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Patagonia Uncovered

Highlights of Chilean Patagonia | View photos »

Hike across Torres del Paine and discover the island of Chiloé Grande in the company of guides before you set off to explore the northern section of the Carretera Austral independently. This is an in-depth, tailor made journey thorough Chilean Patagonia’s most beautiful landscapes.

20 day trip described, guide price £5,440pp i

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"Really spectacular"

"Really spectacular"

Just to let you know that everything is going well here. This area is really spectacular and we really love Mallin Colorado - Paula and her team are great, the food here is excellent, we are doing some lovely walks and we are still having wonderful weather so things could not be much better! Brian C

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Sample itinerary

Land in the Chilean capital this morning

Please note that international flights are quoted separately. 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. You’ll be equipped with our local information and tips for the city, including recommendations for some of Santiago’s particularly good restaurants.

Explore Santiago on a private tour

Explore the city on foot in the company of your private guide. Chile’s capital is a thriving modern city, with a lively arts scene, so you might like to pop into a gallery today. 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. Because your hotel is so well located, you will start and end your visit on foot.

Travel into Torres del Paine

Fly south to Patagonia for the drive across the wide open steppes of Patagonia and the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park. The whole journey is very scenic, with plenty of wild birds and wonderful landscapes to be seen. The day ends with your arrival at EcoCamp Patagonia; during the summer late sunsets mean you have plenty of light to admire your surroundings.

Walk the first stretch of the famous 'W' hike

Set off walking today on the first of your days hiking the trails that make up the ‘W’ of Paine. Over the course of the next three days you will walk a path which threads its way between the Paine mountains and the glacial lakes down to your left. Today you have the chance to admire the park’s exquisite flora and fauna, its strong wind and the curious, rapidly changing weather. Spend tonight at Refugio Los Cuernos, a small, basic mountain refuge.

Hike into Valle Francés

Hike a more testing trail today, heading up into the heart of the massif along the French Valley, walking through dwarf beech forest past glaciers crashing down cliff faces. How far you go rather depends on your group but as you reach the top of the trail, you enter dwarf beech forests alive with Austral parrots. The surrounding mountain landscapes and views out over the steppe are spectacular. Overnight in another refugio.

Sail past icebergs and glaciers

Today you set off from Paine Grande along the shores of Lake Pehoe to the northern end of Lake Grey. Walk 11km, 5hrs. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the shores of the lake, admiring the enormous Glacier Grey, hopefully with the occasional view of ice calving off the glacier. After lunch you board a boat that sails along the blue face of the glacier before taking you to the southern end of the lake. Here you are picked up and transferred by road back to the EcoCamp, where your walk started.

Hike to the torres

Set off early today to complete the most famous hike in the park, the Torres del Paine. Walk steadily uphill through the Ascencio Valley. After a long walk through beech forests, crossing rivers, you get to the steep glacial moraine beneath the towers. At the top you have, on a clear day, 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.

Enjoy a relaxed final day in the park

After breakfast at the camp, drive to Laguna Azul, from where you hike to a viewpoint over the lake and the granite towers. Enjoy a delicious lunch with a view before driving to the Fauna Trail to the north of Sarmiento Lake. Walk past an array of fauna on the Patagonian plains including guanacos and ostrich-like ñandús (plus maybe the occasional puma print!). Hike for a relaxed 5km to the Laguna Amarga ranger station, where you are collected for the drive back to Ecocamp.

Travel north to the island of Chiloé Grande

After breakfast at the camp set off by road out of the park, first to Puerto Natales and then to the airport in Punta Arenas. Fly north to Puerto Montt where you are met by your guide for the drive and ferry across the estuary to Chiloé. For centuries this was the southernmost permanent settlement and therefore capital of Patagonia. Your nights are spent as guests of your guide and his family, staying in a charming guest cabin right by the water's edge.

Guided day to discover the wild Pacific coast

Spend this morning getting to know Ancud, the town on the northernmost tip of the island. Explore the museum, market, and small fort – the last Spanish stronghold in all of Chile. From here travel out to the west of the island. It is here on the rugged Pacific coast of the island where Chiloe is at its wildest and most beautiful, a land of empty beaches and coastal forest. Visit the unique penguin colony at Punihuil, the only one in the world where the Humboldt and Magellanic species nest together.

Visit the culturally rich east coast of the island

Today will be spent exploring the “cultural” side of the island; the East Coast’s small villages, fishing towns and secluded bays. The villages here are known for their UNESCO World Heritage churches - testaments to the island’s missionary past. Continue to the regional capital of Castro later, and visit its pretty wooden cathedral (another UNESCO site), and its palafito stilt houses.

Set off driving on the Carretera Austral

Picking up your substantial 4x4 at the airport, set off straight away onto the Carretera Austral as it loops past the Alerce Andino Park towards the ferry at Caleta la Arena. This section takes you past small fishing villages and long black sand beaches. The ferry leaves every 45 minutes during the day and takes around 30 minutes. On a nice day, the trip across the Reloncavi fjord can be quite incredible with views of many volcanoes as well as rich marine life to watch out for.

By boat to the Parque Pumalín

From Hornopirén you continue by ferry to get to Caleta Gonzalo, your stop for the night. The ferry leaves at 11am from the village so you have an hour or two to explore this morning before you need to be in line for the boat. This time you are reserved on the ferry so no need to fear for your space. There should be an hour or two of daylight left when you arrive to have a look around. If you are quick then you might make it around the 6km Cascada Trail to a rather lovely waterfall.

Walking in Parque Pumalín

Today is yours to explore the network of trails which have been created within the park. The Laguna Tronador trail takes you to an area of recuperating alerce forest - a fascinating reminder of just how slow things are in the world of the Andean Larch. Driving just south you Cascadas Escondidas, a short walk to a couple of waterfalls (it rains a lot around here!).

Drive along the Carretera Austral

The distances are not huge today by any means but you should set off reasonably promptly today in order to give yourself time to stop and appreciate the landscapes along the way. Total driving time is likely to be in the order of four hours. As the road pulls away from the coast you see the Corcovado National Park to your right, with a couple of hiking trails you may want to explore - it’s not an easy place to get into but Villa Santa Lucia is the entry point if you can.

Full day to explore the area around Futaleufú

Fú is a strange place - unexpectedly bustling and lively given how remote it is though access from Argentina is easier than it is from Chile. The valley is a mecca for white water enthusiasts who come to raft and kayak what are said to be the largest river waves in the world. The upper part of your lodges land is primary Valdivian rainforest. Without ever leaving the property you can walk, ride bikes, horses, fish and kayak. It is a beautiful spot.

Drive to Puyuhuapi to soak in natural hot springs.

The drive to Puyuhuapi should take around three hours though always with lovely views to enjoy. The town of Puyuhuapi itself is worth visiting as it is famous for its carpets, oddly enough. Perhaps have lunch here before crossing to your hotel. You are collected by your hotel to cross the fjord. Stay in a lodge which has the most wonderful views of the cordillera from the comfort of a natural hot spring. Take time to enjoy your surroundings this afternoon.

Spend today in the Queulat National Park

Crossing back to the ‘mainland’ it is a short drive to the national park entrance. Hike the well marked trails along the valley towards the hanging glacier - an incredible natural amphitheatre crowned with a huge glacier and a waterfall cascading down the sheer cliff face. You can also enjoy the simple pleasures of a soak in the hot springs with views out across the fjord to the peaks of the Andes.

Fly back north to Santiago for the night

The first hour or two of today’s drive is slow going as the road winds up and down through the Queulat National Park. It is one of the most beautiful stretches of the entire route. From here you hit a long stretch of paved road, a treat which lasts as far as the airport just to the south of Coyhaique. Dropping off your vehicle here, catch a late afternoon flight north to Santiago.

Fly home

Return to the airport in time to catch your chosen flight home. International flights are quoted separately for this trip.

About this trip

Summary

Hike across Torres del Paine and discover the island of Chiloé Grande in the company of guides before you set off to explore the northern section of the Carretera Austral independently. This is an in-depth, tailor made journey thorough Chilean Patagonia’s most beautiful landscapes.

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

As a tailor made holiday we can adjust things to suit you prior to your depature. There is also much of this trip where it is up to you to set the pace. During your first week you hike the famously beautiful W route across Torres del Paine. This involves several days of hiking through the National Park. For the hike you have porters to help carry your gear so the walking is graded as moderate. The one day which is very long and potentially tough is the hike up to the Torres themselves.

Up in Chiloé, you set the pace in conjunction with your private guide. There are some beautiful walks, even if only fairly short, they get you up onto the coastal cliffs for views out across the wild Pacific. Once leading yourselves along the Carretera Austral, you are completely free to do as much activity as you want. There are wonderful hiking trails in the Pumalin and Qeulat parks. In Futaleufú there are hiking trails as well as kayaks, mountain bikes, horses and even white water rafts if you like the sound of something more adventurous.

Level of comfort

The accommodation on this trip are very much part of the landscapes through which you travel. Beautifully located and always comfortable, they are not luxurious. For full details of all of our hotels and lodges on this trip, please contact us for a copy of the detailed itinerary.

In Torres del Paine National Park you stay in semi-permanent dome tents, each with their own bathroom, set up against the mountains. This is the most comfortable way to experience Torres del Paine close up. Guides based at the camp lead you walking. Whilst walking the 'W' you spend two nights in mountain refuges which have shared communal facilities and bunk beds in dorm rooms. On Chiloé you stay in a private cabin in the grounds of your hosts' house, it is fairly simple but beautifully located overlooking the estuary.

The hotels and lodges in Aysén have reached a great moment whereby we have a wonderful selection of very high quality small hotels for you to stay in. These are not luxury properties but rather very clean and comfortable owner run places where the welcome is as warm as you’ll find anywhere in the world. You should expect 3-4* standard, but given how remote all of these places are, that generally feels very comfortable indeed. For specific hotels we use on this trip, please see summary section of our detailed itinerary pdf. These are the best small hotels and lodges in each place. Note that your accommodation in Hornopirén is very much simpler.

The holiday can run from late September through to early/mid-April during which time, in Patagonia, daytime temperatures will be 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! Expect it all – from rain to wind to sun to snow. Nights tend to be cool, verging on cold. A clear, cloudless night in Patagonia may be just a few degrees but you won’t notice too much – you will be looking up at the stars!

Level of culture

This holiday has a huge amount of cultural interaction and discovery.

In Torres del Paine you stay in what is effectively a seasonal tented lodge. The staff are very largely drawn from around the local community though Patagonia does tend to attract many from further afield in Chile – you will understand why when you see the place. It is these guides who help introduce you to your surroundings, both physical and human. Dinners at camp are served in a dining tent/dome which allows for great interaction with other guests as well as the guiding staff.

The island of Chiloé Grande, itself very distinctive within Chilean culture. As the last outpost of the Jesuits, it developed in isolation from the mainland to some extent. When blended with the very traditional fishing cultures and a very rich regional folklore, it makes for a rather weird and wonderful place. Though physically rather reminiscent of parts of Ireland, that’s where the similarities end. Whilst here you are hosted by a particularly charming couple who can gently introduce you to the joys of Chile.

Everywhere you go on the Carretera Austral you will see evidence of very simple rural living. Small brightly painted houses in the most incredible surroundings – often with the windows facing the road rather than the million dollar view out back. People carry unfeasibly large loads of wood up the walkways of Tortel. Maté is the daytime drink of choice.

Practicalities

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.

Ultimately though, this is a tailor made trip so we would love to have time to talk to you in order to send the most appropriate proposal to you.

It might be that the holiday is perfect as it is (we are very proud of it) but equally, you might need a shorter trip or want to see the Atacama Desert or Chilean wineries, or any number of other things which we can neatly tie together for you. We are here to help you make the perfect trip.

In the form set out above, the holiday price includes all accommodation, many meals, internal flights and transport, guided activities, excursions and entrances as well as a rental 4x4 from Puerto Montt to Coyhaique fully inclusive of all insurances. 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. Best flight routings are to fly in and out of Santiago (airport code: SCL).

Departs

Departs on a date to suit you, from October through April.

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
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A curious guanaco in Torres del Paine The skyline of Santiago de Chile The lively barrio of Concha y Toro in Santiago Eco Camp Hikers walking to Los Cuernos The W path leading across Torres del Paine Mountains and glacier reflected in Glacier Grey A perfect sunrise over the Torres Guanacos grazing at Laguna Azul Heading to the shore from the door of La Casita The empty Pacific beaches of Chiloé Grande Palofito houses on the estuary in Castro, Chiloé Puyuhuapi Lodge in Chilean Patagonia Closer shot of condor flying over the estancia The Chilean flag