The Atacama Desert is full of fun and adventure. Take a look at 6 must do excursions when you are visiting this fascinating and diverse destination. ...
Chile is a fascinating and diverse country, stretching 4,290km from Peru to Patagonia. Highlights include the extraordinary Atacama Desert, the high ski fields of the Andes, renowned Chilean wineries, the picture-postcard Lakes District, and the magnificent glaciers and national parks of Patagonia.
Chile is a perfect example of the changing face of South America with many fully inclusive luxury lodge experiences that offer guests the best of all worlds; excellent local cuisine and wines, boutique lodges, set in some jaw-dropping landscapes, with private guides and an experience tailored to your specific interests.
Torres Del Paine National Park
Separated by the continental ice fields, two regions comprise Chilean Patagonia – the northern regions of Aysén and the Carretera Austral, and the southern regions of Magallanes, Tierra del Fuego (shared with Argentina) and the famous Torres del Paine National Park. Make a journey into this wilderness and you will be amazed by its incredible mountain peaks, coloured lakes, glaciers and forests. This wonderland is so remote and unspoiled that a walk within its landscape is sure to change your view of the world.
The Lakes District bus-and-boat route across the Andes between Chile and Argentina is a scenic sensation. Cruise across Lake Todos los Santos, considered the most beautiful lake in southern Chile with emerald waters surrounded by thick forests and views of snow-capped volcanoes, including the perfect cone of Osorno (2,652m). An overnight stop midway in the remote settlement of Peulla allows time to really absorb the region’s beauty before continuing once more by bus and cruise to the Swiss-style town of Bariloche and a chance to explore the surrounding countryside.
The Lakes District towns are:
The capital of the Chilean Lakes Region, this small and bustling lakeside town is located 1,100km south of Santiago
Located on the shores of Lake Llanquihue with spectacular views to Osorno Volcano, it is also named the “City of Roses” because of its beautiful streets that are lined with roses
A tiny village that is a midway stop in the lakes’ crossing
A Swiss-style town located on the southern shore of Lake Nahuel Huapi
Easter Island (Rapa Nui) is a remote volcanic speck in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 3,800km west of the coast of Chile. The origins of the island’s past inhabitants are still an enigma and all that remains of their culture is the extraordinary spectacle of giant stone statues (moai) scattered across the slopes of the quarry site on Rano Raraku Volcano. Curiously, the mysterious ancient stonework at the many different sites includes a wall that is strikingly similar to those built by the Incas in Peru. Easter Island will provide a truly memorable stopover on your way to or from Santiago.
The Atacama Desert in northern Chile is the driest non-polar desert on earth, a virtually rainless plateau, with starkly beautiful landscapes of sand dunes, salt pans, lava flows and soaring volcanoes. The Valley of the Moon near San Pedro de Atacama is an area of dramatic land formations in fascinating colours and shapes. Visit the turquoise blue salt lakes 4,500m above sea level and the typical Atacama Indian village of Socaire. A dawn excursion to the El Tatio Geysers, high in the altiplano, is an amazing experience.
In addition to dramatic landscapes the region is also home to a great variety of wildlife including; vicunas, guanacos, viscachas (which looks like a long tailed rabbit and is actually a rodent/chinchilla), andean geese and Andean gulls to name a few.
Founded in 1541, Santiago has been the capital city of Chile since colonial times. The Andes Mountains can be seen from most points in the city. The city outskirts are surrounded by vineyards and Santiago is within a few hours of both the mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The city is now home to a growing theatre and restaurant scene, a rising skyline, including the tallest building in Latin America, the Gran Torre Santiago. Santiago is the cultural, political and financial centre of Chile.
Like many other countries in South America, Santiago is now home to several fine restaurants. Boragó was recently voted the world’s 8th best, and with two tasting menus
wrought from the finest produce the country has to offer. Boragó offers a sumptuous, ‘edge of the world’ dining experience for those seeking creative, unhurried cooking.
Chile has long been renowned for fine wines and a great
number of wineries can be found throughout the valleys
between 1-3 hours drive south and west of Santiago – among
them Maipo, Colchagua and Casablanca Valleys. The wine growing climate has been described as midway between that of California and France. The most common grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère. The many wonderful ‘viñas’ are worth a visit, perhaps just to enjoy lunch in their excellent restaurants, or to learn about the wine-making and taste a drop of the vintage, maybe paired with local cheeses. Or if time allows spend a night or two in the stunning surrounds. Some traditional wineries date back to the mid-19th century with beautiful colonial houses set amid lush gardens, while others offer the latest architect designed modernity, with chic and stylish accommodation. Among our recommendations for somewhere to visit or stay is La Casona Matetic, once a family home set within the vineyards, and Viña Casa Silva, a typical Chilean farmhouse of the 1920s, exquisitely restored and still owned today by the same family.
A range of voyages cruising south from Puerto Montt all the way to Ushuaia in Argentina. Sail through channels and archipelagos and pass tiny fishing villages, see snow-capped mountains and emerge amongst the icebergs and ice floes of the many glaciers flowing down from the Andes. Small zodiac boats afford a closer look to many of the glacial walls as well as landings to allow exploration on foot.
There are a number of quality vessels we know and have experience of please talk to us so we can find the best voyage and ship for you.
Chiloé Island (in Chile) is situated around 1,000km south of Santiago and can be accessed by a road-and-ferry trip from Puerto Montt or via Chiloé’s new airport at Castro, the largest town on the island. Chiloé is the second largest island in Chile (after Isla Grande Tierra Del Fuego) and until recently was visited only by a few more ‘adventurous’ travellers.The island is famous for its many UNESCO-protected churches although, while they are very interesting, it was the almost unchanged way of life, along with the island’s natural beauty, that were the highlights for me.
Until recently accommodation options were quite limited, now we have the beautiful Tierra Chiloé hotel, a luxurious 12 room lodge located on the banks of the Rilán Peninsula, providing and excellent base from which to explore the many wonders of Chiloe.
Sitting on more than 10 hectares of private land, atop a hill at the edge of the sea, Tierra Chiloé combines countryside and beach, with green fields and forests bordering an arm of Chiloé’s inland sea. The architecture of the hotel is quite stunning, showcasing the beautiful native timbers and blending well with the natural landscape.
With its own vehicles, boat, horses and kayaks, Tierra Chiloé can tailor-make your activities to suit your personal interests. The hotel’s wonderful guides enable you to make the best use of your time, and help you to discover Chiloé’s unique culture, fabulous landscapes, flora and fauna.
The bird life on Chiloé is excellent; you’ll see thousands of the brown-hooded gulls from which the island gets its name, as well as steamer ducks, black-necked swans, whimbrels and cinnamon teal – to name just a few.
Each summer, during the first two weeks of February, the people of Easter Island stage a festival that is a celebration of the Rapa Nui culture, involving music, dance and traditional sports, a time of revelry and feasts, and of honouring the past. Unlike some festivals, Tapati Rapa Nui is organised entirely for their own enjoyment and not merely as a commercial show put on for tourists – although fortunately visitors are welcomed as word has got out and the island attracts more tourists during this time than the entire rest of the year. Tapati began in 1969 as a simple summer festival that celebrated Polynesian culture. It is now structured as a contest between two teams, or two halves of the town of Hanga Roa. Each team is led by a queen candidate, a young woman who competes with another would-be-queen from the rival side for the Queen of Tapati crown, a symbolic title that the winner will carry for one year. The candidates prepare all year for Tapati, practicing their dancing, creating costumes, and working with their teams.
Most of the sports events are men only, and among the popular activities is the traditional triathlon – scantily-clad (and very fit) competitors must paddle reed rafts across a volcanic crater lagoon, run around the lake while balancing 25kg bunches of bananas on their shoulders, do another lap unburdened, and finish with a swim back across the water, all with huge crowds cheering them on. Other breathtaking highlights include a bareback horse race along Vaihu Beach, and the (frequently injurious) ‘Haka Pei’ in which reckless athletes, naked but for a loincloth, lie on two lashed banana trunks and launch feet-first down the steep slopes of 300m-high Maunga Pu’i Hill, their top speeds reaching up to 80km/h!
Of course, no Polynesian celebration is complete without traditional dancing, and the after-dark singing and dancing contests continue throughout the night until the judges declare the winning team, usually around daybreak, and the Queen of Tapati is crowned.
The Singular Santiago
Top class design and the finest facilities. Usually located in a spectacular setting it may be an exclusive hotel in a meticulously restored historic building, or recognised as the leading property of an international chain.
Torres del Paine Patagonia, Chile
A perfect alternative to the big brand hotels:
exclusive and independently-owned properties with a smaller number of rooms and highly personalised services.
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
High quality with an excellent room standard, a full range of facilities and first-rate service; may be a new property or regularly refurbished with attention to ongoing maintenance.
Hacienda Hotel Vira Vira
Near Pucon, Northern Patgonia, Chile
Haciendas ‘estates’ are found across much of South America and may have been plantations or farms. These beautiful properties, set in extensive gardens or on wide farmland, often retain their original style and ambiance, with high beamed ceilings, open fireplaces, and spacious rooms filled with antique furnishings. More recently built Haciendas offer luxury accommodation home grown produce and excellent wine.
Torres del Paine, Chile
Patagonia has a range of eco-lodges – from a luxury retreat, to a complex of thatched yurts in a National Park, to remote and rustic cottages offering a truly authentic experience. All lodges are eco-conscious and dedicated to conservation management and preservation of their environment.
Patagonian Fjords, Chile
The best way to observe the dramatic scenery or experience the wonders in a world of amazing landscapes and fauna of the Patagonian Fjords is by boat. And if you are looking for a voyage that will also offer the comfort of excellent facilities, there are several exclusive and sophisticated vessels that will fulfill your wish.
South America Travel Centre can look after all aspects of your holiday, including flights and travel insurance.
We start by asking you what your interests are and where you are interested in, when, for how long, what standard and style of accommodation (it can be a combination – for example you may wish to celebrate a special occasion while you’re away by staying in a very special property or place). Once we have a good understanding of just what you’re looking for, we can begin to create a holiday to meet your time and budget requirements and, most importantly, that will deliver interest and enjoyment in an experience to exceed your expectations.
Please book early. Many of the hotels, lodges and cruise vessels we recommend are relatively small. For example, Awasi Lodge (San Pedro de Atacama) offers only 8 rooms. This exclusivity combined with high demand means they can be booked out up to 6-8 months in advance.
If you’re thinking of travelling during any major holidays like Christmas, New Year and Easter, or during any festivals, our advice is simply to book as early as you can, even 12 months or more, and we can add flights as soon as they become available.
Australian citizens do not require a visa to enter Chile, however a Reciprocity Fee is payable on entry to the country at most borders (the current fee is US$117). You will need to hold a valid passport and have a return ticket when you arrival.
Vaccinations are advised for common diseases like Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid as well as Influenza. There are no compulsory vaccinations.
We advise you to consult a Travel Doctor specialist prior to departure to assess any health risks in relation to your medical history and travel plans.
We have access to a wide range of airfares and have excellent relationships with our key airline partners. Our two main airline partners in Latin America are LATAM Airlines, QANTAS Airlines and Air New Zealand. We can also arrange internal flights for you within Latin America.
Irrespective of whether you book directly with us or with your preferred travel agent, we’ll request the details of all of your fights to ensure if there are any changes your transfers and other arrangements are adjusted accordingly.
Atacama Desert: Good year-round – winter (Jun-Aug) has a pleasant daytime average of 22°C but dropping to 4°C or lower overnight; in summer (Jan-Mar) 25°+C during the day and down to 16°C at night
Lakes District: Year-round – best time October to April. Very cold in winter – June to August
Patagonia Cruises: Best time – November to March (no operations in winter – May to Aug/Sep)
Patagonia: Best time – November to March
The Atacama Desert is full of fun and adventure. Take a look at 6 must do excursions when you are visiting this fascinating and diverse destination. ...
A hot air balloon ride in the Atacama Desert is a must. Sail over the Moon Valley admiring the pink sand, salt-rich Mountains and rugged cliffs. Our expert travel consultant Cinzia, recently visited the Atacama Desert in Chile and to her delight she was able to participate in a hot air balloon ride at dawn over this vast, unique landscape....
I was welcomed to Chiloe Island with a spectacular sunrise whilst feasting on a hearty breakfast at my accommodation, the luxurious Tierra Chiloe Hotel. I knew this was going to be my kind of place....
Each pickup/drop off was on time. My guides were very friendly, had great English, and were passionate about what they did. All hotels were faultless. I would have to say that Andrea from Buenos Aires was the best guide of a fantastic bunch. Andrea was there to greet me on my first arrival into BA, took me to the ferry for my trip to Colonia and made sure I was checked in, and was there to pick me up. She was also there to send me on my way to Ushuaia at the ungodly hour of the morning and pick me up again after the cruise, to sending me on my way the next day to Iguazu. I was most impressed at the efforts the guides went to in order to streamline the check-in process at the airport, making sure I got to the immigration area. I have never seen or experienced such attentiveness or helpfulness. Thank you for putting this trip together for me, it was the best trip that I have been on, and I have done some out there trips. From the hotels, to the destinations, the ground arrangements, everything went off without a hitch. I truly appreciate what you did to make this trip amazing.
Our trip was absolutely outstanding thank you so much for your incredible efforts in what was such an incredibly short turn around. We are so grateful, it was the most amazing trip and every day was as good as the other! Anyone who has asked about our trip or has mentioned they are travelling or wanting to travel to South America I have put them straight onto South America Travel Centre. Thank you for all of your prompt responses, quick turn around and thorough knowledge, understanding, expertise and advice. Your service was second to none. It was outstanding and we are truly grateful. Please pass on our gratitude to the wider team as well for helping pull a once in a lifetime experience together for us in three days! We are so thankful for the afterhours and overtime you put in also, we couldn’t have had the amazing trip that we did at such late notice without you.
Being in our late 70 and having only travelled with groups, never on our own, we were a little apprehensive not speaking Spanish how well we would manage? I have nothing but praise for the service we received from South America Travel Centre. We were met at every destination by a knowledgeable person not always able to speak English but well able to take us to hotels, return us to bus stations and air ports, and check us in. Those who spoke English told us about their town the best places to eat. A wonderful holiday expertly organised and every little detail taken care of. Thank you South America Travel Centre.
We found our itinerary absolutely perfect. By that I mean not only were our superb boutique hotels great, the guides in each city friendly, courteous, well-spoken and knowledgeable but the time in each city or location and the balance between site seeing “work" and leisure time “play” was also perfect. The most difficult question by friends on our return has been “what was the highlight”. An impossible question when considering the merits of, inter alia, Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls, Christ the Redeemer, Inti Raymi Festival, Lake Titicaca. The purpose of our trip to South America, in truth, was to see as much as we could of the continent with a view to probably not returning as we explored other opportunities. I have to now say that the chance of us revisiting South America is extremely high.
I write to thank you for organising our recent trip to South America. Everything went like clockwork, and the arrangements were very satisfactory. The guides always turned up at the right time, and the people meeting us at the airports were always there. We had a wonderful trip, and we will have to plan another one now, so that we can see Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay and maybe more. But first it’s back to work to earn some more money! For me the greatest highlight was Machu Picchu; it far exceeded my expectations. Once again, thanks so much, Alistair Macindoe.
We had a fabulous time!! The countries we visited have such a rich and fascinating cultural & geographical diversity. We loved learning about the Incans and visiting the ruins in Peru, we loved seeing all the creatures of the Galapagos Islands and the volcanoes of Ecuador. We loved the magnificent scenery of the Atacama. What a fantastic palette at sunset! The adobe hotel, Altiplanico, was wonderful & San Pedro de Atacama was a funky place. We appreciated the structure of our holiday too, there was a nice blend of guided time and free time. It was nice to be in one place on the boat in Galapagos after moving to a different place each day through Ecuador. Some of the haciendas we visited would be lovely to stay for a longer time. Everything went very smoothly in terms of timely airport transfers & pickups, informative and friendly guides/drivers at all times. The local people were very friendly & were helpful with our attempts at speaking Spanish. We enjoyed the cuisine very much & look forward to trying some home-made Locro de papa soup & Pisco sour. Thanks for helping us with a great holiday. Kind regards Della & John
Having local guides and local knowledge was sensational and gave us a great insight into the cities and countries we visited. We loved the whole trip. One very big positive was every single time we arrived at a destination, there was someone already there to meet us and a transfer waiting to take us to the hotel or airport. We didn’t use trains and only used buses in Cuba which were very good for what we were doing. Our SATC consultant and her knowledge and experience was invaluable in both the lead up and the trip itself, with numerous hints and tips being very useful as well. The detail and documentation provided was excellent throughout and we used it extensively on our trip.
One of the most delightful things after travelling long distances is to be met at the airport, bags carried and be taken to the accommodation. It is just so good to see that sign with your name. Our latest itinerary with South America Travel Centre, in June 2016, took us to Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras. Costa Rica was about flowers, wildlife, volcanoes and zip lining. Guatemala and Honduras were about Mayan ruins with some wildlife in between. Although it was the rainy season, we found that rain sometimes occurred as a thunderstorm in the late afternoon, lasting about an hour. It was always a delightful surprise to find that our accommodation is not in a multistorey type edifice but in an architecturally interesting building with fascinating décor and views. We found this at each place we visited. Many of the breakfast rooms had a wonderful view of water, forest or volcano where we could sit and enjoy the local tropical fruits. Breakfast always included tropical fruit and fruit juice. We have returned home with photos galore.
The incredible amount of work you put into the planning and organising really paid off. The South America Travel Centre documentation provided in the pouch before the trip was excellent. The selection and sequence of things worked well. The spiral bound book was used a lot during the trip. And on arrival back home, a pleasant surprise CD from your company. The chosen hotels were all very good to excellent to grand, and again the guides always made sure that we were properly checked in. Hotel locations are very important as this allows easy walking around the neighbourhood to explore at one’s own pace. Overall a ‘high five” for you and your team and agents. Thank you very much for your efforts and hope that our paths will cross again at some point in the future.
We have now been back from our wonderful holiday to South America for about 2 1/2 weeks, and I wanted to thank you very, very much for arranging such a fantastic trip for us. Everything went so smoothly, from the airport pickups, to the guides and drivers, to the wonderful accommodation – everything! We kept waiting for some little blip to occur, but it didn’t! You provided us with such a varied itinerary, we kept busy the whole time, and thoroughly enjoyed the whole trip. We both particularly enjoyed the Galapagos cruise, and also Machu Picchu. We all four climbed Huayna Picchu on our second day back at the site, and it was well worth the effort. Our guides and drivers were fantastic; we particularly enjoyed Silvia our guide and driver Marquito for the 5 days Andes experience in Ecuador. Once again, thank you so much for using your talents to give us such a memorable holiday. We will certainly be recommending you to our friends. With best wishes, Tony & Jan BURN
Back home safe and sound after an amazing holiday. Cannot say enough about South America Travel Centre – and will definitely recommend to anyone travelling to this continent. The guides Beatriz, Natoli Mary and 1 gentleman (Puno – cannot remember his name) were delightful, and drivers were very careful and drove to conditions. All accommodation suited our needs – especially loved Arequipa, Colca Lodge, Ollentaytambo and Inkaterra Amazonica!!! The care of your staff was above and beyond when situations arose due to not feeling so good. The day we left Colca Canyon Sue was unwell but Beatriz was amazing and after 24 hours all was ok. John requested medical attention on return to Cuzco and within 20 minutes a Dr appeared and then short time after a nurse appeared with medication – just fantastic. A big thank you to you for all your organisation and for playing a big part in making this holiday such a memorable one for all us.