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Signature Northern Chile and Argentina: Atacama Desert to Iguazu Falls

Day 1

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

Arrive Santiago and transfer to your hotel in Providencia, a leafy, upmarket residential and commercial district. The cosmopolitan capital, has to its east the immense wall of rock of the Andes - snow-capped in winter.  You have a guided walking tour of the historic heart of the city, which is home to a few notable buildings such as the house of celebrated poet laureate Pablo Neruda. There’s a panoramic view of the city from Cerro Santa Lucía, a hilltop park.

If you have time, a funicular tram or cable car can take you to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal. A mixture of chic, residential areas and smart office towers surround a compact colonial centre. Beyond are sprawling working class districts with a crush of more modest homes.

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Santiago Chile

Day 2

Full day excursion to Maipo Valley visiting two vineyards.
 
Maipo Valley vineyards

Mountain air, haciendas and stately manor houses set the scene for a tour which takes you into the heartland of Chile's wine growing region. Pirque in the Maipo Valley is home to two of the country's most prestigious names in wine; Concha y Toro and Cousiño Macul. A short distance from the capital, these vineyards offer an insight into a wine growing region blessed with what is often referred to as the trilogy: climate, soil and vine-stock.

Visit two vineyards with the opportunity to learn about the wine-producing processes and sample the results. Lunch is usually taken at the atmospheric Tesoros del Chile restaurant, situated in a quaint nineteenth century residence in Pirque.

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Maipo Valley vineyards

Day 3

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

Fly to Calama in the Atacama Desert and continue by road to the little resort town of San Pedro de Atacama. There’s a guided afternoon excursion to the moon-like Valle de la Luna. Drive through the spectacular rock formations of Cordillera de la Sal towards the valley where, especially in early-evening light, the lunar landscape is astonishingly photogenic.

Huge sand dunes sweep across a panorama of salt-encrusted canyons, gullies and eroded rock sculptures such as Las Tres Marias. Walk up to the top of the impressive 'Gran Duna' - a popular venue for extreme sports such as sand-boarding - and take your position for arguably the most memorable experience of today's excursion: the valley's appearance at sunset - a dazzling artist's palette of gold and reds.

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Moon Valley

Day 4

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

This scenic full-day excursion to the high altiplano above San Pedro de Atacama reaches an altitude of over 4,300m. The road heads south, passing the distinctive cone of Lincancabur volcano and cutting across the eastern corner of the Salar de Atacama before reaching the village of Toconao (2,600m). It is typical of the small oasis villages of the area. Figs and quinces and a handsome whitewashed bell tower help give the village its own distinctive character.

It's a 50km drive to the village of Socaire (3,500m) with its 18th century church set against a field of sunflowers and market. Next, drive up to deep sapphire blue Minique and Miscanti lagoons. Stroll along the shores before crossing the bleach-white Salar de Atacama, salty home to colonies of Andean, Chilean and James flamingos. Arriving at Laguna Chaxa, you should have the opportunity to observe flamingos and a variety of other birds.

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Flamingos in Atacama Chile

Day 5

Full day visit to Tatio Geysers – highest geyser field in the world.
 
Tatio Geysers, San Pedro de Atacama
Depart in the early hours of the morning (normally before 5am) for the guided excursion to Tatio geysers. It’s a 98km drive to the highest geyser field in the world (4,300m). At this altitude, sub-zero temperatures are the norm, especially just before dawn. Upon arrival, enjoy a picnic-style breakfast and explore with your guide. The geysers are a memorable, surreal sight at sunrise – blow-holes send jets of water and steam into a cloudless sky and, as the sun rises, the pools of water turn to shimmering silver. 
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Tatio Geysers, San Pedro de Atacama

Day 6

Public bus to Purmamarca.
 
Purmamarca Church

Drive down through the eastern flank of the Andes into Argentina. This is a spectacular drive by comfortable public coach over the Andes. It takes 6-7 hrs, including border controls outside San Pedro de Atacama and again at Paso de Jama (4,400m) on the Argentine side, 3hrs hours later. Along the way, enjoy breathtaking wilderness scenery: turquoise lakes backed by high mountains, glistening salt flats and desert strutted by battalions of cacti.

The bus stop in the village of Purmamarca is right outside your hacienda-style hotel Manantial del Silencio.

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Purmamarca Church

Day 7

At leisure.
 
Seven Colour Hill
At leisure in Purmamarca, in the north-western area known as Quebrada de Humahuaca. Purmamarca is at the foot of the famous Seven Colour hill, one of north-west Argentina's most popular attractions. The hill's deeply-defined strata seem to constantly change colour according to the light conditions. Purmamarca is a relaxing place to explore - its dazzling white 17th century church dominates the village square where inhabitants like to relax in the shade whilst visitors wander among colourful handicrafts stalls.
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Seven Colour Hill

Day 8

Discover Humahuaca Gorge, continue to Humahuaca village.
 
View from fortess at Tilcara

Check out of the hotel and you’ll be driven along the Humahuaca gorge, famous for its deep terracotta rock strata and giant cacti. Even this far into Argentina, there are echoes of Bolivia in the canyon's peaceful towns and villages with their solid-looking colonial churches and quaint adobe-brick houses. Just south of Humahuaca village, the Tropic of Capricorn passes through the village of Uquia.

Meanwhile Tilcara is one of the region's most important settlements where you’ll visit the pre-Inca Pucara fortress which has great views across the town and valley beyond. Continue to Salta (3hrs)

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View from fortess at Tilcara

Day 9

Salta walking tour including cable car up San Bernardo Hill. Fly to Puerto Iguazú.
 
Salta
Walking tour of Salta. The friendly north-western city is renowned for its colonial architecture and claret-red ponchos. This is the only Argentine region where vestiges of indian heritage are still visible.  There is a walking tour of the attractive city including the cathedral, San Francisco church, the Northern Historical museum, San Bernardo convent, and the view of the city from San Bernardo hill reached by cable car. Later, fly to Puerto Iguazú on the border with Brazil in the northeast.
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Salta

Day 10

Full day excursion to Argentine side of Iguazú falls.
 
Iguazu Falls, Argentine side

Excursion to the Argentine side of Iguazú Falls. Stop at the National Park Visitor Centre, where there is a display illustrating the biodiversity of the tropical rainforest. From here, a little gas-powered train transfers you to Cataratas station where the Upper Walk begins. This sequence of causeways and passerelles links dozens of tiny, basalt islands at the top of the rock face. The walkways cross the myriad streams of the Río Iguazú as they cascade over the lip of the precipice. A succession of lookout points allows your gaze to follow the water, as it plunges onto the rocks below.

You can then continue to the Lower Walk, which involves stairs, and gives you a totally different view of these falls. Climb back up to the train and continue, about 20mins, to Devil's Throat station. From here, a kilometre-long walkway leads you across the river to the thunderous Garganta del Diablo, which offers a spectacular vantage point to peer into the thundering vortex below.

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Iguazu Falls, Argentine side

Day 11

Half day to explore Brazilian side of Iguazú falls.
 
Macaw parrots

Guided excursion to the Brazilian side of the falls. Cross the bridge which spans the Iguazú river and links the cities of Puerto Iguazú in Argentina and Foz do Iguaçú in Brazil. You'll board a (shared) National Park service here and continue by road for the final stretch to the falls themselves.

There's a walkway of about a kilometre, with viewpoints at strategic intervals - you get a panoramic view of the whole sweep of the cataracts - an entirely different experience from the Argentine side. Towards the end of the walk, there's an observation tower adjacent to the falls, and a walkway at the bottom takes you out for a closer and much wetter experience. 

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Macaw parrots

Day 12

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

Fly to Buenos Aires (2hrs) and transfer to your hotel in Recoleta, the smart belle époque/Italianate residential quarter of leafy plazas, pavement cafés and the famous cemetery where Eva Peron was buried. Buenos Aires is probably the most cosmopolitan metropolis in South America. Certainly it looks more European than any other in the Americas: wide boulevards, monumental architecture, art deco cafeterias and designer-label shops.

This seductive city oozes old world atmosphere and nostalgia, with its colonial buildings, antique markets, shady squares and tango halls. That's not to say Buenos Aires is just stuck in its past - it's equally vital and contemporary with a vibrant arts scene, top drawer restaurants, ultra-chic boutique hotels and a pulsating nightlife. The city's passion for football reaches a crescendo during the local derby between Argentina's two biggest football clubs, Boca Juniors and River Plate.

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La Boca

Day 13

City tour including visit to Teatro Colon.
 
Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires

Your guided city tour 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 you will also find the 19th century Teatro Colón which, in terms of its architecture and design, as well as its excellent acoustics, is considered one of the best in the world.  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 the colourful bohemian barrio of La Boca, which was settled and built by Italian immigrants and has streets lined with brightly painted corrugated iron-clad houses. Drive north to Palermo, an elegant neighbourhood of wide avenues lined with colonial mansions. The city zoo, the botanical gardens and racetrack are all here. Finally, visit the artistic district of Recoleta, stopping at the cemetery where generations of the Argentinean élite have been buried, including Evita.

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Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires

Day 14

At leisure, tango show with dinner at El Querandi.
 

After a day at leisure there is a 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, where the 1940s orchestra recreates, with professional dancers and singers, the atmosphere of those early days and the history and evolution of the dance to the style, elegance and respectability of the present day.

This tango house in the San Telmo district of the capital occupies an early colonial building, and was founded in the 1920s in the art deco style of the time. Of course, some of the visitors are tourists, but usually the audience is mainly Porteños (residents of Buenos Aires) to whom each doleful ballad, each melancholy air, each sensual step, is part of their heritage.

Day 15

Transfer to airport for international flight home.
 

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Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today. Signature Northern Chile and Argentina: Atacama Desert to Iguazu Falls

  • Estancia 3 days from £763pp

    Throughout Argentina prestigious rural estates have been adapted to accommodate visitors. La Bamba is a colonial-style property oozing with atmosphere and history, restored to its former elegance in parkland, with a good-sized pool. A few days here will allow you to relax and savour life on the pampa prairies, while feasting off delicious food and wine.

    Day 1:  Transfer by road from Buenos Aires to the gaucho town San Antonio de Areco in the heart of the pampas (90mins). The town has a compact centre of cobbled streets and colonial buildings. The Río Areco cuts through, flanked by parks and linked by a pedestrian bridge leading to Gaucho Museum. Arrive at the Estancia La Bamba just outside town.

    Day 2: At leisure on the estancia. This colonial-style former post house harks back to more opulent times when these establishments were the backbone of a thriving economy. Following its acquisition by French proprietors, it has been renovated to an extremely high standard, and resembles a grand countryside chateau.

    Public areas are cosy and crammed full of plush sofas and old artefacts. The pulpería has a design based on the 18th-century bar which served as an inn for the gauchos, and bristles with atmosphere - open fires, brick walls, flagstone floors and deep sofas. Meanwhile, the  guest rooms offer large shuttered windows and luxurious beds.

    Activities include horse-riding, polo (experienced only), walking and carriage rides in the surrounding pampas.

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

    UK clients arrive home the following day.

    Dinner day 1, full board day 2, breakfast day 3.

  • 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

    The Chilean Central Valley, with its rich soils and sunny Mediterranean climate, is Chile’s breadbasket. Orchards flourish, and the slopes of the Andean foothills support vineyards producing world class wines. Several now welcome visitors: here you visit one of the most attractive and luxurious.

    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.

  • Easter Island overview 5 days from £1,389pp

    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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Signature Northern Chile and Argentina: Atacama Desert to Iguazu Falls

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