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Essential Chile: Santiago + Atacama


CRA7S
8 NIGHTS
FROM £1,195
International flights quoted separately
Visit Santiago the amazing Atacama Desert, with its astonishing salt flats, geysers and moon valley landscapes. Enjoy the dramatic desert landscapes and star gazing in spectacularly clear night skies. Explore Santiago with its delicious food and wine, or head out to the nearby winelands and the historic port city of Valparaiso. All transfers & specified excursions included, with English speaking guides.
• 
Santiago
• 
City Tour
• 
Valparaiso
• 
San Pedro
• 
Atacama Desert
• 
Moon Valley
• 
El Tatio Geysers
• 
Atacama Salt Flats
• 
Star Gazing
• 
Chilean Winelands
• 
Santiago
• 
City Tour
• 
Valparaiso
• 
San Pedro
• 
Atacama Desert
• 
Moon Valley
• 
El Tatio Geysers
• 
Atacama Salt Flats
• 
Star Gazing
• 
Chilean Winelands
Day 1
You will be met at Santiago Airport and transferred into the capital of Santiago de Chile.
 
Check into your hotel in this sophisticated and cosmopolitan city, situated in a valley surrounded by the snow-capped Andes Mountains and the beautiful Chilean Coastal Range.
Day 2
This morning we recommend an optional tour of the modern city of Santiago.
 
We start with a short walking tour of this relatively compact city, including the Plaza de Armas in the heart of the old colonial city and bustling Ahumada Boulevard with its many shops, street performers and vendors. Here you will be able to see two beautiful neo-classical buildings - the 18th century Metropolitan Cathedral and the early 19th century Royal Court Palace, which now houses the National History Museum. Also enjoy outside views of the current Presidential Palace, La Moneda.
 
Continue by vehicle along the main avenues of old Santiago and across the bohemian neighborhood of Bellavista to San Cristobal Hill, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and Andes Mountains. Drive through the chic neighborhoods, shopping and financial centers of modern Santiago, before returning to your hotel. Afternoon is at leisure to explore more of this lively city independently.
 
Note: Most museums are closed on Mondays.
Day 3
Today we recommend an optional excursion to Vina del Mar and Valparaiso on the Pacific Coast.
 
We depart from Santiago and travel through the Casablanca and Curacavi Valleys to the beautiful beaches of Las Salinas and Reñaca. Continuing to Viña del Mar, we explore the avenues of this attractive town that is known as the "Garden City" because of its beautiful parks and floral displays. We also visit the municipal casino.
 
In the afternoon we drive to the historic seaport of Valparaíso, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the second largest city in Chile. Prior to the opening of the Panama Canal, it was the most important Pacific seaport on the crucial trade route that linked the American west coast with Europe, via the Strait of Magellan. Its many stairways and old funicular elevators that lead up the 44 hills on which the city is built are a real feature. With its quirky and eclectic architecture, today it is a lively and chaotic city.
Day 4
Transfer to Santiago Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Calama Airport and transferred 1.5-hours through the Domekyo and Salt Mountains to San Pedro in the vast Atacama Desert.
 
Extending for over 600 miles (1,000 km), this enormous plateau of salt lakes, sand, larva and stony terrain is situated between two high mountain ranges - the Andes to the east and the Chilean Coastal Range to the west. As a result, the Atacama receives virtually no rain whatsoever - making it the driest and oldest desert in the world, with landscapes that will take your breath away.
 
After checking into your hotel, enjoy a late afternoon visit to the dramatic terrains of Death Valley and Moon Valley, where you can enjoy the spectacular sunset.
Day 5
Today enjoy a full day tour to the crystalline Atacama Salt Flats, the largest in Chile and one of the largest in the world. The lake under these salt flats has one of the largest lithium reserves in the world, with small lagoons having formed where holes have broken through the crusted salt.
 
A highlight is our visit to Chaxa Lagoon in Los Flamencos National Reserve, with its vast flocks of flamingos. You will see 3 different species - Chilean, Andean & James’s - as well as other birds such as the puna plover and red-gartered coot that nest and feed on these mineral-rich waters. Most activity occurs around sunrise, with a pinkish hue rising over the horizon with the sun. As the air warms up, this dissipates and huge flocks of these birds take flight over the lake.
 
We then travel further into the Altiplano to view the amazingly blue lagoons of Meñique and Miscanti located at 14,850 ft (4,500 m) above sea level and surrounded by impressive volcanoes, formed when the Andes Mountains rose from the sea. Afterwards we return to the small village of Socaire for an included lunch at a rustic traditional restaurant.
 
In the afternoon we visit the picturesque village of Toconao, with its classical Atacamenian bell tower, before returning to San Pedro.
Day 6
Depart before dawn this morning for a shared excursion to the El Tatio Geysers, the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere and the third largest in the world. Situated at over 14,000 ft (4,300 m) the geysers in this geothermal field have steam fumaroles that can reach up to 165 ft (50 m).
 
Arrive at sunrise when each geyser is surrounded by a column of steam that condenses in the cold air, against a backdrop of the imposing Andes with its multiple colours and varied fauna, including the vicuña - an American camelid with an elegant walk and adapted to live in extreme weather conditions. Enjoy a guided walk before these steam plumes disappear as the air warms up. You can also bathe in hot geyser water in a small pool.
 
After enjoying a delicious breakfast prepared at the geysers, enjoy spectacular views of the Torcopuri y Sairecabur Volcanoes as you return to San Pedro. Here you can visit the local market, with balance of day at leisure.
Day 7
Transfer 1.5-hours to Calama Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Santiago Airport and transferred into the capital of Santiago de Chile.
 
Check into your hotel in this sophisticated and cosmopolitan city, situated in a valley surrounded by the snow-capped Andes Mountains and the beautiful Chilean Coastal Range.
Day 8
Today we recommend an optional full day tour into the beautiful Chilean Winelands.
 
Discover some of Chile's famous 'New World' wines and learn more about their production, as you visit at least two wine estates, including a cellar tour and wine tasting.
Day 9
Transfer to Santiago Airport for your flight home.

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