaze down in to the glacial turquoise waters. Follow the trails through the forest and along the shores of Lake Todos los Santos, where you will take a boat trip on the gem-clear, emerald green waters. On a clear day, this is some of the most exquisite scenery on the continent.
We strongly recommend a full-day excursion to Chiloé. This extraordinary island developed largely independently from the mainland and has a distinct history, architecture and mythology. Alighting on its shores is like stepping back into a time of mists and legends. Half the population works in agriculture, the techniques of which have remained unchanged for centuries; distinctive ox-driven carts are to be seen trundling down the island's unpaved roads past unique wood-shingled churches and there are several folksy fishing ports where you can savour fresh oysters.
November-March you can take a boat trip to spot Magellanic and Humboldt penguins. The excursion ends with a visit to a chilote family, where the traditional curanto is prepared for you; it's a hearty dish of seafood, meat, potatoes and vegetables are piled high in a hole in the ground, buried and cooked among glowing embers.
After a short drive to Puerto Montt, a 2 hour flight takes you south to Punta Arenas. On a clear day you have views of the southern icecap, its fjords, volcanoes and glaciers. Approaching the city you fly over the rust brown Patagonian steppes, pitted with small lagoons, stretching out towards the Straits of Magellan. On the other side of the water rise the mountains of the windswept island of Tierra del Fuego.
From here we drive towards the Torres del Paine National Park in a private bus, taking in the mesmeric views and diverse wildlife that you pass along the way. You spend 3 nights in the Rio Serrano sector based at a cosy lodge with a fantastic location in the heart of the magnificent scenery.
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner included.
You have two full days to explore the park, and there are excellent hiking trails that wind alongside the glacial lakes with close-up views of the tortured rock towers and needles rising 3,000m into a tempestuous sky. Keen walkers can hike to the base of the vertical granite towers (both 8 hours). With 10 different walks available there should be something suit all needs and abilities. Alternatively you can take to vehicles to tour the park stopping at some of the most famous sights and miradors.
There are also optional excursions you may wish to choose such as a boat trip on Lago Grey, dotted with icebergs which have broken free from the glacier which plugs the lake, the looming front wall of which you approach in your craft. Or for a different perspective canter through the steppes under the watchful eye of expert local horsemen.
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner included.
Journey back south away from the park to Punta Arenas, stopping to visit the Milodon Cave on the way.
Punta Arenas was an important, British-influenced trading centre before the opening of the Panama Canal turned it into a backwater; the region's fortunes were only briefly revived during a short-lived gold rush. To add to its woes, the sheep-rearing business has never recovered from the catastrophic collapse of the price of meat and wool. No pure-blooded indigenous people are left alive here; having survived for centuries the rigours of the Antarctic climate they were annihilated by the diseases brought in by sailors and missionaries at the turn of the 20th century.
Catch a flight back to Santiago (4 hours) which normally includes a stop in Puerto Montt where those wishing to continue with the lake crossing to Argentina will leave the group. Overnight in the capital.
Today we bid farewell Santiago where you will be transferred from your Hotel to the airport in time for your International departure fight.
|26 Feb 2020 - 10 Mar 2020||USD $6582pp||Contact us|
|14 Oct 2020 - 27 Oct 2020||USD $6238pp||Contact us|
|28 Oct 2020 - 10 Nov 2020||USD $6801pp||Contact us|
|18 Nov 2020 - 01 Dec 2020||USD $6801pp||Contact us|
|02 Dec 2020 - 15 Dec 2020||USD $6801pp||Contact us|
|Santiago||Hotel Cumbres Lastarria|
|Atacama||Hotel Cumbres San Pedro de Atacama|
|Puerto Varas||Hotel Cumbres Puerto Varas|
|Torres Del Paine||Hotel Rio Serrano|
|Punta Arenas||Hotel Rey Don Felipe|
This tour operates with a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 20 passengers. The minimum age is 12 years. Hotels are subject to change due to availability.