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'Deserts, Stars and Cultures'

What makes this trip special?

City life beside the Andes

City life beside the Andes

Santiago

Set against the backdrop of a long line of Andean peaks, Santiago is a colonial city, turned republican capital, turned modern metropolis. There's a lot to do, with good art galleries, unmissable museums, lovely parks, and a great range of shops, restaurants and hotels. Step outside the city and you are in some of Chile's most notable wine valleys.

Lunar landscapes of Atacama

Lunar landscapes of Atacama

Moon Valley & Death Valley

The moon and death valleys in Atacama are particularly impressive at sunset, when changing light and shadow plays on the stark landscapes. The otherworldly scenery has been gradually eroded over time leaving a jagged lunar surface.

Geyser field in the Andes

Geyser field in the Andes

El Tatio

El Tatio is the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere, the third largest in the world, and has 8% of all the geysers on earth. Statistics aside, it's a remarkable sight - best very early in the morning when the air is cold and the clouds of vapour and jets of steam are at their most dramatic in the chilly mountain air of the high Andes.

Route of the Geoglyphs

Route of the Geoglyphs

Geoglyphs of the Lluta Valley

On the hillsides between Arica and Iquique are an asortment of Chile's most impressive Geoglyphs. On the route you will see various designs of llamas, humans and lizards and they are visible from some distance due to their size.

Ancient mummies of the Altiplano

Ancient mummies of the Altiplano

The Azapa Valley and Archaeological sites

The green Azapa Valley around 3km from Arica is a fertile oasis set between two sere hills. Within the valley is the excellent Museo Archaeologico with an aray of pre-columbian artefacts and an impressive collection of Chinchorro mummies. A 7000 year old burial site was discovered in 1983, and with 96 bodies this remains the largest of its kind to date.

High lakes biosphere reserve

High lakes biosphere reserve

Lauca National Park

Rich in wildlife, the Lauca National Park is home to over 150 different species of birds. At altitudes of between 3000m and 6000m this is typical Altiplano scenery, with a backdrop of conical volcanoes and stunning lakes.

Salt Flats and Flamingos

Salt Flats and Flamingos

Surire Salt Flat

A vast expanse of brilliant white salt plain at over 4000m in altitude, the Salar de Surire covers an area of over 150km2. Between the flats lie several lagoons that are home to three of the world's six species of Flamingo. Above them looms the Arintica Volcano, and then a few kilomtetres off the salar are the Polloquere hot springs, where blue thermal waters offer a unique type of bathing.

Aymaran Villages of the Altiplano

Aymaran Villages of the Altiplano

Chapiquena, Belen, Tignamar and Pachama

High in the Andean altiplano between Arica and Putre lies one of the Andes most ancient pathways. Along the road are small Aymara communities with a lifestyle and culture firmly rooted to their traditions.

Rapa Nui culture

Rapa Nui culture

Easter Island

Remote and mysterious, Easter Island remains one of the most isolated islands in the world. Best known for its imposing Moai statues, other highlights include the vast Rano Kau volcanic crater and the ceremonial Orongo village. As well as the incredible visitor sites, the island also has some of Chile's clearest waters for diving, whilst you can now also see the ancient sculptures from the water for an alternative viewpoint.

Itinerary map for Chile 'Deserts, Stars and Cultures' holiday

Itinerary

  • Day      Overnight
  • 1 Santiago
  • 2 Santiago
  • 3 San Pedro de Atacama
  • 4 San Pedro de Atacama
  • 5 San Pedro de Atacama
  • 6 Iquique
  • 7 Iquique
  • 8 Arica
  • 9 Azapa
  • 9 Arica
  • 10 Putre
  • 11 Putre
  • 12 Arica
  • 13 Santiago
  • 14 Easter Island
  • 15 Easter Island
  • 16 Easter Island
  • 17 Easter Island
  • 18 Santiago
  • For the detail of each day click the ‘Day-by-day’ tab above.

Day-by-day itinerary for 'Deserts, Stars and Cultures'

DAY 1

Santiago

Arrive in Santiago, with a short walk with your guide to get to know the neighbourhood near your hotel.

DAY 2
B

Your guide collects you for a trip to a winery in the nearby countryside. You explore vineyards, view the production, visit the cellars and conclude with a tasting before returning to your hotel.

DAY 3
B

Atacama

You are driven to the airport to fly to Calama where you are taken to your lodge in San Pedro de Atacama. You visit the stark Moon Valley and continue to Death Valley before a sunset at Kari viewpoint and return to your lodge in the early evening.

DAY 4
B

A full day in the Atacama, visiting Pukará de Quitor, Tulor, San Pedro’s church and return to your lodge. Out again in mid-afternoon to Toconao and down to Atacama Salt Flat where you should see flocks of flamingos at Chaxa Lagoon.

DAY 5
B

Pick up is at a daunting 4am for your drive into the Andes to Tatio Geysers, one of the world’s most important geothermal fields, at 4320m. It is a primordial sight, lit by the dawn sun and in the early morning chill, as bubbling, spurting fumaroles and geysers throw steam into the clear mountain air. Pause on the way back at Putana’s wetlands, below Colorado Volcano. Back in San Pedro by early afternoon, you are free until evening when you visit SPACE (San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations) under the clearest skies on Earth. Experts guide you through the heavens and the night’s planets, star clouds, and galaxies, as you try each telescope in the largest public telescope park in South America.

DAY 6
B

Iquique

You are taken to Calama bus station for your bus trip (6h) to Iquique. You are met and taken to your hotel for 2 nights at this cosmopolitan town between giant sand dunes and the Pacific.

DAY 7
B

Humberstone ghost town and Route of the Geoglyphs

Stopping at a monument to saltpetre workers you continue to the ghost town of Humberstone, and to Pozo Almonte which supplied water to the saltpetre trains. Passing a huge forest of prosopis tamarugo, a flowering tree that needs no rain, you drive to Cerros Pintados where over 400 geoglyphs of humans, animals and geometric shapes are drawn on the desert hillsides.

DAY 8
B

To Arica

Today you travel overland to Arica. The public bus departs in the morning, and you are dropped off at the bus station with your tickets for this journey of over 300km up the Chilean coast. When you arrive in Arica, you are met from the bus station and taken to your hotel in this city just 18 km south of Peru. This part of the Chilean coastline is in between the green and lush Azapa and Lluta valleys, and the pleasant sunny climate makes this an excellent base for exploring the Azapa region and the nearby National Park.

DAY 9
B

Azapa

Arica lies between the fertile valleys of Azapa and Lluta, rich in archaeological treasures and local cultures. They were key agricultural areas for the Tiwanaku and the Incas, whose traces are seen in numerous geoglyphs, petroglyphs and Incan colca grain silos. At San Miguel de Azapa you visit an archaeological museum with an excellent collection of pre-Columbian artefacts and the ‘Chinchorro Mummies’ from around 5000BC

DAY 10
B

Lauca NP

Driving up to the altiplano you stop at the 12th century fort of Pukara de Copaquilla and historic Parinacota en route to Lauca NP, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, where Chungará Lake, one of the world’s highest lakes at 4570m, is set beneath apu (sacred mountains) and payachata (twin volcanoes). Super wildlife includes alpacas, vicuñas, llamas, viscachas and a notable selection of birds. You stay 2 nights in Putre.

DAY 11
B

Surire Salt Flat and Aymara villages

The Surire reserve protects salt flats and high altitude ecosystems south-east of Putre at 4200m. Flamingos nest here, and the rheas gave their Aymara name of suri to the area. You pass through the Vicuñas altiplano reserve and visit stone villages of Ancuta, Guallatire and Viluvio where Aymara communities maintain ancestral traditions.

DAY 12
B

From Putre you visit the Aymara villages of Chapiquiña, Belén, Tignamar and Pachama connected by ancient paths to the Inca’s network, and return to Arica for the night.

DAY 13
B

Santiago

Fly to Santiago to stay at an airport hotel.

DAY 14
B

Easter Island

Fly to Easter Island, a 5 hour flight. You are met at the airport and taken to your hotel in Hanga Roa with the rest of the day free to explore the town and sites around it.

DAY 15
BL

Three days exploring Easter Island, as described for days 8-10 of ‘Atacama, Patagonia, Easter Island and Uyuni’ on p30-31.

DAY 16
B

DAY 17
B

DAY 18
B

Santiago

You may have time for an extra excursion before you fly to Santiago.

DAY 19
B

Fly back to the UK, onwards in South America, or take an extra day or two to relax and explore the Central Valley.

Guide prices for 'Deserts, Stars and Cultures'

options based on all year low season mid season high season peak season other season
Mid-range hotels, mostly shared tours 2 people sharing £4,915
Upper range hotels, mostly private tours 2 people sharing £6,005
Prices are per person and include:
  • all travel in Chile
  • all accommodation
  • meals as indicated (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
  • tours as indicated
Prices do not include:
  • international flights
  • travel insurance
  • airport and departure taxes
  • items of a personal nature such as drinks, tips, laundry, etc
  • any optional excursions you may buy locally

Customer reviews for 'Deserts, Stars and Cultures'

Recent reviews are shown here from holidays based on this initial design. In each case the itinerary may have been modified (a little or a lot) to suit the individual traveller.

Average

Seasonal information for 'Deserts, Stars and Cultures'

Along this route in January

Day Location Max °C Monthly rainfall
1 Santiago 30°C rainfall 1mm
2 Santiago 30°C rainfall 1mm
3 San Pedro de Atacama 24°C rainfall 22mm
4 San Pedro de Atacama 24°C rainfall 22mm
5 San Pedro de Atacama 24°C rainfall 22mm
6 Iquique 25°C rainfall 0mm
7 Iquique 25°C rainfall 0mm
8 Arica 26°C rainfall 0mm
9 Azapa 26°C rainfall 0mm
9 Arica 26°C rainfall 0mm
10 Putre 17°C rainfall 89mm
11 Putre 17°C rainfall 89mm
12 Arica 26°C rainfall 0mm
13 Santiago 30°C rainfall 1mm
14 Easter Island 26°C rainfall 87mm
15 Easter Island 26°C rainfall 87mm
16 Easter Island 26°C rainfall 87mm
17 Easter Island 26°C rainfall 87mm
18 Santiago 30°C rainfall 1mm

Typical weather for January

rainchart

Max °C figures are the average daily maximum temperatures for the month. Rainfall is the average precipitation for the month.

Hotels for 'Deserts, Stars and Cultures'

Days 1 - 2

Hotel Neruda Express

Santiago

Hotel Neruda Express offers guests a comfortable stay in Santiago. Rooms are clean and simply decorated and well equipped with air conditioning, central heating, cable TV and wifi.

The hotel is located in El Golf, the modern, business neighbourhood of Santiago, within walking distance of plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. The hotel has a communal dining room where buffet breakfast is served.

 

Hotel Neruda Express
Standard Room
Days 3 - 5

Poblado Kimal

San Pedro de Atacama

Centrally located the Poblado Kimal is a good mid-range option. With 21 rooms (20 standard and 1 superior with Jacuzzi) made of adobe and wood these are distributed around and remind of an ancient village. Each room has en-suite facilities, mini-bar, heating and fan. The hotel also has Wi-Fi, parking and a pool. Meals are taken at the Restaurant located at the Hotel Kimal (opposite).

 

Poblado Kimal
Cabin exteriors
Days 6 - 7

Holiday Inn Express

Iquique

The Holiday Inn is a good mid-range choice with all the ameneties you would expect from an international chain hotel. Rooms are equipped with A/C and heating as well as coffee makers and fridges, whilst the private bathrooms all have tubs as well as hair dryers.

Holiday Inn Express
Double Room
Days 8 - 9

Arica Hotel

Arica

Located by the beach, just 2 km from downtown Arica the hotel has 114 rooms: 35 Standard, 45 Superior, 14 Suites and 20 ocean view Cabañas. Services include 2 outdoor swimming pools, billiard and ping-pong room, Business Center, Conference and Events rooms, Wi-Fi in each room, Restaurant, Cafeteria, Panoramic Bar.

Arica Hotel
View of swimming-pool
Days 10 - 11

Q'antati

Putre

This is a small and relatively new hotel located at the edge of town. Q'antati has 10 rooms set in a couryard. All rooms are en-suite (some with nice views of the valley) and have central heating.

Q'antati
Hotel exterior
Day 12

Arica Hotel

Arica

Located by the beach, just 2 km from downtown Arica the hotel has 114 rooms: 35 Standard, 45 Superior, 14 Suites and 20 ocean view Cabañas. Services include 2 outdoor swimming pools, billiard and ping-pong room, Business Center, Conference and Events rooms, Wi-Fi in each room, Restaurant, Cafeteria, Panoramic Bar.

Arica Hotel
View of swimming-pool
Day 13

Holiday Inn Aeropuerto

Santiago Airport

The Holiday Inn hotel is conveniently located right outside the arrivals terminal at Santiago airport. There is a restaurant and bar on site and Wi-Fi throughout the hotel making this a good base for a night before catching early flights or arriving late in the day. Rooms are available overnight or just for day use should you wish to spend time here rather than in the termainl building.

Holiday Inn Aeropuerto
Exterior
Days 14 - 17

O'Tai

Easter Island

Hotel O'Tai is a good value option 5 minutes walk from downtown Hanga Roa. There are 42 rooms across the hotel, a restaurant and bar as well as a swimming pool. There is Wi-Fi available at the hotel, but this is at extra cost payable locally.

O'Tai
Hotel Exterior
Day 18

Hotel Neruda Express

Santiago

Hotel Neruda Express offers guests a comfortable stay in Santiago. Rooms are clean and simply decorated and well equipped with air conditioning, central heating, cable TV and wifi.

The hotel is located in El Golf, the modern, business neighbourhood of Santiago, within walking distance of plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. The hotel has a communal dining room where buffet breakfast is served.

 

Hotel Neruda Express
Standard Room