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Private Journeys

Signature Chile: Atacama Desert to Patagonian glaciers

13 days from £5,140pp

Chile / Patagonia


map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. Transfer to hotel in the capital. Optional walking tour of the historic centre.

Transfer from the airport to your hotel in Santiago. You’ll stay in Lastarria district, one of Santiago’s most characterful neighbourhoods, with a host of places to eat and drink on your doorstep and a lively, bohemian street scene.  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. The historic core, with its Plaza de Armas, presidential palace, museums and other buildings of cultural significance is within walking distance of your hotel in Lastarria and is easy to explore independently. If you prefer, we can book you a guided walking tour, or we can arrange for you to take the cable car to the top of San Cristobal hill for a panoramic view of Santiago and its Andean backdrop. The museum and former residence of Chilean poet laureate Pablo Neruda is also quite close by, in Bellavista.

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Day 2

Fly to Calama; on by road to San Pedro de Atacama. Sunset excursion to Moon Valley.

Transfer to Santiago airport and fly to Calama in the Atacama Desert (2hrs). Continue by road for an hour or so to the agreeable little tourist resort of San Pedro de Atacama. The Atacama’s inhospitable desert landscape is harsh and rugged, but it isn’t an empty wasteland. Volcanoes and geysers steam and hiss into life. Pink flamingos haunt the featureless white salt flats, cacti stride towards the horizon and oases splash the tawny landscape with vigorous vegetation, especially after rare flash rainfall.  The culture and settlements echo with the legacy of the desert’s pre and post Columbian inhabitants, with ruined temples and dusty colonial villages.

Afternoon guided excursion to Valle De la Luna (Moon Valley) where, especially in early-evening light, the lunar landscape is astonishingly photogenic. Huge sand dunes sweep across a panorama of salt-encrusted canyons, gullies and eroded rock sculptures such as Las Tres Marias. Walk up to the top of the impressive ‘Gran Duna’ – a popular venue for extreme sports such as sand-boarding – and take your position for arguably the most memorable experience of today’s excursion: the valley’s appearance at sunset – a dazzling artist’s palette of gold and reds.

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Day 3

Guided visit to natural features and attractions in the Atacama Desert.

Scenic full-day excursion to the high altiplano above San Pedro de Atacama reaching an altitude of over 4,300m above sea level. The road heads south, passing the distinctive cone of Lincancabur volcano and cutting across the eastern corner of the Salar de Atacama before reaching the village of Toconao, typical of the small oasis villages of the area. Figs and quinces and a handsome whitewashed bell tower help give the village its own distinctive character.

It’s another 50km to the village of Socaire with its 18th century church set against a field of sunflowers and market. Next, drive up to Minique and azure, high altitude Miscanti lagoons. Finally cross the Salar de Atacama, the third largest expanse of salt flats in the world, home to colonies of Andean, Chilean and James flamingos.


Day 4

Early morning excursion to Tatio geysers with breakfast.

Rise early for the drive to Tatio geysers, at 4,300m the highest geyser field in the world. Upon arrival, enjoy a picnic-style breakfast and explore with your guide. The geysers are a memorable, surreal sight at sunrise – blow holes send jets of water and steam into a cloudless sky and, as the sun rises, the pools of water turn to shimmering silver. 

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Day 5

Fly to Puerto Montt in the lake district.

Return to Calama and fly via Santiago to Puerto Montt in the southern end of the lake district. From there it’s just a 30 minute drive to Puerto Varas.  The town is set amid lush, green, rolling countryside on the shores of Lake Llanquihue 20 km north of Puerto Montt. 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 an alpine green lake framed by tree-clad hills and beyond, one of the most perfectly shaped snow-capped volcanoes in the world – Osorno. 


Day 6

Full day guided excursion to Osorno Volcano and Petrohue Falls with lunch.

Take a guided excursion to the Osorno volcano and Petrohue Falls. From Puerto Varas the road takes you east along the edge of Lake Llanquihue, to the small and picturesque village of Ensenada.   Set in the shadows of the Osorno Volcano, and surrounded on three sides by forest and overlooking the lake, it looks like a sleepy rural backwater. As the forest becomes increasingly dense, continue to the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, to visit the Petrohue waterfalls. Formed by a lava flow of volcanic rock and set in a 1,000 year-old forest, the falls make an impressive sight. The drive continues towards the almost perfectly conical shaped Osorno volcano. As the road climbs, you’ll have the chance to enjoy the crisp air and wonderful views. Lunch is taken at the ski centre on the volcano before you return to Puerto Varas.


Day 7

At leisure. Optional guided tour to Chiloe Island.

At leisure in Puerto Varas. It’s a pleasant place to relax or wander around, but there is also a host of optional activities in the vicinity you may consider, from a visit to the huge larch trees and hidden lakes of Alerce Andino National Park or a drive along the picturesque shores of lake Llanquihue to more active options such as water rafting, cycling, hiking or kayaking through exquisite scenery.

You may also travel further afield to rural Chiloe for an optional full day guided exploration of the traditional island’s valleys, rolling green pastures and rugged west coast with its deserted beaches, quiet farmlands and coastal forest. There are distinctive houses here built on stilts and UNESCO rated wooden churches. If lucky, you’ll also spot penguins in their rookery. Discover the little fishing port of Ancud with its fortress and sweeping views, renowned for its oysters.


Day 8

Fly to Punta Arenas in Patagonia.

Return to Puerto Montt airport and fly to Punta Arenas in southern Patagonia (2hrs).  This substantial city is an atmospheric and often blustery Patagonian outpost. Its centre is lined with elegant mansions (built on the wealth of sheep farming and mining during the late 19th century) and buildings with colourful corrugated iron roofs. It also has some interesting museums.


Day 9

Transfer to luxury Patagonia Camp on the border of Torres del Paine National Park.

Scenic drive to Patagonia Camp just outside Torres del Paine National Park.  The park is dominated by a 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. Declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, the area is a natural habitat of over 150 species of birds (including flamingos, condors, eagles and ostriches) and 25 species of mammal (including guanacos, armadillos, silver foxes and pumas). You’ll spend the next 3 nights in a fully-appointed and centrally heated yurt, perched amidst native Patagonian forests on the shores Lake Toro. After lunch upon arrival, you’ll have the chance to explore your surroundings on one of the many activities which are included in the cost of your stay.


Days 10-11

Guided excursions from the camp in Torres del Paine and its environs.

You have a choice of guided excursions to explore this wonderful wilderness environment from the camp. Some are more energetic than others, but all are immensely rewarding, with half day and full day options to suit most levels. You might choose to walk uphill to the base of the dizzying perpendicular “torres” or towers, hike to the jade green Laguna Verde or to one of a number of scenic look-out points. You might visit the beach at Lago Grey and survey the steep walls of the Grey Glacier, from which blue-tinged icebergs the size of motor launches break off and drift around in the icy waters. Try your hand at kayaking on Lago Toro, or explore the beautiful forest which flourishes right in front of your hotel. You may spot condors, guanacos and other wildlife as you explore Torres del Paine national park.

Torres del Paine

Day 12

Transfer to Punta Arenas and fly to Santiago.

Transfer back to Punta Arenas airport (5hrs) and fly to Santiago (4hrs). Transfer to the centre and overnight in Lastarria neighbourhood for final stay of the holiday.


Day 13

Transfer to airport for international flight home.

If you are travelling home on the direct service with British Airways, you will have a full morning to further enjoy Santiago before your mid-afternoon transfer to the airport.

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.


Your edit for Latin American inspiration

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

View Extraordinary Inspiration

Real Latin America Experts

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.

  • Kathryn Rhodes
    Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert

    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Expert

    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 London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours sales team.

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    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 Head of Sales.

  • Mary Anne Nelson
    Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Expert

    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 Holidays and Group Tour sales team.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Expert

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

Meet the team