Monday & Tuesday: Flight to Chile & Santiago
Check in for our flight to Chile. On arrival in Santiago the following day, we are met by our tour manager and astronomer, Will Gater, and transferred to the Hotel Plaza San Francisco, our base for the next two nights. There’ll be time to check-in, relax and enjoy a coffee break.
Later we’ll be picked up to enjoy lunch at a central market followed by a tour of Santiago during which we explore the historic and modern sights of this cosmopolitan city. Pass the Moneda Palace, the current seat of the Government, and absorb its Neoclassical splendour before continuing on to the Plaza de Armas surrounded by the Metropolitan Cathedral, Central Post Office and other historic buildings dating back to Colonial times. Visit Santa Lucia Hill where the Spanish founded Santiago in 1541, discover the cultural and artistic neighbourhood of Bellavista and enjoy the view point at the top of San Cristobal Hill. The evening is at leisure.
Included: coffee break and lunch (Tuesday)
Wednesday: Andes Mountains
Today we head into the heart of the Andes Mountains, admiring panoramic views of Santiago on the way up. We enjoy a late lunch in the modern ski resorts area of Valle Nevado with its beautiful panoramas. The area is situated 65km from Santiago, in front of Cerro el Plomo, the largest peak at 5.43m, which was used as a ceremonial site by the Incas and is visible from Santiago on clear days.
Back at the hotel this evening we enjoy a welcome meeting with Will Gater.
Included: breakfast and lunch
Thursday: Flight to Calama & San Pedro de Atacama
We transfer to the airport for our flight to Calama. On arrival we travel to the village of San Pedro de Atacama, located 2,500 metres above sea level.
San Pedro de Atacama is set on one of the many oases formed by the rains of the "Bolivian Winter" in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest in the world. Considered the archaeological capital of Chile, the area was the main development centre of the Atacameña culture. The surroundings of San Pedro de Atacama offer various attractions and unique landscapes that have been formed due to the extreme conditions of the area (lack of water, volcanic activity and the presence of salt flats).
We check into our simple and authentic hotel, Don Raul (our base for the next three nights), before having free time to discover the village. In the early evening, we share a traditional open-air Chilean barbecue (subject to weather conditions). Later tonight, we transfer to the SPACE (San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations). Atacama Desert is one of the best places in the world to observe the sky, and here we are given a presentation by an astronomer from the observatory to understand the sky and how to look at it, as well as observe it through telescopes (subject to weather conditions). We have a late return to the hotel.
Included: breakfast and dinner
Friday: Salty Mountain Range, Death Valley & Moon Valley
We have a free morning to explore San Pedro de Atacama at leisure. The ancient main square and its church, along with the town hall and tiny handicrafts market are worth a visit while the adobe colour of the buildings gives the village an unusual beauty.
This afternoon we enjoy an excursion that includes the Salty Mountain Range, Death Valley and Moon Valley. It is one of the most visited areas around San Pedro, an interesting and curious area of stone and sand formations, made up of dunes, caverns, sharp peaks and natural depressions, creating an unbelievable moon-like scene. The name "Salty Mountain" derives from the fact that its rocks possess a great quantity of calcium sulphate, giving the appearance of being splashed with salt. We finish the day watching the sunset on the Andean Altiplano and enjoying an appetiser.
We return to the village for dinner in a local restaurant before some night sky viewing with Will Gater.
Included: breakfast and dinner
Saturday: Toconao, Miscanti and Miñiques Lagoons, Tuajto Lagoon, Salar de Atacama, Chaxa and Tebequinche Lagoons
On today’s full day excursion, we first make a short stop at the village of Toconao, renowned for its church and bell-tower, before heading up to Miscanti and Miñiques Lagoons, located on a high plain at 4,200m above sea level, at the base of Miscanti and Miñiques Volcanoes (nearly 6,000m) and separated from each other by a lava flow from an eruption. We enjoy a leisurely walk to observe the local fauna and admire the incredible views of the blue lagoons surrounded by the volcanic landscape. Afterwards we head to Tuajto Lagoon (Piedras Rojas) to enjoy a picnic and the breathtaking beauty of the landscape. We come down from the Altiplano to the Salar de Atacama, the largest salt flat in Chile and one of the largest in the world. We take a stroll at Chaxa Lagoon, a breeding site for the rare Andean flamingo and also home to many other birds such as yellow-billed teals, sandpipers and crested ducks. Finally, we wait for sunset around Tebequinche Lagoon while sharing a local wine aperitif.
Included: breakfast and Lunch
Sunday: El Tatio Geysers & Flight to Santiago
A very early morning pickup today for the two hour drive to El Tatio Geysers field, which allows us to arrive before sunrise to observe the geysers at their most spectacular. In the cold early morning air, each geyser is topped with a white column of steam that partially disappears when the temperature warms up. We enjoy a leisurely walk around the geyser field, marvelling at the geothermal wonders. It’s also possible to observe wild vicuñas, an endangered Andean camelid that's highly protected in Chile. Breakfast is served and there’s also the chance to enjoy a bath in natural hot springs! While the outdoor temperature is chilly (5°C) at this high-altitude elevation of 4,200m, the water of the geothermal pool is a warm 35°C.
Later we drive down to Calama with a stop for lunch (or a lunch box according to the schedule), before taking an afternoon flight back to Santiago. On arrival, we transfer back to the Hotel Plaza San Francisco.
Included: breakfast and Lunch
Monday: Casablanca Valley & Valparaíso
Our full day excursion takes us to Casablanca Valley, with a stop at a vineyard for a visit and wine tasting, and Valparaíso including lunch in a local restaurant.
Valparaíso is a city-port located at 100km from Santiago. On our way to the coast we enjoy the diverse landscapes and vegetation of the Curacaví and Casablanca valleys. Comprising more than 4,000 planted hectares, the valley of Casablanca is one of the best new wine producing areas in Chile, and is known throughout the world as one of the premium areas for the production of white wines. Today, in addition to the traditional grapes, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, the interesting varieties of Merlot and Pinot Noir have been added.
The arrival into Valparaíso offers an astonishing colourful spectacle of houses almost hanging from the hills that shelter the main Chilean commercial port; a natural amphitheatre that faces the Pacific Ocean. Valparaíso was designated a Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO; recognition that the city is of value for its historical, artistic, cultural, aesthetic, archaeological and anthropological qualities. As well as several hills such as Concepción, Alegre, Artillería, Barón and Cordillera, the traditional funiculars are not only attractive as modes of public transport, but also as viewpoints from which we can admire this amazing city in all its splendour.
Back at the hotel in Santiago this evening, we enjoy a pre-eclipse presentation with Pete Lawrence and Will Gater who will give advice, information and guidance on the forthcoming eclipse.
Included: breakfast and Lunch
Tuesday: Eclipse Day
We have an early grab and go breakfast as we head to the airport for our private charter aircraft from Santiago to La Serena.
The flight takes around one hour and on arrival we meet our coach and travel to the eclipse site around 60km north and close to the centre line. There will be plenty of time to find your own space and set up any equipment ready to take in the wonder of the eclipse. We enjoy an included lunch on site which will be equipped with seating, shade and toilets.
Once we have witnessed the eclipse, we can enjoy a glass of bubbly and then make our way back to La Serena and re-board our own private charter aircraft to Santiago.
Back at the hotel, we enjoy a cold buffet and continue with our celebrations.
Included: breakfast, lunch snack and cold evening buffet
Wednesday & Thursday: Post Eclipse Presentation & Flight Home
On Wednesday morning we enjoy an entertaining post eclipse presentation with Pete Lawrence and Will Gater which also gives us a chance to share our eclipse experiences with our fellow travellers.
Later, we transfer to Santiago airport for our flight home, arriving back in the UK the following day.
Included: breakfast (Wednesday)