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The fearless wildlife of the Galapagos Islands have nothing at all in common with the wide open ski slopes of Chile’s Valle Nevado resort, and that’s why we love this particular cross-border holiday.
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Fly overnight to Chile's capital, Santiago. For journeys involving Valle Nevado ski resort, this will usually be a Thursday to land on a Friday - their check-in day. Depending on the time of the season, they can be more or less flexible with check-in days and length of stay. Please note: international flights are quoted separately for this holiday.
Your flight will land at around 9am. From here you are driven the 40km or so through Santiago and straight up the mountain side to Valle Nevado. At night in the resort, you look down on the lights of the city - it's that close. Have lunch in one of the restaurants and head straight out onto the slopes to blow away the cobwebs. The resort is spread out over the crest of the mountains, all above the tree line.
Valle Nevado provides you with a good sized playground: 40km miles of slopes and runs (22,000 acres) serviced by 11 lifts. The runs break down as 12% beginner, 70% intermediate/ advanced, 18% expert. The highest elevation of the resort is 12,000ft with a vertical drop of nearly 3,000ft. The snowboarding at Valle Nevado is excellent, the world championship regularly visits.
Valle Nevado is connected to two other resorts – La Parva and El Colorado to make up the full Tres Valles ski area (additional lift pass payable). In total this is over 100km of runs plus a lot of very accessible off-piste. El Colorado is generally considered the least good of the ‘tres valles’ (Nevado, Parva, Colorado) La Parva is probably the best – you may well want to buy an extension to your lift pass to allow you to ski all of these areas.
All there is at Valle Nevado are the three hotels and some apartments, all set around the bottom lift so nothing is more than a couple of minutes' waddle to the pistes. We suggest you stay in the 4* hotel as it's the best price/quality ratio of the three. Wherever you stay, you can dine at any of the 8 restaurants on site. Dinners are included as well as breakfasts though lunch is on your own.
If you are an advanced skier/boarder, Valle Nevado has amongst the best value heli-skiing in the world. For boarders, there is a snow park at Valle Nevado including various jumps, slides and a half-pipe built to host world cup events. In short, there is lots to enjoy here.
Keep on enjoying your surroundings with a full day on the piste. One of the treats of Chile, particularly high up in the Andes, are the night skies. With so little light pollution, the canopy of stars on a clear night is absolutely stunning.
Make the most of your time as it's your last day here in the Andes.
Transfer down off the mountain to catch your flight up to Guayaquil on Ecuador’s Pacific coast, arriving late this evening. It's a short drive to your very comfortable hotel in the heart of the city. You are now in a sub-tropical environment so the contrast from the previous week should be suitably dramatic. The seafood here is very good if you are looking to explore for dinner.
Today is free to explore Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second city, although it has a considerably larger population than the capital, Quito. Although a busy commercial hub, the city is actually lovely to explore. In particular you should walk to the small Bolivar park in the centre which is incongruously densely populated with Galapagos iguanas. From there walk to the lovely waterfront promenade, the Malecon, which is a splendid way to walk to the old part of the city.
The Galapagos are around 600 miles off mainland Ecuador so the flight takes a good couple of hours. Meet your guide who takes you to board your chosen boat. After lunch, set sail the short distance to North Plaza where you walk close to the fearless wildlife: Sally Lightfoot crabs, sea lions and land iguanas. Note that here we describe a representative week in the islands rather than a specific boat's itinerary. Different boats follow different routes.
Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station first thing today to learn about its amazing breeding, conservation and education programs. Given how long they live, breeding these tortoises is a lifetime's work! After lunch, drive to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island to an area where giant tortoises live. Walk amongst these lumbering giants to get an appreciation of how enormous they are.
Start today with a landing on ‘sea lion beach’, so called because, all along the sands are sea lions basking in the sun. Wander along the beach and enjoy watching them play in the surf, this is also your first chance to get into the water and have a swim alongside them. Return for lunch on board and an hour or so navigation to the next landing site on the west of the island which is famous for its wonderful marine birdlife.
Cross Floreana Island by foot to enjoy the somewhat incongruous sight of flamingoes feeding in a lagoon before coming to a sandy beach where you can spot rays and sea turtles. Return to the boat mid-morning to go snorkelling at the distinctive Devil’s Crown crater offshore. This afternoon land at Post Office bay to hear how this informal sailors' postal system has worked for hundreds of years - it's still very effective!
Isabela island is the largest of the Galapagos, there is amazing species diversity. Today you will explore on foot, by boat and swimming in the water. You might see sea lions in a mangrove tree or penguins swimming alongside sea turtles. Marine iguanas sharing a rock with a blue-footed booby. These are things that you can experience nowhere else in the world so enjoy it.
Start today with a walk on Isabela Island to see if you can see giant tortoises. You will almost certainly see land iguanas along the way. Return to the beach to swim or snorkel directly offshore possibly with rays, sea turtles and sharks.For those of you less inclined to swim, you can take time to simply relax and read a book on the beach. This afternoon discover the marine iguanas and flightless cormorants of Fernandina Island.
Walk along the coastline of Santiago Island to see Galapagos fur seal basking in pools along the shoreline. There is time for snorkelling at the end of the walk, through a reef which has some of the best and most varied marine life of the week. This afternoon, sail to the lava mound of Bartolomé. Here you climb 365 wooden steps to the top of the island - for the views.
Get up early this morning to paddle through mangroves in the dawn light. Observe the delicate marine life in the sheltered cove before returning to the boat for breakfast. Disembark at around midday to fly back to the mainland – either to Guayaquil or back to Quito. Depending when your international flights leave, you may need to spend the night on the mainland. Please note: international flights not included.
Two of our favourite things about South America are the mountains and the wildlife. While we mostly walk up them, we also love to ski down – and the Galapagos wins the wildlife prize for every one of us. The fearless wildlife of the Galapagos Islands have nothing at all in common with the wide open ski slopes of Chile’s Valle Nevado resort, and that’s why we love this particular cross-border holiday.
This is intended to be an active trip for those people who enjoy skiing or boarding. Valle Nevado sits well above the tree line just above the capital, Santiago. The piste infrastructure at Valle Nevado is decent, with maximum altitude of 3,670m down to 2,860m. The main part of the resort is at 3,025m so it’s high up here.
The skiable terrain is 900 hectares on 40km of pistes. In addition, the layout of Valle Nevado, spread out over the top of the mountains, means that there is a lot of very good accessible off-piste for those suitably qualified to enjoy it.
Valle Nevado regularly features in the world cup circuit for boarders so there is a snow park and half-pipe to play on. For the most adventurous, the heli-skiing here is said to be amongst the best value anywhere.
Valle Nevado forms part of the Tres Valles (three valleys) system so you can extend your lift pass to ski into the resorts of La Parva and El Colorado, making this the largest skiable terrain in South America, well over 100km of runs.
On this ‘standard’ itinerary we assume that you stay in the 4* hotel of the resort, there is also a fairly basic 3* option and an overpriced 5* choice.
In the Galapagos, wildlife viewing is the main activity. There is some gentle walking though the islands are volcanic which means that you are often walking on quite sharp lava. If you enjoy swimming and snorkeling then you will find some incredible wildlife underwater too.
Levels of comfort vary greatly depending on the boat you choose, if indeed you choose to explore the Galapagos by boat (land based is also an option). There is a wide range of boat accommodation, from small cabins with bunk beds on tourist class sail-boats to balcony suites on premium catamarans. In general, Galapagos boats carry 20 passengers or fewer, which means that cabins tend to be small.
Given the amount of time spent out and about exploring the islands or up on deck looking for wildlife, cabin size is rarely a critical element of your Galapagos holiday.
This standard itinerary is based on a first-class sailboat for 16 passengers with 8 small cabins, mostly bunk bedded, each with en suite bathroom. The deck space is ample making her feel pleasantly airy and spacious in general.
Weather conditions in the Andes are generally stable in mid-winter (July-September). They reckon that 80% of days have clear skies so conditions are often delightful. Being so high, when snow falls, it tends to stay put. The snow also tends to be deep, dry powder. Obviously it is a high mountain ski resort so you will know to expect cold nights but from time to time you will be able to ski in t-shirts during the day.
Temperatures and weather on this trip vary considerably. The Galapagos Islands lie on the equator so temperatures and weather conditions are generally warm and pleasant year round. The water temperature and conditions do vary with colder, choppier waters from June through October giving way to warmer and calmer seas for the rest of the year.
Whilst skiing is not a particularly culturally rich activity, Valle Nevado is popular primarily with Chileans so you should have plenty of opportunity to get to know your host country while up here.
The Galapagos Islands are primarily about the wildlife, though the human history of the islands and the struggles of conservation create a fascinating context for the wildlife. Also, having a week in the company of Ecuadorian crew and an expert guide allows you time to also gain a wider understanding of your host country.
We have a detailed itinerary for this trip, as set out above. If you would like a copy, please get in touch and we can email it over to you.
Saying this, it is trip which we will tailor to you. In order to do this, we really need to discuss your plans with you first so please call.
In the form set out above, this holiday includes flights within South America, 4* hotel accommodation, lift passes for Valle Nevado, a 7-night Galapagos cruise on board Cachalote, transfers, excursions, activities, meals and entrances as set out in 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 into Santiago (airport code: SCL) and out of either Guayaquil (airport code: GYE) or Quito (airport code: UIO).