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Grand Chile: Lakes, Mountains & Deserts


CRC16S
16 NIGHTS
FROM £2,895
International flights quoted separately
See the best of Chile on this amazing holiday that starts by exploring the dramatic landscapes of the Atacama Desert, before visiting the Chilean Winelands, the beautiful Lake District & Torres del Paines National Park in Patagonia, with its mountains & glaciers. End your holiday relaxing in the port city of Valparaiso. English speaking guides, all transfers & specified sightseeing included.
Patagonia Photo Lake District Chile Atacama Torres Del Paine Winelands
• 
Santiago
• 
Atacama Desert
• 
Geysers & Salt Flats
• 
Chilean Winelands
• 
Lake District
• 
Puerto Varas
• 
Patagonia
• 
Torres Del Paine
• 
Balmaceda Glacier
• 
Valparaiso
• 
Santiago
• 
Atacama Desert
• 
Geysers & Salt Flats
• 
Chilean Winelands
• 
Lake District
• 
Puerto Varas
• 
Patagonia
• 
Torres Del Paine
• 
Balmaceda Glacier
• 
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 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, 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 3
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 4
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.
Day 5
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 beautiful Chilean Winelands.
 
Check into your hotel and relax among the vineyards of this famous wine-producing region, situated between the snow-capped Andes and the coast.
Days 6 To 7
At leisure to relax and independently explore the wine estates of the beautiful Chilean Winelands.
Day 8
Transfer 2-hours to Santiago Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Puerto Montt Airport and transferred 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.
Day 9
Today we suggest an optional full day tour of the spectacular Lake District.
 
We start in Puerto Varas, where the streets and avenues are adorned with rose bushes. Here we drive up Philippi Hill for wonderful views of vast Lake Llanquihue, the second largest in Chile. We continue to Puerto Montt and the fishing village of Angelmó with its fascinating selection of arts and crafts, before returning to Puerto Varas for lunch (own account).
 
In the afternoon we continue through Ensenada and enter Vicente Perez Rosalis National Park to view the imposing Osomo Volcano. We walk through a forest of coigues and other native trees, making a stop at 1,000 m to view La Burbuja Crater before continuing to the ski centre where there is the option of taking a ski lift (own account) for panoramic views of the landscape.
 
Afterwards we return to  Puerto Varas, with evening at leisure.
Day 10
At leisure to explore more of Puerto Varas and the surrounding lakes and mountains of the Lake District.
 
Situated on beautiful Lago Llanquihue, two snow-capped volcanoes - Osorno and Calbuco - are clearly visible from the lakefront. Puerto Varas is known for its strong German traditions.
Day 11
Transfer 30-minutes to Puerto Montt Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Punta Arenas Airport and escorted to the bus station for the 3-hour public bus ride to Puerto Natales - the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park.
 
You will be met on arrival at Puerto Natales bus station and transferred to your hotel in this former fishing town situated on the Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope) Sound.
Day 12
Weather permitting, an early departure this morning for a full day excursion by boat to the spectacular Balmaceda & Serrano Glaciers.
 
We sail at 08.00 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 chunks of ice detach and crash into the waters below. You can hope to see cormorants and sea lions here.
 
We disembark at Puerto Toro at the end of the fjord and walk 3/4 mile (1 km) 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 an Estancia (ranch) to enjoy an included 'Asado al Palo' (typical Magellanan barbeque), before sailing back to Puerto Natales. We disembark around 17.00 and transfer back to our hotel.
 
Note: This excursion is available from October to April only.
Day 13
Today enjoy a full day excursion travelling 2-hours across the dry scrubland of the Magellanic Steppe to Torres del Paine National Park - a 242,000 hectare UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its soaring mountains, electric-blue lakes and many glaciers.
 
We drive past Figueroa Lake and stop at the village of Cerro Castillo, where you can enjoy a coffee and buy typical handcrafts of the region. A variety of rare wildlife can be seen in these pampas (lowlands), including large herds of elegant guanaco - a type of humpless camel related to the llama - and the lesser rhea, which is related to the ostrich and emu. You may also see giant condor birds soaring in the thermals.
 
We then enter Torres del Paine National Park, where the landscape changes dramatically to spectacular glacier lakes frequented by marine birds, lofty waterfalls and magnificent granite mountain peaks covered by ice. The enormous Campo de Hielo Sur icecap gives the park four main glaciers - Grey, Dickson, Zapata and Tyndall. Two other glaciers descend from the west side of the central massif.
 
From the Lake Sarmiento viewpoint, enjoy postcard views of the Paine Massif. Weather permitting, from the Lake Amarga viewpoint you will have one of the best views of the three granite Torres Del Paine ('Towers of Blue') from which the park takes its name. We also stop at the Lake Nordenskjold lookout, with its view over the different peaks of the Cordillera Paine – including the famous Cuernos del Paine and the highest mountain in the Park, the Paine Grande at 10,000 ft (3,050 m).
 
After a 15-minute walk to the powder blue Salto Grande Waterfall that flows into Lake Pehoé, enjoy an included picnic lunch. Afterwards we stop on the shores of Grey Lake and walk across a hanging bridge over the Pingo River to the beach, from where spectacular blue icebergs can be seen against a backdrop of the distant Grey Glacier.
 
We then leave Torres del Paine, stopping on our return journey at the Milodón Cave on Benitez Hill. The remains of several extinct animals have been found here - including the sabre toothed tiger, the American horse and a gigantic herbiverous mammal known as the Milodon. You will need to walk for half an hour to reach the main cave, which is 200 meters deep, 80 meters wide and 30 meters high. Here you can see stalactites and a life-size replica of the Milodon. We return to Puerto Natales in the late afternoon.
Day 14
Transfer to the bus station for the 3-hour public bus ride to Punta Arenas 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 15 To 16
At leisure to relax and explore the port city of Valparaiso.
Day 17
Transfer 2-hours to Santiago Airport for your flight home.

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