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Diverse Chile: Atacama in depth + Valparaiso


CRD10S
10 NIGHTS
FROM £2,295
International flights quoted separately
Explore the Atacama with your own driver/guide, including the "Giant of the Atacama" and other amazing Inca geoglyphs (large artworks sketched into the landscape). Visit stunning Chungara Lake & Lauca National Park, with its breathtaking desert & volcano scenery, as well as the salt flats of Chaxa Lagoon. End your holiday relaxing in historic Valparaiso. English guides, all transfers & sighttseeing included.
Giant of the Atacama Geoglyphs Chungara Lake Lauca Valparaiso Photo
• 
Santiago
• 
Arica
• 
Putre
• 
Lauca National Park
• 
Chungara Lake
• 
Giant of the Atacama
• 
Iquique
• 
Atacama Desert
• 
Salt Mountain & Moon Valley
• 
Valparaiso
• 
Santiago
• 
Arica
• 
Putre
• 
Lauca National Park
• 
Chungara Lake
• 
Giant of the Atacama
• 
Iquique
• 
Atacama Desert
• 
Salt Mountain & Moon Valley
• 
Valparaiso
Day 1
You will be met at Santiago Airport and transferred into the capital of Santiago de Chile. This sophisticated and cosmopolitan city is situated in a valley, surrounded by the snow-capped Andes Mountains and the beautiful Chilean Coastal Range.
 
On arrival enjoy a shared tour of this modern city. We start in the downtown area of this relatively compact city, where modern buildings have transformed the landscape, and visit Santa Lucia Hill where the city of Santiago was founded in 1541.
 
We continue to 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 some beautiful neo-classical buildings – including the 18th century Cathedral of Santiago and the early 19th century Royal Court Palace, which now houses the National History Museum. Also enjoy outside views of the Municipal Offices, the Post Office and the current Presidential Palace, La Moneda. Time permitting you will have the opportunity to taste a ‘Pisco Sour’, see local handcrafts and walk through some of the more traditional streets of the city, before being dropped off at your hotel.
 
Note: Most museums are closed on Mondays.
Day 2
Transfer to Santiago Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Arica Airport. This is the northernmost city in Chile, situated close to the border with Peru.
 
Enjoy a short tour of this "City of Eternal Spring”, with its wonderful climate. Visit the beaches of Chinchorro and Lisera, Fisherman’s Wharf and the historic San Marcos Cathedral and Casa de la Cultura (the former Customs House) - both designed by the famous Gustav Eiffel. Finally enjoy panoramic views of the city from imposing  Morro de Arica hill.
 
After an included lunch, we travel 2-hours through deserts and fertile valleys to Putre situated high in the Andes Mountains. Along the way you can see ancient Inca geoglyphs (large artworks sketched into the landscape), the amazing chandelier cactus and ancient Inca forts, offering wonderful views. On arrival in Putre, check into your hotel and enjoy the backdrop of the Taapca Volcano.
Day 3
We leave Putre today and travel to Lauca National Park, a magnificent World Heritage Site that offers spectacular green Altiplano (South American high plain) landscapes and dramatic volcanic desert scenery.
 
This high altitude reserve is home to a surprising variety of wildlife including llamas, alpaca, vicuna and wild chinchilla. Also flamingos, condors, the Andean ostrich and other bird life.
 
We visit the village of Parinacota with its beautiful 17th century church, before arriving at spectacular Chungara Lake (meaning "Pointed Mountain"). Situated at 4,570 meters above sea level, this stunningly beautiful deep blue lake is one of the highest in the world, and one of the most beautiful places on earth.
 
After enjoying an included picnic lunch on the shores of the lake, we continue to Jurasi Hot Springs where you can bathe in the warm waters, before we return to Arica.
Day 4
Today we drive 4-hours to the port of Iquique on the Pacific Coast.
 
Along the way we view the ancient Incan geoglyphs at Chiza - depicting people, birds and animals - and at Tiviliche, which show llamas being herded. There are many interpretations of the history of these huge works of art, which are thought to be over 2,000 years old.
 
We stop on the vast plains of Pampa del Tamarugal National Reserve with its artificially planted forests in the middle of a dry desert, before arriving at the Giant of Atacama. This representation of a Tiwanaku chief is situated on the old packhorse road from the highlands to the coast, and at 390 ft (119 m) it is the largest anthropomorphic geoglyph in the world. It is believed it was an early astronomical calendar that determined where the moon would set, and therefore helped work out the seasons and crop cycles.
 
We continue to the ghost town of Humberstone, which once had over 200 saltpetre works. Thousands of workers from Chile, Peru and Bolivia laboured in extremely hostile surroundings here, forging a distinctive pampinos culture and language. The town has a fine theatre and church, both built from Oregon pine, and a hotel that boasts a full sized swimming pool built of iron. These abandoned works are now a World Heritage site. Afterwards we drive to Iquique and check into our hotel. Lunch is included today.
Day 5
This morning enjoy a city tour of Iquique, one of Chile's premier beach resorts situated along a golden crescent-shaped coastline - with paragliding, surfing and many other activities on offer, as well as duty free shopping.
 
Refurbished Georgian architecture from the 19th century mining boom is well preserved. Highlights include the old Spanish Casino, pretty Prat Square and the Municipal Theatre, the Spanish Centre, pedestrianised Baquedano Street with its wooden sidewalks, and the Regional Museum with its interesting display on the nitrate cycle. We visit  Astoreca Palace (now the Cultural Centre of Arturo Prat University) and the Naval Museum, which displays a variety of interesting maritime objects and documents.
 
In the afternoon transfer to Iquique Bus Station for the 4.5-hour journey by public bus to Calama. Here you will be met at the bus station and transferred 1.5-hours through the Domekyo and Salt Mountains to your hotel in 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.
Day 6
Today enjoy a full day shared 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 pink flamingos. You will see 3 different species here - 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. As the air warms up, this dissipates as 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 over 14,000 ft (4,300 m) at the foot of their impressive volcanoes that were formed when the Andes Mountains rose from the sea. Afterwards we drive to the small village of Socaire for an included traditional lunch at a rustic restaurant.
 
In the afternoon we visit the picturesque village of Toconao, with its main square and classical Atacamenian bell tower - built in 1750 from cactus wood, mud and straw. We also visit the church of San Lucas, before returning to San Pedro.
Day 7
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) above sea level, the geysers in this geothermal field have steam fumaroles that can easily reach over 33 ft (10 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. If you take your swimming costume, you can have a refreshing dip in these hot geyser waters.
 
After breakfast at the geysers, take in spectacular views of the Torcopuri y Sairecabur Volcanoes as we return to San Pedro. On the way back we make a short stop in the Putana Wetlands, where you can see different species of birds against the backdrop of the Colorado Volcano, and at the small village of Machuca with its original Altiplanic architecture in St. James Church.
 
In the afternoon head out on a shared excursion to the Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountains) to view the dramatic lunar landscapes of Moon Valley situated in the National Flamingo Reserve. Here you can see natural mineral sculptures formed by wind erosion, including ‘The Three Mary’s. We also visit Death Valley, favoured by sand boarders, with its amazing sculptured salt formations. Our day ends with a magical sunset at Kari Viewpoint, one of the highest points of the Salt Mountains.
Day 8
This morning participate in a shared tour to one of the most important archeological sites of the region.
 
Pukará de Quitor is a pre-Colombian 17th century stone fortress that was the site of the Battle of Quitor in 1540 - one of the first clashes between the indigenous people and the invading Spanish conquistadors. We continue to the well-preserved ancient village of Tulor, probably the first settlement of the Atacama salt flats, to learn more about the local culture. We also visit the Church of San Pedro, before returning to our hotel.
 
Afterwards transfer 1.5-hours to Calama Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Santiago Airport and transferred 2-hours to the historic seaport of Valparaiso on the Pacific Coast - a UNESCO World Heritage site and the second largest city in Chile.
 
Prior to the opening of the Panama Canal, this 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. Check into your hotel in this lively and chaotic city, with its quirky and eclectic architecture.
Days 9 To 10
At leisure to relax and explore the port city of Valparaiso.
Day 11
Transfer 2-hours to Santiago Airport for your flight home.

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