View of mountains and lake side in Patagonia best of Chile

Best of Chile Discover the very best of Chile’s three iconic and starkly contrasting landscapes on this 12-day tour

Your journey at a glance

Embark on an unforgettable 12-day journey through three of Chile’s most contrasting landscapes. Your adventure kicks off in the Atacama Desert, in the north of Chile, the driest, most desolate and arid in the world. The Andean Altiplano will surprise you with its dramatic and exotic beauty. San Pedro de Atacama, a small town surrounded by impressive natural scenery, was the cradle of ancestral cultures. Considered today to be the archaeological capital of Chile, San Pedro continues to be a silent witness of the passage of time. The geological transformations of the desert give birth to ranges, volcanoes, salt flats and lagoons, bodies of water that emerge in the middle of the desert, thermal pools, geysers and marshes. A varied array of flora and fauna has managed to adapt to the extreme conditions of the desert such as llamas, guanacos, vicuñas, foxes, viscachas, rheas and lizards.

The next leg of your adventure will take you to spellbinding Santiago. The Chilean capital is today a modern, sprawling and vibrant metropolis that is flanked on one side by the Andes mountain range, and the Coastal range on the other. It is here that you can enjoy a series of tours that range from historical and cultural explorations to specific excursions centred on food, architecture and art.

After exploring the vibrancy of Santiago, you will head to the awe-inspiring beauty of  Patagonia. Over 500 years after the arrival of the first European seafarers in Patagonia, the words to describe it are the same: exotic, faraway, vast, infinitely beautiful, wild, and indomitable. Situated in the heart of the National Park, the Torres del Paine Mountains are one of the main attractions of that region and an icon of Chilean Patagonia. The immensity of the ice floes, the majesty of the mountains and the expanse of the lakes are a constant source of wonderment. The Torres del Paine National Park’s habitat blends together a wide array of ecosystems, making it a treasure for Chilean wildlife.

What to expect …

Flight to Calama Day 1

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On arrival at Santiago’s International Airport you will be warmly welcomed by a member of the &Beyond team, who will assist you through passport control and baggage claim and assist with your connecting flight to Calama.

Transfer to Atacama Desert Day 1

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You will be collected inside the arrivals hall at Calama airport and led to a waiting vehicle. You will then drive to the fabulous Awasi Atacama lodge, located approximately 90 minutes away.

Spend four nights at Awasi Atacama Lodge Day 1 - 5

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Awasi is situated inside an ancient site surrounded by a historic wall, which for years housed shepherds and herders. Its privileged location just a stone’s throw from the center of town makes it possible to enjoy “town life”, visiting the church, the museum, the markets, the picturesque local stores, and also get to know the people. The hotel has only eight rooms built of stone, adobe and wood, with thatched roofs. Their ample spaces of more than 60 m² (646 sq ft), with comfortable lounge chairs, large bathrooms opening out onto private open-air patios with solarium and showers are really unique, designed for relaxation, privacy and a well-deserved rest. During the day the thatched roofs let warm sunlight filter through. The pool with comfortable deck chairs invites you to enjoy the Atacama sun and a relaxing space.

At sundown the fire is lit and a bar under the stars celebrates your stay with exquisite delicacies that go down well after a day full of nature. At night, the dim lights allow you to marvel at the superb skies of Atacama. All this together with diligent service that seeks to let you enjoy the essence of each moment. All meals are included at the lodge. The team of dedicated professionals, together with chef Juan Pablo Mardones, have designed a sophisticated menu: a fusion of Altiplano and international food, giving you a taste of new flavors and aromas using typical ingredients of the area which are part of the staples used by the native people: purple potatoes, patasca (a stew made with tripe, veal, potatoes, stewed corn and peppers), quinoa, or chañar (a meaty, sweet fruit from the Chilean chañar or palo verde tree). Wake up every morning to homemade delights and be charmed during the day and night with a menu customized to your personal taste and needs.

Trek across the desert in search of contrasting scenery and harmonious structures Day 2

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After your breakfast you will enjoy one of your three full days to enjoy the myriad excursions available at Awasi, all tailor-made. Excursions are private, exclusive, and are programmed according to your preferences and pace. Your private guide will help you to plan your trips and will accompany you during your stay. You can choose full- or half-day trips. The property offers everything from easy strolls to intense treks for the more adventurous, horse-back riding, bicycle rides, visits to archaeological sites, and visits to the salt flats, Altiplano lagoons or villages hidden among the deep valleys. You can get up at dawn to go and see the geysers and relax in the thermal pools, enjoy bird-watching or an evening astronomic tour. Here are some of the experiences you can organize during your stay at Awasi.

  • Half-Day Atacama History Tour by 4×4 Jeep: This three-hour tour begins with a drive to the Quitor Pukara, an Atacama fortress dating back to 1,000 AD. After ascending the ruins, you will be treated to a privileged view of the Andes Mountains and surroundings. The drive continues to the town of Tulor, one of the first and most important settlements in the Atacama Desert, where you will visit the ruins’ excavation site and the reconstruction of original homes. The tour ends with an optional visit to an archaeological museum.
  • Half-Day Excursion to Toconao and Atacama Salt Flats by 4×4 Jeep: First, you will stop at Toconao town, which is famed for its buildings made of volcanic stone. Here, you can visit the town’s church and crafts market in the main square, before heading to the nearby Jere creek. Afterwards, visit Chaxa Pond, which is a National Reserve at the Atacama Salt Flat, where you can observe flamingos and other native bird species while enjoying views of the surrounding mountain ranging.
  • Full-Day Excursion to Tatio Geyser by 4×4 Jeep: Departing at dawn, you will arrive at the Geothermic Camp of Tatio—underground springs that spray out steam and hot water in intermittent spurts. You will enjoy breakfast while watching the sun rise, observing the landscape and its fumaroles. Afterwards, visit the town of Machuca or stop at the Puritama hot springs for a relaxing dip in naturally heated volcanic pools.
  • Full-Day Excursion to Tara Salt Flat by 4×4 Jeep: Heading towards Bolivia and Argentina, you will first reach two impressive volcanoes: Licancabur Volcano and Juriques Volcano. Continuing on, you will drive through the altiplano where you will sight vicuñas and flamencos before reaching the extraordinary rock formations of Pakana Monk. Following a trail off the paved road, you will arrive at enormous rock cliffs that surround the Tara Salt Flat, where you will have lunch while enjoying a striking view of Lake Tara and its surroundings.
  • Half-Day Hike to Kari Canyon: You will be driven to a lookout point near the lodge, from where you will view the Salt Range before starting on your hike on a narrow trail with a ravine on one side. You will descend down the dunes and walk through Kari Canyon to explore caves, caverns and more. The hike can continue on to Moon Valley if desired.
  • Half-Day Hike to Guatin and Gatchi: You will be taken in 4×4 to Guatin Valley, or “Valley of the Cacti,”starting the hike inside a creek along the Vilcama River. This attraction has an abundance of cacti, various geological formations, small waterfalls, and brooks, keeping the entire hike interesting. After the first hour along the river bed, you will begin walking toward the archaeological site of Gatchi, an old pastoral range.
  • Full-Day Hike to Patos Creek: This five-hour hike begins from the town of Talabre, from where you will follow an old road used by shepherds in the past. On the way, you will cross several ravines and will see ancient cave paintings that depict the lives of shepherds from thousands of years ago. After lunch along a creek, you will reach Patos, which has its own unique history and is home to well-preserved stone constructions.
  • Half-Day Hike to Moon Valley: Especially recommended in the afternoon, so that you can watch the sun set at this place of incredible beauty and solitude, this excursion includes a 3.1-mile hike through abandoned salt mines. You will hike over salt layers, sand dunes and clay before arriving to an impressive dune in the middle of the Salt Range.
  • Half-Day Bike Ride to Cejar: This 11.25-bike ride is entirely flat, though most of the route is on dirt road. The final destination is Cejar, which is comprised of three turquoise lakes, one of which you can swim in; the salt concentration is so high in the lakes that you can easily float. Along the way, you will be treated to beautiful views of three surrounding mountain ranged: the Andes, the Domeyko and the Salt Range.
  • Half-Day Horseback Ride to Death Valley: On this excursion, you will horseback ride for approximately three hours, starting towards the Quitor Oasis on narrow dirt roads and continuing on to Death Valley. Huge clay formations, large dunes and the Salt Range will serve as the backdrop.

Soar over the valley of the Atacama Desert Day 3

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Your first morning will begin early with a transfer to a select spot where you will enjoy a hot air balloon flight of the valley of the Atacama Desert.

Return to your hotel for breakfast and enjoy the myriad excursions available at Awasi over the next three days, all tailor-made. Excursions are private, exclusive, and are programmed according to your preferences and pace. Your private guide will help you to plan your trips and will accompany you during your stay. You can choose full- or half-day trips. The property offers everything from easy strolls to intense treks for the more adventurous, horse-back riding, bicycle rides, visits to archaeological sites, and visits to the salt flats, Altiplano lagoons or villages hidden among the deep valleys. You can get up at dawn to go and see the geysers and relax in the thermal pools, enjoy bird-watching or an evening astronomic tour.

Explore the Atacama Desert aboard a steady bike or a sure steed Day 4

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Explore the arid desert on horseback or cycle along dedicated paths and routes that allow travellers to fully appreciate the vast openness and isolation of the Atacama Desert. Awaken with the rising sun and marvel at the beautiful scenery on a half day, four to six hour bike trek to Cejar, with some of the areas forming part of Los Flamencos National Reserve. The mostly flat, dirt road route begins at the acclaimed Salt Flats and concludes at the briny Laguna Cejar, a sink hole lake in the Salar de Atacama. These saline water plains comprise of three deep turquoise coloured lakes, gruffly caked with thick salt crusts around distinct watering holes. Only one of the turquoise lakes can be used for swimming and languid bathing, due to high salt concentrations that allow you to float along the surface, incapable of sinking or drowning. Along the way, you will be treated to unexampled views of three surrounding mountain ranges; the mighty, snow-capped Andes that dominate the continent, the ruddy, mineral infused Domeyko, and the massive, stressed Salt Range.

Half day horseback rides to Death Valley lasts approximately three hours, starting towards the Quitor Oasis on narrow dirt roads and continuing on to Death Valley, sporting huge sand hills with narrow sand edges. Huge clay formations, large dunes and the Salt Range will serve as the backdrop for this excursion. In the evenings, fires are lit and impromptu bars are set up under the open sky to celebrate your stay in the Atacama Desert. Savour exquisite delicacies that are eagerly accepted after a day full of adventure in the sun. At night, the dim surrounding lights act as a guide, allowing you to unwind under the superb velvet sky of the Atacama Desert, awash with glimmering stars, shadows in the distance, and absolute, glorified silence.

Flight to Santiago Day 5

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After breakfast, you will leave the lodge and drive to Calama airport for the flight to Santiago.

Spend two nights at The Singular Santiago Day 5 - 7

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Upon arrival to Santiago you will be met at the gate, and led to your waiting vehicle for the short drive into the city and your hotel, The Singular Santiago.

The Singular Santiago is a five-star luxury hotel located in the Lastarria Neighbourhood in the heart of downtown Santiago. The hotel was designed specifically to fit seamlessly into this iconic neighbourhood, which epitomizes the pride and creativity of the people of Santiago. The history and heritage of Chile are important to the owners of this property; they are descended from the pioneers who travelled to Patagonia to start a new life. One of the reasons they created The Singular Patagonia was to help capture the spirit of their homeland. This is therefore the ideal stepping stone prior to the Patagonia leg of your journey.

This evening will be at leisure, allowing you to explore the barrio (neighbourhood).

A full day of explorations in Santiago Day 6

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The morning will be dedicated to highlighting the contrasts between the older, centrally located areas and the modern uptown areas. The tour will be conducted in chronological order, allowing the participant to understand the origins of the city, and the urban sprawl over the past 200 years as Santiago turned from town to megapolis, and from 46,000 inhabitants to over 7 million. Highlights will include Cerro Santa Lucía, where the city was founded in 1542, the Plaza de Armas, the Central Market, Estación Mapocho (a former railway station), and La Moneda, the Presidential Palace. The second half of the tour will commence with a visit to the residential areas of Providencia and Ñuñoa, and the cosmopolitan financial districts of Las Condes, before reaching La Dehesa, where the city reaches the foothills of the Andes.

After lunch, the second half of your Santiago experience will be focussed on your own particular interests. You can choose from the following options:

Cuisine

A tour specially created for foodies that kicks off with visits to the city’s three major markets; the buzzing Vega Central, the smaller Tirso de Molina, and of course the Mercado Central, where we’ll see the enormous variety of Chile’s seafood, as well as trying some at a local ‘Picada’ (an informal restaurant). From here we’ll head north to Independencia to sample chicha and pipeño – Chile’s classic unfermented grape and apple alcoholic beverages – and for a seafood lunch at a fantastic restaurant, well off the radar of most tourists. The tour winds up in Bellavista to enjoy a range of locally-produced craft beers. Cheers!

Barrios

Three very different areas are explored during this fascinating tour, which celebrates Santiago’s barrios. Barrio Italia is famous for the creativity of its residents, gastronomy, design, and art. Located between the communes of Providencia and Ñuñoa, the barrio is characterized by its early 20th century architecture, colourful streets, antiques stores and art/design workshops. It’s a great place for shopping and picking up a bargain. The revitalized Barrio Lastarria is the most fashionable area in the city at present. Packed with cafés, boutique hotels, small stores, and a lively restaurant scene, it is a hugely vibrant and colourful area. Finally, Barrio Bellavista, perhaps the most famous of all. It’s bohemian, sophisticated, tidy, and chaotic all at once. Like Lastarria, it’s a superb place to eat, drink, and people watch, and we’ll find the perfect for a pisco sour and a ‘tabla’.

Art

This tour cover old and new, starting at the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes or MNBA), one of the major centres for Chilean art and for broader South American art. Established in 1880 (making it the oldest in South America), it was designed by the French-Chilean architect Emile Jecquier in a full-blown Beaux-arts style and is situated in the Parque Forestal. The nearby Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) has been the articulating axis of contemporary visual arts for over 50 years. One of the Museum’s most important objectives is to lead the field of visual arts. Santiago’s art scene has taken root in the affluent neighborhood of Vitacura. Here we’ll visit Galería Animal, with its fine collection of works by Picasso, Miró, and Chileans Gonzalo Cienfuegos and Roberto Matta. We will also visit the nearby workshops of an outstanding group of local emerging artists, including the abstract talents of Andrés Peñaloza and Carolina García Huidobro, and the sculptor Luis Inostroza, among others.

  • A portion of the sales price of this tour will be donated to the Escuela Fronteriza de San Gabriel, in the Cajon del Maipo. This rural school will use the proceeds to finance art workshops for their 130+ pupils and the local community.

Sculpture

An original look at Santiago through sculpture. The tour will include works in areas such as Vitacura and Providencia that are very much part of the urban landscape, as well as sculpture in a more formal, museum setting. Their will also be a visit to the workshops of two emerging sculptors, one specializing in large –scale stone work, and the other a famed creator of religious pieces. Among the highlights are the Parque de las Esculturas, opened in 1982, this park is an open-air art museum that was initially created to beautify an area of the city following the flood of the Mapocho River. At the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes or MNBA), there will be a visit to the permanent collection as well as Botero’s ‘Caballo’, hidden behind the building itself in the adjacent park.

  • A portion of the sales price of this tour will be donated to the Escuela Fronteriza de San Gabriel, in the Cajon del Maipo. This rural school will use the proceeds to finance art workshops for their 130+ pupils and the local community.

Architecture

The focus of this tour are the architectural highlights of the Chilean capital, from the classic Colonial and 19th century examples found in the centre of the city, to the contemporary masterpieces found in areas such as Las Condes. The tour will be conducted by a young local architect, whose insight and knowledge will give the participant the most in-depth experience possible. From the neo-classical majesty of La Moneda, the Presidential Palace, to Cesar Pelli’s amazing Gran Torre – the tallest building in Latin America – this tour is a must for architects and those who appreciate the subject.

Flight to Punta Arenas Day 7

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Early morning transfer from your hotel to Santiago International Airport in order to board your domestic flight to Punta Arenas, the gateway to Chilean Patagonia.

 

Transfer to Chilean Patagonia Day 7

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Upon arrival to Punta Arenas a representative from Explora Patagonia will collect you for your fascinating 5-hour journey to the lodge.

Spend 4 nights at Explora Patagonia Day 7 - 10

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From award-winning architecture and anchored like a ship on the shores of Lake Pehoe, the prime location of our hotel Explora Patagonia, places our travellers literally in the middle of the Torres del Paine National Park.

Trek to the base of the magical Torres Day 8

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Recognised for its monumental mountains, bright blue icebergs and golden grasslands, the Torres del Paine National Park, in Chile’s Patagonia region, is home to three iconic granite towers, from which the park takes its name.

Adventure, hiking and nature enthusiasts will be left spellbound by the sheer beauty of the region. This one day trek offers the opportunity to hike through 18km (11miles) of pristine surrounds to the base of the phenomenal Torres del Paine. The reward is the spectacular sighting of the Three Towers.

This challenging trek is the most sought after in the Torres del Paine National Park. To reach this gem, you will have to negotiate several obstacles: climb up 800m of irregular terrain, endure changing weather, and negotiate the region’s spectacular array of  landscapes.

The park is an adventure paradise. In addition to its famed hikes, you can also embark on mountain biking and horse riding excursions.

Tackle enchanting trails to the Valle del Francés Day 9

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Valle del Francés or French Valley, is what many people consider the best section of Chile’s Patagonia “W” circuit. The “W” circuit references the formation of the letter “W” when you join the trails that access three iconic stops: the Base of the Towers, the French Valley, and the Grey Glaciers.

Hiking enthusiasts will revel in this 5-day trek, which explores most of the Torres del Paine National Park, including the Valle del Francés, situated in a natural amphitheatre.

You will climb steep moraines and may witness ice breaking off the Francés Glacier. A little further up, imposing peaks and immense granite rock faces come into view, while providing a 360-degree view of the heart of the Paine massif.

This is a lengthy adventure, and requires that you to take a catamaran ride across Lake Pehoé. Rumbling in the distance is the sound of small avalanches and ice calving from the glaciers. Your sojourn to the valley to reach the hanging Francés Glacier is enchanting.

It is important to note that the weather plays a big role while trekking the Valle del Frances, as mist can make it difficult to see the glacier and may hide the Cerro Paine Grande, making a hike further into the Valley to Campamento Britanico uneventful.

The beauty of the area is ever-present along this hike and you will be able stop off at the Salto Grande Waterfall. The fairy-tale setting of the waterfall is spell-binding as the water drops 50 feet through a narrow chute from the blue waters of Lake Nordenskjöld into what eventually turns into Lago Pehoé.

Be swept away by the sight of majestic icebergs Day 10

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Prepare to be captivated as you enjoy a half-day excursion to the Grey Peninsula, in a 4×4 Jeep. Be enchanted as local birds serenade you as you stroll through a magical forest of lenga trees, down to the Grey Beach. As you approach, stand in awe of the majestic icebergs that have floated down from the nearby Grey Glacier. Swept along by the strong winds that are characteristic of the area, you can walk until you’re facing the peninsula and appreciate the magnificent view.

Part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Grey Glacier is the world’s second largest contiguous ice field outside of the poles. You can hike the edge of the lake for stunning views of it and the many icebergs that had been calved from it or you can experience an unforgettable boat journey across Grey Lake. Sailing next to the glittering wall of ice is beyond spectacular and from this exclusive vantage point you will be able to fully appreciate the puzzle of turquoise, blue, white and crystal clear ice that forms this awe-inspiring glacier and free floating icebergs that pass by.

What is extraordinary is the brilliant blue hue that radiates from within the glacier. Watch the stunning sight of these geometric floating gems changing colour as the shadows and light shift. Be absorbed by the sheer beauty of this stunning sight.

Ice hike over Grey Glacier – the ice hike takes approximately 5 hours, incl. rubber boat transfer, walking onto the Nunatak Island to access the ice the safest way, in groups from 3 to 12 people.

Walk to Lake Grey Peninsula – easy half-day walk to through a lush forest of beech, followed by the Lake Grey beach and peninsula. View of the Grey Glacier and icebergs along the shore.

Transfer to Puerto Natales Day 11

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Today, after a wholesome breakfast you will embark on a drive to Puerto Natales for your last day in Patagonia.

Overnight The Singular Patagonia Day 11

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You will spend the night at the magnificent hotel, The Singular Patagonia. Restored and resurrected by fourth generation family members, of the original pioneers who settled the area and built the sheep farming industry more than 100 years ago, The Singular Patagonia pays homage to the building’s and founders’ rich historical importance in the development of the local culture, economy and heritage. Witness century-old machinery imported from England at the turn of the 20th Century; the hotel’s restored wood dock hovering over the Fjord of Last Hope leading out to the Pacific from which ships took wool to markets all over the world; and the local customs and traditions embraced by memorabilia throughout the property.

This afternoon you will have the chance to explore caverns where the prehistoric milodon once lived or feel the wind on your face as you travel along the banks of Laguna Sofia on horseback or mountain bike. Alternatively, for an even more exhilarating challenge, kayak through the Last Hope Sound. Whatever your choice is, it will be the perfect ending of this marvellous experience in Patagonia.

Flight to Santiago Day 12

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After a leisurely breakfast, you will be transferred to Punta Arenas for the flight to Santiago. Upon arrival you will be greeted by your &Beyond representative who will assist with your connection for your outbound flight home.