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Charito: Pure Patagonia

12 days from £2518pp

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Charito: Pure Patagonia

12 days from £2518pp
 

Group Journey

 

UK clients depart Sat on overnight flight arriving in Santiago, Chile on day 1.
 

Day 1

Walking tour of the capital.
 
Santiago is laid out in a broad valley below the snow-capped Andes, around 60 miles from the Pacific Coast. Those arriving on an international flight will be met at the airport by the tour leader or a local representative. There will be time to relax before exploring the city and visiting a few of the many museums, markets and parks of this cosmopolitan capital.

For a scenic view across the city, climb to the top of Cerro Santa Lucía, located right in the centre of town. For even more panoramic vistas, a funicular takes you to the summit of San Cristóbal, where you can join Chilean families wandering along the leafy paths. Afterwards, have a beer at one of the pavement cafés in Bellavista. This is an Italian quarter of narrow streets peppered with bars and shops selling local lapis lazuli (only Chile and Afghanistan produce the stones in commercial quantities).

The museum and house of Chilean poet laureate Pablo Neruda is close by, and its unusual interior with an eclectic collection of paintings and bric-a-brac is well worth a visit.

Day 2

Optional vineyard tour or visit to Pacific port Valparaíso.
 
There is an optional visit to Chile's second city, Valparaíso (2 hours by bus). This lively seaport is built on a series of hills which form a backdrop to the wide bay, with views over the seaside resort of Viña del Mar. You can wander through the steep, winding streets and among the brightly-coloured colonial homes built for 19th century British and German merchants, or take a ride in one of the creaky wooden funiculars which link the cliff-top communities.

Time permitting, you may wish to visit one of the vineyards close to Santiago to sample some highly respected Chilean wine.

Valparaiso

Day 3

Fly to Puerto Montt and continue onto the island of Chiloé.
 

A 1 hour 45 minute flight takes you south to Puerto Montt, followed by a short drive to Pargua where a ferry ride through the Chacao Channel lands you on the emerald isle of Chiloé. Steeped in rural traditions and unique island folklore, this island is one of the richest examples of Patagonian culture and a fascinating complement to the region’s more famous natural attractions.

On arrival in Chacao there is a visit to the church of San Antonio to learn about the island's famous architecture, before continuing through a landscape of valleys and rolling green pastures towards Puñihuíl on the island's rugged west coast with its deserted beaches. This area is famous for its penguin colony, the only place in the world where Humboldt and Magellanic penguins nest side by side. After a lunch overlooking the sea, there will be a boat ride to get up close to these famous local inhabitants. Next stop is Ancud a lively fishing port which was the Spanish Crown's last possession in South America. Here you visit the fortress of San Antonio, where the treaty was signed for the withdrawal of the Spanish from Latin America, as well as the bustling municipal market selling fruit and vegetables as well as local handicrafts. Continue to the island's busy capital Castro where your hotel is located. Castro is nowadays a busy, modern commercial centre but retains a small-town feel and has an evocative setting, straddling a bay enveloped by mist-shrouded, velvety-green hills. There will be a visit to Castro's soaring gothic-style wooden cathedral, among Chiloé's most impressive attractions. Finish the day at Alto Gamboa, a viewpoint with wonderfully photogenic vista of the row of traditional palafito stilt houses that survive along the towns waterfront.

Chiloe

Day 4

Further full day exploration of Chiloé.
 

Today's full day tour starts at the seaside town of Dalcahue, a thriving fishing port on the east coast of the island. The harbour is usually busy with colourfully-painted wooden fishing boats. Here you board a ferry navigating across the canal to arrive at the island of Quinchao, home to the historical town of the same name as well as Curaco de Velez, before returning to the mainland.Visit Dalcahue's quaint 19th century wooden church, one of a staggering 16 Unesco World Heritage sites on the island and enjoy a lovely lunch by the towns local market.

Chiloé is a land of myth and mystery, and these legends come alive at Tocoihue and its wonderful waterfalls where fabled creatures of the island bathe and the town of Quicavi, considered a resting places for witches and sorcerers. The day finishes at the coastal hamlet of Qemchi, where a rickety 500m wooden footbridge leads to the tiny Isla Aucar. Its small botanical garden is a sanctuary of native Chilote flora, planted by a priest who managed the island's 19th century chapel.

Day 5

Fly to Punta Arenas and continue to Puerto Natales.
 

Transfer back to Puerto Montt for your flight south to Punta Arenas. On a clear day you have views of the southern icecap, its fjords, volcanoes and glaciers. Approaching the city you see the rust brown Patagonian steppes, pitted with small lagoons, stretching out towards the Straits of Magellan. On the other side of the water rise the mountains of the windswept island of Tierra del Fuego.

Punta Arenas was an important, British-influenced trading centre before the opening of the Panama Canal turned it into a backwater; the region's fortunes were only briefly revived during a short-lived gold rush. To add to its woes, the sheep-rearing business has never recovered from the catastrophic collapse of the price of meat and wool. No pure-blooded indigenous people are left alive here; having survived for centuries the rigours of the Antarctic climate they were annihilated by the diseases brought in by sailors and missionaries at the turn of the 20th century.

From here continue by bus to Puerto Natales, a small town with a frontier feel on the shores of Last Hope Sound, frequented by pelicans, black-necked swans and cormorants

Day 6

By boat to Rio Serrano on the fringe of Torres del Paine National Park.
 
Today you journey to the edge of Torres del Paine National Park, but rather than taking the road you embark on a full day’s adventure by boat. An early morning start sees you hop aboard a ship and begin your journey cruising through the fjord of ‘Last Hope’, passing by the redundant meat packing factories and colonies of cormorants and sea lions.

Further up the fjord you can view the vast Balmaceda glacier, before the ship docks for the walk to the Serrano glacier and the ice-carved lake below it. After the walk you continue your journey up river, this time in zodiacs. This final leg of the journey takes around 3 hours, as you zip through untouched areas of staggering beauty, past further glaciers (Tyndall, Geike) to arrive at Rio Serrano, where your hotel on the edge of the national park, is situated, which has views of the towering granite peaks on the horizon.

Day 7

Explore the national park by foot or by boat.
 
There are a number of different walking trails winding alongside the glacial lakes and rivers with close-up views of tortured rock towers and needles rising 3,000m into a tempestuous sky. Aside from hiking, there is a wide variety of excursions available - including horse riding and tours of the national park by road - your tour leader will discuss these locally and book your preferred tours.
Torres del Paine

Day 8

Drive to El Calafate.
 
Travel by road through the park stopping en route at the waterfalls at Salto Grande and Laguna Amarga, before you head towards Argentina across the Patagonian steppe: a bleak and scantily-populated landscape. Keep a look out for guanacos, rheas, and flamingos, as well as for the views over Lago Argentino, the largest lake in the country.

On the shores of the lake is El Calafate, where you are based for the coming days. This small frontier town has grown rapidly over the last twenty years, and is a tourist hot spot for visiting the local scenery of stunning lakes and steep mountains as well as the stopping off point for visitors to the Perito Moreno glacier, one of the most dynamic in the world. You arrive in the afternoon and if you wish there should be time to visit the fascinating Glaciarium Museum, located in an interesting building with fantastic views just outside time. Once you have spent time learning about all things glacial, there is also an ice bar on the premises for a relaxing drink.

Day 9

Excursion to the Perito Moreno Glacier.
 
This morning drive out towards the huge wall of ice which is the Perito Moreno Glacier for your included excursion. You follow the lake shore before turning up a wooded valley, dense with beech and birch, and continue alongside shimmering lagoons, bordered with bright crimson and heather lichens.

The park authorities have been sensitive about keeping the site as natural as possible, and there are no shops or cafés within close proximity of the wooden viewing platforms, which are tastefully landscaped into the cliff. Just looking at the front-edge of the glacier which towers 60m above the water’s surface and is an extraordinary 5km wide is awe-inspiring in itself: even more so when you hear the unforgettable sound of the glacier calving a vast wedge of ice the size of a tower block, which crashes down into the lake, divides and floats away as an iceberg.

Perito Moreno

Day 10

Fly to Buenos Aires.
 
Fly to the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires (3hours), an elegant and cosmopolitan city famed for the fascinating port district of La Boca with its cobbled streets and brightly painted houses. It was here that the tango was born, and Diego Maradona honed his footballing skills.

The centre of town is home to the historic heartland, government buildings and churches as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic, Parisian feel. The bohemian district of San Telmo is full of quaint old houses interspersed with antiques shops, tango bars and expensive restaurants. Slightly further out of town is the Recoleta district, even more evocative of belle époque French and Italianate architecture. During the winter months, wealthy female residents parade the streets in their fur coats and improbable, towering hairstyles, and take afternoon tea in the city's ornate cafés.

Day 11

Walking tour of the capital.
 

Explore the lanes and boulevards on your guided city tour, then make the most of some free time to shop, have a drink and a pastry in a tea-room or peruse the items on display in one of the many markets. It’s fun to promenade up and down the quay in the city’s splendidly renovated port district, Puerto Madero, which has trendy loft apartments, a string of open air restaurants and a small marina.

Optional evening visit to one of the many nightly Tango shows.

Buenos Aires

Day 12

Depart for international flight or extension.
 

UK clients arrive home the following day, Fri.
 

12 days from £2518pp

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Our small escorted group journeys are led by award-winning tour guides and follow tried and tested routes that we have been refining for over 30 years. 

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