Chile Holidays - holidays to Chile - Atacama Desert

Chile: Atacama Desert + Easter Island


CRE12S
12 NIGHTS
FROM £2,195
International flights quoted separately
Combine a visit to remote Easter Island in the Pacific, where you can marvel at nearly 900 ancient gigantic Moai statues, with a visit to mainland Chile. Explore Santiago and the Chilean winelands, as well as the spectacular Atacama Desert with its shimmering salt flats, geysers and moon landscapes. Specified sighseeing, English speaking guides and all transfer included.
Photo Easter Island  Moai Statues Chile Atacama Santiago
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Santiago
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Valparaiso
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Winelands
• 
Atacama Desert
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Salt Flats
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Moon Valley
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El Tatio Geysers
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Easter Island
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Moai Statues
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Rapa Nui National Park
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Santiago
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Valparaiso
• 
Winelands
• 
Atacama Desert
• 
Salt Flats
• 
Moon Valley
• 
El Tatio Geysers
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Easter Island
• 
Moai Statues
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Rapa Nui National Park
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 early this morning (04.00) with packed breakfast for a shared excursion to 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 guided 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. Here you can visit the local market, with balance of afternoon 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
Transfer to Santiago Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Easter Island Airport - known locally as Rapa Nui - situated in the southern Pacific Ocean some 2,300 miles (3,700 km) west of the Chilean mainland.
 
Easter Island is famous for its nearly 900 gigantic stone Moai (carved human statues with oversized heads, often resting on a massive rock altar called Ahu), carved between the 10th and 16th century. Much of the island is now protected and Rapa Nui National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
 
Check into your hotel in this far-flung volcanic island at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle, and one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world.
Day 9
Step back in time on this half day shared excursion to learn more about the Reign of the Birdmen, during Rapa Nui´s pre-history. When the moai and the ahu were destroyed and chaos was imminent, this new order arose
 
We visit beautiful Ana Kai Tagata Cave illustrated with paintings of the manutara, a frigate bird whose arrival in spring would initiate the Tangata Manu competition of physical dexterity and strength - with power given to the competitor able to obtain its first egg.
 
We continue to Rano Kau, one of the three main volcanos that define the triangular shape of Rapa Nui. This volcano erupted over 2.5 million years ago and has a height of 310 m and a huge 1.6 km crater, with a fresh water lagoon inside. Today grapes, bananas and totora (a reed used for building houses and boats) are grown in the crater.
 
Our final stop is Orongo, a wonderful vantage point from which you can see the curvature of the earth and an unending vista of empty ocean. 47 houses were restored here in 1974, as the originals had collapsed or been torn down by treasure hunters. A series of trails have also been set out on the site. At the end of a 1 km interpretive trail we find Mata Ngarau - the central focus of the birdman cult, with nearly every boulder carved with ancient petroglyphs.
 
Note: The order of your day excursions may be changed. Wear good walking shoes and pack both sunscreen and rain gear.
Day 10
Enjoy a half day shared excursion today to explore four famous archaeological sites associated with the last, and most important, period of the Moai Era - as the descendants of the original Polynesian navigators turned their eyes skywards and constructed a series of magnificent megalithic moai (statues) and ahu (altars), all with astronomical significance.
 
Our first stop is at Ahu Huri a Urenga, one of the last altars to be restored by Dr William Mulloy. It is oriented such that the sun rises directly on the face of the moai, as it stands on its ahu, at the summer and winter solstice.
 
We continue to Ahu Akivi, a famous altar with seven magnificent moai that were restored in 1960. These statutes are believed to date from 1460 AD.
 
Ahu Vai Teka is our next stop. This altar was set up to be oriented towards the rising sun at the spring and autumn equinox. Near here are a large number of caves and waterholes, which would have been an important source of freshwater for the early inhabitants.
 
Our last stop is at Puna Pau, one of the 70 secondary volcanic cones found on Easter Island, but with a distinctive red colour because of its rich iron deposits. This red scoria was easily carved by the Rapa Nui people, who used it to make topknots that crowned the heads of some moai, stone lintels and funeral casts.
 
Note: The order of your day excursions may be changed. Wear good walking shoes and pack both sunscreen and rain gear.
Day 11
Today we spend a full day exploring the legends of the founding of Rapa Nui. From the capital of Hanga Roa, we travel 1-hour across the island to Anakena Beach, where Hotu Matu´a - the first ariki (king) - disembarked and founded this amazing megalithic culture. Over the next 700 years, these Polynesian navigators went on produced the gigantic moai (statues) for which Easter Island is so famous. Anakena Beach has four ahu (altars), two which have been reconstructed - Ature Huki and Ahu Nau Nau.
 
We continue to Ahu Te Pito Kura, which only has one moai but it is over 30 ft (10 m) high and weighs over 90 tons, making it the largest moai raised on any platform. The topknot alone is worthy of praise, weighing 11.5 tons. Here we also find a very sacred stone, said to have been brought by Hotu Matu’a from his home island of Hiva.
 
Our next stop is the Rano Raraku Volcano, which is one of the most interesting archaeological sites on Rapa Nui. Here you can find 396 moai situated in a quarry inside this extinct volcano, with its fresh water crater. Some of the statues are still encrusted in the rock of the quarry; others are in a process of getting their backs completed, and some are in a staging area waiting to be moved to their destined ahu. Here we will see the largest moai ever carved - Te Tokanga (or El Gigante), measuring a staggering 66 ft (22 m) and weighing over 220 tons. We stop here for an included picnic lunch.
 
In the afternoon we visit the visually stunning Ahu Tongariki, where 15 moai that had been tossed inland following a tsunami in 1960 have been restored. This is the largest reconstructed site on the island and the largest temple in all of Polynesia.
 
Our final stop is Ahu Akahanga – the Platform of the King, as it is believed that the grave of Hotu Matu’a is in a nearby cave. There are four separate platforms, with 12 moai of various sizes and 8 magnificent pukao (topknots). Petroglyphs run along the front of the main ahu and one moai can be found behind it.
 
Note: The order of your day excursions may be changed. Wear good walking shoes and pack both sunscreen and rain gear.
Day 12
Transfer to Easter Island 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 13
Transfer to Santiago Airport for your flight home.

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