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Signature Northern Chile and Argentina: Atacama Desert to Iguazu Falls

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The Andean crossing between the Atacama desert and Salta in the Argentine Andean foothills is the highest and most elemental pass, where sun-bleached arid rock gives way to ice-clad skeletal peaks. A friendly, laid-back but cultured colonial city. Salta, with its graceful baroque architecture and stunning, colourful cathedral, is a great contrast to the vast capital, Buenos Aires. Around it are communities and vestiges of the country’s indigenous population, whose crafts and agricultural practices survive to this day.

From there you’ll fly to the sub-tropical rainforest of Iguazú National Park and survey and explore the monumental Iguazú Falls; 276 separate cascades thundering over a granite precipice.  At either end of the holiday there’s time in a historically significant, sophisticated city – Santiago and Buenos Aires.

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. Transfer to hotel. Walking tour of Santiago’s historic centre.

Day 2

Full day excursion to Maipo Valley visiting two vineyards.

Day 3

Fly to Calama, transfer to desert town San Pedro de Atacama. Sunset trip to Moon Valley.

Day 4

Visit village of Toconao, Minique and Miscanti lagoons, cross ‘salar’ salt flat to Laguna Chaxa.

Day 5

Full day visit to Tatio Geysers – highest geyser field in the world.

Day 6

Public bus to Purmamarca.

Day 7

At leisure.

Day 8

Discover Humahuaca Gorge, continue to Humahuaca village.

Day 9

Salta walking tour including cable car up San Bernardo Hill. Fly to Puerto Iguazú.

Day 10

Full day excursion to Argentine side of Iguazú falls.

Day 11

Half day to explore Brazilian side of Iguazú falls.

Day 12

Fly to Buenos Aires, transfer to hotel in Recoleta district.

Day 13

City tour including visit to Teatro Colon.

Day 14

At leisure, tango show with dinner at El Querandi.

Day 15

Transfer to airport for international flight home.

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Places visited on this holiday

Signature Northern Chile and Argentina: Atacama Desert to Iguazu Falls

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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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Salta and the northwest Andes
Quebrada de las Conchas
Spiritually and culturally closer to the neighbouring Andean countries than the rest of Argentina, the remote northwest provinces have loads of attractions for visitors. These range from snow-dipped peaks, salt flats and arid, rust red canyons to lush forests, pre-Columbian ruins, lonely lime-washed chapels and a necklet of baroque colonial towns. The sunlit slopes are cloaked with vineyards, and everywhere there’s a warm welcome from the local people, many of whom have indian roots. At 1,200m above sea level, Salta is a delightful base for exploration of the region with a sumptuous cathedral, palm-shaded plazas and a cable car lift for views over the fertile countryside.
When's the best time to visit Salta and the Argentine Andes?
Salta has plenty of sun throughout the year but it can be cool in winter, when the trees and vines have lost their leaves, but it is drier with little rain falling Apr-Oct. The popular Train of the Clouds runs weekly Apr-Nov. The many festivals in the region mostly take place Dec-Mar.
What's the official language of Salta and the Argentine Andes?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Salta and the Argentine Andes?

Argentine Peso. Notes can be withdrawn from ATMs (many on calle España) using a UK credit or debit card. Limits may be lower than your UK bank allows. offering favorable rates for cash dollars. There are also 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 Salta and the Argentine Andes and UK?

GMT -3 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer, but this is announced ad hoc on a year-on-year basis.

What places combine well with Salta and the Argentine Andes?

Mendoza in Argentina’s prime wine-producing region (direct flights 3 times a week, 1hr 40mins); Iguazú Falls (daily flights to Puerto Iguazú, 1hr 50mins) Chile’s Atacama desert around San Pedro de Atacama (12hrs scenic drive); southern Bolivia (11hrs drive to the border at La Quiaca).

How do i get to Salta and the Argentine Andes?

A flight from Buenos Aires to Salta takes 2hrs.

What are the festivals and cultural and sporting events in Salta and the Argentine Andes?
Many religious, artisan and agricultural festivals and processions take place throughout the region from January through Carnival to Easter every year.
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Iguazu Falls
Iguazu falls

Straddling the border between southern Brazil and northeast Argentina, The Iguazú Falls (spelt  Iguaçú in Brazil) are usually rated number one of the big three waterfalls, the others being Niagara and Victoria. They are often considered to be Latin America’s most awe-inspiring natural sight and a must-see for anyone visiting the highlights of the continent.

The 275 separate cascades form a curtain of foaming water which crashes through tangled sub-tropical jungle over a vast granite amphitheatre, protected by national park status. Both countries offer scenic walkways with breath-taking scenery around every corner and easily observed wildlife. From the Brazilian side you’ll get a panoramic view of the 3km cliff edge, on the Argentine side there is a series of walkways leading you above, below and even behind the water.

When's the best time to go to Iguazu Falls?

Iguazú Falls is a year-round destination, but water levels and weather conditions vary with the rainy (Dec-Feb) and dry (Jun-Jul) seasons. The water supply to the falls also varies according to the local control of the dams upstream. It can be busy with tourists in local holiday seasons, for example in Feb and at Easter.

What's the official language in Iguazu Falls?

Brazilian Portuguese; Argentinean Spanish.

How do i get to Iguazu Falls?

There are direct flights connecting Iguazú Falls to Buenos Aires (2 hours), Rio de Janeiro (2 hours), Lima, São Paulo, and Salta in northern Argentina.

What's the official currency at Iguazu Falls?

Brazilian Real.

Brazil: notes can be withdrawn from ATMs in Foz do Iguazú Banco do Brasil, Bradesco and HSBC accept UK credit or debit cards. Limits may be lower than your UK bank allows. ATMs close at 10pm.

Argentina: there are a couple of ATMs in Puerto Iguazú where the banks are only open in the mornings.

What's the time difference between GMT and Iguazu falls?

GMT -3 hours. There is daylight saving from October to the end of February (approx) when clocks are put forward one hour.

What countries combine well with Iguazu Falls?

Argentina: Buenos Aires - there are direct daily 2 hour flights from Puerto Iguazú; Salta in the northwest Andes: daily flights take 1 hour 50mins.
Brazil: Rio de Janeiro - There are daily flights from Foz do Iguaçú; Southern Brazil: there are flights from Foz do Iguaçu to Curitiba with connections; The Pantanal or the Amazon: there are daily flights to Campo Grande or Manaus with connections in São Paulo.
Peru: there are daily flights from Foz do Iguaçú to Lima, 4.5 hours.

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Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Along with Rio, this is a city worth crossing the Atlantic for in its own right. Dynamic, stylish and nostalgic, it’s the continent’s most European city, but does not lack South American verve. Its contrasting neighbourhoods reveal colonial plazas, shady avenues, quirky antique fairs, street art, world famous theatres and football stadiums and spruced-up metropolitan port districts. Studded with extensive parks, cutting-edge boutique hotels, designer boutiques and a myriad of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, it’s a restless place, challenging to find your way around but well worth the effort. It’s the beating heart of Argentina, the hub for visits throughout the country.
When's the best time to visit Buenos Aires?

Buenos Aires is at its hottest Jan-Mar (very humid with tropical showers, occasionally over 40C during the day). It can be cold and cloudy Jul-Aug, so weather conditions are best for a visit in spring and autumn. Dec-Feb and Jul are local holiday times: Porteños head for the beach.

What's the official language in Buenos Aires?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Buenos Aires?

Argentine 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. Please note that in 2016 many of the ATMs were not functioning properly; we are recommending that for the moment you take a good supply of US dollars cash. There are many banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) where you can exchange US dollars cash; rates for euros and sterling frequently poor. 

What's the time difference between Buenos Aires and the UK?

GMT -3 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer, but this is announced ad hoc on a year-on-year basis.

What places combine well with Buenos Aires?

Beach time in Mar del Plata (392 km by road, 5hrs); Colonia or Montevideo in Uruguay across the River Plate: travel by ferry, bus or plane; a stay on a working estancia in the pampa south and west of the city; Iguazú Falls (2hrs approx by air).

How long is the flight to Buenos Aires from the UK?

Average flight time is 14hrs 20mins on a direct flight from London. There are also flights requiring a change of plane in Europe or the USA.

What are the festivals and cultural and sports events in Buenos Aires?

Tango Festival: Aug. The world's – top tango festival, nine days  of concerts, shows, free classes, exhibitions, open-air milongas (Avenida Corrientes is closed for a massive display) and other tango-related festivities.

Opera season: Mar-Dec. Take in a concert or opera at the refurbished Teatro Colón which attracts internationally esteemed artists. 

Argentine Polo Open: Mid Nov-mid Dec. Polo is a passion for many Argentines. This is the year’s main attraction, taking place in Palermo’s 16,000 seater stadium.

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

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Due to flexible pricing and minimum room night requirements during peak times (such as New Year, Carnival and Easter) we may not always present all the dates we have available.

If your ideal travel date is not shown, call us on 020 8747 8315, or click on the 'Make an Online Enquiry' button to the right.

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