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Walk amongst the silent sand dunes and rusting copper mines of Chile's lesser-visited northern deserts and tackle the turquoise lakes and creaking glaciers of Patagonia. Part self-drive, part guided tour to Chile and Argentina, made personal to you.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss a tailor-made itinerary
On arrival you'll be met by your guide to drop off your bags at your downtown hotel, freshen up and head out to get to know some of Chile's buzzing capital. Later, if it’s clear, and you’re looking to stretch your legs, head up Cerro San Cristóbal near your hotel for lovely views over the city and surrounding mountains. Please note: international flights are quoted separately for this holiday.
Fly north to a beautiful and lesser-visited part of Chile's Atacama Desert. You'll be met by your guide and head across the wide-open desert to a wonderfully welcoming hotel, tucked away in a fertile valley. During September and October the desert should be in full bloom, adding a sense of drama. After a dip in the pool and bite to eat, drive out into the 300 square km ‘Sea of Dunes’, gaining stunning views across the endless expanse. End with a toast as you watch the sun setting.
Defined by mining, to understand this region of Chile you must know its culture and today allows you to do just that with three mine visits. Start with the most famous mining story in modern times - the 2010 rescue of 33 miners from the San José copper mine after 70 days trapped underground. You might even meet miner 11, Jorge Galleguillos, who sometimes shows visitors around. At certain times of year it's possible to head down to the coast - December through February is the season for fin, minke, humpback and even blue whales.
Today is one of incredible variety as you travel up to the highest of the high Andes and onto the Altiplano. With stops throughout the day, it is hard to know what your highlight will be. From the dramatic desert valleys to the summer pastures rich with birds and spectacular fossil beds, even before you cross the high pass, you will have seen lots of variety. Salt flats, turquoise lagoons, hot springs and herds of vicuña await and at times you are hemmed in by six peaks of over 6,000m.
Today is free for you to structure as you wish. You could arrange a guide to take you into the Nevado Tres Cruces national park or out to the coast. If you're here in September or October, you could also head out to explore the most incredible carpet of flowers covering mile after mile of the lowland desert. Your hotel has a lovely pool, with views of the nearby mountains, whilst Copiapó itself is eminently Chilean in character. As you're in the desert, you have spectacular night skies to enjoy too.
Today will bring a dramatic change in scenery as you swap the deserts of the north for the wilds of Patagonia. After breakfast, dust off the sand from your boots and head to the airport with your guide, flying back to the capital and then changing planes to continue on to Punta Arenas, capital of the Magallanes region. Pick up your 4x4, which will be yours for the next two weeks, and go for a stroll in the city should you wish.
It's not every day that you get to wander round at the end of the earth, so we give you time to soak in the surroundings. If you're feeling energetic, there are some lovely walks to be done around Cabo Froward, an hour or so from the hotel by road. Walk along the shorefront to the lighthouse of San Isidro, with lovely views across the Strait of Magellan. As always, we provide detailed walking notes.
Your first drive is a long, but beautiful one as you head into Argentina. Before you cross the border you might like to stop in the little-known Pali Aike National Park. The volcanic rock formations are tinted all manner of wonderful colours by the minerals found here. Skirt around the edges of the shimmering Argentina and Viedma lakes en route to the small frontier village of El Chaltén, at the foot of the spectacular Cerro Fitzroy.
The exact content of the day is flexible, your guide will be able to adjust the route according to your mood and energy levels. Our favourite walk leads below the granite walls of the Fitzroy massif and up to Laguna de Los Tres. The lake is a wonderful turquoise blue colour and sits at the foot of the massif, offering close up views of the spires as they rise up from the surrounding glaciers. Fitzroy is considered one of the most beautiful mountains on Earth.
Spend another day exploring at your own pace. There are many self-guided trails you can follow or you could drive further up the valley to visit the impressive Lago del Desert. Whichever way you choose to go, the birdlife in particular is fantastic and the scenery unforgettable. Return to your comfortable hotel for a final night in El Chalten.
It's a shorter drive today to a beautiful estancia, set in 12,000 hectares of mountains and nature on the shores of the Lago Argentino. This is a working sheep and cattle farm that has been owned by the same family for four generations, and they open their arms to travellers with a warm welcome. As well as visiting the nearby Perito Moreno Glacier, your time here can be spent walking self-guided trails, horseback riding, watching and interacting with the gauchos.
The day begins at the estancia at first light and finishes at dusk, so you can really get stuck in with the gauchos and experience their rural lifestyle first hand if you wish. In terms of walking, the network of trails in and around the estancia provides you with hours of walking time, so if you haven't already, you might like to head out on one of the paths. Drive out to the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of only three in Patagonia which is not retreating. Arriving later in the day, or first thing in the morning, helps you avoid the crowds.
Cross back into Chile to reach your comfortable lodge on the edge of Torres del Paine. The bulk of your day is spent behind the wheel, first skirting back alongside Lago Argentina and then driving through wide open landscapes and beneath seemingly endless skies on Argentina's Ruta 40. Your destination is a comfortable farmhouse hotel, just outside the eastern edge of the park. Having your car will help you balance Paine's better-known sights with walks in some of the quieter corners.
There's no shortage of walks to choose from here. If you want to stretch yourself, you could take on the most famous hike in the park - the Torres del Paine. Walk steadily uphill through the Ascencio Valley and through beech forests, crossing rivers, to get to the steep glacial moraine beneath the towers. On a clear day at the top you have wonderful views of the small lake, glacier and towers beyond. The famous Torres reach 2,900m, three gigantic granite monoliths, the remains of a great cirque sheared away by the forces of glacial ice.
After breakfast drive across the park and into the western sector of Torres del Paine, stretching your legs with a walk en route. You will likely see a high number of roaming guanacos, possibly some foxes, an armadillo if you're fortunate and, if your luck is really in, maybe even a puma. For the next two nights you stay in a hotel just outside the western boundary, with amazing views of the mountains.
Today is flexbile but you might like to walk through dwarf beech forests to a spectacular viewpoint over Glacier Grey. At the beach you might be treated to the sight of icebergs floating close to shore. Another option is take a boat trip up to the surface of the glacier, hopefully seeing huge chunks of ice calving into the lake. There are also routes in the southern foothills of the park, as well as others to waterfalls and viewpoints over the main mountain massif.
There's a variety of lovely hikes in the south-western corner of the park, near your lodge. One of these is the steep hike up to the viewpoint at the top of the Mirador Ferrier. From up here, there are views across the lakes towards the Paine massif, most notably the distinctive black peaks of the Cuernos. There is also a short, busier, trail to the waterfalls at Salto Grande for one of the iconic views of the park. End tonight in your comfortable hotel in the small town of Puerto Natales.
After breakfast you'll be driving south, completing your loop back to Punta Arenas. The drive should take you around four hours. Hand in the keys and fly back up to the capital, where you can head out for a celebratory meal and to raise a glass of wine to your travels.
Having trod your way up sand dunes, below granite peaks and alongside epic glaciers it's time to pack up and head for home today as you're picked up by your guide and driven to the airport. Hopefully this selection of trip highlights has whetted your appetite, so if you'd like to read a more detailed PDF itinerary or have us tailor something to you, please do get in touch in whatever way suits below.
Note: This is just an itinerary idea and we'll therefore tailor everything to you.
This trip has you out in the great outdoors, with your boots on, most days. That said, having your own guide in the Atacama and your own set of wheels in Patagonia means that you can set the pace on most days.
Up in the Atacama, your guide leads you on explorations into the surrounding areas. The walks up to the ridges in the Sea of Dunes are somewhat strenuous, but mercifully short. As you head up into the high Andes, the altitude gradually rises, making walking more challenging. Your guide will adapt the day to suit your energy levels though.
The key down in Patagonia is that your time is not particularly structured, leaving you the option of a more relaxed day should your legs demand it. Having said that, in Paine and El Chaltén, we encourage you to undertake some of the longer walks, to reach some of the most dramatic and beautiful scenery. The Torres hike in Paine is approximately 18km in total, Laguna de los Tres to Fitz Roy is 25km. There are many shorter trails to follow though.
As a tailormade tour, we expect to tinker with the itinerary to get it just right for you. That might mean more, or less, time or perhaps you want to weave in a bit of the Carretera Austral as well. Ultimately, the best thing to do is to just let us know what you're looking for and we can have a chat through your different options to find the one that suits you.
This is a tailor made trip leaving any day between late September and early April each year. In September and October the dramatic flowering desert should be bringing this part of Atacama to life, making for some spectacular scenery. December through February is prime whale watching season on the coast south of Copiapó. If visiting in these months it is likely we would recommend restructuring your time to begin here, before later moving inland to the Sea of Dunes, copper mines and Altiplano. For more detailed information, take a look at our when to visit Chile section.
The price is per person based on two people sharing and includes:
First-class accommodation with breakfast and some lunches and dinners
Private airport transfers
Full-size 4x4 vehicle rental for two drivers with full insurance
Guiding, activities, entrances and excursions as described
Chile Holiday Guide with personal recommendations
Chile driving guide
Pura’s expertise, local contacts, support and advice throughout
International flights are quoted separately for this holiday. Best routing is into and out of Santiago (SCL).
Throughout this trip you stay in very comfortable, not overly fancy, accommodations. In Santiago you can expect high quality, well-equipped hotels, which offer good facilities and are well located.
Up in the Atacama you stay far away from the region's main tourist centre in San Pedro. By comparison, it feels much calmer and more welcoming, before you've even stepped into your lovely hotel. You're also basically at sea level when you sleep here, so there's no altitude to contend with. A large comfortable bed, a big bathroom, chimney fire and a private terrace await. The restaurant is top notch too. The price you pay for such comfort is that the music choice can be a bit misguided at times.
In Paine, you stay in a couple of very comfortable but not luxurious small hotels/lodges on the edge of the park.
For more detail on the accommodation, please get in touch to request a full itinerary.
By basing you away from the tourist centre of San Pedro, we can share a very special part of the Atacama where few tourists visit. As well as easing the burden on oft-overcrowded places like the Moon Valley and Tatio Geysers, our approach provides an income for hoteliers, guides, drivers and restaurateurs that see little of the tourist dollar. Indeed, when we visited one of the most remote lagoons of the High Andes, our guide told us that we were visitor number 80 or so. The wonderful part is, that you don't have to sacrifice. Swapping crowded areas for silent sand dunes, flowering deserts, rusty copper mines and high altitude lagoons is a win for everyone.
In Patagonia we use our vast experience to find imaginative ways to take you to some of the lesser-visited parts of Torres del Paine, easing the load on the busier areas. In Argentina you have a direct line to the gaucho lifestyle, with the opportunity to get stuck into the daily tasks and share their ways of life.
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