Chile - The Atacama to Patagonia

Classic Touring

16 Days from £5,589

Oct 2019 - Nov 2020 Departures

Chile and Patagonia Trip for Singles

​This full-on tour of Chile doesn't miss a thing! After an overnight stay in the capital, Santiago, you'll journey into the Atacama Desert, where highlights include the flamingos at Los Flamencos National Reserve and Geysers del Tatio - a field of active geysers. Next stop is Puerto Varas, a charming town on the shores of Lake Llanquihue. From here you'll cruise to the ecological village of Peulla and visit Chiloé Island, located just off the coast. In Patagonia you'll visit Magdalena Island to see a large colony of penguins, and then you'll explore the breathtaking scenery of Torres del Paine National Park. A thrilling cruise on the Última Esperanza Sound provides views of the 1,000-year-old Balmaceda glacier and a chance to disembark and walk to the foot of the Serrano glacier. Back in Santiago, your adventure ends with a chance to explore the coastal city of Valparaiso and a culinary tour of a market, followed by a hands-on cookery class.

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GUARANTEED PRICE MATCH

We’re confident our holidays offer the best prices around, so if you find an identical holiday cheaper, not only will we match it we’ll also give you an extra £100 towards another trip.

Your holiday at a glance

CLASSIC TOURING
ALL BREAKFASTS
ALL EXCURSIONS INCLUDED
MAX GROUP SIZE 30

What's included

​Just You Tour Manager as your host
Return flights from Heathrow with LATAM Airlines via Sao Paulo
Use of an airport lounge in the UK
13 nights in 3 & 4-star hotels plus 2 nights in flight
21 meals: 13 breakfast, 7 lunches, 1 dinner
All excursions included

PLUS
Specialist Local Guides
Overseas transfers & other transportation
Porterage
Dedicated Just You representative to greet you at all UK airports

Included excursions

​Santiago Central Market culinary tour & cookery class
Santiago walking tour
Salt Mountains, Death Valley & Valley of the Moon
Chaxa Lagoon in the Los Flamencos National Reserve
Miscanti & Meniques lagoons
Sunrise visit to the Geysers del Tatio
Puerto Varas tour
Boat trip to Peulla & visit Petrohue Falls
Chiloe Island, where local people will invite us into their homes
Travel by boat to Magdalena Island, home to a large colony of penguins
Torres del Paine National Park
Balmaceda & Serrano glaciers
Casa Isla Negra visit
Vina del Mar tour

Your itinerary

​Today we'll fly to Santiago, Chile's capital city.​

​On arrival in Santiago, which boasts a stunning setting beneath the majestic Andes, we'll transfer to our hotel. After time to freshen up we'll walk through Santiago's historic centre, ticking off sightseeing highlights such as Santa Lucia Hill, the Moneda Palace (Government Palace) and the Plaza de Armas, where the cathedral and National History Museum are located, as we go​.

​We'll fly to Calama today, transferring on arrival to the village of San Pedro de Atacama, set amidst the other-worldly landscape of the arid Atacama Desert. During an afternoon of sightseeing we'll visit the Salt Mountains, Death Valley and the Valley of the Moon to see exceptional rock sculptures formed by the elements. As the sun sets we'll experience a wonderful natural light show as the rays are reflected on the mineral-rich rocks.​

​We'll explore this incredible destination further today, starting at the picturesque village of Toconao and the salt-crusted Chaxa Lagoon. Part of the Los Flamencos National Reserve three varieties of this pink-hued wading bird breed. Next, we'll visit the village of Socaire, which overlooks the Atacama Salt Flats. This is our gateway to the intensely blue lagoons of Miscanti and Meñiques, surrounded by impressive volcanoes formed when the Andes rose from the sea. After a simple lunch in Socaire, we'll return to our hotel.

There's a very early start today but it's sure to be worth it when you see the Geysers del Tatio – a field of more than 80 active geysers. As we eat our boxed breakfast we'll enjoy the breathtaking sight of steam rising from the ground as the sun comes up over the Andes.

En route back to San Pedro de Atacama we'll stop at the picturesque village of Machuca, and in the afternoon we'll fly back to Santiago for an overnight stay.

​Today we're heading to Puerto Varas, a charming town on the shores of Lake Llanquihue founded by Swiss and German settlers in the 19th century. Known as the 'city of roses' thanks to its flower-lined streets, you'll also see unmistakable German-style architecture during an included tour. We'll ascend Calvario Hill for marvellous views of the lake and the Osorno Volcano. We'll also visit Puerto Montt, the capital of the region, and the beach resorts of Pelluco and Chinquihue, before enjoying an included dinner in a local restaurant.​

​Take in more exceptional views of the lake and surrounding volcanoes today, but this time it will be from the water on a boat trip to Peulla. This ecological village is located within Vincente Pérez National Park, where we'll have lunch after viewing the emerald-green waters of the Petrohué Falls and sailing on the Todos los Santos Lake (subject to weather conditions).​

​Today's destination is Chiloé Island, just off the coast of Chile. After a ferry crossing we'll step ashore to admire evergreen forests, more than 150 wooden churches, timber houses perched on stilts over the water and the 560-metre-long hanging bridge which connects the island to the Aucar islet. In the fishing village of Tenaún we'll visit the farmers' fair and meet local people, who'll invite us into their homes and share lunch with us.

​Our tour continues as we fly to Punta Arenas. Chile's southernmost city is where your exploration of Patagonia begins.​

​We'll start the day early with a visit to Magdalena Island. Our journey by boat takes us along the Strait of Magellan, following the same route as famous explorers including Sir Francis Drake, Charles Darwin and Hernando de Magallanes. On arrival at this designated national nature reserve, we'll be greeted by a large and curious colony of Magellanic penguins – the population here is estimated at 60,000 pairs. This afternoon, we'll travel by road to Puerto Natales.

​Torres del Paine National Park is an area of spectacular natural beauty, home to granite peaks, sparkling lakes and glistening icebergs. On our full-day visit we'll travel through Patagonia's rugged steppe, home to many species of mammal including foxes, llama and even the rarely seen puma, with the Salto Grande waterfall and Pehoé and Grey Lakes among the scenic highlights. Our day ends with a visit to the Milodón Cave, where pre-historic animal remains were discovered in the 19th century​.

​An included excursion today takes us on a thrilling cruise on the Última Esperanza Sound. We'll sail through exceptional scenery to view the 1,000-year-old Balmaceda glacier, where we might spot cormorants and sea lions. We'll disembark for a short walk to the foot of the Serrano glacier, which is a remarkable sight, surrounded by snow-capped peaks and thick walls of ice. Lunch at a cattle ranch rounds off our trip.

​After breakfast we'll transfer to the airport and fly back to Santiago.​

​A full day of exploration begins with a visit to a former home of the Chilean Nobel Prize – winning poet Pablo Neruda and now a museum. Next we head to Vina del Mar – the "Garden City" where we will enjoy lunch. After lunch our tour includes sights such as the unique Flower Clock, the Municipal Casino and pretty Wulff Castle, which juts out to the sea from a rocky outcrop.  Finally we head to the coastal city of Valparaiso to explore​.

​In the morning we will have a culinary tour of the city's Central Market in the company of a chef. Here, we'll purchase all the ingredients we need to rustle up some traditional dishes, which we'll learn how to prepare during a cookery class. We'll then eat what we've prepared for lunch.​We'll then transfer to the airport for our flight back to the UK, arriving on day 16.​

Accommodation

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Please come back soon for information about some of the facilities available at this hotel.

Our team are busy putting together a description of this hotel for you.

Please come back soon for information about some of the facilities available at this hotel.

Our team are busy putting together a description of this hotel for you.

Please come back soon for information about some of the facilities available at this hotel.

Hotel Cabañas del Lago is situated on the shore of Lake Llanquihue and offers panoramic views of Puerto Varas and nearby volcanoes. Spacious rooms are coming with en-suite facilities, cable TV, minibar and safety deposit box.

Guests can relax in the heated swimming pool and sauna or try various spa procedures. On-site restaurant offers local and international dishes, while drinks and refreshments are offered at the hotel's bar.
Our team are busy putting together a description of this accommodation for you. Please come back soon for information about the facilities available.
Hotel Costaustralis is a chateau-style designer hotel, situated in the real heart of Puerto Natales. All rooms feature either sea or city views, come en-suite and have separate work desks and LCD and cable TV. The Paine restaurant, located in the hotel, offers delicious Patagonian gastronomy, while pisco sour cocktails and wide wine selection can be tasted at the Dickson bar.

Our team are busy putting together a description of this hotel for you.

Please come back soon for information about some of the facilities available at this hotel.

Hotel 45 by Director

Just You have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the hotel images provided on this website and images of room types displayed may vary to those offered on your tour. Therefore due to the possibility of inadvertent errors we do not guarantee their accuracy. Hotels, airlines used and flight times are subject to change and will be confirmed in your final documents.

Dates and Prices

You have chosen to arrange your own flights and transfers and meet us at your first hotel. Please see essential information for full terms and conditions.

TOUR DURATION

DEPARTURE DATE

DEPARTURE

PRICE FROM

STATUS

 

DEPARTING FROM

DEPARTURE DATE

DEPARTURE

PRICE FROM

STATUS

 

London (Heathrow)

Monday 07 October 2019

GUARANTEED

£5,739

Available

Outbound
Latam

Monday 07 October 2019

Departs

22:00 London (Heathrow)

Arrives

05:40 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Operated by

Latam

Latam

Tuesday 08 October 2019

Departs

06:45 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Arrives

11:05 Santiago (A M Benitez)

Operated by

Latam

Inbound
Latam - LA

Monday 21 October 2019

Departs

17:10 Santiago (A M Benitez)

Arrives

21:00 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Operated by

Latam

Latam - LA

Monday 21 October 2019

Departs

23:50 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Arrives

15:15 London (Heathrow)

Operated by

Latam

London (Heathrow)

Monday 11 November 2019

GUARANTEED

£5,739

Available

Outbound
Latam

Monday 11 November 2019

Departs

20:35 London (Heathrow)

Arrives

05:20 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Operated by

Latam

Lan Airlines

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Departs

06:45 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Arrives

11:05 Santiago (A M Benitez)

Operated by

Lan Airlines

Inbound
Lan Airlines - LA

Monday 25 November 2019

Departs

16:55 Santiago (A M Benitez)

Arrives

21:00 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Operated by

Lan Airlines

Latam - LA

Monday 25 November 2019

Departs

23:50 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Arrives

14:15 London (Heathrow)

Operated by

Latam

London (Heathrow)

Monday 10 February 2020

GUARANTEED

£5,589

Available

Outbound
Lan Peru

Monday 10 February 2020

Departs

20:10 London (Heathrow)

Arrives

05:55 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Operated by

Lan Peru

Lan Peru

Tuesday 11 February 2020

Departs

08:05 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Arrives

11:10 Santiago (A M Benitez)

Operated by

Lan Peru

Inbound
Lan Peru - LP

Monday 24 February 2020

Departs

16:00 Santiago (A M Benitez)

Arrives

21:05 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Operated by

Lan Peru

Lan Peru - LP

Monday 24 February 2020

Departs

23:40 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Arrives

13:15 London (Heathrow)

Operated by

Lan Peru

London (Heathrow)

Monday 02 March 2020

GUARANTEED

£5,689

Available

Outbound
Lan Peru

Monday 02 March 2020

Departs

20:10 London (Heathrow)

Arrives

05:55 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Operated by

Lan Peru

Lan Peru

Tuesday 03 March 2020

Departs

08:05 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Arrives

11:10 Santiago (A M Benitez)

Operated by

Lan Peru

Inbound
Lan Peru - LP

Monday 16 March 2020

Departs

16:50 Santiago (A M Benitez)

Arrives

20:45 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Operated by

Lan Peru

Lan Peru - LP

Monday 16 March 2020

Departs

23:40 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Arrives

13:15 London (Heathrow)

Operated by

Lan Peru

London (Heathrow)

Monday 05 October 2020

GUARANTEED

£5,839

Available

Outbound
Lan Peru

Monday 05 October 2020

Departs

20:10 London (Heathrow)

Arrives

05:55 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Operated by

Lan Peru

Lan Peru

Tuesday 06 October 2020

Departs

08:05 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Arrives

11:10 Santiago (A M Benitez)

Operated by

Lan Peru

Inbound
Lan Peru - LP

Monday 19 October 2020

Departs

16:00 Santiago (A M Benitez)

Arrives

21:05 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Operated by

Lan Peru

Lan Peru - LP

Monday 19 October 2020

Departs

23:40 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Arrives

13:15 London (Heathrow)

Operated by

Lan Peru

London (Heathrow)

Monday 09 November 2020

GUARANTEED

£5,839

Available

Outbound
Lan Peru

Monday 09 November 2020

Departs

20:10 London (Heathrow)

Arrives

05:55 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Operated by

Lan Peru

Lan Peru

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Departs

08:05 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Arrives

11:10 Santiago (A M Benitez)

Operated by

Lan Peru

Inbound
Lan Peru - LP

Monday 23 November 2020

Departs

16:00 Santiago (A M Benitez)

Arrives

21:05 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Operated by

Lan Peru

Lan Peru - LP

Monday 23 November 2020

Departs

23:40 Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)

Arrives

13:15 London (Heathrow)

Operated by

Lan Peru

Add-on

Take the opportunity to maximise your travel experience and extend your holiday with an add-on.

The number of days shown is inclusive of the main tour and the price shown is in addition to the cost of the main tour. If the main tour is displaying a SOLD OUT notification, there may still be places available on the tour with the add-on:

Chile - The Atacama to Patagonia with Easter Island Extension

20 days from £7,038

Oct 2019 - Nov 2019 Departures

Spend three nights on Easter Island, an intriguing destination covering roughly 64 square miles in the South Pacific Ocean. During your stay we include two full days of exploration including visits to the iconic giant stones figures, or moai, that the island is famous for. You will also stay in Santiago for one night. You will be accompanied by a Tour Manager.

Your extension includes

  • Return flights, overseas transfers & other transportation
  • 3 nights on the Easter Island
  • 1 night in Santiago
  • Just You Tour Manager as your host
  • 6 meals: 4 breakfasts, 2 lunches

Itinerary

DAY 15 Santiago to Easter Island
Today you'll take a flight to Easter Island where you will meet your guide and transfer to your hotel for a 3 night stay. Easter Island is an intriguing destination covering roughly 64 square miles in the South Pacific Ocean.

DAY 16 Easter Island
Today we will visit Ana Kai Tangata, a cave that has many paintings made from mineral pigments found on the island depicting the Manutara bird.  The arrival of the bird in spring would initiate the "Tangata Manu" competition.  Next, continue to Rano Kau, the second of the three main volcanoes to erupt about 2.5 million years ago, next to the volcano is the ancient ceremonial city of Orongo where the greatest concentration of prehistoric rock carvings exist.

This afternoon we visit Ahu Huri, one of the last altars to be restored by Dr. William Mulloy, the American anthropologist known for his work and studies into Polynesian prehistory.  Next we will visit Ahu Akivi, an archaeological site that was the first scientifically restored site during the 60's.  It is a ceremonial place, particularly interesting not only for its location (centre of the island) but also by the legends that are known as the seven moai.  A particular feature of the seven identical moai statues is that they exactly face sunset during the Spring Equinox and their backs to the sunrise during the Autumn Equinox.  Such an astronomically precise feature is seen only at this location on the island.  Finally we will visit Puna Pau, a small crater or cinder cone on the outskirts of Hanga Roa in the south west of Easter Island.  Puna Pau was the sole source of the red scoria that the Rapa Nui people used to carve the Pukao (topknots) that they put on the heads of some of their iconic moai statues.​

DAY 17 Easter Island
Today we head towards Anakena beach through the centre of the island.  Anakena has 4 ahu sites, 2 of which have been reconstructed and 2 others which attest to the weathering of time.  The first ahu is called Ature Huki which was restored in 1955 and the other is called Ahu NauNau which was restored by the same archaeologist Sergio Rapu.  The trip continues towards Ahu Te Pito Kura: this site has only a moai, however it measures 10m and weighs up to 90 tons making it the largest moai to be raised on a platform.  Next we arrive at Rano Raraku, one of the most interesting archaeological sites with 396 moai in the quarry.  Some of the statues are still encrusted in the rock of the quarry never to be moved, others are in the process of getting finalized and some are in the staging area waiting for the moving crew to bring the moai to its destined ahu.  We continue to Ahu Tongariki, one of the most visually stunning sites on the island which shows how the ancient people were part of a true megalithic culture.  This site has 15 moai that were restored in the 80's after a huge tsunami came ashore in 1960. Finally we head to Ahu Akahanga where it is believed the grave of the first king of the island, Hotu Matu'a can be found.​

DAY 18 Easter Island to Santiago
This morning is free before you transfer to the airport for your flight back to Santiago where you will spend the night.​

DAY 19 Santiago to UK
​Late morning departure for a culinary tour of the city's Central Market in the company of a chef.  Here we'll purchase all the ingredients we need to rustle up some traditional dishes, which we'll learn how to prepare during a cookery class.  We'll then eat what we've prepared for lunch before transferring to the airport for your return flight to the UK.​

DAY 20 UK
Arrival in the UK.​

Chile - The Atacama to Patagonia with Easter Island Extension

20 days from £7,088

Feb 2020 - Nov 2020 Departures

​This full-on tour of Chile doesn't miss a thing! You'll journey into the Atacama Desert, cruise on sparkling lakes and lagoons, marvel at the towering Andes and dramatic volcanoes and see exceptional wildlife, from penguins to flamingos.

Local Knowledge

With over 300 days of clear skies, nowhere on Earth is better for stargazing than Chile’s magnificent Atacama desert.

Chile - Lake District & Chiloé Tour Blog by Patrick

Tour Manager Patrick Twomey led our March 2017 Chile - The Atacama to Patagonia tour. Here is his blog on the stunning Lake District and Chiloé leg of the tour... 

Romantic images of Patagonian gauchos and vast, dry plains replete with sheep are distinctly Argentine (and well worth the effort), but the Chilean side of Patagonia is defined by ocean, lakes, forests and the spectacular Andes.

Chile’s south is wet. In fact, the archipelago of Chiloé can have rain fall from the sky 300 days a year. When the sun does shine, every view is breathtaking.

Patagonia is difficult to define. Roughly it is understood to be the southern third of South America’s Southern Cone (where Chile and Argentina narrow). From Puerto Montt south, Chile is a mighty network of islands, volcanoes, inlets and eventually glaciers.

The tenth region of Los Lagos (the lakes) is a lush world of resources. Its people are a mix of the broader Mapuche (and older Chono) cultures, Chilotes and Europeans – specifically Germans – who were invited to southern Chile in the late 1840s. The Dutch were the most prominent pirates and maybe the origin of the oft-quoted Chilote legend of the Trauco – the ugly gnome-like man who could magically impregnate young women.

The modern economy has boomed due to salmon farming (the environmental consequences of which are hotly debated). The Norwegians are the main investors and Chile is now the second largest salmon exporter in the world.

Chile’s significant lumber industry is based further north around the city of Concepcion, but spreads south into the Lakes region. Farming and dairy was importantly developed by the German migrants and the island people have fished and lived from the sea for literally thousands of years.

The archaeological site of Monte Verde offers quantifiable proof of human settlements perhaps 18,000 years ago... quite a long walk from Alaska in an impossibly short time (should one still buy into that story).

Osorno VolcanoThe Lake District is beautiful. The extremely productive soil is nourished by the many still-active volcanoes and high rainfall keeps the area vibrantly green.

As with other wet parts of our planet, there is always a certain weather risk when taking visitors to the area. When the clouds do clear, the views from the shores of Lake Llanquihue are among the world’s best. It is always worth coming here, but three consecutive days of rain is entirely possible.

We stay in charming Puerto Varas. This is a playground of the South American elite and feels rather Bavarian. Our hotel – Cabaña del Lago – really is beautiful and perfectly situated.

Chile’s south is a nature playground. Long famous for fly-fishing, it is also popular for trekking, hiking, skiing, kayaking and biking. Seafood, German desserts and craft beer are very popular.

Upon arrival we did a short tour of Puerto Montt. Early European settlers landed on this southern gateway to the continent and anyone who cruises south stops here.

Puerto Montt is the point at which Chile’s central valley drops below sea level. From that natural harbour the 2,000 kilometres of Chilean Patagonia reveals a magnificent patchwork of islands, fjords, glaciers and volcanoes.

Long before there was a Panama Canal, these were the only sheltered waters down the coast of South America, where the indigenous people lived off the abundant ocean and productive land. Settlers were sent to the Chiloé archipelago to establish Spanish sovereignty over this important shipping route.

Puerto MonttModern Puerto Montt is not a particularly beautiful city, but it is interesting and quite vibrant. The massive salmon industry has breathed life into the southern economy for nearly 30 years, but the city’s notable architecture strongly exhibits the German migrations that began in the 1840s.

President Montt invited Germans to settle in the region in order to develop the dairy and beef industry and, more strategically, to assure sovereignty over the south of Chile. Chiloé had just been conquered in the 1820s and other Europeans were eying the region.

I could go on and on (and on) about the interesting cultural mix in the area, but in the Lakes area, visitors come mostly for the views.

Across the border in Argentina, handsome Bariloche is often considered the capital of Patagonia. The Andes create a perfect natural border. Simply put, Chile is the wet, green side and Argentina is the dry windy side.

When the sun shines on the lakes and mountains, boat trips into the fresh water fjords of Chile’s oldest national park are reminiscent of Alaska’s coast. We were very lucky on this trip.

Chiloé

A short ferry ride off the coast, La Isla Grande de Chiloé is the continent’s second largest island after Tierra del Fuego. Chile keeps planning to build a bridge and many Chilotes aggressively do not want it. They are islanders at heart and would rather see money spent on a hospital or a university.

Chiloé is a deeply cultural place. Rain falls from the sky nearly 300 days a year – but not all day. Its low hills let the moisture keep the islands vibrantly green, before being trapped in the Andes further to the east.

Chiloé is also historically poor, yet deeply community-minded. Chileans and Spanish speakers alike must work hard to understand the local accent.

Houses on stilts in Castro, ChiloeBasically the island is famous for four main themes: churches, mingas, myths and palafitos (houses on stilts).

The UNESCO-designated churches were originally Jesuit. Building with wood, the Chilote people used the structure of inverted boats to create the roofs. They adapted a stone, Spanish style to Patagonian hardwoods.

The Minga is akin to a ‘barn-raising’ on the prairies. Chilote society developed in a less structured – and certainly more isolated – manner than in other Spanish colonial regions. The slightly more egalitarian outlook and subsistence farming, contributed to communal works.

Harvest (or apple picking) is traditionally communal and many photos circulate of houses being picked up off their stilts and moved to a new location. Chilean backpackers still flock every summer to Chiloé as they know locals will support them.

The traditional meal is curanto – a mix of meat, fish and native potatoes, cooked in the ground over hot rocks. With its cool, damp environment, Chilotes spent generations huddled together telling stories. Their myths and legends are famous.

The palifitos developed as maritime homes. Fishers could dock at home before setting out to harvest from the sea. Chiloé is best viewed from the water – another reason the bridge may be unfortunate.

I have been meaning for some time to write about Chiloé. I had the honour of living there in 2002-2004 and even developed a tourism training manual about the region. It is such a pleasure to contribute to the tourism economy and to this day I will run into people I know when walking the streets of Castro, Chiloé’s capital.

To that end, I always leave the lakes district with a tear in my eye and may one day escape the harsh Canadian winters down here.

Chile - Southern Patagonia Tour Blog by Patrick

Tour Manager Patrick Twomey continues his blog on the Chile - The Atacama to Patagonia March 2017 tour in southern Patagonia...

The mighty west winds sweep across southern Chile. There is no other land mass that far south, until Antarctica itself. The flat lands either side of the Magellan Straits guide ships through the southern passage that was eventually replaced by the Panama Canal. Slightly to the north the mighty Andes trap the ocean’s precipitation in the Southern Icefield (Campo de Hielo del Sur), one of the largest concentrations of fresh water on earth.

Punta ArenasPunta Arenas, Chile’s principal southern city, is remarkably clean. Any wayward litter would quickly be blown to Argentina and on to the Falkland Islands!

Located about 53 degrees south, Punta Arenas is only slightly south of where London or Dublin are north, but due to the effect of the freezing Humbolt Current flowing straight up from Antarctica, the waters are far too cold for swimming.

Typical of the higher latitudes, summer light is long and winter days short. Punta Arenas is a young and diverse city. While still very Chilean, its cultural mix includes many Europeans – particularly Croatians. Many Chilotes migrated south over the last 100 years, as have Chileans from the capital region.

The culture is distinctly Patagonian. Although difficult to define, the people of the south are quite similar on both sides of the border. Estancias (ranches) dot the landscape and the southern gaucho style remains. Everyone drinks mate (traditional tea).

Patagonians are proud of their landscape and their safe and friendly environment. In a continent known for too much violence, people in many of the southern communities do not lock their doors and know their neighbours well.

Standing by the water in Puntas Arenas we gazed longingly across to Tierra del Fuego – the land of fire. The main city on the Island, Argentine Ushuaia, is fully a 12 hour drive. This is the most southerly city in the world – and well worth a visit (but on another trip).

Tiny Puerto Williams on a Chilean island is the world’s most southerly community, but in real terms, Puntas Arenas is Chile’s southern city.

After a good dinner at one of the many restaurants on O’Higgins Street and as early a night as possible, we had an early morning start for a choppy boat ride to Magdalena Island.

Magellanic PenguinsThe trip into the windy straits did test the sea legs of several passengers, but we were rewarded with close up encounters with thousands of nesting Magellanic penguins.

Penguins really are reason enough to travel to the Southern Hemisphere and it was wonderful to spend real time with these magnificent birds.

Once back on terra firma, we visited a little more of the city before driving three hours across the flat Patagonian step and north towards the Andes. These are true grazing lands. In addition to sheep and some cattle, we were treated to sightings of guanacos (related to vicuñas and llamas) as well as emu-like ñandus, a fox and flamingos!

Upon arrival at Puerto Natales, we settled in by the harbour for three nights. This is the end of the line for the ferries that leave Puerto Montt, over 1,200 kilometres to the north (1,900 kilometres driving).

When clear, the harbour in Puerto Natales offers stunning views of the southern Andes and a few of the glaciers pouring down from the icefields. This is the gateway to Torres Del Paine park, widely considered one of the most beautiful mountain areas in the world.

Torres del PaineI have visited Torres several different ways over the years and have even stayed in the park, but this was my best visit so far. The weather was perfect and even not windy (a major theme in the region). Rather than packing the day too full, we took several long walks and saw the famous towers reflected in a still lake.

Torres is always worth a visit, but how one approaches the park must be governed by weather.

On our next full day, we cruised the southern channels, visited glaciers, walked, ate great quantities of meat at an estancia and even saw condors. Perfect.

The south is vast and wild. People are friendly and service is good. Prices are slightly higher than in central Chile, but that is to be expected. The area retains a frontier feel. Life in Chile’s far south is very familiar to me, but then I live in Canada - another wild region with mountains and wildlife.

Visitors should come south expecting wind and often rain in the mountains. Patagonia is a place, but it is also a state of mind – and it feels like freedom.

Chile - Easter Island (Rapa Nui) Tour Blog by Patrick

Tour Manager Patrick Twomey concludes his blog on the Chile - The Atacama to Patagonia March 2017 tour, covering the add-on on fascinating Easter Island...

One of those dream destinations, this most isolated inhabited place remains globally important.

It is beautiful, green, volcanic and extremely clean. Rapa Nui as the isolated speck in the sub-tropical South Pacific ceased to be itself when commercial flights began in earnest in 1967. It does remain culturally Polynesian, bureaucratically Chilean and very international due to regular flights loaded with visitors.

Moai on Easter IslandObviously the island is most famous for its Moai – giant statues – and they are absolutely worth visiting. There remains little mystery as to how, why and where they were built, but the society that dedicated so much of its energy to such iconography does remain obscure.

The people of Rapa Nui had a written language, but it can no longer be read. A civil war erupted around 1688 when commoners toppled their first Moai and shattered the shaman-supported elite’s hold on power.

I expect resources were becoming scarce as the island was deforested and fishing became increasingly difficult with no watercraft. A strict religious-based class structure no longer provided economic stability (food was the main commodity) and the chicken-based diet must have become unpalatable with not enough fuel to cook that fowl meat.

The civil war began after very intermittent contact with Europeans, but the final indignity occurred when slave traders kidnapped much of the island’s population and worked them to death in Peruvian mines.

Rapa Nui may have had a population exceeding 15,000 but declined to about 150. The last person able to read their own writing expired on a slave ship.

Today, Easter Island is an extremely important tourist destination. We are waiting for a new census, but the population of the island is between 5,000 and 8,000 people, of which about 4,000 are of indigenous heritage and speak Rapa Nui. Even after 1,500 years of separation, they can still speak with their cousins elsewhere in Polynesia.

Most of the other inhabitants are Chilean, and there is palpable tension between the two communities. Visitors are extremely welcome. It is necessary to reserve flights six months in advance.

On this trip we visited during the fall equinox. Daytime temperatures reached a humid 29 Celsius (nearly 90 Fahrenheit). Nights were perfect and the starry southern sky entirely unpolluted and magnificent. Winter temperatures can be distinctly cooler and May is the rainiest month.

Moai on Easter IslandWe all visit because of the archaeological sites, but history aside, the island is emphatically beautiful. Each night we sat on the western shore, just outside the only town, Hanga Roa, and witnessed one of the best sunsets on our planet.

As a tiny volcanic dot in a vast ocean, waves offer artistic texture to a rather consistent perspective. The horizon is so perfect, it was used as the levelling line for constructing the stone chicken coups so important to the island’s history. The colour of the ocean is beyond description.

Rapa Nui touches me emotionally. Its isolation is so absolute I almost fear being left there. I can think of few places on earth I find as beautiful, yet would tremble from the idea of living there.

We all visit this tiny land because it resonates in some manner and we consequently must evaluate that attraction. Unlike the seven families that left Polynesia some 1,500 hundred years ago to settle ‘the navel of the earth,’ us 7.5 billion people do not have another option. This planet is our home – our space – and its resources are finite.

This is not an environmental lecture, rather an appeal to logic. Easter Islanders – alone in their space – depleted their only source of survival. Cannot the world collectively learn from that perfect case study?

These blogs have been adapted from Patrick Twomey's twomeytravel blog. Images shown are for illustrative purposes and are representative of this tour but we cannot guarantee that all destinations or activities shown will feature on a particular departure.

Easter Island Community Member Review

Easter Island - Holy Moai!

Posing with Easter Island statueJust You Community member AELB fulfilled one of her dreams in 2016 by visiting Easter Island to see the island's famous remarkable giant stone figures, or 'moai'. Read below to find out what she thought of the experience…

Disclaimer: This is not a review of a Just You tour but simply views on a week long visit to Easter Island by a Community member acting as the unofficial 'advance scouting party' for all her Just You Community forum friends and anyone considering the add-on option for the new Chile tour. My advice in a word - GO!

Well, this was it - my dream trip to my ultimate 'bucket list' destination and Easter Island/Rapa Nui (or Isla De Pascua as the Chileans call it) certainly lived up to my expectations. The place is incredible and well worth the extra six hours of flying from Santiago (It's in a comfortable Boeing Dreamliner).
I stayed at the Iorana Rapa Nui Hotel which is a pleasant 10 minute walk from the 'centre' of the only town, Hanga Roa (more of a large village - Rapa Nui is NOT a bustling metropolis). The hotel had chalet style rooms and was clean and comfortable but it's main selling points were the incredible views of the wild seas, coast line and Rano Kau. The Island food across the board is average but, you need to bear in mind that everything has to be flown in and so availability and selections are extremely limited. One thing you must try while you are there, however, is the local speciality - an Empanada (a sort of pasty) but don't bother asking what's in it because, unless you've ordered tuna, you'll get a standard reply, "Meat"!

One thing to note about the Island - it's pricey (mainly due to all the additional carriage mentioned above). A can of cola will set you back about £2.20 and although I don't drink alcohol so didn't buy any, I think a beer was around £8. A simple hot sandwich and cup of tea for lunch was around £14. Tip - although the Island has a dual currency system, take Chilean pesos rather than US dollars. The locals much prefer pesos and although they will accept dollars, the exchange rate is not good.

Rano KauA smattering of Spanish is a useful thing to acquire before you go because the majority of locals speak only Spanish or Rapanui. You may get the odd word of English, if you are lucky, but most of my pleas of "habla a Inglés?" were met with a resounding "No".

Shopping - The locals have a very relaxed attitude to opening hours so don't leave things to the last minute if you've spotted something you like because the shop may not be open when you go back. The 'normal' hours are 10-1pm then 'lunch hour' until 5pm when they re-open until around 8pm. You'll find a wide variety of handmade local goods (wood carvings in particular) and prices are similar everywhere, but I would recommend the main craft market next to the church, the smaller one at the back of the fruit market and also the stalls next to the café at Rano Raraku which are good quality and slightly cheaper. And yes - as all my JY friends will be relieved to hear - I was delighted to find a wide selection of fridge magnets. Warning note - if you buy anything large or fragile, do your best to get it into your hand luggage because the LAN check in staff can be really particular about what goes in the cabin. I bought a beautiful hand carved wooden fruit bowl which they insisted on taking off me and putting in the hold.

Easter Island statuesIf you have time, pop into the Island's only Post Office (next door to the Fire Station) with your passport and they will add a unique 'Isla De Pascua' stamp alongside your Chilean immigration stamp - a nice extra souvenir (although they usually expect a small tip for their effort).

Now... have I forgotten anything? Oh, yes... MOAI! No photos will ever prepare you for your first encounter with these behemoths. They are extraordinary. It is said that only once their eyes were carved was their 'Mana' or power awakened but trust me, the 'blind' moai still in the quarry are giving off some seriously mystic vibes. The statues that you will see on the platforms (ahu) are all restored, having been toppled during tribal warfare in the mid-19th century. The ones in the quarry are exactly where they were when the carving era stopped around 500 years ago and, as a result, in many ways are more stunning.

Easter Island statuesIn terms of what you will see on the Just You add-on, you will do two full days of tours which will include the Moai quarry (Rano Raraku), the 'top knot' quarry (Puna Pau), the largest Ahu of 15 statues (Tongariki) and the biggest inland Ahu (Akivi). You will also learn about the 'Bird Man' competition with a visit to Orongo and the crater lake of the volcano Rano Kau. I think this is a really good programme for your add-on which will give you all of the 'big ticket' sites.

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