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Penguin: Extremes of Chile

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Transposed to Europe, Chile would stretch from Norway to Tunisia. It extends some 4,000 kilometres, down a ribbon of land that clings to the western flank of the Andes, with a staggering variety of landscape, vegetation and climate. This comprehensive tour will take you from the lunar landscape of the Atacama Desert in the north, through the patchwork vineyards that surround the cosmopolitan capital, Santiago, and the forested volcanoes of the lake district to the Straits of Magellan, where stormy waters lash the broad, windswept landscapes and snow-capped peaks of Patagonia.

Holiday itinerary

UK clients depart arriving in Santiago, Chile, the following day.

Day 1

Walking tour of the colonial centre.

Day 2

Optional visits to Pacific port Valparaiso or nearby vineyard.

Day 3

Fly north to San Pedro

Day 4

Explore the Atacama desert.

Day 5

Optional excursions

Day 6

Fly via Santiago to the lake district and waterside Puerto Varas.

Day 7

Excursion to Petrohué Falls; boat trip on Lake Todos Los Santos.

Day 8

Optional full-day visit to Chiloé Island.

Day 9

Fly south to Punta Arenas in Patagonia.

Day 10

Boat trip to the Lago Grey Glacier.

Day 11

Explore Torres del Paine National Park.

Day 12

By road to Punta Arenas

Day 13

Continue to Punta Arenas and fly back to Santiago.

Day 14

Depart for international flight or extension.

UK clients arrive home the following day.

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What our experts say

4,000km long from north to south, it is not surprising that Chile harbours an infinite variety of landscapes. Spanning the whole length of the country, this two week tour flaunts this diversity.   A delight for anyone who loves the outdoors, the tour takes you to desert, mountain and verdant landscapes peppered with volcanoes, glaciers and pristine lakes.

Alex Walker

Alexandra Walker

Travel Consultants

Places visited on this holiday

Penguin: Extremes of Chile

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Santiago and the vineyards
Santiago and the vineyards
With a backdrop of snow-draped Andean peaks in a sunny fertile valley, Chile’s huge capital lies at the heart of the country. A multi-layered place of contrasting neighbourhoods it is worth getting to know.

There’s a tiny colonial heart which displays an often poignant history, offset by the glittering malls, skyscrapers and shady boulevards of a modern economy. Interspersed are European-style centres for shopping and eating out such as Italianate Bellavista and newly vibrant, villagey localities among which is trendy Lastarría. The surrounding Mediterranean landscape is the perfect setting for vineyards and wineries producing Chile’s well respected wines.
When's the best time to visit Santiago and the vineyards?
Santiago has a hot dry summer and cool winters with some rain and even snow. Spring and autumn (Sep-Oct and Apr-May) are pleasant times for a city visit. The vineyards are at their prettiest in spring (Sep-Oct) but a visit may be most interesting at harvest time (Mar-Apr).
What is the official language in Santiago and the vineyards?

Spanish.

How can I get local currency in Santiago and the vineyards?
Chilean Peso. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. Limits may be lower than your UK bank allows. There are also many banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) where you can exchange US dollars cash; rates for euros and sterling are harder to find and frequently poor.
What's the time difference between Santiago and the vineyards and UK?

GMT -4 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer, from Sep/Oct to early Mar. 

What places combine with Santiago and the vineyards?

Valparaiso, colourful Pacific port growing in popularity among visitors, 106km (2hours by road); a beach wind-down in Chile’s principal resort, Viña del Mar (100km, 2 hours); a few days on Polynesian Easter island (5 hours direct by air); winter skiing in the family resort of Valle Nevado (65km, 1 hour 40mins by road).

How do I get to Santiago and the vineyards?

There are no direct flights from the UK, average flight time is 16 hours; a change of plane is required in Europe, Brazil or the USA.

What are the festivals and cultural events in Santiago and the vineyards?

Feria Internacional de Artesania: Nov; Parque General Bustamente, Centro, Santiago, the city’s best craft festival.

Feria Internacional del Libro: Nov, Machopo station, Santiago. A Hay Festival is imminent for Santiago – watch this space!

Fiesta de la Vendimia: Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, An annual grape harvest festival in early Mar. 

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Atacama Desert
San Pedro de Atacama

 

The Atacama’s inhospitable desert landscape is harsh and rugged, but it isn't an empty wasteland. Volcanoes and geysers steam and hiss into life. Pink flamingos haunt the featureless white salt flats, cacti stride towards the horizon and oases splash the tawny landscape with vigorous vegetation, especially after rare flash rainfall. The culture and settlements echo with the legacy of the desert’s pre- and post- Columbian inhabitants, with ruined temples and dusty colonial villages. There are some top quality hotels and the area is becoming a favourite for adventure activities such as volcano climbing and horse riding. If coming from Santiago or Patagonia, you may notice the high altitude as you explore the Atacama: however, all hotels are in San Pedro - at a comfortable 2,450m.

When's the best time to go to Atacama Desert?

San Pedro de Atacama is all-year destination, although its climate is influenced by the Bolivian Andes. Occasional strong rains in Jan-Feb can close visitor sites for a few days and, between Jun-Sep, snow can hinder the high-altitude crossings into Bolivia and Argentina. For almost all of the year, the sun shines and the night skies can be spectacular.

What's the official language of Atacama Desert?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Atacama Desert?

Chilean Peso. Bring your local currency needs from a larger town, where notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. Limits may be lower than your UK bank allows.

What's the time difference between Atacama Desert and UK?

GMT -4 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer, from Sep/Oct to early Mar.  

What places combines well with Atacama Desert?
The Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, usually visited on a 3-day package by 4WD; La Serena and the Elqui Valley, 1.5 hours by air from Calama, a hour drive from San Pedro; Lauca National Park near the northern border, 800 km.
How do I getting to Atacama Desert?

Fly from Santiago to Calama (2 hours) then it’s a 2 hour road journey (104 km) to San Pedro.

What are the festivals and cultural events in Atacama Desert?

The feast day of Saints Peter and Paul:  24 Jun. The entire village of San Pedro joins in the celebrations with processions.

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Chilean Lake District (south)
Lake District

Chile’s lake district is a picturesque region of ancient forests straddling rugged hills lorded over by snow-capped volcanoes, hot springs and crystalline streams, interspersed by flowery meadows and cattle pasture.

The southern part of the region includes the Bavarian-style resort Puerto Varas on the shores of the vast lake Llanquihue, overlooked by the perfect cone of the Osorno volcano. Not far from here are the Petrohue Falls, a popular break in the journey for visitors on the Lakes Crossing route to Argentina. Puerto Montt is a large town with a busy fishing port from where it’s a short ferry ride to the deeply traditional island of Chiloe.

When's the best time to visit Chile south Lake District?
The southern lake district has a temperate climate, with plenty of warm sun but also showers in summer, while winters (May-Aug/Sep) can be cool and very rainy. Dec-Mar is very crowded with local holiday-makers. If you prefer a less lively atmosphere, spring and autumn (Mar-Apr, Oct-Nov) are good choices.
What's the official language of Chile south Lake District?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Chile south Lake District?
Chilean Peso. Notes can be withdrawn from ATMs in Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt using a UK credit or debit card. Limits may be lower than your UK bank allows. There are also many banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) where you can exchange US dollars cash at a lower rate; rates for euros and sterling are harder to find and also frequently poor.
What's the time difference between Chile south Lake District and UK?

GMT -4 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer, from Sep-Oct to early Mar.

What places combine well with Chile south Lake District?

The northern lake district, centred on Pucón or Villarrica (5-6 hours by car); the Argentine lake district via the Lake Crossing from Bariloche in Argentina’s lake district to Puerto Varas; the wilderness Aisén region of glaciers, fjords and islands to the south (drive from Puerto Montt down the Carretera Austral or fly to Coyhaique from Puerto Montt (1 hour 47mins); Torres del Paine in Patagonia (fly from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas, 2 hours 12mins). 

How do I get to Chile south Lake District?

There are flights from Santiago to Puerto Montt (1 hour 40mins). Drive south from Pucón or Villarrica in 5-6 hours (322km).

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Islands and fjords of southern Patagonia
Chilean Patagoina

The fjords and islands of the far south of Chile are as about as remote as you can get. Punta Arenas, easily the largest and most important town and focal point of the region, where most visitors arrive to explore the Patagonian wilderness, is only accessible from northern Chile by air. Only one, solitary road leads out of it to Puerto Natales, three hours’ drive away and the jumping off point for visits to Torres del Paine National Park and onward into Argentinian Patagonia.    

With its pre-Panama Canal history of affluence based on shipping and sheep production, English-influenced Punta Arenas is interesting enough, but you’ll be keen to heads off into the surrounding wilderness of savagely sculpted fjords and glaciers, at the point where the ice-spiked Andes finally crumble into the sea. There are forest reserves protecting ancient, wind-tortured trees, rivers alive with salmon, and the vestiges of human struggle including forts and churches. Darwin said of Puerto Hambre, (Fort Famine) “looking due southward –-the distant channels between the mountains appeared from their gloominess to lead beyond the confines of this world” .  

The tip of South America is festooned with islands, small and large and many are virtually uninhabited.  The largest, Tierra del Fuego, is divided politically between Chile and Argentina. On the less-populated Chilean side there are huge sheep farms on the plains but also virtually inaccessible ranges of snow-stifled mountains, shadowy fjords,  hidden lakes plugged by glaciers and fringed by dense evergreen forest. Abundant wildlife, including penguin colonies, sea lions, and even condors live alongside shy guanacos.

South of the Beagle Channel the wild beauty of Navarino island  hosts the continent’s most southerly settlement, Puerto Williams, and hundreds of archaeological sites pertaining to the original Yamaná Indians.  Beyond lies Cape Horn, lashed by storms and savage seas, and the most southerly  landmark before Antarctica.   

For the modern day visitor the dangers and challenges lie in the past and you can enjoy these enchanting landscapes on an expedition cruise.

When's the best time to go to South Patagonia?
This far south, you will benefit from long daylight hours and mild temperatures between Dec (when it is light until 1am) and the end of Feb, though you can have snow flurries at any time of the year. In the winter, snowy landscapes are beautiful here but hiking is not practical.
What's the official language in South Patagonia?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in South Patagonia?

Notes in local currency can be withdrawn from the ATMs in the centre of Punta Arenas.

What's the time difference between South Patagonia and UK?

GMT -3 hours.

What places combine well with South Patagonia?

Antarctic fly-cruises, the Chilean lake district, Torres del Paine National Park, Santiago. You can cross into Argentina on Tierra del Fuego, visit Ushuaia and fly to El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier. Most Antarctic cruises depart from Ushuaia; Buenos Aires (3.5hrs by air from Ushuaia).

How do I get to South Patagonia?

Direct flights from Santiago to Punta Arenas take about 4 hours.

What are the festivals, cultural and sport events in South Patagonia?

The skiing season is Jun-Sep.

Back to list of places visited
Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine

 

Torres del Paine National Park in southern Patagonia is the pinnacle of Chile’s natural landscapes, fast becoming one of the world’s most popular places for walking holidays. Cuernos del Paine is a granite massif which has been sliced apart into needle-sharp spires by glaciers. Beyond are the vertical triple towers of the Torres del Paine. Wind-battered grasslands lead up to sheltered glacial valleys with flowery meadows; torrential rivers surging with ice are interlaced with glassy lagoons. Wildlife abounds everywhere, from geese to guanaco; condors and puma may be spotted, especially in the low winter season from April to October.

When's the best time to visit Torres del Paine NP?
The best months for hiking are Mar-Apr. Many hikers also visit in summer (Dec - Jan) along with non-trekkers so it can be very busy at that time. Days are long and mild then but it can be windy, as in spring (Sep - Oct). For non-hikers, a visit at any time is recommended outside the winter months Jun - Aug when it can be very cold and access routes can be blocked by snow. On the other hand, it is frequently less windy in winter and you have a better chance of spotting wildlife as there are few tourists around. Many facilities are closed then; however, each year, a few more stay open to cater for this off-season traffic.
What's the official language in Torres del Paine NP?

Spanish.

How canI get local currency in Torres del Paine NP?

Chilean Peso. Bring sufficient pesos for your needs from a previous larger destination.

What's the time difference between Torres del Paine NP and UK?

GMT -4 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer.
What other places combine with Torres del Paine NP?

Puerto Natales, picturesquely located town on Last Hope Sound which still has a frontier feel, famous for its black-necked swans, 3 hours by roadEl Calafate in the Parque Nacional de los Glaciares, Argentina (to visit the Perito Moreno glacier), 425km (7 hours scenic drive); the Aisén Region, a wilderness of little-visited forests and rivers north of the park, 4.5 hours drive to Punta Arenas then 1.5 hours by air the Chilean lake district (2 hours away by air from Punta Arenas).

How do I get to Torres del Paine NP?

Daily flights from Santiago take 3 hours 50mins to Punta Arenas, thence it is 3-5 hours by road to Torres del Paine.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

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Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today. Penguin: Extremes of Chile

  • Easter Island in depth 6 days from £2,274pp

    Polynesian Easter Island (Rapa Nui) lies 3,790km off the Chilean coast in the remote sub-tropical South Pacific. Windswept and grassy on one side, lushly vegetated on the other, and with a benign climate, it is famous for the clusters of huge enigmatic stone heads standing starkly against an azure skyline. Experience the unique atmosphere and friendly welcome.

    These few days on the island, with private excursions guided by enthusiastic experts in the field, will give you an insight-filled experience to satisfy your curiosity about the unique Rapa Nui culture. Triangular in shape, Easter Island measures no more than 8 miles at its widest point - with a huge, extinct volcanic crater at each of its extremes.

    Day 1: Fly from Santiago to Easter Island and continue to the secluded Hotel Altiplánico.  At 3km from the main town, Hanga Roa, it’s just a stone's throw from the ocean. Guest rooms resembling traditional boat houses are scattered over its tropical gardens. Facilities include a terrace and small pool.

    Day 2:  Full-day tour to introduce Easter Island's most iconic moai statues and intriguing archaeological heritage, encompassing the highlights of the island's north and east coast. There’s time to inspect the statues, explore a volcano and its extinct crater, and swim off a white-sand beach.

    Day 3: Explore geological and historic highlights in the south of the island. View 6 toppled statues, with admirable close-fitting Rapa Nui stonework. Continue to the quarry of the topknots, or 'hats', which adorned many of the moai, and on to view a 1km long collapsed lava tube used by early Easter Islanders as a dwelling. Next stop is the inland ahu (ceremonial platform) of Akivi, one of Easter Island's iconic and most photographed sites.

    Later visit Rano Kau, an extinct volcanic crater 1.6km across and 200m deep.  It is Easter Island's most spectacular natural attraction. Continue to Orongo, dramatically perched between the cliffs and the crater's edge, the site of the historic Birdman competition.

    Day 4: At leisure. You might take an optional 11km cliff-top walk which showcases the gloriously rugged coastline and volcanic landscape, with sweeping vistas across the Pacific Ocean. The hike ends at Anakena, a white coral beach.

    Day 5: Witness the citrus-hued sunrise at Ahu Tongariki. This vivid display of an artist's palette of colour can be especially memorable between October and April when the sun rises directly behind the 15-moai platform.Transfer to the airport and fly back to Santiago.

    Breakfast daily.

    You will need a positioning night in Santiago at either the beginning or end of your visit to Easter Island, depending on your itinerary. A stay at an airport hotel has been included in the cost.

  • Winery 3 days from £681pp

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    Day 1: By road to the Casablanca valley (1.5hrs), celebrated among the world’s wine cognoscenti for the shiraz and pinot noir grapes which thrive among orchards and woodland of cedar, chestnut and almond.  You’ll be relaxing in the classy surroundings of  La Casona at Matetic which has intimate accommodation in a 100-year-old estancia refurbished in plush colonial style.

    Day 2: At leisure at the vineyard, including a tour of the award-winning winery, with wine tasting.

    Day 3: Return to Santiago to continue your holiday or connect with your international flight.

    UK clients arrive home the following day.

    Breakfast daily, dinner days 1,2.

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    Polynesian Easter Island (Rapa Nui) lies 3,790km off the Chilean coast in the remote sub-tropical South Pacific. Windswept and grassy on one side, lushly vegetated on the other, and with a benign climate, it is famous for the clusters of huge enigmatic stone heads standing starkly against an azure skyline. Experience the unique atmosphere and friendly welcome.

    These few days on the island, with group excursions led by local guides, will give you an overview of the wilderness landscapes and the unique Rapa Nui culture. Triangular in shape, Easter Island is about the size of greater London - each point of the triangle marked by a huge extinct volcanic crater.

    Day 1: Fly from Santiago to Easter Island and continue to your hotel, the O'Tai, a guesthouse in the centre of Hanga Roa, the main town on the island. It is a pleasant place set in large well-kept gardens, with a view of the sea in the distance.

    Day 2: Visit Vaihu, where many of the massive carved maoi heads lie before heading off to Akahanga, where a dozen standing moais - backs turned to the ocean - stand on a massive plinth. Move on to the Rano Raraku volcanic crater and Poike quarry where hundreds of Cyclopean heads litter the hillside, some finished others half-carved. It's an easy uphill walk to get to the crater of the volcano. Continue to the pink-sand beach of Anakena, where you can swim and enjoy your packed lunch, returning to your hotel late afternoon.

    Day 3: A bus takes you to the rim of the Rano Kao crater, where you go on foot to the ceremonial village of Orongo. It is here than the annual ceremony of the Bird Man or Tangata Manu would take place here among its stone-built houses and food stores. The object of the ceremony - or quest - was to find and bring back the first egg laid by the seabird manutara, a type of tern. Continue to the caverns of Ana Kai Tangata, where the islanders took refuge during times of war and where there are some pre-historic paintings.

    Day 4: Transfer to the airport and fly back to Santiago.

    Breakfast daily, picnic lunch day 2.

    You will need a positioning night in Santiago at either the beginning or end of your visit to Easter Island, depending on your itinerary. A stay at an airport hotel has been included in the cost.

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Please note

PLEASE NOTE FOR 2020 DEPARTURES WE WILL BE STAYING AT HOTEL RIO SERRANO IN TORRES DEL PAINE. WE WILL USE A FULLY INCLUSIVE PROGRAM MEANING THAT ALL MEALS, DRINKS AND EXCURSIONS WILL BE INCLUDED. FOR FULL DETAILS OR A 2020 ITINERARY PLEASE SPEAK TO ONE OF OUR CONSULTANTS.

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