Chile Holidays - holidays to Chile - Atacama Desert

Grand Chile - Self Drive


CCA14S
14 NIGHTS
FROM £2,795
International flights and car hire quoted separately
Explore the amazing landscapes of Chile on this independent self drive holiday. Starting in Santiago, explore Valparaiso and the Winelands, before flying to the Atacame Desert with its geysers and salt flats. Continue to the Lake District to explore its alpine scenery before finishing in spectacular Patagonia, with the glaciers of Torres del Paine National Park.
Photo Chile Self Drive Holidays Patagonia Atacama Lake District
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Santiago
• 
Valparaiso
• 
Winelands
• 
Atacama Salt Flats
• 
El Tatio Geysers
• 
Moon Valley
• 
Lake District
• 
Puerto Varas
• 
Balmaceda & Serrano Glaciers
• 
Torres del Paine
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Santiago
• 
Valparaiso
• 
Winelands
• 
Atacama Salt Flats
• 
El Tatio Geysers
• 
Moon Valley
• 
Lake District
• 
Puerto Varas
• 
Balmaceda & Serrano Glaciers
• 
Torres del Paine
Day 1
Arrive at Santiago Airport, collect your hire car and drive 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.
 
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 driving to Vina del Mar and Valparaiso on the Pacific Coast.
 
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, you can explore the avenues of this attractive town that is known as the "Garden City" because of its beautiful parks and floral displays. You can also visit the municipal casino.
 
In the afternoon you can 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
Today we recommend exploring the beautiful Chilean Winelands, either independently or on an optional full day tour.
 
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 5
Drive to Santiago Airport for your onward flight.

Arrive at Calama Airport, collect your hire car and drive 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, we recommend a late afternoon visit to the dramatic terrains of Death Valley and Moon Valley, where you can enjoy the spectacular sunset.
Day 6
This morning we recommend driving 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 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.
 
Afterwards we recommend a visit to the picturesque village of Toconao, with its classical Atacamenian bell tower, the small village of Socaire and the altiplanic (high plain) 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.
Day 7
We recommend departing early this morning to visit the El Tatio Geysers, the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere and the third largest in the world. Geysers here can reach up to 50m.
 
Arrive at sunrise when each geyser is surrounded by a column of steam that condenses in the cold air (these steam plumes disappear as the air warms up) and enjoy a walk around the geothermal fields. You can also bathe in the hot geyser water in a small pool.
 
Enjoy spectacular views of the Torcopuri y Sairecabur Volcanoes as you return to San Pedro, where you can visit the local market.
Day 8
Drive 1.5-hours to Calama Airport for your onward flight.

Arrive at Puerto Montt Airport, collect your hire car and drive 30-minutes to Puerto Varas - the "City of Roses", surrounded by the mountains of the enchanting Lake District.
 
Check into your hotel and relax in this area of outstanding natural beauty.
Days 9 To 10
At leisure to explore Puerto Varas and the surrounding lakes and mountains of the Lake District.
 
With its streets and avenues adorned with rose bushes, you can drive up Philippi Hill for wonderful views of beautiful Lake Llanquihue, the second largest lake in Chile. Two snow-capped volcanoes - Osorno and Calbuco - are clearly visible from the lakefront.
 
You can drive to nearby Puerto Montt and the fishing village of Angelmó, with its fascinating selection of arts and crafts.
 
You can also drive to Vicente Perez Rosalis National Park to view the imposing Osomo Volcano. Here you can walk through a forest of coigues and other native trees, stopping at 1,000 m to view the La Burbuja Crater, before continuing to the ski centre where there is the option of taking a ski lift for panoramic views of the landscape.
 
Upper and lower Frutillar and its church offer another opportunity to admire Llanquihue Lake and the imposing Osorno Volcano, while the fast flowing turquoise waters of the Petrohue River are known for adrenalin-filled white water rafting and fly fishing. You can also drive to Alerce Andino National Park, with its beautiful rainforests and giant larch trees.
 
Puerto Varas is known for its strong German community and traditions.
Day 11
Drive 30-minutes to Puerto Montt Airport for your onward flight.

Arrive at Punta Arenas Airport, collect your hire car and drive 3-hour to Puerto Natales - the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park.
 
Check into your hotel in this former fishing town situated on the Ultima Esperanza Sound.
Day 12
An early departure this morning for a full day tour by boat to the spectacular Balmaceda & Serrano Glaciers.
 
We sail from Puerto Natales and enjoy an onboard breakfast as we navigate through the beautiful Ultima Esperanza Fjord. After 3-hours we arrive at the icy blue Balmaceda Glacier in Bernardo O´Higgins National Park. This astonishing glacier is over 1,000 years old and offers a magnificent display when "calving" - as huge chuunks of ice detach and crash into the waters below. You can also hope to see cormorants and sea lions here.
 
At the end of the fjord we disembark and walk approximately 3/4 mile (1 km) on a path through an indigenous forest to the foot of the Serrano Glacier, another fantastic natural wonder that is part of the Southern Patagonia Icefields.
 
On the way back we stop at Estancia Perales for a typical Magellanic coast lunch (included), before returning to Puerto Natales in the afternoon.
Day 13
Today we recommend exploring the famous Torres del Paine National Park, either independently or on a shared tour.
 
Travel through the dry scrub of the Pategonian Steppes, with its herds of sheep and surprisingly abundant wild life, to Torres del Paine National Park - a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its soaring mountains, electric-blue lakes and glaciers.
 
Torres del Paine, the three granite towers from which the park takes its name ("Towers of Blue") and the oddly shaped peaks of Cuernos del Paine ("Horns of Blue") are some of its most iconic sites. The valleys are filled with beautiful lakes and the enormous Campo de Hielo Sur icecap gives the park four main glaicers - Grey, Dickson, Zapata and Tyndall. Two other glaciers descend from the west side of the central massif.
 
View the impressive powder blue Salto Grande Waterfall that flows into Lake Pehoe, and visit Lake Grey, with distant views of the Grey Glacier. A variety of rare wildlife can also be seen in the surrounding golden pampas (lowlands), including large herds of elegant guanacos  - a type of humpless camel related to the llama, with long slender neck and fine legs.
 
After a full day exploring the stunning beauty of Chilean Patagonia, return to Puerto Natales.
Day 14
Drive 3-hours to Punta Arenas Airport for your onward flight.

Arrive at Santiago Airport, collect your hire car and drive 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 15
Drive to Santiago Airport for your flight home.

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