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Luxury Chile and Argentina: Simply Patagonia

13 days from £6,626pp

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Luxury Chile and Argentina: Simply Patagonia:
Trip Dossier

Recent years have seen the creation of luxury accommodation right in the heart of Patagonia's savagely glaciated countryside. You stay at three of these properties in Torres del Paine National Park, the Los Glaciares National Park and the volcano–dotted Patagonian lake district.

The holiday plunges into the Patagonia of Chile and Argentina, an area of outstanding natural beauty which still has a remote wilderness feel. Fly south to the ice caps, glaciated jagged mountains and lakes at the tip of the Andes. Visit the minty blue, cathedral-high Perito Moreno glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina, and the ice-clad towers of Torres del Paine National Park, Chile’s large and well-established reserve. The south has just a few rough roads cutting through a frost-bitten landscape of glaciers, luminous lagoons, snow-tipped pinnacles and wind-strafed steppe, but it is nevertheless readily accessible to visitors.

Travel north to explore the indigo lakes, ancient woodland and snow-capped volcanoes of the lake district in northern Patagonia where, amidst its lakeside resorts and summer visitors, is a land of fairyland forests and lonely roads carving their way through a virgin landscape.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. Transfer to hotel, afternoon walking tour of old Santiago.

Day 2

Guided visit to Perez Cruz winery in the Maipo Valley.

Day 3

Fly to Punta Arenas in southern Patagonia. Transfer to Explora lodge in Torres del Paine National Park.

Days 4-6

Excursions from the hotel to explore the park.

Day 7

Scenic drive across the border to El Calafate, Argentina and on to Eolo lodge.

Day 8

Excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier with boat safari.

Day 9

Transfer to El Calafate airport, fly to Bariloche in the lake district, transfer to Villa La Angostura.

Day 10

At leisure at beautiful Las Balsas hotel.

Day 11

Transfer to airport and fly to Buenos Aires.

Day 12

Guided city highlights with visit to Teatro Colón. Evening tango show with dinner.

Day 15

Transfer to airport for international flight home.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. Transfer to hotel, afternoon walking tour of old Santiago.
 
Santiago Chile

Transfer from the airport to your classy boutique hotel in Santiago. It’s in the delightful bohemian quarter of Lastarria. Santiago is set in a broad valley between ranges of the Andes, with majestic snow-capped peaks, and a smaller coastal range with a distinctly Mediterranean feel. Santiago is a huge metropolis, a mix of the old and the contemporary, with quarters of tree-lined avenues and affluent tranquillity and others full of commercial bustle. Poorer districts sprawl on the outskirts.

You’ll have a guided walking tour of historic Santiago narrating Santiago's evolution to the present-day metropolis of 5 million. Your guide will identify Santa Lucia Hill where Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia founded the settlement of Santiago de Nueva Extremadura on February 12th, 1541. Explore the Plaza de Armas (main square), nucleus of the city's earliest urbanisation. Santiago's cathedral, the main post office, and the city hall are all located around the square.

You'll have a chance to linger in the Plaza de la Constitución, where the La Moneda government palace was the target of aerial bombardment in the 1973 coup which deposed the Marxist elected President Allende and brought General Pinochet to power. There should also be time for a glimpse of one of the oldest 'barrios' (neighbourhoods) of Santiago: Republica and Concha y Toro.

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Santiago Chile

Day 2

Guided visit to Perez Cruz winery in the Maipo Valley.
 
Maipo Valley vineyards

Travel into the heartland of Chile's wine growing region. Pirque in the Maipo Valley is home to several of the country's top vineyards, thanks to its favourable climate and varied elevations here in the foothills of the Andes. It's about an hour's drive to the Perez Cruz winery, a family-run operation producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Petit Verdot, Syrah, and Malbec. You will have a tour around the bodega, the mezzanine floor and cellar followed by a tasting and lunch, usually taken at the atmospheric Tesoros del Chile restaurant situated in a quaint 19th century residence in Pirque .

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Maipo Valley vineyards

Day 3

Fly to Punta Arenas in southern Patagonia. Transfer to Explora lodge in Torres del Paine National Park.
 
Torres del Paine

Transfer to the airport and fly to Punta Arenas in southern Patagonia. (4hrs). On a clear day you have other-worldly views of the swirling meringue of the southern icecap, its fjords, volcanoes and glaciers. Approaching Punta Arenas you see the rust-brown stain of the Patagonian steppes, pitted with small lagoons stretching out towards the Straits of Magellan.  The region’s fortunes were only briefly revived during a short-lived gold rush, and to add to its woes, the sheep-rearing business has never really recovered from the collapse of the price of meat and wool.

From the airport, drive into the awesome Torres del Paine National Park (5 hrs-ish, a wonderful wilderness where you’ll see silvery iceberg-dotted rivers, aquamarine lagoons and savagely wind-carved rocks, cliffs and ice-clad mountains. Guanacos (cameloids) graze peacefully while ostriches scamper across the plains and condors soar above. The road takes you across inhospitable plains, battered by perpetual winds. The scenery becomes more dramatic as you approach the towering massif which looms up on the horizon. You’ll be staying at the Explora Patagonia hotel, the park’s original luxury property and still unsurpassed for its exceptional setting and views, leisure facilities and sheer choice of excursions and outdoor activities.

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Torres del Paine

Days 4-6

Excursions from the hotel to explore the park.
 
Cuernos del Paine

The hotel has a superb location at Salto Chico (little waterfall) inside the national park with magnificent views. The exclusive and ground-breaking hotel introduced a new concept to wilderness exploration and accommodation - comfort, grace, a range of professionally-run excursions, sophisticated cuisine and even wine are all included in the price.

The hotel's contemporary design, with light beech-wood flooring, wicker furniture and enormous picture windows overlooking the towering ice-mantled massif just outside, adds to the feeling of intimacy with the natural world, enjoyed from a vantage-point of warmth and friendliness. There's an indoor swimming pool and several open-air hot tubs for the use of all guests. Other facilities include a spa, sauna, gym and TV room. A comprehensive programme offers guests up to five different options a day - either on foot, by van, horseback and launch. Each excursion is classified according to duration and fitness requirements and includes English-speaking guide, food and equipment.

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Cuernos del Paine

Day 7

Scenic drive across the border to El Calafate, Argentina and on to Eolo lodge.
 

It’s an all-day drive towards and over the frontier to Argentina across the bleak and scantily-populated Patagonian steppe, but the beauty of the mountainous scenery is staggering. In the afternoon you reach the shores of the milky turquoise Lago Argentino, and the little town of El Calafate.  Tourism in the last 20 years has transformed it into a bustling entrepôt for access to the nearby scenery of glaciers, lakes and impossibly steep peaks.  From there, you continue to Eolo, a luxurious, estancia-style retreat with a fabulous setting the midst of the vast Patagonian steppe, with views towards Lago Argentino.

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Day 8

Excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier with boat safari.
 
Perito Moreno

Guided excursion to Perito Moreno glacier. It’s an early morning departure from El Calafate to Los Glaciares national park, a 90 min drive to the walkways and viewing platform overlooking the glacier. The thundering shards of falling ice are a breathtaking spectacle as you pass at a safe distance along the walkway in front of the Canal de los Tempanos, which separates Brazo Rico from the main part of the lake. The glacier is 5km wide and stands 60m above the surface of the lake. Its ice masses are fed by the southern continental ice field from the west, and from other smaller surrounding glaciers.

Later, board the Safari Nautico or Moreno Fiesta launch for an hour-long cruise on the lake beneath the glacier, with a commentary. Alternatively, you can just walk and contemplate, away from the other visitors.

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Perito Moreno

Day 9

Transfer to El Calafate airport, fly to Bariloche in the lake district, transfer to Villa La Angostura.
 
Bariloche

Transfer to El Calafate airport and fly to San Carlos de Bariloche, the main town in Argentina's lake district, a popular yet unspoilt region of sleeping snow-stifled volcanoes, dark sapphire lakes fringed by dense forests, small Alpine-style towns and scenic drives. Its multitude of national parks offer outdoor activities from hiking to fishing and cycling to horse riding.

There’s a European-style cuisine of fondues, creamy cakes and cool blond Bavarian-inspired beers. Just over an hour from the city is Villa La Angostura, a small, appealing town on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi. It's a chic little place with a selection of gourmet restaurants and smart hotels. The town is a centre for skiing in winter (July and August), and walking in summer - set against a stunning backdrop of glacial green-blue lakes framed by the mountains of the Andes.

You’ll be staying at the hotel Las Balsas, with a superb waterside position on the shores of the lake defined by its ancient cypress woods. Like a brightly painted dolls-house, this quaint property is one of our favourite in Argentina.

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Bariloche

Day 10

At leisure at beautiful Las Balsas hotel.
 
Argentina's idyllic lake district

At leisure to enjoy the hotel’s facilities, excursions and activities. You're truly immersed in the lake district here, and with its idyllic setting, gourmet restaurant and superb spa, you may not feel any need to wander far. Slightly further afield, you may choose to explore Los Arrayanes national park, and its boardwalks through a magical centenary myrtle forest.

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Argentina's idyllic lake district

Day 11

Transfer to airport and fly to Buenos Aires.
 
La Boca

Transfer to the airport and fly to Buenos Aires. The Argentine capital is an elegant, cultured and cosmopolitan city famed for its interesting museums and 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 colonial heartland, government buildings and churches, as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic Parisian feel. The bohemian quarter of San Telmo is full of quaint old houses interspersed with antiques shops, tango bars and classy restaurants. Slightly further out of the centre is the Recoleta district, even more evocative of the French influence, where Evita Perón was laid to rest. 

You’ll be staying at the Park Hyatt Palacio Duhau in Recoleta, a smart residential quarter in Buenos Aires with much belle époque and Italianate architecture including part of the hotel itself.

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La Boca

Day 12

Guided city highlights with visit to Teatro Colón. Evening tango show with dinner.
 
Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires

Your guided city overview takes you along Avenida 9 de Julio, one of the widest boulevards in the world and studded by the Obelisk, an emblematic symbol of the city. Along this majestic highway is the 19th century Teatro Colón (guided tour included) which, in terms of its architecture and design, as well as its excellent acoustics, is considered one of world’s best.

On to the Plaza de Mayo, enclosed on three sides by the Metropolitan cathedral, the Town Hall and the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace. The tour continues to bohemian, arty La Boca, which was settled and built by Italian immigrants and has streets lined with brightly painted corrugated iron-clad houses.  Visit the district of Recoleta. 

Evening guided visit to a tango show with dinner. The passage of time has given respectability to a dance once confined to the seedy underworld bars of the red-light La Boca district. Nowadays, a number of 'tango houses' offer a dinner and show as an evening out - prior to the performance you can even try out a few steps yourself as an informal group tango lesson is included. La Gala is an intimate venue with a French colonial style complete with crystal chandeliers and a refined ambience.

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Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires

Day 15

Transfer to airport for international flight home.
 

Transfer to the international airport.

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Essential information

Transport

3 flights (longest 3.5hrs); 3 scenic road journeys.

Accommodation

This holiday offers first class accommodation in fine locations throughout - from boutique-style properties in Santiago and the lake district to some of the best upcountry lodges in southern Patagonia with staggering views, and the renowned Park Hyatt in Buenos Aires.

Meals

Breakfast daily, lunch day 2, full board days 3-8, dinner days 9, 10 and 12.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• Half day walking city tour of Santiago. 
• Full day excursion to Chilean vineyard and winery.
• Excursions and activities in Torres del Paine National Park.
• Guided excursion to Perito Moreno glacier and boat trip on the lake.
• Half day city tour including Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires.
• Tango show with dinner, Buenos Aires

Summary of nights

13 days, 12 nights: Santiago 2; Torres del Paine 4; El Calafate 2; Lake District 2; Buenos Aires 2

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• International flights
• Tips and gratuities.
• Meals other than specified.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
• Optional excursions.

Currency

The unit of currency in Chile is the Chilean peso; Argentina has the Argentine peso.

Daily spend

Some meals are already included in the cost of your stay. For additional expenses but a budget of around US$35-50 per person per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, ATMs can be temperamental and you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

In Torres del Paine National Park all walks are optional. Hikes vary in length (between 2 and 8 hours) and difficulty (most are easily followed and relatively flat). Riding and biking is suitable for fit beginners. If you find time to walk in the lake district, trails are undulating but not strenuous. 

Be prepared for some early mornings, and for extreme weather conditions in the south. 

Climate

Winter in the Southern Hemisphere is between May and September. In Santiago and Buenos Aires, temperatures can be cool (5°C – to 15°C). While sunshine is possible, so is rain. Spring temperatures, October to November and March to April are between 15 and 25°C and there is a good deal of pleasant sunshine. January and February are hot, around 30°C. 

The lake district has weather not dissimilar to our own, but a bit sunnier in summer and rather rainier in the winter months. 

The weather in the far south is notoriously unpredictable throughout the year. During the southern hemisphere summer (October to March) there can be blizzards or heat waves.  The adage “four seasons in a day” is very apt here. In winter days are short and snow is not uncommon but it is rarely much below freezing, because of the moderating influence of the sea.

Clothing and special equipment

A day pack is essential for carrying rainwear, snacks, books and a water bottle.  Outside summer, those who feel the cold might take thermals. To ensure your comfort while walking in Patagonia, you should bring a good waterproof, walking boots (tried and tested so you don’t get blisters!) as well as a good waterproof top, trousers and a warm hat and a scarf. 

That said the sun in summer can be strong so take a hat with a visor, sunglasses and sun block. Some walkers find hiking poles helpful and binoculars are useful for bird spotting. 

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.  Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.
APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online
This costs $14 per person. This must be done by you personally.

Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.
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