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Flying under the radar of Chile's 'big hitters' at the far ends of the country, this journey still takes in some eye popping scenery alongside genuine cultural engagement. Travel from smoking, snowy volcanoes to the rugged Pacific coast, via monkey puzzle trees and abundant vines at a more relaxed pace.
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Arrive in Chile and settle into your hotel to rest after your journey and begin exploring this lively capital. You are collected for the transfer to your comfortable hotel to relax and freshen up. This afternoon is yours to relax and recover from your journey, and see something of the city. Note that international flights are quoted separately for this trip.
Your private guide collects you this morning for the drive out through the Casablanca and Curacavi valleys to the historic port of Valparaiso. There’s history at every corner in ‘Valpo,’ tangibly so in the creaking century-old funiculars which carry you up into the hills above the city. It's also perhaps the most colourful place in Chile, from the traditional bright pastels of the houses, to the abundant modern street art. Return to Santiago later via a stop in one of our favourite Casablanca wineries.
Fly south to Puerto Montt, where your guide takes you to the nearby forest of ancient alerce trees to stretch your legs and introduce you to the area. Afterwards you collect your 4x4 and head to your beautiful accommodation, set on the peaceful lakeshore a short drive from the town of Puerto Varas. This afternoon you might like to explore some of the area: Petrohué Falls are pretty and popular, meaning it's best to visit late in the day when the crowds have departed.
Today is yours to explore the area at your own pace. There are many options for hiking, with the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park perhaps the most obvious choice. Equally you could choose for a more relaxed day driving a loop around the lake. For more active pursuits, the region is something of an adventure playground, with water sports in particular well represented: there’s good freshwater and sea kayaking, as well as white water rafting.
Begin your journey north today with the drive to the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve. En route you might like to take a detour to the hot springs at Puyehue. Your next accommodation consists of a beautiful though rustic cabin, tucked in the forest. Settle in this afternoon and plan your activities for the coming days, before relaxing in the hot tub on your private deck later, listening to the sounds of the river running past below you.
During your time here you have a choice of excursions, which are suitable for a wide range of energy levels. You might like to start by hiking up to the three main waterfalls in the area: Huilo Huilo, La Leona and El Puma, or head out with a guide to learn about the precious Valdivian rainforest in which you're staying. For a more active option, head up the road to enjoy some thrilling rafting on the waters of the Río Fuy.
Another day to explore the area. For a fairly challenging walk, a hike on the Mocho-Choshuenco Volcano is a great option. There are few places where you can breakfast in the rainforest before hiking on a glacier and getting back in time for a late lunch in the rainforest! It’s also possible to summit the volcano with a strenuous hike up through beech forest to the peak at over 2,400m. After your efforts you could enjoy a soak in one of the spa's several pools.
With today being the longest drive of your trip, we’d suggest a fairly early start, as you continue north. Near Los Angeles it's around an hour along an unpaved road to the compact national park of Nahuelbuta. You have a choice of trails of varying lengths, though in any case you will want to head up to the ‘Piedra del Aguila’ (‘Eagle’s Stone’) for the best views. Looking out over a blanket of monkey puzzle trees, on a clear day you can see all the way to the Pacific Ocean and the Andes to the east.
Change environments today as you head up into the agricultural heartland of the Maule region, staying at a friendly farmhouse a few minutes from the Pacific coast. The sleepy town of Chanco gives you an insight into rural Chilean life, but it's also somewhere that you can eat really, really well. The microclimate here allows everything from apples to papayas to grow, while the town is famous for its cheeses and meats. With the Pacific on the doorstep, the quality of ingredients is outstanding.
After an excellent breakfast, you might like to take a short drive along the coast this morning to explore quiet fishing villages such as Curanipe, and walk along seemingly endless beaches. Return to the farmhouse in time for lunch, traditionally the main meal here, which will be fresh and tasty with whatever is in season locally. This isn't fine dining, but if you appreciate high quality food, simply prepared, then you are in for a real treat.
It's not far to your next stop, so we suggest a diversion to take you up into the Siete Tazas National Park. Named for the 'Seven Cups' formed by successive waterfall pools, the park is little-visited in the main, so you can enjoy peaceful walks through the forest with wonderful views over valleys and cascades. Continue to your next stop later, a charming guesthouse in the midst of the Curico vineyards owned and run by a star chef.
Chile, famously, has numerous wine producing regions traversing the country, and here you are ideally placed to explore the Valleys of both Curico and Colchagua, possibly the most famous. Aside from vineyard visits and tastings, you could ride bikes or horses through the vines, while if you like your cooking, perhaps take advantage of your host's expertise and sign up for a cooking class. Equally, you can simply enjoy the fruits of her labours!
Make your way north of the capital to your final stop, a genteel town perched on the hillside overlooking the Pacific Coast. Your drive today should take around four hours out to the coast to pretty and peaceful Zapallar. Far, far less developed than glitzy Vina del Mar to the south, Zapallar is an elegant town, better suited to strolling than driving. The town has a fairly sheltered beach, and while the water is usually pretty fresh, if the weather’s warm a dip is not out of the question.
Spend the day relaxing by the coast, walking along rocky coves and tucking into world class seafood. Heading up into the forested hills behind your hotel, you can reach a mirador for excellent views along the coastline and over the water. There are a couple of decent restaurants on the waterfront for your final night in Chile, so this evening you can enjoy top notch fish and seafood, which you can enjoy with a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc as the sun sets over the ocean.
Drive back to the airport at Santiago, where you drop off your hire car and check-in for your flight home. Again, international flights are quoted separately for this trip.
You don’t have to go to the far ends of the world’s longest country to find world-class scenery: snow-capped volcanoes, expansive, deep lakes, thundering waterfalls and the dramatic Pacific coast. Which of course leads to some stunning walking – to say nothing of the other activities on offer - kayaking, horse riding, white water rafting for instance.
It’s certainly not all about frenetic activity though. From discovering the birdlife and flora of the precious Valdivian rainforests of Huilo Huilo, to strolling along Zapallar’s beach as the sun sets, there’s more than enough to keep you happily occupied if you prefer more relaxed pursuits.
Alongside the breathtaking scenery, this trip gives you the opportunity for a glimpse into parts of Chile, and Chilean life, which most visitors will never experience. With a combination of expert local guiding and our local information for the self-guided days, this is a unique exploration of central-southern Chile, on and off the beaten track.
This holiday is a carefully chosen combination of places which offer outstanding walking, wine/gastronomy and relaxation. It is for the most part self-guided - you explore with your rental car - so ultimately you choose the level of activity that you want. The places you visit on this trip can be explored in a relatively non-active way or you can be very active on almost every day of the journey.
The suggested itinerary is primarily based around walking, although you can make things more adventurous with horse riding, mountain biking and white water rafting available in both Puerto Varas and in Huilo Huilo. As seems to be increasingly popular these days, you’ll also come across some newer activities such as zip lining and stand-up paddle boarding, while surfing is always a popular option off the Pacific coast.
We can and do tailor this trip to you, but to get the most out of it, we assume you want to spend as much time as you can in the great outdoors, from the misty Valdivian rainforests of Huilo Huilo to the monkey puzzle forests of the Nahuelbuta National Park or the Pacific coastline at Curanipe and Zapallar. Being able to walk for at least a few hours at a time will mean you have the best possible experience.
The accommodation on this journey is picked primarily for its charm and the warmth of the welcome you receive. These are small, locally-owned, in fact usually family-run, hotels and inns which we have chosen carefully from our personal visits. From the home stay comfort of Chanco to being perched on the shore of Lake Llanquihue, we have chosen places which best reflect their surroundings. Sometimes that means a bed and breakfast type place, at others a more formal small hotel.
You should note that on some of the more remote stops on this trip, such as Los Angeles and (to a lesser extent) Huilo Huilo, not all staff will speak good English. As is so often the case however, a smile and a gesture go a long way; you can expect locals to be genuinely pleased you are there.
In terms of the driving, we provide you with a good quality 4x4, which will come in handy around the more remote edges of your route. Generally driving times and distances aren't excessive, and much of the roads are well paved. For much of the year you'll also find very little traffic for the most part, though you should expect things to be busy in many places in January-February.
While the landscapes and activities are the most obvious elements in this holiday, the cultural aspect gives it all colour and meaning. Chile is a country made up largely of a mestizo population, which is to say that indigenous populations and Spanish colonists mixed from the start.
The largest defined cultural group in Chile are the Mapuche. It is through the Mapuche lands that you travel over the course of the first week or so of this holiday. As you move on up through the Chilean lakes, from Puerto Varas towards Los Angeles, you are travelling in Mapuche lands. In recent years the Mapuche have reasserted their cultural heritage so there is more evidence of traditional crafts, food, and language than was previously the case. Around this area there are various ethno-tourism sites you can visit for greater insights into your surroundings.
Further north you are very much into the Central Valley, where the culture on show is viticulture; some of the finest wines in Chile originate from the vineyards to the south of Santiago where you stay. It’s not just wine though, throughout this holiday, the food is a notable and delightful highlight. Chile is blessed with remarkable natural resources - from the green grazing land of the foothills of the Andes to the endless expanse of the Pacific to the incredibly fertile Central Valley. The combination of produce includes everything from cool climate staples to tropical fruits, mountain-cured meats and cheeses to the freshest seafood. Buen provecho!
The holiday price is a guideline based on two people sharing, and includes accommodation, days of private excursions or shared guides as described in our detailed itinerary. It also includes full size 4x4 vehicle rental with basic insurance for one driver, internal flights, private transfers, and local information. 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.
For a more detailed description of the holiday, please contact us and we can send you our detailed pdf itinerary.
Whilst domestic flights from Santiago to the Lake District are included in the price, international flights are quoted separately. Best flight routings are to fly in and out of Santiago (airport code: SCL). Expect to pay between £600 – £800pp for flights except in peak periods.
Departs any day to suit you, between October and April
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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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