Group - Discovery

Charito: Pure Patagonia

12 days from £2,805pp

Chile / Argentina / Patagonia

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

UK clients depart on overnight flight arriving in Santiago, Chile on day 1.

Santiago

Day 1

Walking tour of the capital.

Santiago is laid out in a broad valley below the snow-capped Andes, around 60 miles from the Pacific Coast. Those arriving on an international flight will be met at the airport by the tour leader or a local representative. There will be time to relax before exploring the city and visiting a few of the many museums, markets and parks of this cosmopolitan capital.

For a scenic view across the city, climb to the top of Cerro Santa Lucía, located right in the centre of town. For even more panoramic vistas, a funicular takes you to the summit of San Cristóbal, where you can join Chilean families wandering along the leafy paths. Afterwards, have a beer at one of the pavement cafés in Bellavista. This is an Italian quarter of narrow streets peppered with bars and shops selling local lapis lazuli (only Chile and Afghanistan produce the stones in commercial quantities).

The museum and house of Chilean poet laureate Pablo Neruda is close by, and its unusual interior with an eclectic collection of paintings and bric-a-brac is well worth a visit.

 

Day 2

Optional vineyard tour or visit to Pacific port Valparaíso.

There is an optional visit to Chile's second city, Valparaíso (2 hours by bus). This lively seaport is built on a series of hills which form a backdrop to the wide bay, with views over the seaside resort of Viña del Mar. You can wander through the steep, winding streets and among the brightly-coloured colonial homes built for 19th century British and German merchants, or take a ride in one of the creaky wooden funiculars which link the cliff-top communities.

Time permitting, you may wish to visit one of the vineyards close to Santiago to sample some highly respected Chilean wine.

Valparaiso

Day 3

Fly to Puerto Montt and continue to Puerto Varas.

A 1 hour 45 minute flight takes you south to Puerto Montt, followed by a short drive to Puerto Varas on the shores of Lake Llanquihue in the Chilean Lake District. The town is set amid lush, green, rolling countryside and was colonised by Germans at the turn of the 20th century. Its architecture and sedate style still reflects this. The town's main attraction is an alpine green lake framed by tree-clad hills and beyond, one of the most perfectly shaped snow-capped volcanoes in the world - Osorno.

The afternoon is free to explore the town or travel out to the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, to visit the Petrohue waterfalls. Formed by a lava flow of volcanic rock and set amongst a 1,000 year-old forest, the falls make an impressive site.

Puerto Varas

Day 4

Full day exploration of Chiloé.

Today we have a full day excursion to the mysterious island of Chiloé. Although located just off the coast of mainland Chile it often feels like a world away. We travel by road and ferry to Chacao where we will be met by our local guide. Once here we visit the plaza and the guide will explain the traditional architecture, which includes the famous wooden churches and stilted houses Chiloé is famous for. We'll continue on to the Bay of Caulin, known for its great birdlife and do a quick oyster tasting before continuing to Ancud for lunch. Travelling  through the 'campo' we arrive on the rugged Pacific Coast, where birdlife including penguins congregate on desolate beaches. In the late afternoon we'll return towards Ancud to a family farmhouse for a traditional curanto, a local pitbake and uniquely Chilote experience. Return to Puerto Varas in the evening.

Chiloe

Day 5

Fly to Punta Arenas and continue to Puerto Natales.

Transfer back to Puerto Montt for your flight south to Punta Arenas. On a clear day you have views of the southern icecap, its fjords, volcanoes and glaciers. Approaching the city you see the rust brown Patagonian steppes, pitted with small lagoons, stretching out towards the Straits of Magellan. On the other side of the water rise the mountains of the windswept island of Tierra del Fuego.

Punta Arenas was an important, British-influenced trading centre before the opening of the Panama Canal turned it into a backwater; the region's fortunes were only briefly revived during a short-lived gold rush. To add to its woes, the sheep-rearing business has never recovered from the catastrophic collapse of the price of meat and wool. No pure-blooded indigenous people are left alive here; having survived for centuries the rigours of the Antarctic climate they were annihilated by the diseases brought in by sailors and missionaries at the turn of the 20th century.

From here continue by bus to Puerto Natales, a small town with a frontier feel on the shores of Last Hope Sound, frequented by pelicans, black-necked swans and cormorants and your base for 3 nights to explore the nearby Torres del Paine National Park.

 

Puerto Natales

Day 6

By boat to Torres del Paine National Park.

Today you have your first of 2 full-day visits to the Torres del Paine National Park, but rather than taking the road you embark on an adventure by boat. An early morning start sees you hop aboard a ship and begin your journey cruising through the fjord of Last Hope, passing by the redundant meatpacking factories and colonies of cormorants and sea lions.

Further up the fjord you can view the vast Balmaceda glacier, before the ship docks for the walk to the Serrano glacier and the ice-carved lake below it. After the walk you continue your journey up river, this time in zodiacs. This final leg of the journey takes around 3 hours, as you zip through untouched areas of staggering beauty, past further glaciers (Tyndall, Geike) to arrive at Rio Serrano. From here you will be met by your private vehicle to explore some of the magnificent views and scenery of the park.

 

Torres del Paine

Day 7

Explore the national park by foot.

You head back into Torres for another included full day of exploration. There are a number of different walking trails winding alongside the glacial lakes and rivers with close-up views of tortured rock towers and needles rising 3,000m into a tempestuous sky. Aside from hiking, there is a wide variety of included excursions available - including horse riding and tours of the national park by road - your tour leader will discuss these locally and help you decide what will suit you best.

Torres del Paine

Day 8

Drive to El Calafate.

Travel by comfortable coach towards Argentina across the Patagonian steppe: a bleak and scantily-populated landscape. Keep a look out for guanacos, rheas, and flamingos, as well as for the views over Lago Argentino, the largest lake in the country.

On the shores of the lake is El Calafate, where you are based for the coming days. This small frontier town has grown rapidly over the last twenty years and is a tourist hot spot for visiting the local scenery of stunning lakes and steep mountains as well as the stopping off point for visitors to the Perito Moreno glacier, one of the most dynamic in the world. You arrive in the afternoon and if you wish there should be time to visit the fascinating Glaciarium Museum, located in an interesting building with fantastic views just outside time. Once you have spent time learning about all things glacial, there is also an ice bar on the premises for a relaxing drink.

 

Los Glaciares

Day 9

Excursion to the Perito Moreno Glacier.

This morning drive out towards the huge wall of ice which is the Perito Moreno Glacier for your included excursion. You follow the lake shore before turning up a wooded valley, dense with beech and birch, and continue alongside shimmering lagoons, bordered with bright crimson and heather lichens.

The park authorities have been sensitive about keeping the site as natural as possible, and there are no shops or cafés within close proximity of the wooden viewing platforms, which are tastefully landscaped into the cliff. Just looking at the front-edge of the glacier which towers 60m above the water’s surface and is an extraordinary 5km wide is awe-inspiring in itself: even more so when you hear the unforgettable sound of the glacier calving a vast wedge of ice the size of a tower block, which crashes down into the lake, divides and floats away as an iceberg.

Perito Moreno

Day 10

Fly to Buenos Aires.

Fly to the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires (3hours), an elegant and cosmopolitan city famed for the fascinating port district of La Boca with its cobbled streets and brightly painted houses. It was here that the tango was born, and Diego Maradona honed his footballing skills.

The centre of town is home to the historic heartland, government buildings and churches as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic, Parisian feel. The bohemian district of San Telmo is full of quaint old houses interspersed with antiques shops, tango bars and expensive restaurants. Slightly further out of town is the Recoleta district, even more evocative of belle époque French and Italianate architecture. During the winter months, wealthy female residents parade the streets in their fur coats and improbable, towering hairstyles, and take afternoon tea in the city's ornate cafés.

Buenos Aires

Day 11

Walking tour of the capital.

Explore the lanes and boulevards on your guided city tour, then make the most of some free time to shop, have a drink and a pastry in a tea-room or peruse the items on display in one of the many markets. It’s fun to promenade up and down the quay in the city’s splendidly renovated port district, Puerto Madero, which has trendy loft apartments, a string of open air restaurants and a small marina.

Optional evening visit to one of the many nightly Tango shows.

Buenos Aires

Day 12

Depart for international flight or extension.

Day 12

UK clients arrive home the following day.

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Consultant

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our Sales team.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Consultant

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.

  • Jamie Swan
    Jamie Swan - Travel Consultant

    Jamie backpacked across Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil before joining us; he has a degree in politics and is also a keen sportsman..

  • Hannah Donaldson
    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Consultant

    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is an invaluable part of our Group Tours team.

  • JimAshworth
    Jim Ashworth - Travel Consultant

    Jim first caught the Latin American travel bug in 2001 when he decided at the last minute to join a friend travelling around Central America – he hasn't looked back since.

Meet the team