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Tangara: Blue lakes and emerald coasts

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

Day 1

Walking tour of colonial Santiago.
 
Santiago
Those arriving on an international flight will be met at the airport by the tour leader or a local representative and taken to the group hotel. Santiago is laid out in a broad valley below the snow-capped Andes. You’ll have a walking tour of the compact colonial centre.

For a panoramic view over the city, visit Cerro Santa Lucía, a central, rather romantic park. For even more panoramic vistas, a cable car leads to the summit of San Cristóbal, where you can join Chilean families wandering along the leafy paths. Afterwards, have a beer at one of the pavement cafés in Bellavista. This is an Italian quarter of narrow streets peppered with bars and shops selling local lapis lazuli (only Chile and Afghanistan produce the stones in commercial quantities).

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Santiago

Day 2

Optional excursion to a vineyard or the port of Valparaíso.
 
An optional guided excursion takes you out of the city through a pretty Mediterranean landscape to a nearby winery. An hour's drive from Santiago is the Central Valley, blanketed in a patchwork region of regimented vineyards. Here you will have the chance to sample some of the wines, and learn about the national grape varieties.

Alternatively, visit Chile's second city, Valparaíso (2hrs by bus). This lively seaport is built on a series of hills which form a backdrop to the wide bay, with views over the seaside resort of Viña del Mar. You can wander along the steep, winding streets which crawl over the hilltops, reached by rickety wooden funicular lifts, or stroll the dark cobblestone lanes at sea level fringed by sturdy homes built for British and German merchants in the 19th century.

Day 3

Fly south to the lake district; Petrohue Falls and overnight in Puerto Varas.
 
Puerto Varas
Fly south to Puerto Montt and continue by road to Puerto Varas in the heart of the Chilean lake district. On a clear day you won't tire of the vistas of volcanoes, waterfalls and sweeping forests.

Puerto Varas is situated on the shores of Lake Llanquihue (one of the largest natural lakes in South America). Towering snow-capped volcanoes punctuate a patchwork landscape of cultivated hills and pastures. The town sits in the shadows of the perfect conical peak of the Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes. There is an excursion to visit the nearby Petrohue Falls and time to wander around the town. Originally colonised by German immigrants, it has a distinctive, Bavarian feel, and many inhabitants are fair-haired and blue-eyed. There are some excellent seafood restaurants and cafés to while away a day at leisure.

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Puerto Varas

Day 4

Optional excursion to Chiloé island.
 
Chiloe
We strongly recommend a full-day excursion to Chiloé. This extraordinary island developed largely independently from the mainland and has a distinct history, architecture and mythology. Alighting on its shores is like stepping back into a time of mists and legends. Half the population works in agriculture, the techniques of which have remained unchanged for centuries; distinctive ox-driven carts are to be seen trundling down the island's unpaved roads past unique wood-shingled churches and there are several folksy fishing ports where you can savour fresh oysters.

On Chiloe, from November-March you can take a boat trip to spot Magellanic and Humboldt penguins. The excursion ends with a visit to a chilote family, where the traditional curanto is prepared for you; it’s a hearty dish of seafood, meat, potatoes and vegetables are piled high in a hole in the ground, buried and cooked among glowing embers.

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Chiloe

Day 5

Cross the Andes to Bariloche, Argentina.
 
Today you cross the Andes on a unique journey which passes through the mountains, following forested roads alongside a chain of glacial lakes. Your scenic drive winds its way towards Argentina, overlooked by towering, snowy peaks. On a clear day the conical snow-capped volcanoes offer a stunning backdrop to the turquoise, glacial waters on the lakes below.

You arrive at Bariloche. This resort town is situated on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi, and was founded barely a century ago. It has a distinctive Alpine feel to it, and in winter it operates as a ski resort. There is a museum detailing the history of the native Tehuelche Indians and the story of the area's colonisation. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid lived and ranched not far from here.

Day 6

Walks in the rugged hills around Lake Nahuel Huapi.
 
San Carlos de Bariloche
Included today are walks along trails climbing up through the mountains through woodland, with wonderful glimpses down over the lake through gaps in the trees.

Spend your free time in cosy cafés savouring locally manufactured chocolate, or shopping for souvenirs. Out of town, venture along the lake-shore for sumptuous views of the forested mountains. There are some excellent walking trails including one which climbs Cerro Otto mountain. You may also wish to enjoy the panorama from the windows of the cable car which takes you to the summit (1,405m); here there is a revolving restaurant and splendid views as the sun sets over the mountainous landscape, dotted with forests and shimmering lakes.

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San Carlos de Bariloche

Days 7-8

Fly to Buenos Aires. Walking tour of the city.
 
Buenos Aires
Fly to the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, an elegant and cosmopolitan city famed for 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 the city is the historic heartland, with government buildings and churches as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic, Parisian feel. The bohemian district of San Telmo is full of quaint old houses interspersed with antiques shops, tango bars and expensive restaurants.

Slightly further out of town is the Recoleta district, even more evocative of belle époque French and Italianate architecture. During the winter months, wealthy female residents parade the streets in their fur coats and improbable, towering hairstyles, and take afternoon tea in the city's ornate cafés. You will explore some of the most interesting parts of the city on a guided tour. Make the most of your extra free time to shop, have a drink and a pastry in a tea-room or peruse the items on display in one of the many markets. It’s fun to promenade up and down the quay in the city’s splendidly renovated port district, Puerto Madero, which has trendy loft apartments, a string of open air restaurants and a small marina.

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Buenos Aires

Day 9

Fly to Iguazú Falls. Excursions to the Argentine side.
 
Iguazu Falls
Fly to Puerto Iguazú in the subtropical north-east corner of Argentina (2 hrs). The Iguazú Falls are unquestionably one of the most extraordinary natural wonders in the world. A total of 275 falls thunder through dense forest over a 2.5km stretch. The u-shaped Devil's Throat is the main gorge, where the frothy water of the Iguazú River crashes over a 1.5km-wide precipice and columns of vapour are thrown skyward. Elsewhere the river flows decorously through the rainforest, breaking up into dozens of smaller falls. You might spot toucans with their outsized bright orange beaks perched in the foliage above the tumultuous waters.>

You have a guided tour to explore the Argentine side of the falls. From the National Park Visitor Centre, where there is a display that illustrates the biodiversity of the region's tropical rainforest, a little natural-gas-powered train transfers you to Cataratas Station where the Upper Walk begins. This sequence of causeways and passarelles links dozens of tiny basalt islands at the top of a sheer rock face and the walkways cross the myriad streams of the River Iguazú as they cascade over the lip of the precipice. Your breath is quite literally taken away as the water thunders on to the rocks below.

The train continues to Devil's Throat Station where a 1km-long walkway leads across the river to the thunderous Garganta del Diablo, the Devil's Throat. From this vantage point you can feel the incredible power of the water, and the flow is mesmeric as it plummets into the vortex below.

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Iguazu Falls

Day 10

Excursion to the Brazilian side of the falls.
 

Head out to the Brazilian side of the falls, from where there is a broad panorama of these magnificent cataracts, and some excellent opportunities to photograph the full sweep of the cascades. Before leaving the Brazilian side, you could stop off at the excellent and rather quirky bird park just outside the entrance of Iguaçu National Park. The enclosure is home to a huge variety of birds and wildlife, including toucans, trogons and the coatimundi, from the same family as the racoon.

Day 11

Fly to São Paulo; by road to Paraty.
 
Fly to São Paulo and continue by road to the colonial port of Paraty. The winding road is bordered by steep mountains covered in lush Atlantic forest on one side, and the ocean on the other. This enchanting bay-side town is steeped in history; Paraty, means ‘river of fish’ in the indigenous Tupi language.

The town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s not hard to see why as you wander through its local boutique-linedcobbled streets. Explore graceful baroque churches and check out the local art work in one of the many contemporary galleries. The divine blue, gold and white painted Portuguese architecture has been carefully preserved, and the centre of the town is vehicle free. There are also some excellent places to eat freshly caught fish on the sea-front. The bay itself is dotted with tropical islands and, rising some 1,000m behind the town, are forested mountains intersected by rivers and waterfalls.

Day 12

Excursion by traditional schooner around the bay.
 
Parati

Travel out to sea in the sheltered bay on the deck of a traditional three-masted schooner. You’ll visit some of the virtually uninhabited little islands in the bay, each with its own hidden picture-perfect sandy coves where you can take a dip in the warm tropical waters.

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Parati

Day 13

By road to Rio de Janeiro.
 
Rio de Janeiro
A scenic drive up the 'green coast' to Rio de Janeiro. Rio is the most romantic, intriguing and beautiful city on the continent. Sumptuous apartments overlook the sparkling bays against the backdrop of half-built slum dwellings, favelas, which cling precariously to the hillsides. Rio has an awesome bay-side location among near-vertical granite mountains.

Here, tropical foliage swoops down to white-to-toffee coloured sandy beaches in turn battered by the huge waves of Atlantic surf. The drive into the city gives a fleeting glimpse of the docks and commercial centre as you head towards the magnificent stretch of sand at Copacabana; your hotel is a couple of blocks inland from the beach.

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Rio de Janeiro

Day 14

City tour including Corcovado and Sugarload mountains.
 

Today there is a tour to familiarise yourself with this most iconic of cities. As part of this, you'll board a steep rack-and-pinion railway which glides up through tropical Tijuca National Park, the largest urban forest in the world dripping with fruit and flowers, to reach the summit of Corcovado Mountain. Here the famous 40m art deco Christ the Redeemer statue soars above the city, arms outspread benevolently. On a clear day, the views over the city and out across the ocean and outlying islands are stupendous.

We also include a trip to Pão de Açucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain). Ride the cable-car up the twin granite mountains protruding from the ocean and enjoy the magnificent views back over the beaches, Botafogo Bay with its bobbing yachts and into the mountains beyond. There’s a lovely (and safe) nature walk round the foot of the mountain, or you could pop for a beer into the nearby villagey quarter of Urca, leafy home of artists and TV stars.

Day 15

Depart for international flight or extension.
 

UK clients depart, arriving home the following day.
 

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  • Atacama 4 days from £1,215pp

    The Atacama’s inhospitable desert landscape is harsh and rugged, but it echoes the legacy of its pre-Columbian inhabitants, while the volcanoes and geysers hiss into life. Oases splash the tawny landscape with vigorous vegetation. A few days here will give you a surprisingly varied experience of desert life.

    Day 1: Fly from Santiago to Calama (2hrs) and on to the Andean town of San Pedro de Atacama (2,450m). The town is easy-going, with adobe houses and an accent on outdoor activities. You’ll be staying at Hotel Altiplánico on the edge of town. Here you can take advantage of an outdoor pool, Jacuzzi and terrace.

    In the late afternoon drive past spectacular rock formations to the Valle De la Luna (Moon Valley) where the lunar landscape is astonishingly photogenic. Huge sand dunes sweep across a panorama of salt-encrusted canyons, gullies and eroded rock sculptures. Walk up to the top of one to watch the valley at sunset - a dazzling palette of gold and reds. 

    Day 2: Today’s adventure takes you past Licancabur volcano to the village of Toconao, typical of the small oasis settlements of the area. Continue south, entering the Atacama salt flats, a national reserve. Pink flamingoes haunt the lagoons of the featureless white salt flats, and cacti stride towards the horizon.

    Day 3: Depart before dawn for a guided trip to Tatio geysers, at 4,300m the highest geyser field in the world. The geysers are a 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. Later, you have time for a soak in hot springs (40°C). Please note that these can be closed for essential maintenence work.

    Day 4: Return to Calama airport to fly to Santiago to continue your holiday or connect with your international flight. (An overnight stay in Santiago may be required).
    UK clients arrive home the following day.

    Breakfast daily

  • 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.

  • Buzios 4 days from £861pp

    Head along the Atlantic coast from Rio, passing lagoons and wild, surf-lashed beaches to the chic beach village of Búzios. The low-key, but upmarket, European-style resort is renowned for art shops and fine dining. Here a peninsula of cliffs and low hills is dimpled with little coves and speckled with boutique-style hotels.

    Day 1: Transfer by road (2.5-3hrs) from Rio de Janeiro to Búzios, crossing the spectacular 12km Niterói Bridge over Guanabara Bay. Once a tiny fishing village, Armação dos Búzios is now one of Brazil's most sought-after and lively beach resorts. Secluded beaches in craggy bays and nearby tropical islands can be reached by schooners. The friendly, small boutique hotel Casas Brancas is perched on a bluff with fine views over the bay.

    Days 2,3: The centre of Búzios is just a short walk away and has a good selection of restaurants, bars (some with live music) and boutiques. The pousada itself is a lovely place in which to relax. Facilities include a small pool, spa, sea-front restaurant and sun terrace shaded by white drapes. The nearest beach is about 10 mins’ walk away.

    Day 4: By road back to Rio de Janeiro to continue your holiday or to the city’s airport for your international flight.

    UK clients arrive home the following day.

    Breakfast daily.

  • 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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