Atacama & Patagonia

Explore Chile on foot | View photos »

Walk amongst crackling rocks and lunar landscapes before you tackle turquoise lakes and creaking glaciers. This is our flagship Chile holiday, a small group holiday with our own guides to unlock the beauty of Chile.

Small group holiday for 15 days » i

Price £3,785 per person

Map of the area

"Flawless arrangements..."

"Flawless arrangements..."

"Your arrangements were flawless, everything went according to plan, except when it went even better" - Carol & David H

Read more »

Sample itinerary

Fly to South America overnight

Fly overnight to Chile to land in Santiago early the next day. Please note: international flights are quoted separately for this holiday.

Arrive in Chile

Land in the Chilean capital, Santiago, this morning. You are collected for the transfer to your comfortable hotel to relax and freshen up. If it’s clear, and you’re looking to stretch your legs, head up Cerro San Cristobal near your hotel for lovely views over the city and surrounding mountains.You’ll be equipped with our local information and tips for the city, including recommendations for some of Santiago’s particularly good restaurants.

Walk in the Salt Mountains

Transfer back to the airport for your early morning flight north to the Atacama Desert. Meet your Pura guide who will be with you throughout your time here in the north. The town is on a plateau at just over 2,400m. A few kilometers outside the town, the Andes rise steeply to peaks of up to 6,000m. In the late afternoon walk down a huge sand dune, across a small salt flat and through a narrow gorge in the salt mountains.

Walk on Inca paths

Start today’s walk in small village 4,000m above sea level. You are likely to feel the effects of the altitude here but you almost immediately start to walk downhill. The first stretch of the walk is along a wide green Andean valley rich in bird life and llamas. As you come out of the Andes and into the pre-Andes the landscape becomes much more arid: dominated by giant cactus plants. At this point you are walking on old Inca roads passing distinctive terraces in the hillsides.

Tatio geysers and hot springs

It’s an early start today as you visit the world’s highest geothermal field – the Tatio Geysers. At first light the geysers come to life in a spectacular display of steam. This afternoon set off directly from the hotel on a gently paced bike ride across the compacted surface of the salt flats to a series of lagoons, home to a family of flamingos. Once you get there you enjoy a cool drink and perhaps a swim in the buoyant waters of the lagoon.

Walk to the peak of a volcano

After several days of being active at altitude, today’s walk takes you as high as many of us will ever stand. From the high trailhead, it is a slow steady 2 hour walk to the summit of Toco Volcano at 5,600m. As well as the Atacama spread out beneath your feet, you can also see into Bolivia and Argentina. It is stunning.

Time to relax before flying south

You will have time this morning for a final hike or excursions in the beautiful Atacama Desert. Transfer to the airport later today for the evening flight down to Santiago, where you overnight. To save transferring into and out of the city, stay tonight in the comfortable airport hotel.

Travel to Patagonia

This is a long though beautiful travel day. Fly south along the spectacular spine of the Andes, over the massive Patagonian ice fields. When you arrive meet your Pura guide who stays with you for your time in Patagonia. The three-hour drive across the open plains of Patagonia takes you to the seafront town of Puerto Natales and your first class hotel overlooking the Last Hope Sound.

Travel into Torres del Paine by boat

Set off into the beautiful Torres del Paine National Park first on a boat along the Last Hope Sound, enjoying the wildlife as the mountains and glaciers loom ever closer. Transfer to a smaller river boat at the Balmaceda Glacier to travel along the Serrano River into the Torres del Paine National Park. On a clear day, there is no more spectacular introduction to this most emblematic and beautiful mountain range.

Cross Lago Grey to hike alongside the glacier

Set off by boat this morning along the full length of Lago Grey as far as the glacier of the same name. This is the end point of the southern Patagonian icefield so you have 1,000km of ice ahead of you as you travel towards the 40 metre high face of the glacier. For the next four nights you sleep in refugios, mountain huts. This afternoon your guide will lead you on a hike up alongside the glacier.

Start the 'W' hike across Torres del Paine

Set off on the four-day ‘W’ hike across the park from the glacial west to the dry grasslands of the east. Whilst walking you only have to carry a daypack with items such as lunch, waterproofs and cameras. One lovely feature of hiking in the park is that the streams are so pure you can drink the most delicious water straight from them. Porters carry your main bags ahead to the next refugio so you do not tend to see them during the day.

Walk between the mountains and the lakes

Today the scenery is some of the best of the holiday as you walk in the shadow of huge peaks alongside turquoise lakes. Walk under the mountain of Paine Grande then a steady uphill and a steep downhill towards the shores of Lake Nordenskjold. You might also be lucky enough to enjoy a side hike up into Valle Frances for fantastic views out across the glacial lakes to the south of the park.

Cross rivers and hike up valleys

Continue your walk along a good path in the shadow of the mountains throughout today. You should see lots of condors as you pass beneath the high peaks. Stop for lunch alongside a small lake populated with fantastic bird life. The path is intersected by streams at certain points – crossing these can involve stepping stones or the occasional rope bridge. Towards the end of the day you reach the base of Valle Ascencio into which you hike.

Finish the W hike by hiking to the Torres

The day starts off on an undulating path leading through a pretty beech forest. Once you emerge from the forest you find yourself at the foot of the glacial moraine beneath the Torres of Torres del Paine. It is a steep walk to get through this maze of huge boulders but you emerge on the edge of a small lake at the base of the towers. Return downhill to complete your 'W' hike across the park and into Natales for some home comforts.

Back to Santiago

Fly back up to Santiago for your last night in Chile. Today is another long travel day although the views are always a treat. Dress comfortably, relax and enjoy. Drive to Punta Arenas to fly north to Santiago where your guide collects you to take you to your first class hotel for your last night in the city. You should try and get out to enjoy one of the city’s great restaurants.

Say goodbye to Chile

Transfer to the airport for your flight home. Again, please note that international flights are quoted separately for this trip.

About this trip

Summary

Walk amongst crackling rocks and lunar landscapes before you tackle turquoise lakes and creaking glaciers. This is our flagship Chile holiday, a small group holiday with our own guides to unlock the beauty of Chile.

+ Read more- Read less

How adventurous?

Activity
1 2 3 4 5
Comfort
1 2 3 4 5
Culture
1 2 3 4 5

Physical adventure

This is a walking holiday which has you out in the great outdoors most days. Rather than trying to do too much, we concentrate on the two most emblematic and beautiful parts of Chile and allow time to get to know them well. Normally guests on this trip are aged in their 40s-60s.

Up in the Atacama Desert you stay in the town of San Pedro de Atacama in a very comfortable small hotel, a 4* type place. From here your guide leads you on hikes and excursions into the surrounding areas. San Pedro is an oasis on the edge of a large salt flat at about 2,000m altitude. Very close by, the Andes surge up with peaks up to nearly 6,000m. Over the course of your days here in the Atacama you gradually go higher and higher as you get used to the altitude.

The first excursion is a relaxed walk of a couple of hours, and a flat bike ride out onto the salt flats. This is followed by a much higher walk starting at roughly 4,000m although you almost immediately start descending. The effects of altitude get less and less very quickly as you walk. This walk is a good 5/6 hour route but all gently downhill. The highest walk comes after you have had time to acclimatise, we drive up to just over 5,000m and walk two hours steadily uphill to the peak of an extinct volcano at an incredible 5,600m. This is a very challenging walk because of the altitude but the views are well worth the exertion!

In Patagonia you walk across the Torres del Paine National Park, following what is known as the 'W'. Starting at the glaciated western side of the massif, you walk for four days between lakes and mountains until you reach the famous Torres, the three granite spires which give the park its name. The walking is at sea level and the walk is classed as moderate, climbs and descents are not huge. Daily distances are generally around 12- 15 km.

What makes things more challenging in Patagonia is the highly variable weather - anything from high winds to hot sunshine to rain to snow are all possible on a summer day here. The weather, and the basic accommodation in refugios which are mountain huts. Bunk beds in mixed communal dorms are your home for four nights. The reason to use these is that this is the only way for you to get up close to the mountains and into the heart of this most beautiful of environments.

The weather in the Atacama is likely to be warm during the day, around 10°-20° though being at high altitude, the sun can be fierce. Conversely, nights quickly become cool to very cold as you are in a high desert - it's important to wrap up. Rains can come in February particularly which can affect some roads in the area.

Down in Patagonia, daytime summer temperatures are mild. Remember that you are on the same relative latitude as London or Quebec so on a still summer's day the temperature can be comfortably in the mid-20°s. However, still days are not the norm here. If the wind is coming from the north then it has travelled over the world's largest non-polar ice floe. Which makes it fiercely cold. If the wind is coming from the west, it has had the full width of the Pacific to pick up moisture and the Paine mountains are pretty much the first obstacle they will hit. From the south and the wind has also come over a lot of open sea and Antarctica before that. To the east you have the wide open dry grasslands of Argentine Patagonia.

Nights tend to be cool, verging on cold. A clear, cloudless night in Torres del Paine will be just a few degrees but the stars, the stars are incredible!

Don't come to Patagonia expecting stable weather, it's the weather which makes this place look so beautiful so accept that you need to be waterproof, warm and windproof and join us to explore.

+ Read more- Read less

Cultural adventure

The focus of this holiday is undoubtedly the landscapes and exploring those landscapes on foot, however, there is much more to Chile than just the great outdoors. We want you to leave Chile feeling like you know the country and more than anything, that means its people.

In order to give you the best possible insights and connections, you are looked after by one guide up in the Atacama and another down in Patagonia. Physically these two destinations couldn't be more different and similarly their cultures could hardly be more distinct.

The Atacama was at the southern edge of the Inca empire, the villages, the traditions are from the Aymara people - the high Andean communities so much associated with southern Peru and Bolivia. Thatched roofed adobe houses and grazing vicuna stand out against the saturated blue skies.

Patagonia by contrast, is one of the most recently populated parts of our planet - 20,000 years is about the extent of human intervention here. The harsh landscapes were tamed by ranchers who cleared the land. To this day it is a place of gauchos, cowboys, who live solitary lives riding across vast estancias. And yet, hospitality runs deep and sipping mate whilst sitting round an open fire is one of the great memories of southern Chile.

+ Read more- Read less

Best time to go i

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Practicalities

There is a detailed itinerary for this trip, please get in touch and we can email that to you.

As a small group walking holiday, this is very much a fixed itinerary. However, there is always the option to extend the trip, for instance with an Antarctic cruise or the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

If you would like to join us on this holiday, please call for us to check space and discuss any additional arrangements you may want. If it isn’t quite what you are looking for, we would love to prepare a personalised proposal for you to consider so why not call us on 01273 676 712 and we can get started?

The standard trip includes accommodation in twin/double rooms throughout, except for four nights in communal mountain refuges in Torres del Paine, most meals, guiding in Chile, internal flights, activities, entrances and excursions as listed on the detailed itinerary. Naturally, on each and every one of our holidays, we include Pura’s expertise, local contacts, support and advice throughout, along with the reassurance of our financial protection and safety auditing.

Flights are quoted separately for this holiday. You need to fly in and out of Santiago (airport code: SCL).

+ Read more- Read less

Trip length

15 days

Departure dates & prices

27/10/2014 - £3,785

16/02/2015 - £3,785

Next steps...

Contact us today to start planning your own personal adventure

01273 676712

or request a callback »

The described itinerary is just a taster of what this trip could involve. We would work with you to tailor your personal trip.

rated 92% excellent

Read our reviews »

Alternative trips you may be interested in...

Chile-northern-patagonia-skorpios-cruise-mount-maca
Argentina to Chile
Explore Patagonia
The spectacular landscapes of Patagonia from both sides of the Andes. Chile and Argentina's south...
Read more »
Chile-patagonia-torres-del-paine-cuernos-del-paine-with-trees
Chile to Antarctica
Atacama, Patagonia, Antarctica
Incredible as Antarctica is, we also like time on dry land stretching our legs in the great outdo...
Read more »
Chile-patagonia-torres-del-paine-the-towers-with-lake
Pirenwinkul Adventure
Remote Chilean Patagonia
Explore an island battered by the wild Pacific. Hike under granite peaks and over open steppes. D...
Read more »