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Luxury Chile and Argentina: Pure Patagonia

15 days from £7,446pp

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Luxury Chile and Argentina: Pure Patagonia:
Trip Dossier

This private holiday plunges into Chilean and Argentine Patagonia, an area of outstanding natural beauty which still has a remote wilderness feel. Fly south to the ice caps, glaciated jagged mountains and lakes at the tip of the Andes in Chile and Argentina. Visit  the minty blue, cathedral-high Perito Moreno glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina, and the ice-clad towers of Torres del Paine National Park, Chile’s large and well-established reserve. The south has just a few rough roads cutting through a frost-bitten landscape of glaciers, luminous lagoons, snow-tipped pinnacles and wind-strafed steppe, but it is nevertheless readily accessible to visitors.

Travel north to explore the indigo lakes, ancient woodland and snow-capped volcanoes of the lake district in northern Patagonia. While this area has lakeside resorts and many visitors in summer, there are little seen fairyland forests and lonely roads carving their way through a virgin landscape.

Recent years have seen the creation of luxury accommodation right in the heart of this savagely glaciated countryside. You stay at three of these properties in Torres del Paine National Park, the Los Glaciares National Park and the volcano–dotted northern lake district.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. Transfer to hotel, afternoon guided city tour.

Day 2

Guided visit to Santa Rita vineyard in the Maipo Valley.

Day 3

Fly to Punta Arenas in southern Patagonia. Transfer to lodge in Torres del Paine National Park.

Days 4-6

Excursions from the hotel to explore the park.

Day 7

Scenic drive across the border to El Calafate, Argentina and on to Eolo lodge.

Day 8

Excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier with boat safari.

Day 9

Excursions from the hotel to explore the area.

Day 10

Transfer to El Calafate airport and fly to Bariloche in the lake district.

Days 11-12

At leisure. Optional excursions and activities from countryside hotel.

Day 13

Transfer to airport and fly to Buenos Aires.

Day 14

Guided city tour with visit to Teatro Colón. Evening tango show with dinner.

Day 15

Transfer to airport for international flight home.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. Transfer to hotel, afternoon guided city tour.
 

Transfer from the airport to your classy boutique hotel in Santiago. It’s in the pleasant residential and commercial quarter of Providencia. Santiago is set in a broad valley between ranges of the Andes, with majestic 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.

You’ll have a guided tour of historic Santiago narrating Santiago's evolution to the present-day metropolis of 5 million. Your guide will identify Santa Lucia Hill where Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia founded the settlement of Santiago de Nueva Extremadura on February 12th, 1541. Explore the Plaza de Armas (main square), nucleus of the city's earliest urbanisation. Santiago's cathedral, the main post office, and the city hall are all located around the square.

You'll have a chance to linger in the Plaza de la Constitución, where the La Moneda government palace was the target of aerial bombardment in the 1973 coup which deposed the Marxist elected President Allende and brought General Pinochet to power. Visit the National Historic Museum before continuing to one of the oldest 'barrios' (neighbourhoods) of Santiago: Republica and Concha y Toro.

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Santiago Chile

Day 2

Guided visit to Santa Rita vineyard in the Maipo Valley.
 

Guided visit to Santa Rita vineyard, located at the foot of the Andes in the Maipo Valley, 40 km from Santiago. It is one of Chile's best known vineyards, established in 1880 and has gained a reputation among experts for the quality of its wines.

Its cellars, long since declared a national monument, combine traditional French and American oak casks with the most modern systems, a combination that helps give a unique aroma and body to its wines. Lunch is taken at the vineyard's Doña Paula restaurant, also declared a national monument after Paula Jaraquemada sheltered General O'Higgins and 120 of his soldiers during the battle for independence.

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Maipo Valley vineyards

Day 3

Fly to Punta Arenas in southern Patagonia. Transfer to lodge in Torres del Paine National Park.
 

Transfer to the airport and fly to Punta Arenas in southern Patagonia. (4hrs). 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 short-lived gold rush, and to add to its woes, the sheep-rearing business has never really recovered from the collapse of the price of meat and wool.

From the airport, drive into the awesome Torres del Paine National Park (5 hrs-ish, a wonderful wilderness where you’ll see silvery iceberg-dotted rivers, aquamarine lagoons and savagely wind-carved rocks, cliffs and ice-clad mountains. Guanacos (cameloids) graze peacefully while ostriches scamper across the plains and condors soar above. The road takes you across inhospitable plains, battered by perpetual winds. The scenery becomes more dramatic as you approach the towering massif which looms up on the horizon. You’ll be staying at the Explora Patagonia hotel, the park’s original luxury property and still unsurpassed for its comfort, leisure facilities and comprehensive choice of excursions and outdoor activities.

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Torres del Paine

Days 4-6

Excursions from the hotel to explore the park.
 

The hotel has a superb location at Salto Chico (little waterfall) inside the national park with magnificent views. The exclusive and ground-breaking hotel introduced a new concept to wilderness exploration and accommodation - comfort, grace, a range of professionally-run excursions, sophisticated cuisine and even wine are all included in the price.

The hotel's contemporary design, with light beech-wood flooring, wicker furniture and enormous picture windows overlooking the towering ice-mantled massif just outside, adds to the feeling of intimacy with the natural world, enjoyed from a vantage-point of warmth and friendliness. There's an indoor swimming pool and open-air Jacuzzi for the use of all guests. Other facilities include a spa, sauna, gym and TV room. A comprehensive programme offers guests up to five different options a day - either on foot, by van, horseback and launch. Each excursion is classified according to duration and fitness requirements and includes English-speaking guide, food and equipment.

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Cuernos del Paine

Day 7

Scenic drive across the border to El Calafate, Argentina and on to Eolo lodge.
 
It’s an all-day drive towards and over the frontier to Argentina across the bleak and scantily-populated Patagonian steppe, but the beauty of the mountainous scenery is staggering. In the afternoon you reach the shores of the milky turquoise Lago Argentino, and the little town of El Calafate.  Tourism in the last 20 years has transformed it into a bustling entrepôt for access to the nearby scenery of glaciers, lakes and impossibly steep peaks.  From there, you continue to Eolo, a luxurious, estancia-style retreat in the midst of the Patagonian steppe.
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Day 8

Excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier with boat safari.
 

Guided excursion to Perito Moreno glacier. It’s an early morning departure from El Calafate to Los Glaciares national park, a 90 min drive to the walkways and viewing platform overlooking the glacier. The thundering shards of falling ice are a breathtaking spectacle as you pass at a safe distance along the walkway in front of the Canal de los Tempanos, which separates Brazo Rico from the main part of the lake. The glacier is 5km wide and stands 60m above the surface of the lake. Its ice masses are fed by the southern continental ice field from the west, and from other smaller surrounding glaciers.

Later, board the Safari Nautico or Moreno Fiesta launch for an hour-long cruise on the lake beneath the glacier, with a commentary. Alternatively, you can just walk and contemplate, away from the other visitors.

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Perito Moreno

Day 9

Excursions from the hotel to explore the area.
 

While the spectacular glaciers are the main attraction in the area, there is an abundance of Patagonian wildlife too including guanacos, rheas (type of ostrich), flamingos and condors.  Activities within the extensive grounds of the lodge are included in your stay, such as mountain biking, walking and bird and wildlife watching, all of which are provided with bilingual guides. Horse riding and excursions to the surrounding glaciers are available at extra cost.

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Condor glides over Argentine Patagonia

Day 10

Transfer to El Calafate airport and fly to Bariloche in the lake district.
 

Transfer to El Calafate airport and fly to San Carlos de Bariloche, the main town in Argentina's lake district, a popular yet unspoilt region of sleeping snow-stifled volcanoes, dark sapphire lakes fringed by dense forests, small Alpine-style towns and scenic drives. Its multitude of national parks offer outdoor activities from hiking to fishing and cycling to horse riding.

There’s a European-style cuisine of fondues, creamy cakes and cool blond Bavarian-inspired beers. Bariloche is on the southern shore of Lake Nahuel Huapi. The town is a centre for skiing in winter (July and August), and walking in summer - set against a stunning backdrop of glacial green-blue lakes framed by the mountains of the Andes.

You’ll be staying outside town at Llao Llao, with a superb position on a promontory between the crystalline waters of lakes Nahuel Huapi and Moreno and surrounded by ancient cypress woods. Its spectacular views include the Lopez and Capilla mountains and the awe-inspiring snow-covered peak of Mount Tronador.  The hotel is an impressive, sprawling structure, made from huge cypress logs and the green stone which is typical of the region. The Llao Llao is among the most luxurious properties in the Argentine lake district. Facilities include a sauna, Jacuzzi and a large indoor pool with enormous windows overlooking Cerro Tronador. There is an adjacent 18-hole golf course and a spa offering facial and body programmes and massage.

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Bariloche

Days 11-12

At leisure. Optional excursions and activities from countryside hotel.
 
At leisure to enjoy the hotel’s facilities, excursions and activities. The hotel is also a great base for beautiful walks within the national park and staff will happily direct you to the nearest trails.
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Argentina's idyllic lake district

Day 13

Transfer to airport and fly to Buenos Aires.
 

Transfer to the airport and fly to Buenos Aires. The Argentine capital is an elegant, cultured and cosmopolitan city famed for its interesting museums and 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 colonial heartland, government buildings and churches, as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic Parisian feel. The bohemian quarter of San Telmo is full of quaint old houses interspersed with antiques shops, tango bars and classy restaurants. Slightly further out of the centre is the Recoleta district, even more evocative of the French influence, where Evita Perón was laid to rest. 

You’ll be staying at the Alvear Palace there, in Recoleta, a smart residential quarter in Buenos Aires with much belle époque and Italianate architecture including the classic hotel itself. Service is impeccable (there are personal butlers) and the restaurant is superb. It is both formal and friendly. One of the best buffet breakfasts on the continent is served in L’Orangerie.

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La Boca

Day 14

Guided city tour with visit to Teatro Colón. Evening tango show with dinner.
 

Your guided city tour takes you along Avenida 9 de Julio, one of the widest boulevards in the world and studded by the Obelisk, an emblematic symbol of the city. Along this majestic highway is the 19th century Teatro Colón (guided tour included) which, in terms of its architecture and design, as well as its excellent acoustics, is considered one of world’s best.

On to the Plaza de Mayo, enclosed on three sides by the Metropolitan cathedral, the Town Hall and the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace. The tour continues to bohemian, arty La Boca, which was settled and built by Italian immigrants and has streets lined with brightly painted corrugated iron-clad houses.  Visit the district of Recoleta. 

Evening guided visit to a tango show with dinner. The passage of time has given respectability to a dance once confined to the seedy underworld bars of the red-light La Boca district. Nowadays, a number of 'tango houses' offer a dinner and show as an evening out - prior to the performance you can even try out a few steps yourself as an informal group tango lesson is included. La Gala is an intimate venue with a French colonial style complete with crystal chandeliers and a refined ambience.

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Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires

Day 15

Transfer to airport for international flight home.

Essential information

Transport

3 flights (longest 3.5hrs); 3 scenic road journeys.

Accommodation

This holiday offers first class accommodation, from boutique and traditional classic properties in the cities to a high class resort style lakeside hotel and well located countryside lodges in southern Patagonia with staggering views. 

Meals

Breakfast daily, lunch day 2, dinner days 3, 4; full board days 4-9.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• Half day walking city tour of Santiago. 
• Full day excursion to Santa Rita vineyard and winery.
• Excursions and activities in Torres del Paine National Park.
• Guided excursion to Perito Moreno glacier and boat trip on the lake.
• Half day city tour including Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires.
• Tango show with dinner, Buenos Aires

Summary of nights

15 days, 14 nights: Santiago 2; Torres del Paine 4; El Calafate 3; Bariloche 3; Buenos Aires 2

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• International flights
• Tips and gratuities.
• Meals other than specified.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
• Optional excursions.

Currency

The unit of currency in Chile is the Chilean peso; Argentina has the Argentine peso.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$35-50 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number 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 additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques (American Express are the most widely accepted), though these are gradually falling out of use. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

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.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. 

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

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

In Torres del Paine National Park all walks are optional. Hikes vary in length (between 2 and 8 hours) and difficulty (most are easily followed and relatively flat). Riding and biking is suitable for fit beginners. If you find time to walk around Bariloche, trails are undulating but not strenuous. 

Be prepared for some early mornings, and for extreme weather conditions in the south. 

Climate

Winter in the Southern Hemisphere is between May and September. In Santiago and Buenos Aires, temperatures can be cool (5°C – to 15°C). While sunshine is possible, so is rain. Spring temperatures, October to November and March to April are between 15 and 25°C and there is a good deal of pleasant sunshine. January and February are hot, around 30°C. 

The lake district has weather not dissimilar to our own, but a bit sunnier in summer and rather rainier in the winter months. 

The weather in the far south is notoriously unpredictable throughout the year. During the southern hemisphere summer (October to March) there can be blizzards or heat waves.  The adage “four seasons in a day” is very apt here. In winter days are short and snow is not uncommon but it is rarely much below freezing, because of the moderating influence of the sea.

Clothing and special equipment

A day pack is essential for carrying rainwear, snacks, books and a water bottle.  Outside summer, those who feel the cold might take thermals. To ensure your comfort while walking in Patagonia, you should bring a good waterproof, walking boots (tried and tested so you don’t get blisters!) as well as a good waterproof top, trousers and a warm hat and a scarf. 

That said the sun in summer can be strong so take a hat with a visor, sunglasses and sun block. Some walkers find hiking poles helpful and binoculars are useful for bird 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: polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements.

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

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.
APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online
This costs $14 per person. This must be done by you personally.

Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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