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Best of Chile: Atacama + Easter Island + Valparaiso


CRE14S
14 NIGHTS
FROM £2,795
Per person sharing
International flights quoted separately
Combine a visit to Chile with remote Easter Island in the Pacific, where you can marvel at nearly 900 ancient gigantic Moai statues. Also explore Santiago & the spectacular Atacama Desert with its shimmering salt flats, geysers & moon landscapes. Complete your holiday relaxing at the histopric port city of Valparaiso. English speaking guides, all transfers & specified sighseeing included.
Easter Island Photo Moai Statues Chile Atacama Santiago Valparaiso
• 
Santiago
• 
Atacama Desert
• 
Salt Flats
• 
Moon Valley
• 
El Tatio Geysers
• 
Easter Island
• 
Moai Statues
• 
Rapa Nui National Park
• 
Bird Man Cult
• 
Valparaiso
• 
Santiago
• 
Atacama Desert
• 
Salt Flats
• 
Moon Valley
• 
El Tatio Geysers
• 
Easter Island
• 
Moai Statues
• 
Rapa Nui National Park
• 
Bird Man Cult
• 
Valparaiso
Day 1
You will be met at Santiago Airport and transferred into the capital of Santiago de Chile. This sophisticated and cosmopolitan city is situated in a valley, surrounded by the snow-capped Andes Mountains and the beautiful Chilean Coastal Range.
 
On arrival enjoy a tour of this modern city. We start in the downtown area of this relatively compact city, where modern buildings have transformed the landscape, and visit Santa Lucia Hill where the city of Santiago was founded in 1541.
 
We continue to the Plaza de Armas in the heart of the old colonial city and bustling Ahumada Boulevard with its many shops, street performers and vendors. Here you will be able to see some beautiful neo-classical buildings – including the 18th century Cathedral of Santiago and the early 19th century Royal Court Palace, which now houses the National History Museum. Also enjoy outside views of the Municipal Offices, the Post Office and the current Presidential Palace, La Moneda. Time permitting you will have the opportunity to taste a ‘Pisco Sour’, see local handcrafts and walk through some of the more traditional streets of the city, before being dropped off at your hotel.
 
Note: Most museums are closed on Mondays.
Day 2
This morning enjoy a half day private tour of the modern city of Santiago.
 
We start in the downtown area of this relatively compact city, where modern buildings have transformed the landscape, and visit Santa Lucia Hill where the city of Santiago was founded in 1541.
 
We continue to the Plaza de Armas in the heart of the old colonial city and bustling Ahumada Boulevard with its many shops, street performers and vendors. Here you will be able to see some beautiful neo-classical buildings – including the 18th century Cathedral of Santiago and the early 19th century Royal Court Palace, which now houses the National History Museum. Also enjoy outside views of the Municipal Offices, the Post Office and the current Presidential Palace, La Moneda. You will have the opportunity to taste a ‘Pisco Sour’, see local handcrafts and walk through some of the more traditional streets of the city, before being dropped off at your hotel.
 
Your afternoon is at leisure to explore more of this lively city independently.
 
Note: Most museums are closed on Mondays.
Day 3
Today is free to explore the modern city of Santiago independently.
 
We suggest you take the Hop Off Bus which stops at all the key attractions, including the cable car up to the enormous Metropolitan Park. At over 750 hectares, this beautiful urban park is the largest in South America - covering San Cristóbal Hill as well as the Chacarillas and Los Gemelos hills. Afterwards take the funicular back down to the city.
 
You can visit the Pre-Colombian Museum and it is also fun to watch the changing of the guards in front of the La Moneda Presidential Palace, which takes place at 10 am every second day.
Day 4
Transfer to Santiago Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Calama Airport and transferred 1.5-hours across the vast copper-rich plains of the desert and through the Salt Mountains to the small town of San Pedro de Atacama.
 
Extending for over 600 miles (1,000 km), this enormous plateau of salt lakes, sand, larva and stony terrain is situated between two high mountain ranges - the Andes to the east and the Chilean Coastal Range to the west. As a result, the Atacama receives virtually no rain whatsoever - making it the driest and oldest desert in the world, with landscapes that will take your breath away.
 
Note: Your driver from Calama will only speak Spanish.
Day 5
Today enjoy a full day shared tour to the crystalline Atacama Salt Flats (Salar de Atacama), the largest in Chile and the third largest in the world.
 
We drive 1-hour to these astonishing salt flats, surrounded by the Andes to the east and the Cordillera de Domeyko to the west. Small lagoons have formed where water has broken through the crusted salt, with no drainage outlets and one of the largest lithium reserves in the world. We visit Chaxa Lagoon in the National Flamingo Reserve, where you can photograph this magnificent scenery and hope to see three different species of flamingo - Chilean, Andean & James’s - as well as other waterbirds that nest and feed on these mineral-rich waters, such as the puna plover and red-gartered coot. Most activity occurs at sunrise, when you may see a pinkish hue rising over the horizon. As the air warms up, this dissipates as the birds take flight over the lake.
 
We then venture 2-hours higher into the Andes, to view the amazingly landscapes and dramatic blue waters of Meñique and Miscanti - two Altiplanic lagoons located at over 14,000 ft (4,300 m) at the foot of impressive volcanoes that were formed when these mountains rose from the sea. Take in the varying landscapes as we drive to these lagoons, travelling through stunning and ever changing scenery. You may see wild vicuña and rhea along the way, as well as some birds on the lakes. On arrival enjoy a 20-minute walk down to one of the lakes, where you can observe the birds and any wildlife.
 
On the return journey we stop at the small village of Socaire, where you can observe local life and visit their small traditional church. We can also stop in the picturesque local village of Toconao, with its main square and classic Atacamenian bell tower built in 1750 from cactus wood, mud and straw. Here we visit the small church of San Lucas, before returning to San Pedro. Lunch is included today.
 
Note: Some luxury hotels run all-inclusive plans that include a variety of half day and full day excursions, which are discussesd and agreed with you on arrival. Their programme will then supercede the Atacama activities shown in this itinerary.
 
Please be aware the Altiplanic Lagoons are at high altitude, so this excursion should not be undertaken by anyone with a heart condition. Dress warmly with thermal clothing, warm jacket, fleece, beanie, scarf and glovers - as the outdoor temperature at the lagoons will be very cold.
Day 6
Depart before dawn today on a 6.5-hour shared excursion to the El Tatio Geysers, the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere and the third largest in the world.
 
We drive 2.5-hours to this astonishing geothermal field situated at over 14,000 ft (4,300 m) above sea level, with geysers that have steam fumaroles that can easily reach over 33 ft (10 m). We arrive at sunrise when these columns of steam condense in the cold air, set against a backdrop of the imposing Andes with its multiple colours. Walk around the geyser field before these steam plumes disappear as the air warms up, followed by a picnic breakfast. If you are brave, take your swimming costume for a quick dip in the hot geyser pool - but be warned, the surrounding temperature will be below freezing when you emerge!
 
On the way back to San Pedro, enjoy spectacular views of the Torcopuri y Sairecabur Volcanoes and the Putana Wetlands, where we make a short stop. Here you can see several species of birds that live in these high altitude wetlands that freeze overnight - including the Giant coot, Andean flamingo, Chilean flamingo, Andean goose and a variety of coots, teals, gulls and ducks. You may also see vicuña (an elegant wild camelid) or rhea (a small ostrich), both of which have adapted to live in these harsh conditions, or even a viscacha (a rodent that looks like a long-tailed rabbit). Our final stop is at the small village of Machuca, where you can see how the local pleople live and view the Altiplanic architecture of their small St. James Church.
 
Note: Please be aware the El Tatio Geysers are at high altitude, so this excursion should not be undertaken by anyone with a heart condition. Dress warmly with thermal clothing, warm jacket, fleece, beanie, scarf and glovers - as the temperature at the geysers will be below freezing at dawn.
Day 7
This morning participate in a shared tour to one of the most important archeological sites of the region.
 
Pukará de Quitor is a pre-Colombian 17th century stone fortress that was the site of the Battle of Quitor in 1540 - one of the first clashes between the indigenous people and the invading Spanish conquistadors. We continue to the well-preserved ancient village of Tulor, probably the first settlement of the Atacama salt flats, to learn more about the local culture. We also visit the Church of San Pedro, before returning to our hotel.
 
In the mid-afternoon we head out again on another shared excursion, this time driving 20-minutes to the Salt Mountains (Cordillera de la Sal) situated in the National Flamingo Reserve. Here we walk for 20-minutes each way (the last section is quite steep) to view the dramatic lunar landscapes of Moon Valley, with many natural mineral sculptures formed by wind erosion. We also walk 10-minutes each way to see some unusual sculptured salt formations and a small cave.
 
At the end of the day enjoy a magical sunset at Kari Viewpoint, one of the highest points in the Salt Mountains that overlooks the dunes of Death Valley favoured by sand boarders. Seeing the colours of the hills changing as the sun sets, will be a memory that will last a lifetime.
Day 8
Transfer 1.5-hours to Calama Airport for your onward flight.
 
Note: Your driver will only speak Spanish.

Arrive at Santiago Airport and make your own way by free shuttle or on foot (depending on location) to your hotel situated on the airport complex.
 
Check in and relax in the shadow of the Andes Mountains.
Day 9
Make your own way by hotel shuttle or on foot to Santiago Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Easter Island Airport - known locally as Rapa Nui - situated in the southern Pacific Ocean some 2,300 miles (3,700 km) west of the Chilean mainland.
 
Easter Island is famous for its nearly 900 gigantic stone Moai (carved human statues with oversized heads, often resting on a massive rock altar called Ahu), carved between the 10th and 16th century. Much of the island is now protected and Rapa Nui National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
 
Check into your hotel in this far-flung volcanic island at the southeastern point of the Polynesian Triangle, and one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world.
 
Note: A national park fee of $80 per person is payable at Easter Island airport on arrival.
Day 10
Today enjoy a full day shared excursion exploring the history of the Rapa Nui people.
 
From the capital of Hanga Roa, we travel 1-hour to the east of the island, where Hotu Matu´a - the first king - disembarked and founded this amazing megalithic culture. Over the next 700 years, these Polynesian navigators went on to produce the gigantic Moai (statues) for which Easter Island is so famous.
 
Our first stops are at Ahu Vaihu and Ahu Akahanga – the Platform of the King – as it is believed that the grave of Hotu Matu’a is in a nearby cave. There are four separate Ahu (platforms) here with 12 Moai of various sizes and eight magnificent Pukao (topknots). Petroglyphs run along the front of the main Ahu and one Moai can be found behind it.
 
Continuing our trip we visit Rano Raraku Volcano, one of the most interesting archaeological sites on Rapa Nui. Here you can find 397 Moai situated in a quarry inside an extinct volcano, with a freshwater crater lake. Some of the statues are still encrusted in the rock of the quarry, others are in the process of getting their backs completed, and some are in a staging area waiting to be moved to their destination. Here we will see the largest Moai ever carved – Te Tokanga (or El Gigante) measuring a staggering 66 ft (22 m) and weighing over 220 tons. We stop here for an included picnic lunch.
 
In the afternoon we visit the visually stunning Ahu Tongariki, where 15 Moai that had been destroyed and washed inland following a tsunami in 1960 have been restored. This is the largest reconstructed site on the island and the largest temple in all of Polynesia.
 
We continue to Ahu Te Pito Kura, which only has one Moai but it is the largest erected on any Ahu at over 30 ft (10 m) and weighing over 85 tons. The topknot alone is worthy of praise, weighing 11.5 tons. Here we also find a sacred spherical stone, said to have been brought by Hotu Matu’a from his home island of Hiva.
 
Finally we finish our day relaxing on stunning Anakena Beach, with its row of Moai which have their backs turned to the sea.
 
Note: The order of your day excursions may be changed. Wear good walking shoes and pack both sunscreen and rain gear.
Day 11
This morning join a half day shared excursion to Tangata Manu Ceremonial Village.
 
We visit the Ana Kai Tangata Cave, where on one of its walls you will see stylised paintings of the Manutara, a sea swallow whose arrival in spring would initiate the annual Tangata Manu Bird Man competition of physical dexterity and strength - with competitors vying to obtain the first precious egg.
 
Our tour continues to Vinapu, an archaeological site where you can see enormous basalt slabs similar to those used by the Inca people of Peru and Rano Kau, one of the three main volcanos that define the triangular shape of Rapa Nui. This volcano erupted over 2.5 million years ago and has a height of 310 m and a huge 1.6 km crater, with a fresh water lake with small islands of reeds. Today grapes, bananas and totora (a reed used for building houses and boats) are grown in the lush crater.
 
Our final stop is Orongo Ceremonial Village, a wonderful vantage point from which you can see the curvature of the earth and an unending vista of empty ocean. 47 houses were restored here in 1974, as the originals had collapsed or been torn down by treasure hunters. A series of trails have been set out on the site. At the end of a 1 km interpretive trail we find Mata Ngarau - the place where the Bird Man ceremony was performed. The Bird Man was appointed as the spiritual and political leader for a period of one year. Numerous boulders are carved with ancient petroglyphs that represent this sacred character, shown with a shrunken human body and a large beak.
 
After returning to your lodge, the afternoon is at leisure.
 
Note: The order of your day excursions may be changed. Wear good walking shoes and pack both sunscreen and rain gear.
Day 12
Today enjoy a half day shared excursion to the Seven Moai.
 
Ahu Akivi is a famous altar with seven magnificent moai that were restored in 1960 by Dr William Mulloy. These are one of the few platforms on the island where the Moai face the ocean and legend tells us they represent the seven explorers sent by King Hotu Matu’a before his epic colonisation voyage from Polynesia. They are believed to date back to around 1460.
 
We continue to Puna Pau, one of the 70 secondary volcanic cones found on the island, which has a distinctive red colour because of its rich iron deposits. This red scoria was easily carved by the Rapa Nui people, who used it to make Pukao (topknots) that crowned the heads of some moai and funeral casts.
 
Finally we visit Ahu Huri a Urenga, one of the last altars to be restored. With only a single statue, it is oriented such that the sun rises directly on the face of the moai at the summer and winter solstice, marking not only the beginning of the season, but also the time of different ‘taboos’ regulating fishing and other activities. Astronomically it is facing east, lined up with two neighbouring hills and two smaller Ahu nearby.
 
Afternoon is at leisure to relax at your lodge or explore independently.
 
Note: The order of your day excursions may be changed. Wear good walking shoes and pack both sunscreen and rain gear.
Day 13
Transfer to Easter Island Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Santiago Airport and transferred 1.5-hours to the historic seaport of Valparaiso.
 
Check into your hotel in Valparaiso, the second largest city in the country and home to the Chilean Parliament (the Congress of Chile). Prior to the opening of the Panama Canal, this cosmopolitan city was the most important Pacific seaport on the crucial trade route that linked the American west coast with Europe, via the Strait of Magellan.
Day 14
This morning enjoy a 3-hour private Walking Tour of the lively and chaotic city of Valparaiso, with its quirky and eclectic architecture, many parks, historic monuments, bars and restaurants.
 
The homes around this natural harbour were built over 42 steep hills, two of which - Alegre ('Happy') and Concepcion - are now UNESCO World Heritage sites Their many stairways, colourful houses, old funicular elevators and trolleybuses are a real feature - as is the amazing graffiti you will find everywhere. The most important square is Plaza Sotomayor, which is situated on the sea shore.
 
Your afternoon is free to explore more of Valparaiso independently.
Day 15
Transfer 1.5-hours to Santiago Airport for your flight home.
 
Note: Your airport driver will only speak Spanish.

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