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Deserts of Chile, including Giant of the Atacama


CRD10S
10 NIGHTS
FROM £2,095
International flights quoted separately
See the amazing "Giant of the Atacama" and other ancient Inca geoglyphs (large artworks sketched into the landscape) on this holiday. Visit stunning Chungara Lake & Lauca National Park, with its breathtaking desert & volcano scenery, as well as the flamingos & salt flats around Chaxa Lagoon. All transfers included.
Giant of the Atacama Geoglyphs Chungara Lake Lauca National Park
• 
Santiago
• 
Valparaiso
• 
Arica
• 
Putre
• 
Lauca National Park
• 
Chungara Lake
• 
Giant of the Atacama
• 
Iquique
• 
Atacama Desert
• 
Salt Mountain & Moon Valley
• 
Santiago
• 
Valparaiso
• 
Arica
• 
Putre
• 
Lauca National Park
• 
Chungara Lake
• 
Giant of the Atacama
• 
Iquique
• 
Atacama Desert
• 
Salt Mountain & Moon Valley
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.
 
On arrival enjoy 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.
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 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 5
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 6
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 7
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 8
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 9
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.
 
In the late afternoon enjoy a visit to the dramatic terrains of Death Valley and Moon Valley, where you can enjoy the spectacular sunset.
Day 10
Transfer 1.5-hours to Calama Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Santiago Airport and transferred to your hotel situated close to the airport.
Day 11
Make your own way to Santiago Airport for your flight home.

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