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Active Chile: Hiking, cycling and kayaking in the lake district and Patagonia

13 days from £3,388pp

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Active Chile: Hiking, cycling and kayaking in the lake district and Patagonia

13 days from £3,388pp
 

Private Journey

 

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. Transfer to your hotel in the Providencia district.
 
Your hotel is in the pleasant residential and commercial quarter of Providencia.  Santiago is set in a broad valley between ranges of the Andes, with lofty snow-capped peaks, and a smaller coastal range with a distinctly Mediterranean feel.

Santiago is a huge metropolis, a mix of the old and the contemporary, with quarters of tree-lined avenues and affluent tranquillity, and others full of commercial bustle. Poorer districts sprawl on the outskirts.  The historic core, although small, has some notable buildings of cultural significance.

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Santiago

Day 2

Fly to Temuco, transfer to Pucón.
 
Fly to Temuco in the lake district and drive to lakeside Pucón. This is a picturesque region of ancient forests straddling hills lorded over by snow-capped volcanoes, with hot springs and crystalline streams, interspersed by flowery meadows and cattle pasture.

Situated on the south-eastern shore of Lago Villarrica, Pucón, with its sandy volcanic beaches is a major lake district destination for Chilean holidaymakers during their high summer. The town is crammed with small shops, bars and restaurants.

Towering above Pucón is the region's most famous landmark - Villarrica volcano (2,840m). The resort's surroundings are an adventure playground offering many guided outdoor activities.

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Villarrica volcano

Day 3

Hiking in Huerquehue National Park.
 

A guided hike in Huerquehue National Park, one of our favourite Chilean day treks. It’s is a walker's paradise of bright beech trees and lofty araucaria (evergreen conifers). The park is home to condor, mountain fox and the rare Darwin frog.  It's a 5-6 hr round-trip hike to Laguna Verde and Laguna Toro; steep, but well worth the climb. Once at the top the views of these crystal clear lagoons hidden among lichen-draped forests and monkey puzzle-clad mountains are stunning.

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Huerquehue

Day 4

River rafting on the River Trancura.
 

Today there's a guided river rafting adventure not far from town. The effervescent river Trancura tumbles through Villarrica National Park and disgorges into Lake Villarrica. While the upper sections of the river are turbulent and split by cliffs and boulders, you’ll raft on the lower reaches of the river, just 10 minutes' drive from the town, calmer and more tranquil.;

The rapids here are rated as grade 3, which means that you will have the excitement of a ride through white water and fast currents, negotiating rocks, eddies and waves. Between the rapids sections however you can sit back and paddle, enjoying a leisurely ride with views of the meadows and snow-capped volcano Villarrica.  You'll have a fully qualified pilot, or capitán, as they are called locally.

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Petrohue

Day 5

Public coach to Puerto Varas.
 
Travel by public bus to Puerto Varas, an attractive town is set amid verdant pasture and meadows on the shores of Lake Llanquihue. It was colonised by Germans at the turn of the 20th century and its architecture and sedate style reflects this, but it is now a fast-growing tourist resort. The town's main attraction is a jade alpine lake framed by tree-clad hills and beyond, one of the most perfectly shaped snow-capped volcanoes in the world - Osorno.
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Puerto Varas

Day 6

Cycle along lakeshore to Frutillar.
 

Hop on a bike for a leisurely couple of hours’ cycling along the lakeshore to Frutillar. You'll ride for 30km, passing elegant old homes, volcanic-sand beaches, and - on a clear day - a fabulous view across Lake Llanquihue towards Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes, perhaps even the 3,500m summit of Tronador, an extinct volcano in the Argentine lake district.

The ride is mostly on dirt roads with some hilly stretches towards the end of the ride, between Llanquihue and Frutillar. Once in Bavarian-influenced Frutillar, visit the town's pride and joy, the Teatro del Lago, its recently-completed theatre which overlooks the lake and relax with coffee and homemade cake. No need to worry about the ride back: a driver will be waiting to take you to Puerto Varas.

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Day 7

Kayaking on the Reloncavi Estuary.
 

Another trip out on to the water, this time in kayaks on the tranquil Reloncavi Estuary. Travel by road around Lake Llanquihue to the town of Ensenada where you will put on your kayaking gear and continue to Ralun Bay in the Reloncaví estuary: your kayaking adventure starts here.

Several national parks and wilderness forests fringe the rivers and estuaries of this peaceful region, making of it a beautiful natural environment for a water-borne trip. As you navigate the waters you see the Yates and Hornopiren volcanoes rise into view. 

You will eventually arrive at a countryside house where you will have lunch. Afterwards you will have some time to take a relaxing walk and enjoy the open air, before once again boarding your kayak to continue your journey across the fjord to the backwater town of Cochamó, which has a lighthouse and old wooden church.

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Go Kayaking

Day 8

Fly from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas and transfer to Torres del Paine National Park.
 
Fly from Puerto Montt airport to Punta Arenas in southern Patagonia (2hrs).  On a clear day you have other-worldly views of the swirling meringue of the southern icecap, its fjords, volcanoes and glaciers. Approaching Punta Arenas you see the rust-brown stain of the Patagonian steppes, pitted with small lagoons stretching out towards the Straits of Magellan.

The region’s fortunes were only briefly revived during a gold rush, and the sheep-rearing business has never really recovered from the collapse of the price of meat and wool.  Drive on into Torres del Paine National Park. The scenery becomes more dramatic as you approach the towering massif which looms up on the horizon.

This superb wilderness is dominated by a monumental granite massif of smooth rock towers and icy pinnacles. Milky blue and gem-sharp emerald lakes, sinuous rivers, glaciers and wind-scoured steppes have created a remarkable and unique environment. A UNESCO biosphere reserve, the area is a natural habitat of over 150 species of birds (flamingos, condors, eagles and ostriches) and 25 species of mammal (including guanacos, armadillos, silver foxes and pumas). Guanacos (cameloids) graze peacefully while ostriches scamper across the plains and condors soar above.

You’ll be staying at the Eco Camp, which makes the most of the magnificent Patagonian setting (see Places to Stay).

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Road to Torres del Paine

Day 9

Trek along the Valle del Francés – part of W Trek.
 

Set off on a trek to Valle Francés (French Valley) along a steep trail which infiltrates the very heart of the Paine Massif. An active walk leads you to the hanging bridge over the Rio Francés at the foot of the south-eastern face of the massif, where there is a truly stupendous view. Continue up the trail until reaching the upper section of the valley and admire a group of contorted geological formation.

An optional trek to the remote, bleaker Mirador Britanico is possible. After lunch you descend through a rippling terrain of mixed grassland and light forest until you reach the peaceful shores of turquoise Lake Pehoe. Spend the night at a cosy mountain refuge with multi-bedded accommodation, heating and shared bathroom facilities with hot water.

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Torres del Paine

Day 10

Hike towards the Grey Glacier – part of W Trek.
 
Today you hike from the refuge along the shores of Lake Pehoe to the northern end of glacial Lago Grey. The lake’s chilly waters are dotted with icebergs which have broken off from the wall of Glacier Grey which plugs the lake.

Enjoy a picnic lunch before boarding the boat that sails to the forbidding blue face of the glacier. There's plenty of time to marvel at this calving ice monster during the boat ride across the lake.

In poor weather, you’ll trek up to the sightseeing point offering a spectacular view of the glacier. Then you’ll return on foot to Paine Grande and take a catamaran to Pudeto’s dock, from where you’re driven back to Eco Camp.

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Glacier Grey

Day 11

Hike to the foot of the towers, the “Torres” del Paine.
 
The goal today is to complete the most celebrated trekking trail in Torres del Paine. You walk from the Eco Camp towards Hostería Las Torres and join the uphill path to Ascencio valley on the towers’ eastern face. Emerald green southern beech forests and rustling streams border the trail towards the valley.

Climb the steep moraine, a mass of boulders leading towards one of the world's most famous views overlooking the towers, gigantic vertical slabs of rocks rising like an open hand towards the sky. These are the remains of a great cirque sheared away by the forces of glacial ice. 

After an uphill slog, the towers eventually come into full view, rising majestically before you, with the glacial lake visible below. After feasting on the view and your picnic, you backtrack along the same trail through Ascencio valley and return to Eco Camp.

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Torres del Paine

Day 12

Transfer to Punta Arenas, fly to Santiago.

Day 13

Transfer to airport for international flight home.

13 days from £3,388pp

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What our experts say

If you have the opportunity to fly south from Santiago to Puerto Montt or Punta Arenas in Patagonia, make sure you book a seat on the left-hand-side of the plane. You’re children will be rewarded with spectacular scenery of glacial lakes, snow-capped volcanoes and granite peaks for the 3-4 hour flight. There is no better entertainment than this view, I promise.

Stuart

Stuart Whittington

Product and Marketing

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