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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

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Sample itinerary

Arrive in Chile

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

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.

How adventurous?

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

Best time to go i

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

Level of activity

This is a small group walking holiday which has you out and about in the great outdoors most days. Normally guests on this trip are aged in their 40s-60s. To enjoy this journey through Chile you should be fit enough to look forward to full day hill walks in moderate terrain.

For the first part of the trip, in the Atacama Desert, you stay in the town of San Pedro at about 2,000m above sea level. Each day you head out on excursions from this base, getting gradually higher as each day passes until you go to the very high altitudes of Toco Volcano on the last day. Being 'return to base' there is always the possibility of opting out of a particular walk or activity.

Down in Patagonia, the walking is at sea level with daily distances of around 12- 15 km. The walk is classed as moderate since climbs and descents are not huge but it is considered 'Patagonia flat' which is to say that you start and end each day at roughly the same altitude but have quite a few short sharp ups and downs along the way. The one exception to this is the final push up to the Towers, the last section of this walk being particularly steep.

Patagonia has highly variable weather - anything from high winds to hot sunshine to rain to snow are all possible on a summer day here. 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.

Don't come to Chile expecting a predictable climate! 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 the highlights of this beautiful country. Call us now and we'll send you a more detailed trip itinerary.

Level of comfort

This trip is based around very comfortable accommodation where possible but we do not sacrifice your experience in search of comfort. This means that, during the four nights of the W hike across Torres del Paine, you will stay in refugios. Essentially mountain huts with mixed, communal bunk bedded dorms. They are basic but weatherproof and located in the most spectacular spots. They have showers and bathrooms.

For the rest of the trip, you will be staying in smaller 4* properties, sometimes 3*, locally owned with character and personality in great locations. It is therefore, on the whole, a very comfortable level of accommodation that you will experience, just with the refugios in there to allow you to get close to the beautiful Torres del Paine massif.

Full details of the accommodation we use are on our detailed itinerary. Call for a copy.

Level of culture

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.

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.

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

Departs

This is a small group holiday leaving on set dates between October and March each year.

1 November 2015 - £3,785

3 February 2016 - £3,785

Next steps...

Contact us today to start planning your own personal adventure

01273 676712

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

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  • Day 1 - Ten traditional Chilean dishes you must try
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  • Day 3 - Visiting Torres del Paine, four different ways
  • Day 4 - Chile's animals & how to tell a guanaco from a llama
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Looking out over Lago Pehoe, Torres del Paine Looking out from Cerro Santa Lucia in Chile's capital, Santiago Standing on the edge of the Atacama desert Old Inca pathways lead down through the mountains to Rio Granda Dawn steam at the Tatio Geysers Standing high on top of Toco Volcano in the Atacama Desert Walking across the lagoons of the Atacama Salt Flats The old pier in Puerto Natales Zodiac ride into Torres del Paine along the Rio Serrano Mountains and glacier reflected in Glacier Grey The beautiful viewpoint of Glacier Grey in Torres del Paine The W path leading across Torres del Paine The path along Valle Ascencio towards the Torres A perfect sunrise over the Torres A curious guanaco in Torres del Paine Traditional cueca dance of Chile, performed on the streets of Santiago