Coast, Culture and Glaciers

This cultural exploration of Chiloe in the Lake District is a group tour with maximum variety. At either end of the trip are two magnificent cities for you to discover, around a full itinerary including boat trips, penguin spotting, and hikes in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Parks.

12 Days


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Coast, Culture and Glaciers - 12 - $3,425

Trip Summary and Itinerary Map

  • Explore the city of Santiago, visiting a few of the many museums, markets and parks of this cosmopolitan capital
  • Ferry through the Chacao Channel and land on the emerald isle of Chiloe, an island steeped in rural traditions and unique island folklore
  • Fly to Punta Arenas with views of the rust brown Patagonian steppes, pitted with small lagoons stretching out towards the Straits of Magellan
  • Journey to the edge of Torres del Paine National Park and explore the national park by foot or by boat
  • Head to the rapidly growing town of El Calafate with stunning lakes and steep mountains as well as the Pertio Moreno glacier, one of the most dynamic in the world 
  • Explore Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital and an elegant, cosmopolitan city 

Start from Santiago and end at Buenos Aires

Landmarks visited on Coast, Culture and Glaciers

Operator's Itinerary

Day 1: Walking tour of the capital

Santiago is laid out in a broad valley below the snow-capped Andes, around 60 miles from the Pacific Coast. Those arriving on an international flight will be met at the airport by the tour leader or a local representative. There will be time to relax before exploring the city and visiting a few of the many museums, markets and parks of this cosmopolitan capital.

For a scenic view across the city, climb to the top of Cerro Santa Lucia, located right in the centre of town. For even more panoramic vistas, a funicular takes you to the summit of San Cristobal, where you can join Chilean families wandering along the leafy paths. Afterwards, have a beer at one of the pavement cafes in Bellavista. This is an Italian quarter of narrow streets peppered with bars and shops selling local lapis lazuli (only Chile and Afghanistan produce the stones in commercial quantities).

The museum and house of Chilean poet laureate Pablo Neruda is close by, and its unusual interior with an eclectic collection of paintings and bric-a-brac is well worth a visit.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Hotel Torremayor Providencia 

Day 2: Optional vineyard tour or visit to Pacific port Valparaiso

There is an optional visit to Chile's second city, Valparaiso (2 hours by bus). This lively seaport is built on a series of hills which form a backdrop to the wide bay, with views over the seaside resort of Vina del Mar. You can wander through the steep, winding streets and among the brightly-coloured colonial homes built for 19th century British and German merchants, or take a ride in one of the creaky wooden funiculars which link the cliff-top communities.

Time permitting, you may wish to visit one of the vineyards close to Santiago to sample some highly respected Chilean wine.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Hotel Torremayor Providencia 

Day 3: Fly to Puerto Montt and continue onto Puerto Varas

A 1 hour 45 minute flight takes you south to Puerto Montt, followed by a short drive to Puerto Varas on the shores of Lake Llanquihue in the Chilean Lake District. The town was colonised by Germans at the turn of the 20th century and the architecture and sedate style still reflects this. Set amid rolling countryside, two of the most striking features of the town are the alpine green lake framed by tree-clad hills, and one of the most perfectly shaped snow-capped volcanoes in the world - Osorno.

The architecture and sedate style, which still reflect the German colonisation at the turn of the 20th century, also make for an interesting time exploring the town. The afternoon is free to wander locally, or to travel out to the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park where you can visit the Petrohue waterfalls. Navigate your way through the lush 1,000 year-old forest to catch sight of the water crashing over distinct balsalt (volcanic) rock formations, bought to the surface by Osorno Volcano.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Accommodation: Hotel de la Isla

Day 4: Full day exploration of the Isle of Chiloe

The day begins with a drive to the port from where you will take a ferry ride through the Chacao Channel, reaching the emerald Isle of Chiloe. Steeped in rural traditions and unique island folklore, this island is one of the richest examples of Patagonian culture and a fascinating complement to the region's more famous natural attractions.

Continuing on to the Bay of Caulin we'll have the opportunity to appreciate the abundant birdlife that the area is known for, before some pre-lunch oyster tasting. Lunch will be enjoyed in Ancud, a lively fishing port which was the Spanish Crown's last possession in South American.

We'll then travel through a landscape of valleys and rolling green pastures towards Punihuil, on the island's rugged west coast. The area is the only place in the world where Humboldt and Magellanic penguins nest side by side, with penguin colonies congregating on the deserted beaches.

In the late afternoon we'll return towards Ancud to a family farmhouse for curanto, Chiloe's signature dish cooked on a pitbake. As we'll be staying in Puerto Varas overnight, we'll head back here after dinner.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner

Accommodation: Hotel de la Isla 

Day 5: Fly to Punta Arenas and continue to Puerto Natales

Transfer back to Puerto Montt for your flight south to Punta Arenas.

On a clear day you have views of the southern icecap, its fjords, volcanoes and glaciers. Approaching the city you see the rust brown Patagonian steppes, pitted with small lagoons, stretching out towards the Straits of Magellan. On the other side of the water rise the mountains of the windswept island of Tierra del Fuego.

Punta Arenas was an important, British-influenced trading centre before the opening of the Panama Canal turned it into a backwater; the region's fortunes were only briefly revived during a short-lived gold rush. To add to its woes, the sheep-rearing business has never recovered from the catastrophic collapse of the price of meat and wool. No pure-blooded indigenous people are left alive here; having survived for centuries the rigours of the Antarctic climate they were annihilated by the diseases brought in by sailors and missionaries at the turn of the 20th century.

From here continue by bus to Puerto Natales, a small town with a frontier feel on the shores of Last Hope Sound, frequented by pelicans, black-necked swans and cormorants.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Hotel Aquaterra 

Day 6: By boat to Rio Serrano on the fringe of Torres del Paine National Park

Today you journey to the edge of Torres del Paine National Park, but rather than taking the road you embark on a full day's adventure by boat.

An early morning start sees you hop aboard a ship and begin your journey cruising through the fjord of 'Last Hope', passing by the redundant meat packing factories and colonies of cormorants and sea lions.

Further up the fjord you can view the vast Balmaceda glacier, before the ship docks for the walk to the Serrano glacier and the ice-carved lake below it. After the walk you continue your journey up river, this time in zodiacs. This final leg of the journey takes around 3 hours, as you zip through untouched areas of staggering beauty, past further glaciers (Tyndall, Geike) to arrive at Rio Serrano, where your hotel on the edge of the national park, is situated, which has views of the towering granite peaks on the horizon.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Accommodation: Hotel Paine

Day 7: Explore the national park by foot or by boat

There are a number of different walking trails winding alongside the glacial lakes and rivers with close-up views of tortured rock towers and needles rising 3,000m into a tempestuous sky. Aside from hiking, there is a wide variety of excursions available - including horse riding and tours of the national park by road - your tour leader will discuss these locally and book your preferred tours.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Hotel Paine 

Day 8: Drive to El Calafate

Travel by road through the park stopping en route at the waterfalls at Salto Grande and Laguna Amarga, before you head towards Argentina across the Patagonian steppe: a bleak and scantily-populated landscape. Keep a look out for guanacos, rheas, and flamingos, as well as for the views over Lago Argentino, the largest lake in the country.

On the shores of the lake is El Calafate, where you are based for the coming days. This small frontier town has grown rapidly over the last twenty years, and is a tourist hot spot for visiting the local scenery of stunning lakes and steep mountains as well as the stopping off point for visitors to the Perito Moreno glacier, one of the most dynamic in the world.

You arrive in the afternoon and if you wish there should be time to visit the fascinating Glaciarium Museum, located in an interesting building with fantastic views just outside time. Once you have spent time learning about all things glacial, there is also an ice bar on the premises for a relaxing drink.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Hotel Kapenke 

Day 9: Excursion to the Perito Moreno Glacier

This morning drive out towards the huge wall of ice which is the Perito Moreno Glacier for your included excursion. You follow the lake shore before turning up a wooded valley, dense with beech and birch, and continue alongside shimmering lagoons, bordered with bright crimson and heather lichens.

The park authorities have been sensitive about keeping the site as natural as possible, and there are no shops or cafes within close proximity of the wooden viewing platforms, which are tastefully landscaped into the cliff. Just looking at the front-edge of the glacier which towers 60m above the water's surface and is an extraordinary 5km wide is awe-inspiring in itself: even more so when you hear the unforgettable sound of the glacier calving a vast wedge of ice the size of a tower block, which crashes down into the lake, divides and floats away as an iceberg.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Hotel Kapenke 

Day 10: Fly to Buenos Aires

Fly to the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires (3 hours), an elegant and cosmopolitan city famed for the fascinating port district of La Boca with its cobbled streets and brightly painted houses. It was here that the tango was born, and Diego Maradona honed his footballing skills.

The centre of town is home to the historic heartland, government buildings and churches as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic, Parisian feel. The bohemian district of San Telmo is full of quaint old houses interspersed with antiques shops, tango bars and expensive restaurants. Slightly further out of town is the Recoleta district, even more evocative of belle epoque French and Italianate architecture. During the winter months, wealthy female residents parade the streets in their fur coats and improbable, towering hairstyles, and take afternoon tea in the city's ornate cafes.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Hotel Kenton Palace 

Day 11: Walking tour of the capital

Explore the lanes and boulevards on your guided city tour, then make the most of some free time to shop, have a drink and a pastry in a tea-room or peruse the items on display in one of the many markets. It's fun to promenade up and down the quay in the city's splendidly renovated port district, Puerto Madero, which has trendy loft apartments, a string of open air restaurants and a small marina. Optional evening visit to one of the many nightly Tango shows.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Hotel Kenton Palace

Day 12: Depart for international flight or extension

Meals: Breakfast

Prices, Departures and Inclusions

Start date Price (pp)
November 2019
19-Nov-2019 $3,425* Guaranteed Date
December 2019
3-Dec-2019 $3,425 Guaranteed Date
January 2020
14-Jan-2020 $3,425* Guaranteed Date
February 2020
4-Feb-2020 $3,425 Guaranteed Date
March 2020
10-Mar-2020 $3,425* Guaranteed Date

* Note: Prices are per person. Paid in GBP (£) - figure above is based on today's exchange rate. Actual cost £2,645


  • Services of an expert tour leader
  • All land and domestic air transport
  • Accommodation as specified
  • Meals as specified
  • Excursions as specified


  • Meals not indicated in itinerary
  • Personal expenses and equipment
  • Travel insurance
  • Gratuities
  • Any visa, passport and vaccination expenses

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