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Luxury Chile: Exclusive lodges and untamed landscapes

13 days from £9,346pp

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Luxury Chile: Exclusive lodges and untamed landscapes:
Trip Dossier

The untamed wilderness landscapes of Chile, from the primeval deserts of Atacama through the ancient forest of the lake district and the glaciers of Patagonia, were for long virtually inaccessible to leisure visitors. Roads were rough, passing through fords and over primitive bridges, and accommodation limited to humble guest-houses. Nowadays that has changed – roads are still often lonely, cutting through swathes of barren rock, tight valleys or steppe, but many are paved: journey times have been slashed. Entrepreneurs have as a result been inspired to establish hotels, lodges and resorts of all standards - not so many as to compromise the feeling of remoteness, but giving you the option of discovering this incredible scenery from luxurious accommodation, with highly trained English-speaking guides and gourmet cuisine.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Santiago, transfer to luxury hotel in the prestigious Las Condes district.

Day 2

Fly to Punta Arenas in Patagonia, transfer to luxury lodge in Torres del Paine National Park.

Days 3-5

Excursions and activities from the lodge.

Day 6

Return to Santiago by air from Punta Arenas.

Day 7

Fly north to Calama in the Atacama desert.

Days 8,9

Choice of personalised activities from your lodge.

Day 10

Return to Calama airport and fly to Temuco in the lake district.

Days 11,12

Activities and excursions from the hacienda.

Day 13

Return to Temuco airport and fly to Santiago to connect with your international flight.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Santiago, transfer to luxury hotel in the prestigious Las Condes district.
 
Santiago

Santiago is set in a broad valley between parallel ranges of the Andes, with lofty snow-draped peaks, and a smaller coastal range with a Mediterranean feel. Santiago is a huge metropolis, a mix of the old and the contemporary, with neighbourhoods featuring tree-lined avenues and affluent tranquillity and others full of historic references and commercial bustle.

Transfer from the airport to your top-drawer first class hotel, the Ritz Carlton. It’s in the calm, upmarket residential and commercial district known as Las Condes. Once you’ve settled in nicely you’ll be collected for your guided walking tour of selected districts of the city. In the shadow of glassy sky-scrapers you’ll discover fine historic buildings dating back to Spanish colonial times, sitting alongside eye-catching arty, contemporary structures. You’ll be seeking out some of the more interesting landmarks and arty neighbourhoods at a leisurely pace, allowing you to soak up the atmosphere of the capital.

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Santiago

Day 2

Fly to Punta Arenas in Patagonia, transfer to luxury lodge in Torres del Paine National Park.
 
Torres del Paine National Park

After the balmy climes and big city vibe of Santiago, arriving in Punta Arenas by air and continuing by road to Torres del Paine National Park can be a surprise, even if you have glimpsed the remote ice-throttled peaks and glaciers from the air. Milky blue and gem-sharp emerald lakes, sinuous rivers, glaciers and wind-scoured steppes have forged a unique environment. Torres del Paine is the natural habitat of over 150 species of birds (flamingos, condors, eagles and ostriches) and 25 species of mammal (including guanacos, armadillos, silver foxes and pumas). Come prepared for elemental drama: the dictates of the weather prevail but this national park is well worth the journey south, whether slashed by rain or bathed in sunshine.

The single road carves a lonely path across flat, ferociously wind-buffeted grasslands where you might spot a little hardy wildlife, but gradually the monotony of the landscape is overcome as the huge granite massif of Torres del Paine, with its icy spires, looms up on the horizon. You enter an area of blue green lagoons, waterfalls and tufty hillocks, where guanacos graze and water-birds shelter.

Your stunning, state-of-the-art Relais & Chateaux-listed lodge is set on a private reserve featuring some of Patagonia’s most primeval landscapes: iceberg-dotted lakes, snow-jacketed mountains, scrawny forests and vast expanses of open steppe.

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Torres del Paine National Park

Days 3-5

Excursions and activities from the lodge.
 
awasi patagonia

At the lodge there is a strong emphasis on the joy of choosing your own activities; the on-site team will design your experiences to suit your tastes and preferences. Choose from a wide range of private guided excursions and outdoor experiences from short walks through picturesque valleys to challenging high altitude hikes. You’ll have you own 4WD vehicle and professional, bilingual driver-guide so that the timing, duration and route of each excursion is defined in line with your specific interests. Whatever the activity or level of endurance, you are guaranteed to view exquisite and diverse natural scenery.

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awasi patagonia

Day 6

Return to Santiago by air from Punta Arenas.
 
Santiago

Fly back to Santiago for one night, further to enjoy the facilities of the Ritz Carlton hotel, explore the smart neighbourhood in which it is situated or even venture further afield in the capital in search of top restaurants or night-time entertainment.    

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Santiago

Day 7

Fly north to Calama in the Atacama desert.
 
Atacama Desert

The high-altitude Atacama, while most definitely a desert is not the Empty Quarter of Latin America. The harsh and rugged volcanic landscape of shimmering white salt flats and crystal lagoons is home to flocks of pink flamingoes and geysers hissing into life. Cacti stride off to the distant horizon while oases splash the tawny ground with vigorous vegetation. There are also the vestiges of a thriving pre-Columbian civilisation.

Your luxury Awasi lodge, sister property of the one in Torres del Paine, sits just outside the little town of San Pedro de Atacama. Its design is based on ancient Atacama villages with discreet but gorgeous thatched cottages built from local adobe, wood and stone. It also features in the Relais & Chateaux portfolio.

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Atacama Desert

Days 8,9

Choice of personalised activities from your lodge.
 
Awasi, Atacama Desert, Chile, Journey Latin America

Once again there’s a wide choice of tailor-made guided experiences with your personal driver-guide, from short treks through picturesque valleys to challenging high altitude walks, mountain bike rides and treks on horseback. The one constant whatever the activity or level of endurance is the diversity and richness of the landscapes, from the bubbling geysers and natural hot springs to the vast salt pans with their luminous lakes framed by snow-mantled volcanoes. 

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Awasi, Atacama Desert, Chile, Journey Latin America

Day 10

Return to Calama airport and fly to Temuco in the lake district.
 
Villarica volcano

The lake district, which crowns the northern tip of Chilean Patagonia, extends from the Pacific coast to the Andes and across the border into Argentina. It's a region of breath-taking natural beauty carpeted with forests of monkey puzzle trees festooned with emerald mosses.. The most accessible and popular spots are chocolate-box pretty with flower-decked pastures and conical volcanoes sporting caps of pristine snow, while more remote areas resemble a wilder version of Switzerland.

Your luxury hotel, Hacienda Vira Vira (now also known as &Beyond Vira Vira), in the shadow of the lake district’s iconic towering Villarrica volcano, is the ultimate countryside retreat. As well as fellow guests you may encounter ponies, ibis and black-necked swans as you explore the lush foliage of its grounds. This is one of Chile's finest places to stay, with high standards of service, accommodation and cuisine.

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Villarica volcano

Days 11,12

Activities and excursions from the hacienda.
 
Hacienda Vira Vira

This is wonderful walking country and perfect for lovers of the outdoor life. An imaginative selection of half and full day walks has been prepared by your hosts including easy trails along the lower flanks of Villarrica and Lanin volcanoes to a full-day hike in nearby Huerquehue National Park. There’s also a carefully-crafted programme of excursions and activities such as gentle floating by raft along the Licura river, fly-fishing, white-water rafting on the Trancura river and shopping and cultural tours around the nearby resort Pucón. Feel free to relax by the river, walk in the grounds and visit the cheese factory.

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Hacienda Vira Vira

Day 13

Return to Temuco airport and fly to Santiago to connect with your international flight.

Essential information

Transport

5 internal flights (2-4hrs); 4 road journeys (longest 4 hrs)

Accommodation

We've selected some of the finest hotels for this holiday. You'll stay at a stylish hotel with good facilities in Santiago's elegant Las Condes district, and two lodges belonging to the prestigious Awasi portfolio in Patagonia and San Pedro de Atacama, In the lake district you will stay at a beautiful lodge with personalised service from the proprietors. Each property captures the flavour of your surroundings perfectly. Whatever the style – traditional classic or lodge - they have top of the range service, facilities and bespoke guided excursions.

Meals

Full board with drinks included at Awasi Patagonia (4 nights), Awasi Atacama (3 nights) and Hacienda Vira Vira (3 nights). Breakfast daily in Santiago (2 nights).

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 30 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. The guides at your luxury properties are well qualified and English-speaking.

Included excursions

• Santiago: Guided walking tour.
•Torres del Paine: Guided private excursions from Awasi..
• Atacama desert: Guided private excursions from Awasi.
• Lake district: Guided private excursions from Vira Vira. 

Summary of nights

13 days, 12 nights: Santiago 1, Torres del Paine 4; Santiago 1; San Pedro de Atacama 3; Lake district 3.

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 within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

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

Currency

The unit of currency in Chile is the peso.

Daily spend

Most meals, drinks and activities are already included in the cost of this holiday (the main exceptions being Santiago and the odd meal en route between destinations). Further expenses may include discretionary tips to your local drivers and guides, laundry, optional spa treatments. We suggest a budget of around US$500pp to cover reasonable additional expenditure.

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, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, 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 welcomed 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

This is a fully comprehensive holiday with travel or optional excursions on most days but may be considered very relaxing. You will be staying at an altitude of over 2,000m in the Atacama desert and some excursions may take you to over 4,000m. Local guides can advise you about precautions against any ill effects generated by the thin air at altitude; most people only feel a little breathless.

This holiday is suitable for all able-bodied, reasonably fit visitors. In other cases, e.g. if you have a disability or other special requirements, please call us.

Climate

In the Santiago area expect a Mediterranean type climate. In February  temperatures range between 28°C  and 35°C and there’s a good deal of sunshine.

The Atacama desert is hot (18-30°C) though temperatures fall substantially at night when it is clear and mornings are chilly. In Jan-Mar the region can be susceptible to heavy rains coming from the Bolivian Andes.

In the lake district, it can be hot (late 20s°C) during the southern summer but not unpleasantly so, and there is little rain. 

The weather in southern Patagonia is notoriously unpredictable throughout the year. In the ‘season’, from October to March, there may be everything from a blizzard to a heat wave. Strong winds and rain are possible at any time and it can get extremely cold.

Altitude

Your stay in San Pedro de Atacama in the Andes is at high altitude (over 2,000m). A small minority of visitors may suffer temporarily from altitude sickness. Symptoms vary; most common are mild headaches, slight nausea and breathlessness. If you don’t recover in a day or two speak to our representatives; in very rare instances it is necessary to descend to lower altitudes. Most people are unaffected and if you drink plenty of water and allow your body to acclimatise (don’t exert yourself or drink alcohol) in the first couple of days after arrival, you will minimise your chances of suffering any symptoms.
Please refer to our Briefing Dossier for further information.

Clothing and special equipment

For day-to-day wear you should go prepared to encounter all seasons. Both warm clothing and a sun hat are essential, and a light fleece jacket and a Gore-Tex (or similar) outer shell makes a good combination. Trousers, skirt or shorts made from light, quick-drying synthetic materials work well. If you plan to eat in smart restaurants in Santiago although clothing is not formal (no need for jacket and tie), something quite smart would be appropriate. Strong, comfortable footwear is essential and you should bring umbrella, insect repellent, sun block and sun glasses. 

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; 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

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 applied for by you personally.
Passports must also be digital; e-passports with an embedded chip. 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.

Water-To-Go

We’ve partnered with Water To Go to offer Journey Latin America clients a 50% discount on 7cl filtered, reusable water bottles with every booking. The bottle can be refilled at any water outlet and has a filter that eliminates 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, allowing the water to be safe to drink.
Contact your Travel Consultant for more information and to include the purchase in your booking.
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