Arrive in Santiago at any time. There are no planned activities so check into our hotel and enjoy the city. Your Chief Experience Officer (CEO) will hold a general briefing in the evening, normally between 7pm and 8pm (a note will be posted in the arrival hotel with details). Santiago is Chile’s largest city and capital, with internationally recognized vineyards and Andean ski resorts very close by. Explore the many museums and parks, and visit the vibrant neighbourhood of Bellavista to see some handicrafts and trendy cafés. Day trips include a trip to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, Chile’s premier beach resort, and to Isla Negra, Pablo Neruda’s seaside home. Although Santiago covers an immense area, the central core of the city is relatively small. It is a roughly triangular shaped region, bounded in the north by the Río Mapocho, in the west by the Via Norte Sur and in the south by the Avenida del Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins (more commonly known as the Alameda). The apex of the triangle is the Plaza Baquedano, where O'Higgins forms a junction with two of Santiago's other main thoroughfares, Avenidas Providencia and Vicuña MacKenna. The centre of this triangle is the Plaza de Armas, the chief plaza of Santiago, bounded on its northern side by the main post office and on the western side by the cathedral. The streets between the Plaza de Armas and O'Higgins are wall-to-wall shops, restaurants, snack and fast food bars, cinemas, expensive hotels and office blocks. The Presidential Palace, La Moneda, is on Avenida Moneda, facing the Plaza de la Constitución. Near the Plaza de Armas is the National Congress building. One of Santiago's main parks, Cerro Santa Lucía, is in the triangle facing O'Higgins. The other main park is Cerro San Cristobal, or Huelén, in the Mapuche tongue. It is a large hill that rises dramatically from the plain to the north of Avenida Providencia. Between this avenue and the mountain, on either side of the Avenida Pío Nono, is Santiago's 'Paris quarter', the barrio Bella Vista. Here you find beautifully landscaped parks and gardens, artists' colonies and impressive views over the city, including the snow-capped peaks of the Andes (when the weather and thick smog permit).
Fly south into Patagonia to Punta Arenas and transfer by private van to Puerto Natales, our gateway to the nearby Torres del Paine National Park. Free evening to explore the town and prepare for the trek ahead.
Words cannot describe the majesty and beauty of this National Park in Chilean Patagonia. Few people have the opportunity to see this area and those who do find it difficult to forget its vivid colours and tranquility. One of the many thriving legends concerns the origin of the park's name. Locals insist that "paine" is derived from the Tehuelche Indian word for the colour blue, while others say it is the name of an original Welsh settler to the area. Spend four days hiking in this spectacular park, with breathtaking views of the Horns of Paine, the Towers, French Valley and Grey Glacier. Visit the Serrano and Last Hope Sound for a different perspective of the area. The granite Towers of Paine make a sudden and dramatic appearance on the horizon in the midst of a flat, dry, wind-swept plain; they are so extravagantly beautiful that superlatives fail. Despite the almost constant summer winds, this is some of the finest trekking country in Chile. Endowed with severe mountains, sparkling lakes, waterfalls and glaciers, as well as herds of guanacos, majestic condors, flocks of pink flamingos, and large Patagonian hares, the park's international attraction is immediately evident. Once a large sheep estancia, the park was established in 1959 as the Parque Nacional Lago Grey. Prior to this, baqueanos (cowboys) grazed their flocks here and fires occasionally burnt out of control. The devastation wrought near Lago Grey with large areas of burnt forest and charred logs remain visible to this day. More land was added to the park in 1962 and the name was changed to its present one. Torre (Tower) Sur rises 2900m (9512 ft) above sea level, Torre Central is 2850m (9348 ft) high and Torre Norte measures 2600m (8528 ft). The Cuernos (Horns) del Paine, massive blocks of various rock layers visible from great distances, are as spectacular as the towers themselves. Spend the next few days hiking and camping in this spectacular park, visiting the Towers, Grey Glacier and French Valley, before making your way back to Puerto Natales. Today our hiking starts with a transfer by van to Torres del Paine National Park. This two-hour journey through ranch country includes a stop in Cerro Castillo, the principal site of wool and meat exportation to Europe during the 1960s. Arrival at Torres del Paine Trek to the base of the Torres themselves, a spectacular hike to view the three pink granite towers that made the park famous. Day 3 Approximate distance hiked: 16 km Estimate hike time: 7 hours
Today we start our trek around the Paine Massif. In the morning we will meet our porters, load up our gear and head out across ancient glacial moraines on the way to Camp Seron. The trail goes through Lenga forests where we often see Austral parakeets, several species of geese and the occasional guanaco and fox (trekking time 4 hrs). Lodging & dinner at Camp Seron Day 4 Approximate distance hiked: 11 km Estimate hike time: 4 hours