The Atacama Desert, Chiloé Island, and Patagonia

Overview

From the high and wild Atacama Desert to the temperate rainforests of Chiloé Island and soaring peaks of Paine National Park, our north-to-south journey explores a dazzling array of Chilean landscapes and cultures. We’ll hike the epic realm of the Atacama, with its cardon cactus and flamingo-thronged lakes, and on Chiloé Island, follow lush coastal trails to a Magellanic penguin colony. In Patagonia, at the bottom tip of Chile, we’ll hit the trail surrounded by the mountain majesty of Paine National Park, home to the twisted granite spires and horns of the Paine Massif. Throughout the journey, we’ll sample Chile’s best wines, meet local artisans, and discover the wonders of this wildly diverse country.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-3
Atacama Desert / San Pedro de Atacama

From the centuries-old town of San Pedro de Atacama, our hikes in the moonscapes of the Atacama Desert bring us through the Valle de la Luna, where we’ll watch an unforgettable sunset in this realm of bizarre rock formations and pink-streaked mountains. One evening, we enjoy dinner hosted by a local Atacama family. We head up to Puritama Hot Springs and across the vast Salar de Atacama, the largest salt flat in Chile, where crystal-blue lagoons attract three different species of flamingo. The stargazing here is extraordinary!

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Days 4-6
Puerto Varas / Volcÿn Osorno / Chiloé Island

Chile’s volcano-dotted Lake District is dramatic. Snow-capped Volcÿn Osorno (8,701') rises like an apparition above Lake Llanquihue, and we’ll hike through an ancient Valdivian temperate forest. A ferry brings us to mystical Chiloé Island, famous for myths and legends rooted in the traditions of the native Mapuche people. Here we enjoy great birding (including two species of penguin), explore wild beaches and temperate rainforests, see the unique World Heritage-listed wooden churches, and savor a traditional curanto feast, slow-roasted in an earthen pit.

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Days 7-11
Patagonia / Paine National Park

The striking granite towers of the Paine Massif are the icon of Paine National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of stone carved by ice. We’ve selected perfect hikes to show you the park’s beauty, including one to Mirador Condor to see soaring condors and stunning views over Lago Pehoe and the Paine massif, and to lovely Laguna Azul, which has one of the best views of Paine’s sheer towers. Depart on Day 11 via Punta Arenas.

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Highlights

Highlights

Explore the wild landscapes of the Atacama Desert
Discover fascinating Chiloé Island, with its temperate rainforests and Mapuche culture
Hike beautiful trails in Paine National Park for views of the famed granite towers
Enjoy dinner with a local family, savor Chilean feasts including a traditional Patagonian asado

Details

Length: 11 days
Cost From: $7695  
Arrive: San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
Depart: Punta Arenas, Chile
Lodging: 10 nights hotels and lodges
Meals: All meals included except 2 dinners (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Wildlife & Natural History, Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level:

8 hiking days on moderate to steep trails, 2-4 hours a day, altitudes in the Atacama between 8,000-13,100 feet

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