Group - Discovery

Charito: Pure Patagonia

12 days from £2,805pp

Chile / Argentina / Patagonia


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Overview & Highlights

An outdoor adventure with guided walking and wildlife spotting in Patagonia (Chile and Argentina), bookended by two cosmopolitan capitals, Santiago and Buenos Aires. Includes Chiloé Island, Torres del Paine and Perito Moreno glacier.

  • Santiago: walking tour of city
  • Chiloé: full day tour of the island
  • Puerto Natales: full day boat excursion to Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers
  • Torres del Paine: 2 full days in the national park
  • El Calafate: Perito Moreno Glacier
  • Buenos Aires: city tour

This is a short but sweet holiday perfect for anyone whose principal interest is to visit the beautiful, fascinating and varied region of southern Chile and Argentina. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty intermingled with a unique culture. From the historical island of Chiloé, wrapped in the mists of time and legends to a land of towering granite peaks, glacial lakes and huge expanses of windswept pampa, this is a magical part of the continent.

This tour gives the chance to explore cultures still barely touched by the outside world, with architecture, food and customs unlike anywhere else in the world. As you venture further south you can hike in some of the most spectacular natural scenery and witness vast glaciers in azul waters. At either end of the adventure are two magnificent cities for you to discover: the vital, cosmopolitan Chilean capital Santiago, and the quasi-belle époque European atmosphere in Buenos Aires.

Itinerary

UK clients depart on overnight flight to Santiago, Chile

Santiago

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. 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 to Puerto Varas.

A 1 hour 45 minute flight takes you south to Puerto Montt, followed by a short drive to Puerto Varas on the shores of Lake Llanquihue in the Chilean Lake District. The town is set amid lush, green, rolling countryside and was colonised by Germans at the turn of the 20th century. Its architecture and sedate style still reflects this. The town's main attraction is an alpine green lake framed by tree-clad hills and beyond, one of the most perfectly shaped snow-capped volcanoes in the world - Osorno.

The afternoon is free to explore the town or travel out to the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, to visit the Petrohue waterfalls. Formed by a lava flow of volcanic rock and set amongst a 1,000 year-old forest, the falls make an impressive site.

Puerto Varas

Day 4

Full day exploration of Chiloé.

Today we have a full day excursion to the mysterious island of Chiloé. Although located just off the coast of mainland Chile it often feels like a world away. We travel by road and ferry to Chacao where we will be met by our local guide. Once here we visit the plaza and the guide will explain the traditional architecture, which includes the famous wooden churches and stilted houses Chiloé is famous for. We'll continue on to the Bay of Caulin, known for its great birdlife and do a quick oyster tasting before continuing to Ancud for lunch. Travelling  through the 'campo' we arrive on the rugged Pacific Coast, where birdlife including penguins congregate on desolate beaches. In the late afternoon we'll return towards Ancud to a family farmhouse for a traditional curanto, a local pitbake and uniquely Chilote experience. Return to Puerto Varas in the evening.

Chiloe

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 and your base for 3 nights to explore the nearby Torres del Paine National Park.

 

Puerto Natales

Day 6

By boat to Torres del Paine National Park.

Today you have your first of 2 full-day visits to the Torres del Paine National Park, but rather than taking the road you embark on an 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 meatpacking 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. From here you will be met by your private vehicle to explore some of the magnificent views and scenery of the park.

 

Torres del Paine

Day 7

Explore the national park by foot.

You head back into Torres for another included full day of exploration. 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 included excursions available - including horse riding and tours of the national park by road - your tour leader will discuss these locally and help you decide what will suit you best.

Torres del Paine

Day 8

Drive to El Calafate.

Travel by comfortable coach 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.

 

Los Glaciares

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.

Buenos Aires

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.

Essentials

Tour info

Tour Leader

On this tour, you’ll be accompanied from start to finish by one of our exceptional Journey Latin America tour leaders. From the moment you land in Latin America until the day the tour ends they will deal with all the practicalities, expertly adapting to the circumstances and individual needs of the group. Rather than different guides in different cities, your leader will get to know the group and keep you informed and entertained as you go.

About Our Group Tours

To find out more about how our group tours including group sizes, solo travellers and why to choose us. Please click here.

Transport

3 flights (longest 3 hours), 4 road journeys (longest 6 hours), 1 journey by boat.

Accommodation

For our Discovery Journeys we aim to use good quality, value-for-money accommodation, in a mix of larger more modern and smaller family run hotels. All the properties we use are well maintained and rooms will have a private bathroom with hot water.

The focus of these trips is on getting outside, seeing the sights, and experiencing local restaurants and cafes, therefore a few hotels may not have evening dining facilities. If you prefer more luxurious accommodation, please see the Lapwing Tour which follows a very similar route.

Examples of the hotels include: 

• Santiago: Hotel Torremayor Providencia
• Puerto Varas: Hotel Puelche
• Puerto Natales: Hotel Vendaval
• El Calafate: Hotel Kapenke 
• Buenos Aires: Hotel Kenton Palace

On very rare occasions these hotels can change, however please speak to one of our consultants who can provide full details for each departure if you have any doubts. Address and contact details will be sent out with your final documents.

Meals

Breakfast daily, lunch days 4 and 6.

Summary Of Nights

12 days, 11 nights: Santiago 2; Puerto Varas 2; Puerto Natales 3; El Calafate 2; Buenos Aires 2.

Optional Excursions

There is a range of optional excursions available which are booked locally through your tour leader once you are in Latin America. Not all excursions available will suit everybody, whilst others only operate within certain seasons, with minimum numbers or may not be included due to time constraints. A budget of around $150 USD should cover participation in most of the following options, but prices can fluctuate depending on the size of the party and so cannot be provided accurately until travel commences. 

The list below is only a guideline, so please enquire with your tour leader for any further areas of interest:  
• Santiago: a day trip to the port town of Valparaiso
• Buenos Aires: evening tango show with dinner

Budget

A budget of around $45 USD per day should cover the cost of meals, drinks and the odd souvenir for most of the tour. In Argentina this might be more like $50-60 USD. Although economic instability in Argentina means that prices can change frequently.

How To Take It

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so a debit or credit card with a PIN is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. 

We recommend that you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency. These bills should be in good condition as soiled or torn bills may be refused. Travellers’ cheques are increasingly less favoured by travellers who find them difficult to exchange as well as offering a poor rate of exchange. If you do decide to carry some with you they should be US dollar cheques only (American Express are by far the most accepted brand).

For our latest currency advice for Argentina please see our FAQs section.

Currency

The unit of currency in Chile is the peso chileno, and in Argentina the peso argentino.

Tipping

Tips are normally welcomed and expected. Local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. We recommend approximately $3USD (or local equivalent) per person per day for each of guides and drivers, depending on the size of the group.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 – 12% in restaurants.

If you would like to show your appreciation to your Journey Latin America tour leader, who you may feel has exceeded your expectations, a discretionary gratuity would be gratefully received. As a guideline we recommend an amount of between $4 and $6 per person, per day. You are obviously free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport Taxes

International departure tax and domestic airline taxes are normally included in the price of the ticket.

Journey Grade

This is an active trip. Walks vary in length from 4-10 hrs and cover steep and sometimes slippery terrain. On the whole trails are clear and good underfoot. A good level of physical fitness is required to make the most of walks in Torres del Paine. Paths are linear, so you can turn back if you feel that you do not want to carry on. If you don’t want to walk, alternative ways of enjoying the landscapes can be arranged.

Consult your tour leader if you need any advice about the specifics of the walks. Be prepared for some early mornings, and for extreme weather conditions in Patagonia.

Climate

In Santiago and Buenos Aires, October, November, March and April see temperatures between 15 and 25°C and a good deal of sunshine.  January and February  are hot, around 30°C or higher, with tropical rain showers possible in Buenos Aires. 

The weather in the south is notoriously unpredictable throughout the year. During the southern hemisphere summer (October to March) you may be subjected to anything from a blizzard to a heat wave. Strong winds and rain are possible at any time and it can get extremely cold.

Clothing And Special Equipment

A daypack is essential for carrying rainwear, snacks, books and a water bottle. Those who feel the cold should take thermal underwear. To ensure your comfort while walking in Patagonia, you should bring good waterproof walking boots (tried and tested so you don’t get blisters) as well as a good water/windproof (not just shower-proof) jacket and trousers, a warm hat and a scarf.

The sun can be strong so take a hat with a visor, sunglasses and sunblock. Some walkers find hiking poles helpful, and binoculars are useful for bird- and wildlife spotting. 

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. For specific requirements you must consult your GP.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Travelling Alone

There is no extra cost for single travellers who are willing to share a room. You will be accommodated with a same-sex member of the group who is usually also travelling solo. For single travellers who wish to be sure of having their own room there are a limited number of single rooms available, which carry a surcharge.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

If flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your online ESTA application.

What's included in the price

  • Services of a Journey Latin America tour leader
  • All land and domestic air transport
  • Accommodation as specified
  • Meals as specified
  • Excursions as specified

Included Excursions

  • Santiago: walking tour of city
  • Chiloé: full day tour of the island
  • Puerto Natales: full day boat excursion to Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers
  • Torres del Paine: 2 full days in the national park
  • El Calafate: Perito Moreno Glacier
  • Buenos Aires: city tour

What's not included in the price

  • Tips and insurance
  • Meals other than specified
  • Optional excursions
  • Some domestic flight taxes

Real Latin America Experts

  • Mary Anne Nelson
    Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Consultant

    Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made team.

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Consultant

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Consultant

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Manager of the Tailor-made Department.

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Consultant

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our Sales team.

  • Hannah Donaldson
    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Consultant

    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is an invaluable part of our Group Tours team.

Meet the team