Clients on the group flight will usually arrive in the morning. A walking tour of the city tour is organised today (approx. 4 hours), visiting the squares and streets of the colonial centre and the Presidential Palace. We also visit San Cristobal Hill, on which a statue of the Virgin Mary stands. The summit of Cerro San Cristobal offers a birds-eye view of Santiago, the Andean Mountains and the Maipo-Valley. Without a doubt the best viewpoint in the city! If there is time we will also see the wealthy suburbs of the 'Barrio Alto', an area of elegant shops and first class restaurants. Please note that due to the hotel check in time of 2pm and the fact that the group flight tends to arrive fairly early in the morning, it is common for the city tour to be conducted prior to hotel check in. This is decided depending on the wishes of the group. Land Only clients wishing to join the city tour would be advised to be at the hotel around 10 - 11am in order to be collected.
An early transfer takes us from our Santiago hotel northwest of the city to La Campana National Park - named after La Campana Mountain (1,910m/6,267ft). The park encompasses one of the few protected central regions of Chile that still retains its original flora and fauna. It is home to many animal and plant species of Chile's central region which were studied by Darwin in the 19th century. The park was added to the UNESCO World Biosphere list in 1985 due to its wealth of species. The hike leads through an impressive natural forest, with a particular highlight being the palm groves that are found in the northern Ocoa sector of the park. Towards the end of spring, the palms begin to show their yellow blossoms that later cover the ground all around them. During summer, green round fruit grow on the palms that gradually become bright yellow as they ripen. Towards the end of the hike, we reach a view point with a wonderful panoramic vista of the entire valley. Return to Santiago in the evening. We hike for approx. 6km (4 - 5 hours) Level: low/moderate.
Transfer to the airport for our flight southwards (about 4 hours 40 mins) to Punta Arenas in the Magellanes region of Patagonian Chile. After arriving we will take a short walking tour of the town.
A three hour bus journey takes us to Puerto Natales, from where we take a private transfer to the Torres del Paine National Park. Declared a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, Torres del Paine is simply breathtaking! We visit Laguna Azul and from this glacial lagoon we'll enjoy a stunning view of the Torres peaks. Ñandú (a type of large, flightless bird), wild guanaco (similar in appearance to llama), indigenous foxes, and a wide variety of other unique fauna and flora can be observed in the surrounding area. Overnight in Refugio.
During the first couple of hours of today's hike we will climb upwards into the Asencio Valley, stopping occasionally to admire the marvellous views of Lake Nordenskjold and Almirante Nieto Mountain (2,670 m.) behind us. After resting at Refugio El Chileno, we'll continue along the trail for about an hour and a half, passing through an age-old Lenga (Beech) forest and crossing streams to Campamento Torres. Here, we will turn sharply and climb steeply for about an hour up the side of the valley, through a rock-covered glacial moraine, to the 'Base Las Torres' viewpoint. This magnificent spot rewards us with memorable views of Torre Sur, Torre Central, Torre Norte, and Cerro Nido de Condor, before making our return down the mountain side and back to the refugio.
We hike for approx. 18 - 19km (8 hours), reaching a maximum altitude of 1,000 metres. Level: strenuous.
We transfer to the Pudeto area of the park, boarding a catamaran to cross the icy waters of Lake Pehoe. On arrival, our hike begins towards the Grey Glacier taking the beautiful 'Camino de los Vientos' (the Path of Winds). We reach our first viewpoint after around two hours, with the Grey Glacier in the distance and the giant, deep blue icebergs of Lake Grey below. Depending on weather conditions, the route continues to viewpoints where entire sections of the ice wall can often be seen collapsing thunderously into the lake. Overnight in Refugio. We hike for approx. 22km (6 - 8 hours) reaching a maximum altitude of 90 metres. Level: moderate/strenuous (depending on weather conditions).
We set off this morning to hike to the French Valley with the intention of reaching the Italian Camp or the British Camp, depending on the wishes of the group. These names refer to the base camps of famous moutain expeditions that conquered the various rock faces of the Paine Massif. During our hike we should have magnificient views of the French Glacier and see the impressive natural amphitheatre created by the upper valley at the base of the Torres Massif. We hike for approx. 15 - 16km (7 - 8 hours), reaching a maximum altitude of 200 metres. Level: moderate/strenuous (depending on weather conditions).
Shortly after breakfast we return by catamaran across Lake Pehoe and complete a short hike around the Cuernos del Paine viewpoint. We depart the national park today and transfer to Puerto Natales to board a public bus to Punta Arenas. We hike for approx. 6km (2 hours) reaching a maximum altitude of 40 metres. Level: easy.
We take a morning flight to Santiago and then another on to Calama in Northern Chile. This is a long travelling day, that will likely require an early start depending on the flight schedules. On arrival in Calama, we transfer to the town of San Pedro de Atacama, our base to explore the region of the Atacama desert. En route there are spectacular views of the Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountains).
The morning is free to spend at your leisure. In the afternoon, we trek in the Cornizas and Moon Valley. This bizarre lunar landscape is set ablaze with colour at sunset, the strange rock formations framed by the Lincancabur Volcano. We'll stay until the sun goes down to enjoy the array of colours. We hike for approx. 3 - 4 hours reaching a maximum altitude of 2,500 metres. Level: moderate.
Today we drive to the high plateau of the Altiplano, rising to an altitude of 4,500m. Here we see the stunning blue-black twin lagoons Meñiques and Miscanti, edged by a white crust of salt. Wildlife in this area is abundant, with huge numbers of nesting birds (in season) around the lagoons and llamas and vicuñas (relative of the llama) wandering in herds along the hillsides. We visit the small town of Toconao, where the houses, church and bell tower are built from bricks of white volcanic stone. Today's final stop is Chile's largest salt lake, the Salar de Atacama. Rich in minerals, including borax and lithium, it is home to various species of flamingos as well as many other birds. The Laguna Chaxa, part of the Reserva Nacional de los Flamencos, offers a terrific opportunity to get closer to these birds in their natural habitat. In the evening we return to our hotel in San Pedro. We hike for approx. 1.5km (1 hour) reaching a maximum altitude of 4,200 metres. Level: moderate (due to altitude)
This morning you'll have the opportunity to join an early morning optional excursion to the Geysers of El Tatio. El Tatio is situated at 4,500m above sea level on the Altiplano. There are about 40 geysers, thermal wells and fumaroles. The early morning light striking the water and steam that hurls up from the geysers makes for an unforgettable experience. This excursion departs early in the morning and returns to San Pedro around lunchtime. In the late afternoon, our trek takes us into the Valle de la Muerte (the Valley of Death), a barren landscape of rocks and dunes, where we are able to climb to the top of a dune! We then reach the Pucará de Quitor, a fortress built after the disintegration of the mysterious and powerful Tiwanaku Empire in Bolivia around 1000 AD, where we will discover the terraces of the rocks. A short walk to the top clearly shows the strategic location above the valley. Later we walk back to San Pedro. We hike for approx. 6km (3 - 4 hours) reaching a maximum altitude of 2,500 metres. Level: medium.
We transfer to Calama for our flight back to Santiago. For those on group flights, these will connect back to the UK. Arrangements for land only clients will end at Santiago airport.