Alto Atacama Hotel, San Pedro Desert Tours

Detailed Itinerary

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Introduction

In the heart of the San Pedro de Atacama desert lies the luxurious Alto Atacama Hotel, perfect for tours.

The Alta Atacama hotel offers you complete indulgence in its rooms, pools, location and top quality excursions.

Enjoy fine wines and dining among a stunning setting, with attentive staff making sure your stay is as relaxing and comfortable as the beautiful rooms.

In the lap of this luxury lies adventures you choose. The hotel offers four or five day all inclusive programmes with a choice of daily excursions into the Atacama Desert.

Read more in Tom’s blog about his visit.

 

More on Alto Atacama, desert tours

Alto Atacama has been built in the fertile Catarpe Valley in the style of a traditional adobe settlement, complete with llamas and native crops, designed to integrate with the indigenous building patterns of the Likanantay people.

It has been crafted to blend into the Cordillera del la Sal (Salt mountain range) in which it rests.

Facilities include a complete Spa, Yoga fields, hot springs, six swimming pools, an international bar and a cosy common room with a big fireplace.

The spacious rooms are decorated with local crafts and have private terraces with great views. They follow the Alto Atacama concept – luxury, tranquility and space.

Trip Highlights

  • Alto Atacama is a fantastic hotel within a fantastic destination – the best of San Pedro.
  • Enjoy spa treatments, jacuzzis, swimming pools and opulent outside spaces.
  • Attentive staff and high quality guides make sure your stay is informative, comfortable and unforgettable.
  • Wonderful rooms – some with outside showers – so you can truly appreciate your surroundings.
  • Lovely Chilean wines are paired with fantastic cuisine, making meal times a treat.
  • Choose from a menu of activities so that you get the trip you want.

Alto Atacama Itinerary

Day 1: Transfer from Calama airport to the hotel, choice of excursion (D)

Reception at Calama airport, transfer to the hotel (1.5 hours approx.).

On arrival choice of excursion for that day will be dependent on arrival time.

Please see Practical Information below for more on possible excursions.

Day 2: Choice of excursion(s) (B,L,D)

Choice of 2 half day excursions or one full day excursion.

Day 3: Choice of excursion(s) (B,L,D)

Choice of 2 half day excursions or one full day excursion.

Day 4: Choice of excursion, transfer to Calama airport (B)

Choice of excursion dependant on departure time.

Transfer to Calama airport, ends.


What's Included?

Transfer from and to Calama airport, full board (American buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner), open bar, two half day excursions or one full day excursion daily in small groups with other guests, use of pools, sauna and jacuzzi

What's Not Included?

Flights, tips, personal items, premium wines and vintage liquors, massages and therapies, extras, insurance


Accommodation

There are three types of room at the Alto Atacama hotel.

 

Suite Tilo: 10 rooms, located in the gardens of Alto Atacama, with an open view to the quiet lagoon and the Catarpe Valley. They are 70m2/770 sqft, private terrace, private patio with an additional outdoor shower, safe deposit box, minibar. Two of these suites are connected – ideal for families.

Standard Catarpe:  27 rooms located in the gardens of Alto Atacama. Slightly larger than the “Quitors”, with a more private terrace, offering an uninterrupted view to the Cordillera de la Sal Range and the Catarpe Valley, 51m2/550sq. ft, safe deposit box, minibar

Quitor: 5 rooms closest to the communal areas. The view from the private terraces of these rooms looks out on to the garden area of the hotel, framed against the Cordillera de la Sal in the background, 50m2/550 sq. ft, safe deposit box, minibar, one of these rooms is wheelchair accessible

 

Visual harmony

The first step towards a project that can be sustainable in time was to make it be harmonic with its surroundings, Alto Atacama blends with the landscape in a way that doesn’t interrupt the lines and features of the Catarpe valley and the Cordillera de la Sal.

 

Native plant species

Alto Atacama’s Andean Park was conceived as a way to restore and revive ancient agricultural techniques that still pulsate in the Altiplano. Veronica Poblete, our landscaper, used only local plant species in the park, the high endemism of the plants of Atacama naturally transform our park into a sanctuary of life.

 

Water treatment

Atacama is the driest desert in the world in when it comes to annual rainfall, but due to the special geologic conditions that rule here, there are large amounts of underground water that allow for the oasis of San Pedro to exist. We want our passengers to enjoy the luxury of water in the desert but always with responsibility. The pools in Alto Atacama have a discreet size and all water is treated to achieve maximum purity. Alto Atacama has a modern water treatment plant that allows the water to be re used for our park and that eliminates any trace of organic and non-organic elements when it goes back to the cycle.

 

Cultural sensitivity

Atacama has a human history of 10,000 years, therefore we encourage our guests to experience and enjoy local culture with respect in mind, understanding and appreciating local ways as an example of a culture that remains robust and proud, that welcomes visitors and that is open to show traditions and to tell stories, not just to be photographed. Humanity is the living conscience and memory of the Earth, let Atacama speak through its people.

 

Travel ethic and guides

Deserts are some of the most static surfaces in the World, eroded only by wind and the rare showers that fall in some parts of the desert. Therefore it is of absolute importance to be respectful with this terrain. Whatever mark is left behind will stay here for a long period of time. At Alto Atacama Hotel we are aware of this and we train our guides with the Leave No Trace principles

One of the top priorities is to minimise the impact on the environment, when we travel by van we only do it on marked roads, never off road and we do the same when mountain biking and hiking.

Tour Staff

Qualified guides and drivers of the highest quality work for Alto Atacama, to ensure you get the most from your stay.

Hotel staff come from across the region and further afield in Chile.


Meals

The hotel works closely with local producers who provide fresh, organic products, that goes directly to your table.

A treat is sampling the locally grown Socaire potatoes, native quinoa, and Chañar-based sweets. All of these local plants can be spotted while we hike, and can be collected along the way.

There is a main indoor dining room and two outdoor dining rooms. There are also a variety of intimate indoor and outdoor settings, including a huge BBQ area.

This provides the opportunity to be in the company of interesting people from around the world while tasting fine dishes and recipes and sipping from our incredible selection of Chilean wines.

Activity Level

You decide! The hotel offers very low level activity tours to full days out and about, and you need to have a good level of fitness for those.

San Pedro and the hotel are at high altitude (2,408m/7,900ft) and so care is need if arriving from sea level.



Practical Information

Excursions

The choice of excursions are as follows – please note that all activities / trips are subject to availability and change.

 

By van

Lickanantai Culture

Length: Half day
Difficulty: Easy
Altitude: 2,440m/8,005ft
Required acclimatisation: Not required
Route: We head out from the Alto Atacama to the Pucará de Quitor parking lot. From here we go via Quitor to the municipal parking lot in San Pedro de Atacama. Visit the Gustavo Le-Paige Museum, the Church, main square, and handicrafts market. Ending with a visit to the Tulor Village. Return to the Alto Atacama Hotel.

 

Toconao – Atacama Salt Flats (Chaxas Lagoon)

Length: Half day
Difficulty: Easy
Altitude: 2,300m/7,546ft
Required acclimatisation: Not required
Route: Head out from the Alto Atacama Hotel in a van to the small village of Toconao, “Hidden Valley” in Kunza. We visit the church, square, bell tower, and local handicrafts. We continue the route to the Soncor sector of the National Flamingo Reserve. At the Chaxas lagoon, we see a 14 minute explanatory video (optional). We walk a 400 meter circuit in about 30 minutes to observe the flora and bird life of the area. Sunset with appetizers, return to San Pedro de Atacama to the Alto Atacama Hotel.

 

Sunset in the Valley of the Moon

Length: Half day
Difficulty: easy
Altitude: 2,550m/8,366ft
Required acclimatisation: Not required
Route: Head out of the Alto Atacama Hotel via Quitor, to the crossroads with Licancabur Street following the road to Calama, take road towards Kari Lookout, after we drive to the Tres Marías, central crater, and amphitheatre and continue to the Sunset spot, located in front of the amphitheatre or back to the Kari lookout.

 

Cave paintings

Length: Half day
Difficulty: Easy
Altitude: 3,250m/10,663ft
Required acclimatisation: Not required
Route: Head out from the Alto Atacama Hotel in a van towards the Hierbas Buenas area, where we will see petroglyphs that reflect on the continuous movements of ancient shepherds. We continue to Santiago de Rio Grande (currently a pastoral-agricultural area), where we can observe the architecture, handicrafts, and crops, before continuing on to Matancilla and its Rainbow Valley ( great mineral reliefs made up of copper oxide, sulphur, iron, and gypsum crystals). Return to Alto Atacama Hotel.

 

Tatio Geysers

Length: Full Day
Difficulty: medium
Altitude: 4,321m/14,177ft
Required acclimatisation: Yes. At least two full days, of having been in San Pedro de Atacama. Route: Head out from Alto Atacama Hotel in a van towards the Tatio Geysers, easy walk on a trail within the geothermal field, where we can observe the geysers, fumaroles, springs, and local fauna. On the road, we will see beautifully contrasting landscapes. Very low (below zero) temperatures in the morning, on our return, we will visit the small village of Machuca, and then return to San Pedro de Atacama and to the hotel.

 

Trekking

 

Valley of the Moon to Kamur

Length: Half day, 9 km.
Difficulty: Medium
Altitude: 2,600m/8,530ft
Required acclimatisation: Not required
Route: Head out from Alto Atacama Hotel via Quitor to the crossroads with Licancabur Street, take the highway to Calama and detour to the Valley of the Moon, entering the park through main entrance. We will stop at a sand dune where the trek begins. We come down the dune and continue through the canyon to the left, at the first fork, we take the right hand path. We pass the first lookout, which looks upon the central crater in the Valley. We continue our route and at the second fork, we take the left hand path to get to the second lookout. We cross the great crater and continue to the Tres Marías Lookout, where we will see the sunset.

 

Valley of the Moon to Waterfall

Length: Half day, 4km
Difficulty: Medium
Altitude: 2,600m/8,530ft
Required acclimatisation: Not required
Route: Head out from the Alto Atacama Hotel via Quitor to the crossroads with Licancabur Street, take the highway to Calama and detour to the Valley of the Moon, entering the park through main entrance. After the Tres Marías, we begin our trek, heading north, and entering a canyon in the Cordillera de la Sal range, where we will be met with fresh juices and chocolate to recover lost energy.

 

Los Colorados

Length: Half day, 6 km.
Difficulty: Medium. Not recommended for people with vertigo.
Altitude: 2,550m/8,366ft
Required acclimatisation: Not required.
Route: Head out from Alto Atacama Hotel via Catarpe to the old tunnel to Calama. Our trek begins here across the ridge of the Cordillera de la Sal range, to the Great Dune of the Mars Valley through which we descend, ending our trek.

 

Alto Katarpe

Length: Half day, 5 km.
Difficulty: Medium
Altitude:2,550m/8,366ft
Required acclimatisation: Not required
Route: Head out from the Alto Atacama Hotel via Catarpe to the old tunnel to Calama. Our trek begins here, across the ridge of the Cordillera de la Sal range, almost to the end of the Catarpe Valley where our van awaits.

 

Kari Ravine

Length: Half day
Difficulty: medium
Altitude: 2,650m/8,694ft
Required acclimatisation: Not required
Route: Head out from the Alto Atacama Hotel via Quitor, to the crossroads with Licancabur Street, taking the road to Calama, then the Kari Ravine detour. From here we walk along the path towards the Kari Ravine, until we reach the Kari Canyon. Return to Hotel.

 

Quezala Ravine

Length: Half day. 4.2 km
Difficulty: Easy
Altitude: 2,810m/9,219ft
Required acclimatisation: Not required
Route: Head out from the hotel in the van along the highway to Toconao, after crossing the border station, to the village of Talabre, at the foot of the Lascar volcano, with its constant fumaroles. South of Talabre, we come to the Quezala Ravine which we enter to observe its testimony of human existence more than 12,000 years ago. At the foot of the Lascar volcano, we come to the village of Talabre and south of it is the Quezala Ravine, where we will observe petroglyphs. The trek continues above the ravine for about 1 hour.

 

Los Cardones Ravine

Length: Half day. 6.1 km.
Difficulty: Medium
Altitude: 3,166m/10,387ft
Required acclimatisation: One night in San Pedro.
Route: From the hotel drive in the van on the shortcut to Puritama highway, stopping at the Guatin entrance. From here, begin the trek down the Vilama river ravine. At the Apacheta, we break from the rivers path climbing to the top of the ravine to finish the trek.

 

Tambo – Katarpe

Length: Half day. 3 km.
Difficulty: Easy
Altitude: 2,510m/8,235ft
Required acclimatisation: Not required
Route: Drive out in the van from the villa to the Katarpe Ayllu (20 minutes). Visit the church in Katarpe, and afterwards a walk over the plains and ravines up to the ancient Inca tambo of Katarpe. Return to the hotel in the van (10 minutes).

 

Katarpe – El Diablo Ravine

Length: Half day. 2.8 km
Difficulty: Medium
Altitude: 2,530m/8,301ft
Required acclimatisation: Not required.
Route: Head out in the van from the villa to the Katarpe Ayllu (15 minutes). Visit the church in Katarpe and then walk through the spectacular Cordillera de la Sal range ravines. Coming out of the El Diablo Ravine, we will be in the midst of the high walls of salt, clay, and gypsum for the final 45 minutes of the trek. Return in the van to the Alto Atacama hotel (10 minutes).

 

Jere Valley

Length: Half day, 4 km.
Difficulty: Easy
Altitude: 2,475m/8,120ft
Required acclimatization: Not required.
Route: Head out from the Alto Atacama Hotel in a van to the village of Toconao, “Hidden Valley” in Kunza. Then we take a detour that reaches the Jere Valley, where we can see small plots with fruits and vegetables being grown… we will also observe the flora and fauna of the area. Return to San Pedro de Atacama and to the hotel.

 

Mountain biking

Quitor Ayllu and San Pedro de Atacama
Length: Half day, 10 km.
Difficulty: Easy
Altitude: 2,460m/8,071ft
Route: We leave the hotel on the bicycles crossing the beautiful Quitor Valley, and its colourful cropland. Visit the town of San Pedro de Atacama. We continue to the Quitor Ayllu and back to the Alto Atacama Hotel.

 

Katarpe Valley

Length: Half day. 15 km.
Difficulty: Easy
Altitude:2,460m/8,071ft
Route: Head out from the hotel riding 500 meters, to the foot of the Quitor Pukara, where we will cross the San Pedro River, to enter the Katarpe valley, to the church 7 km away.

 

Cejar Lagoon

Length: Half day 21.6 km.
Difficulty: Medium
Altitude: 2,410m/7,907ft
Required acclimatisation: Not required
Route: Heading out from the Alto Atacama Hotel, we cross the Quitor Ayllu, passing by the town of San Pedro de Atacama, the Conde Duque Ayllu, continuing through Yaye and Solcor to the Solor Ayllu, and then to the Poconche Ayllu, taking the detour on a dirt road that takes us to the Cejar Lagoon (1 hour approximately) and returning to the Alto Atacama Hotel.

 

Inca Pass

Length: Half day, 29 km.
Difficulty: Hard
Altitude: 2,600m/8,530ft.
Required acclimatisation: Yes, two nights in San Pedro.
Route: Head out from Alto Atacama Hotel to the Katarpe Valley. We take the detour towards the old tunnel, where we will climb until reaching the base of the ridge. First point of interest. Here we begin a descent that takes us to the Coca Rock, second point of interest. We continue the descent to the Llano de la Paciencia, where we connect with the road that takes us back to San Pedro de Atacama through the Mars Valley. We will come down the dunes while observing the geological formations. Return to the hotel via an interior road of the Quitor Ayllu.

 

Desert Valleys

Length: Half day. 43 km.
Difficulty: Hard
Altitude: 2,470-2,750m/7,776-9,022ft.
Required acclimatisation: Yes, two days in San Pedro
Route: We pedal out of the hotel at an altitude of 2470 m.a.s.l. Heading south east, to cross the San Pedro River after 500 meters and continue up through the Quitor valley, observing foxtails, breas, carob trees, and chañares, among other flora. At km 6, we take an old road at the fork that used to connect San Pedro de Atacama with Calama, with a strong grade for 2.5 km until reaching an old tunnel dating back to 1930. Inside, there is landslide material that does not allow motor vehicles to cross. It is, nevertheless, completely safe to ride through it. After crossing the tunnel and a well deserved rest stop, we continue our way down through the formations left by water that once flowed down the soft slope of the western face of the Cordillera de la Sal range, opposite the Llano de la Paciencia, until we reach the “Coca Rock” (where we observe that this great rock has small cavities where the ancient shepherds placed the coca leaves they chewed onto the rock). We continue pedaling south until we reach the current Calama-San Pedro Highway. Up to here, the route is the same as on the Coca Rock excursion, except that now, instead of taking the direction of San Pedro de Atacama, we cross the highway through the Llano de la Paciencia to the western entrance of the Valley of the Moon, so that we then cross the Cordillera de la Sal range, heading east, passing the Tres Marías (wind carved rock formation, named by Father Gustavo Le Paige), the central crater of the Valley of the Moon, and the great dune. We continue our route across the vichufita (compacted salt and mineral) road to the international highway, and arrive in San Pedro de Atacama after riding these 38 exhausting kilometres.

 

Descent from the base of Sairecabur Volcano

Length: 4 hours, 44 km.
Difficulty: Hard. Experts only
Average altitude: Between 2,470-3,800m/7,776-12,467ft.
Route: We leave the Alto Atacama Hotel early, with the bikes loaded onto the van, while we drink water constantly. Drive to the base of the Sairecabur volcano, where we will see an old sulphur mine. We do a final check on our GIANT bicycles, before we go downhill on the Devils Hill to the Puritama hot springs.

 

High Andes Lagoons
Length: Full day
Difficulty: Medium
Altitude: 4,200m/13,780ft.
Required acclimatisation: Yes, at least two days prior in San Pedro de Atacama.
Route: We head southwest out of the Alto Atacama Hotel in the van, passing the village of Socaire before reaching the High Andes lagoons of Miscanti and Miñiques (Approx 2hrs 30 min.). The beauty of the area is given by the lagoons surrounded by the high points of the Andes mountain range and the flora that lends the wide variety of color. We can also observe local fauna here. A buffet lunch and return to San Pedro de Atacama and the hotel.

 

High Mountain Villages

Length: Full day
Difficulty: Medium
Altitude: 3,322m/10,899ft
Required acclimatisation: Yes, at least three full days in San Pedro de Atacama.
Route: We head out of the Alto Atacama hotel in the van towards Guatin, taking the detour to Machuca. After doing at water crossing at the Putana Vado, we can observe its bird life; we then take another detour towards the Tocopuri police outpost, and the Chita pass to Caspana. On this road, we will see a large amount of fauna from this area. We will walk through the fields in this agricultural area, and see the liparita stone based architecture. Lunch will be in this village. We continue to the tiny village of Chiu- Chiu, its church, and if there is time, to the Lasana Pukara before reaching the El Loa airport in Calama.

 

Pujsa Salt Flat and Pakana Monks

Length: Full day
Difficulty: Medium
Altitude: 4,300m/14,107ft
Required acclimatisation: Yes, at least two days in San Pedro de Atacama.
Route: We head out in the van from the Alto Atacama Hotel towards the Andes Mountains, passing the Quepiaco Vegas, and the rock formations known as the Pakana Monks. Afterwards, we go back 9 kilometres to the Pujsa Salt Flat where we can observe the flora, fauna, and landscapes of this area of the Andes. A buffet lunch and return to San Pedro de Atacama and the Alto Atacama Hotel.

 

Aguas Calientes and Salt Flat and Tuyajto

Length: Full day
Difficulty: Medium
Altitude:4,300m/14,107ft
Required acclimatisation: Yes, at least two days in San Pedro de Atacama.
Route: From the hotel, we take the van on the highway towards the Sico Pass, passing Toconao and Socaire, then a dirt road about 70 kilometres to the Aguas Calientes Salt Flat, where a buffet lunch is prepared, while we enjoy the Andean scenery.

 

Route of the Shepherds (trekking)

Length: Full day 5 hours.
Difficulty: Hard
Altitude: 4,015m/13,123ft
Required acclimatisation: Yes, at least two days in San Pedro de Atacama.
Route: We head out of the Alto Atacama Hotel to the village of Machuca, from where we descend alongside the river of the same name. The return to the hotel is from Rio Grande.

 

Route of the Llaretas (trekking)

Length: Full day. Walking 4.5 to 5.5 hours 8 km.
Difficulty: Hard
Altitude: 4,000m/13,123ft
Required acclimatisation: Yes. At least two days in San Pedro de Atacama.
Route: Copa Coya is a hill 5000 m.a.s.l. West of the geyser area, which we will go around in a trek lasting 4 to 5 hours, passing through sandy ravines and in between native high mountain flora. The trek begins with a descent through a stony area, with a barely marked trail, which is in essence animal track. We come to the lowest point of the walk, in the ravine, to start back up a moderate uphill which becomes stepper near the end. The van will be waiting at the end of the walk with a picnic sandwich lunch.

 

Mountaineering

Toco Volcano – 5,604m/18,356ft

Description: Head out from the Alto Atacama Hotel in the van to the abandoned sulphur mine (1 hour 15 minutes approx). It begins the rise through a steep trail all the way to the summit. Beautiful panoramic view of the Bolivian lagoons and of the volcanoes in the Andes Mountain range.
Length: Half day. Walking 2 to 3.5 hours.
Difficulty: Hard
Altitude: 5,604m/18,356ft
Elevation change: 365m/1,198ft
Acclimatization Required: Yes (at least 3 full days and have done at least one trekking excursion over 4,000m/13,123ft.

 

Mount Kimal – 4,280m/14,042ft
Description: We leave early from the hotel, on the highway towards Calama, taking the detour to the Valley of the Moon through the Llano de la Paciencia. At kilometre 5, taking the road that goes right, through the antennas on the Domeyko range, following through to the base of Mount Kimal, where we can see the vestigial remains of old mountain camps, which is where we begin our ascent.
Length: Half day. Walking 2 to 3.5 hours.
Difficulty: Difficult
Altitude: 4,280m/14,042ft
Elevation change: 850m/2,789ft
Acclimatization Required: Yes (at least 3 full days and have done at least one trekking excursion over4,000m/13,123ft.

An introduction to Chile

Chile is the land of contrasts, from verdant vineyards to driest desert, deep fjords and towering glaciated volcanoes.

A narrow but incredibly long, snake-like country, Chile’s unusual geography features more than 5,000km of South Pacific Ocean coast. The country is almost 4,400km long but barely more than 160km at its widest.

It is best divided into general regions, all of which offer spectacular landscapes and identities of their own.

This variety means Chile is the land where almost every activity is possible. Hiking, biking, rafting and kayaking.

Or climbing, cruising, fishing, horse riding, wine tasting.

Or simply eating great food, relaxing and exploring.

Geography of Chile

Patagonia

Trekking heaven. Paine National Park lies in Patagonia and features some of the best trekking in South America. With no altitude worries here, hikers enjoy an unrivalled mix of access to wild flora and fauna that exists in this massif. It is at once windswept, and then balmy. Paine National Park is a must see for walkers visiting South America.

Northern Patagonia is the least densely populated part of the country – spectacular virgin scenery make this a hidden gem and superb area for trekking, boating and horse riding.

And that’s before you think about possibly cruising through fjords, or kayaking them, flying to Antartica or staying at a working hacienda.

Easter Island

Iconic, Easter Island is an archaeological treasure. Here you will find the famous Moai stone statues, as well as caves and rocks decorated with etched petroglyphs and painted pictographs.

 

Northern Chile

Northern Chile features the Atacama, the driest desert with the clearest skies in the world, is alive with active volcanoes replete with spitting geysers mixed with archaeological wonders and fantastic rock formations.

Central Chile is the heart of Chile and includes the capital Santiago. With its Mediterranean climate of hot dry summers and mild wet winters, this central valley produces some of South America’s finest wines, Colchagua Valley to name but one.

Here, the Andean mountain chain soars more than 6,000m above sea level. Chile’s traditional symbols such as huaso (cowboy) and cueca (national dance) originate here, an area which is rich in agriculture and produces most of Chile’s export fruit.

In winter, skiers are attracted to this tasting the promise of some fabulous snow on the huge peaks which overlook Santiago.

Southern Chile and the Lake District

Lush and verdant, The Lake District area is the place to climb snow-capped volcanoes by day while relaxing next to stunning glacial lakes by evening. You can walk, bike, raft, cruise and drive your way around this beautiful region.

Central, southern and Patagonia Andes all present different challenges to mountaineers and trekkers. Options are varied in the central Andes with many of the Patagonian peaks remaining unexplored and unsummitted.

Weather in Chile

Chile’s climate varies greatly, owing to its sheer length, variation of terrain and varying altitudes and latitudes.

 

Lake District and Patagonia

In the south of Chile, here temperatures drop a little compared to the rest of Chile.

It can be better to go in the Austral summer (Oct-March). Daylight hours are much longer at this time, with Nov-Feb being popular times to visit. October and March can be very colourful and vivid with less visitors, but weather can be more blustery.

In Patagonia, the weather is, putting it mildly, variable, and variable on a daily basis. It is usually cool and windy all year round but seldom does the temperature fall below freezing point. Some days start with snow and end in balmy sunshine. It is always interesting, and can range from 10°C-20°C in the summer, although the wind can make it feel chilly.

The vast unbroken stretch of ocean to the west and south of the South American continent leaves the Patagonian Andes very exposed to the saturated winds that circle the Antarctic landmass. Also the South Patagonia Ice field influence makes the weather hard to predict. In spring or early summer fine weather may deteriorate almost without warning, bringing rains and eventually snow. Even in summer (Dec-Mar) you should come prepared to find cold, strong winds (up to 130 km/hr) and rainfalls. The summer’s average temperature is 11ºC/52ºF (24ºC max, 2ºC min).

Winter visits to these southern areas are possible, but many hotels close and not all trips are possible. Daylight hours can be very short, but the lack of visitors can greatly improve chances of seeing wildlife in parks such as Paine.

The Lake District’s temperate climate can be said to resemble that of the UK, with rain possible but also enjoying long spells of fine, fresh weather in the summer (Oct-March).

 

Easter Island

Although sub-tropical and essentially a year-round destination, Dec-Feb are the most popular times to visit Easter Island as it is summer there and temperatures average 24°C. There can be colder days and it can be humid too.

The winter months (Jun-Oct) on Easter Island are not overly cold, but they can be cool. The average low temperature is 16°C but there is usually a wind at this time of year that makes the temperature feel cooler than it really is.

The wind rarely stops blowing at this time of year.

 

Northern Chile

The north of the country lies in the tropical zone, but in the main is desert. It is dry and sunny all year round, but does get cold at night time in the high altitude areas.

In winter (June-Aug) the average daytime temperature is 22°C (72°F) and by night 4°C (39°F), descending to -2°C (28°F) in extreme cases.

During summer (Jan-Mar) the temperature fluctuates between 27°C (81°F) and a minimum of 16°C (61°F) at night, reaching maximums of 32°C (90°F), with occasional showers.

 

Central Valley

The wine growers love the central valley, which has a suitable Mediterranean climate of hot dry summers (Nov-March).

Then, temperatures range from 17°C in the evening and can go up to 30°C inland. It is cooler during the day on the coast.

During winter (May-Sept), which is essentially mild and wet, temperatures inland can vary from 5°C to 18°C during the day, and a bit warmer on the coast.

Autumn (Mar-April) and Spring (Oct-Nov) are lovely times to visit, although hotels in Santiago can book out in March, October and November, as it is conference season.

 

Visas for Patagonia

UK and USA citizens do not require a visa to enter Argentina or Chile as a tourist.

Please ensure your passport has at least six months remaining validity.

On presentation of a valid UK or USA passport you will be granted a 90-day stay in either country. Please keep any tourist card you are given safe – you need this to leave the country.

Australians have to pay a reciprocity fee to enter Argentina, and this must be obtained before travelling to Argentine.

Australians entering Chile at Santiago International airport must also pay a reciprocity fee, paying cash on arrival.

All non-UK nationals should check with their nearest Chilean/Argentine consulates for the latest visa and fee information.

All requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed before departure.

Visas for Chile

UK and USA citizens do not require a visa to enter Chile as a tourist.

Please ensure your passport has at least six months remaining validity.

On presentation of a valid UK or USA passport you will be granted a 90-day stay in the country. Please keep the tourist card you are given safe – you need this to leave the country.

Australians have to pay a reciprocity fee if they enter Chile at Santiago International airport. You can pay for this in cash on arrival.

All non-UK nationals should check with their nearest Argentine consulates for the latest visa and fee information.

All requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed before departure.

Kit list

Good kit is vital for every trip.

Book with Andean Trails and get 15% off Páramo’s fantastic ethical and high performance outdoor gear.

 

Overview

Chile has a wide range of climates from arid deserts to bracingly cold Patagonia.

When planning for these changeable climatic conditions you will encounter across Chile, layering is the most practical and versatile clothing system.

The sun is very strong throughout the country, so good sun cream, a hat and sunglasses are vital.

It can also get very cold at night time especially in the mountains. Jumpers, fleeces and warms hats – which you can buy there – are also essential.

Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.

Below is a more detailed guide.

 

Detailed kit list

  • Medium weight parka or a down jacket.
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers. The jacket needs to be water proof and roomy. Side-zip pants are recommended.
  • 2-3 long-sleeve shirts – no cotton
  • 2-3 short-sleeve T-shirts – no cotton
  • 2 pair of hiking trousers- cotton or synthetic material (no jeans)
  • 1 fleece or sweat trousers (for cold evenings)
  • 2 pair hiking shorts
  • Long thermals – synthetic or wool – light to medium weight top & bottoms.
  • 2-3 mid-weight (wool or synthetic) socks.
  • 2-3 liner socks if needed
  • Athletic-type socks, several pairs, city use
  • Hiking boots that are waterproof and well broken-in.
  • Running/tennis shoes or sandals are very comfortable when you are in cities
  • 1 lightweight wool sweater or windproof fleece
  • 1 wool or synthetic warm hat.
  • 1 light sun hat with a wide brim.
  • 1 pair of medium-weight wool or synthetic gloves
  • Broad-brimmed sunhat, essential.
  • Sunglasses with UV filter.
  • Scarf for cold.
  • Bandanna – to protect neck from strong sun.
  • Daypack (at least 30 litres). Comfortable and with waterproof lining or cover.
  • Water bottle (2 litres approx.) & purification tablets.
  • Personal first-aid kit to include: painkillers, plasters (band-aids), moleskin, anti-biotic cream, general antibiotics (ask your GP), after-bite (tiger balm), anti-diarrhoea tablets, throat lozenges, re-hydration salts & personal medication.
  • Insect repellent (just in case)
  • Towel & wash-kit.
  • Wet Wipes/antiseptic hand-wash cream.
  • Sunscreen (factor 30+) and lip salve.
  • Head-lamp (plus spare bulb and batteries).
  • Penknife.
  • Travel alarm clock.
  • Plastic bags – ‘Zip-loc’ & tough bin liners.
  • Camera and film / memory cards (take at least twice the amount you think you will need!).
  • Book, e-book, mp3 player/ipod or other to help pass the time.
  • Binoculars.
  • Spanish/English phrasebook.
  • Extra snacks i.e. cereal bars or favourite chocolate bars.

 

Miscellaneous others

  • Money belt.
  • Passport.
  • U.S. dollars cash, mixed-denomination notes, undamaged and unmarked.
  • ATM cash/credit card.
  • Any inoculation certificates.
  • Personal & medical insurance certificates.
  • Presents e.g. Postcards from home.
  • Comfortable clothes for travel, smart clothes for night life, especially in big cities.

Quick facts about Chile

 

Official name: Republic of Chile

Country population: 17,000,000

Capital city: Santiago (6 million)

Largest cities: Santiago, Concepcion, Valparaiso

Languages: Spanish (official)

Official currency: Chilean Peso

Major industries: Copper mining, agriculture, fish

Time zone: GMT-5 in winter (Mar-Sep) and GMT-4 in summer (Sep-Mar)

Altitude

Being at altitude, especially in the tropics, is usually a pleasure as it isn’t so hot, there are few insects and the air is clear.

However, when gaining altitude, air pressure drops and the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs is reduced. Although we build plenty of acclimatisation time into our itineraries, certain ill-effects are possible. Nevertheless, all of these can be minimised or prevented if care is taken.

On reaching heights above 2,500m (approx. 8,200 ft), especially when ascent has been straight from sea level, heart pounding, mild headache and shortness of breath are normal, especially on exertion.

Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a syndrome known locally as soroche, whose symptoms can include of bad headache, dizziness and nausea).

To avoid AMS, you should:

  • Rest for a few hours on arrival at altitude and take it easy for the first couple of days. Note: you may feel fine on arrival and tempted to exert yourself as normal. Don’t be fooled: you might be benefiting from oxygen brought in your blood from sea level.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (altitude is a diuretic). Coca tea (mate de coca) helps alleviate symptoms.
  • Eat light meals, with high carbohydrate and low fat and protein content. Dine early, allowing digestion time pre-sleep.
  • Avoid over-exposure to the strong highland sun (UV rays are very powerful) – especially in the early stages – making sure you wear a broad brimmed sunhat. Apply lip-salve to prevent chapped lips.
  • Avoid or minimise consumption of cigarettes and alcohol. Avoid sleeping pills.
  • If you do get AMS: Rest, take non-aspirin painkillers (for headache) and coca tea. Symptoms should subside after a day or two.
  • Pregnant women, people with a history of heart, lung, kidney or blood disease or blood pressure problems, should consult their doctor before traveling to high altitude.

Chile Festivals

February 

Festival: Festival de la Cancion Viña del Mar 

International song festival  

Location: Viña del Mar

 

1st two weeks of February 

Festival: Tapati 

Culture, dance, music, song , sport 

Location: Easter Island 

 

July

Festival: Carnaval de Invierno      

Street parade with floats celebrating mid winter 

Location: Punta Arenas  

 

July 16

Festival: Fiesta  de La Tirana     

Religious festival – culture, mass dance parades 

Location: La Tirana, Atacama  

 

September 18

Festival: Independencia 

Independence day – celebration of Chilean culture – various activities 

Location: Country wide 

Flight advice

Andean Trails can book all your international and domestic flights for this trip and for UK passengers; we have full ATOL bonding and can book flights with most airlines.

International flight prices are variable and usually can only be guaranteed at the time of booking. If you would like to upgrade to business or first class, or even arrive at an earlier date/depart at a later date we can also arrange this for you.

Typically, you fly to a country’s capital city and then overnight there or make a connecting flight (if available) to your next destination.

 

Flight connections

Please contact us for flight advice especially if you do make a connection on the same day. It is important to purchase a through ticket and not separate tickets for connections, so that you are covered for any delays. Passengers with separate tickets that are delayed run the risk of having to buy an entirely new ticket to continue their journeys.

Please note all airline schedules are subject to change and are out of our control.

 

Tickets

Almost all flight tickets are now e-tickets. Any that are not will be handed to you on arrival in South America – this is most common for flights on smaller planes in Amazon areas such as Guyana/Bolivia.

The final travel instructions we send you some 2-3 weeks before departure will list the latest flight times, flight numbers etc as well as list your e-ticket numbers and booking reference code (6 characters i.e. GB75RK). This is what you will need to check in with.

 

How do I check in?

Depending on the airline, we can reserve some seats for you at the time of booking your international flights with us.

If we cannot reserve seats at the time of booking, you have to wait for online check in to open (usually 24-72 hours before departure).

To check in online you will need to go to the website of the airline you are travelling with, and have your e-ticket number/booking reference to hand. Click check in online, enter your details, and choose your seat.

Some flights will allocate seats at the check in desk at the airport and some may not allocate seats at all.

 

Help flying via the USA (ESTA form).

The United States (USA) has an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) which all travellers to and via the USA must complete BEFORE travel to/via its airports and shores.

More information can be found on their ESTA website.

Passengers who have not completed the form will be denied boarding.

Before you begin this application, make sure that you have a valid passport and credit card available.

This application will only accept the following credit cards: MasterCard, VISA, American Express, and Discover (JCB, Diners Club).

ATOL holiday protection

Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.

We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.

We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.

When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.

You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.

 

What is ATOL?

The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.

And  ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.

 

Who is covered?

To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).

If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.

If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.

Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.

For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.

 

I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?

If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.

We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.

If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.

You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.

Be safe in Chile

Chile is a relatively safe country, but we still recommend that in large towns and cities you take certain precautions (see below).

Chile is, overall, among the safest countries in South America.

However, in Santiago, muggings and opportunistic crime – although not common – do occur. We suggest that you take the following precautions:

  • Leave paper valuables in the hotel safe (caja fuerte), taking out with you only what you need for the day.
  • Carry a copy of passport (leave original in safe). N.B. When travelling, carry paper valuables in a money belt under clothing, not in a ‘bum-bag’.
  • Beware of distraction techniques, e.g. where X sprays you with mustard or similar substance, and accomplice Y comes up to offer to clean you off, but takes your bag or wallet while you’re distracted. If you do get sprayed, just walk straight on.
  • Avoid marginal areas and be alert in lonely streets in the day and at night. Also, always take special care in busy streets, around markets and in and around bus terminals; either avoid carrying a bag in such areas, or secure it, as bag-slashers and pickpockets sometimes operate.
  • NEVER leave your bag(s) unattended, especially in airports, bus terminals and hotel lobbies.
  • It’s best to use taxis at night, wherever you are.

Food and drink in Chile

Read our blogs about food to try in Chile and restaurants in Santiago.

 

Main dishes (meat)      

Cazuela de ave                 Stew of chicken, potato, rice, onion and green pepper.

Valdiviano                         Stew with beef, onion, potato and egg.

Empanadas de pino          Pasties filled with chopped meat, onion and peppers, raisins black olives and hard-boiled egg.

Pastel de choclo                Meat casserole topped with maize mash.

Humitas                             Mashed corn baked in corn leaves.

Prieta                                 Blood sausage.

Parrillada/Asado               Mixed grill served from charcoal brazier.

Bistek a lo pobre                Steak topped with fried egg and accompanied by chips (French fries) and onion.

 

Seafood 

Curanto                 Meat, shellfish and potato stew, typical in Chiloe.

Paila Chonchi       Like a bouillabaisse, but with more body and flavour.

Ceviche de pescado/mariscos  Marinated fish/shellfish.

Congrio/Caldillo de congrio     Conger eel/ Soup served with big piece of conger, onion and potato balls.

Corvina                               Sea bass.

Albacora                             Swordfish.

Choritos/cholgas                Mussels.

Locos                                  Abalone.

Almejas                               Clams.

Machas                               Razor clams.

Picoroco                             Sea barnacles.

Erizo                                   Sea-urchin.

Cochayuyo                          Dried seaweed sold in bundles.

Luche                                  Dried seaweed sold in flaky blocks.

 

Snacks 

Completo                             Hot dogs with a huge variety of fillings, including avocado (palta).

Barros jarpa                        Grilled cheese and ham sandwich.

Barros luca                         Grilled cheese & beef sandwich.

 

Drinks  

Vino (tinto / blanco)           Wine (red / white). Chilean wines are excellent.

Cerveza                               Mainly lager-style beer. In bars, often served with a snack, e.g. peanuts.

Pisco                                   Grape brandy.

Pisco sour                           Pisco cocktail, with green lemon juice, egg white and sugar.

Manzanilla                          Local liqueur.

Vaina                                   Mixture of brandy, egg and sugar.

Chicha                                 Any alcoholic drink made from fruit. Cider = chicha de manzana.

Mote con huesillo                Drink made from wheat and dried peaches. Very popular in Santiago in summer.

Money matters

Currency & Money Exchange

Chile’s monetary unit is the “Chilean Peso”.

Most businesses (unless a tourist shop/restaurant) will only accept Chilean pesos. Note that the Peso comes in very high denominations (see below), so you’ll need to get used to very big numbers on bills that are not worth very much.

ATM debit/credit cards are widely used in major restaurants, hotels and shops (with fees). There are plenty of ATMS (hole-in-the-wall) cash machines throughout the country, however check with your bank to see if there is a daily maximum you may withdraw.

If you do take foreign currency to change take US dollars. These should be new notes, or at least unmarked and undamaged notes, in smaller denominations of 10s, 20s and maybe some 50s. Do not take USD 100 bills as they are unlikely to be accepted.

Exchange rate: USD 1 = 630 Chilean Peso (approx.), June 2018.

Peso banknotes: 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 pesos

Peso coins: 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500 pesos

 

Tipping

Don’t forget to read out tipping guide for Chile.

 

Eating and drinking

Chile has a wide range of high quality international and national cuisine and wine.

There are more and more top-end restaurants almost everywhere, and you can easily spend USD 100pp and more on meals.

Prices vary greatly, below is a rough guide to what you can expect to pay in Chile.

 

Local café/restaurant

Beer/soft drink: USD 3

Menu del dia: USD 10-15

Coffee: USD 2

Bottle of wine: From USD 10 upwards

 

Tourist style restaurant

Beer/soft drink: USD 2-4

Main dish: USD 15 upwards

Coffee: USD 2

Bottle of wine: From USD 20 upwards

Tipping

Tipping is entirely voluntary and how much you give depends on how you feel about the service you have received.

This is a rough guideline:

  • Airport porters: Minimum USD 1-2 per bag – compulsory.
  • Hotel staff: USD 1-2 per night, in the staff tip box.
  • Transfer drivers/taxis: Generally not expected.
  • Drivers: USD 10-25 per day total from the group.
  • Specialist guides: USD 5-15 per person, per day.
  • Assistant guides: USD 5-7 per person, per day.
  • Tour leaders: USD 10-15 per day total from the group.
  • Restaurants: +10% for adequate to excellent food and service.

Communication

Dialling codes

The international code for Chile is +56.

Regions have dialling codes.

Not all smartphones will work in Chile, it’s best to check with your operator before you arrive. Roaming charges may be high – again, best to check.

 

Landlines

Chile’s landlines have 7 digits, apart from Santiago where they have 8 digits.

To call landline-landline in the same city, add the regional code and then the 7 or 8 digit number, e.g. Arica code is 58, to dial Arica-Arica, dial 58 – 1234567.

If calling landline to another regional landline/city, dial the area code (61=Puerto Natales) but eliminate the 0 e.g. dial 61 1234567.

If using your own mobile phone to call a landline, dial the country code, the regional/city code without the 0, and then the number, e.g. for Puerto Natales +56 61 1234567.

 

Mobiles

Mobiles have 8 digits.

If you are dialling a Chilean mobile from a Chilean landline, add 9 to the number, e.g. 9 1234-5678.

If using your own mobile phone to call a Chilean mobile, dial the country code, then a 9, then the 8 digit number e.g. +56 9 1234-5678.

If you wish call an Argentina mobile while you are in Chile, dial 9, then the area code without the 0, then the number (leaving out the 15 which most Argentine mobiles start with).

e.g. for Buenos Aires mobile 15 1234-5678

Dial: +54 9 11 1234-5678 (Buenos Aires code = 11).

 

Internet

Most hotels, cafes, restaurants and airports offer free and generally good Wi-Fi. In some towns and cities, main plazas have free, public Wi-Fi.

Internet cafes are slowly disappearing, but most towns and cities will have some in the main centres.

 

Post

Head to the state-owned Correos de Chile for postal services.

Useful Spanish phrases

Learning a few words of Spanish can really ingratiate you with the locals you’ll encounter, adding to the enjoyment of your holiday.

Below are some basics to get you started.

 

Greetings:

Good morning                                         Buenos días

How are you?                                         ¿Cómo estás?

Good afternoon                                      Buenas tardes

Good bye                                               Adiós

 

Most frequently asked questions (theirs):

Where are you (plural) from?                   ¿De dónde eres (son)?

What time is it?                                           ¿Qué hora es?

Where have you come from?                    ¿De dónde vienes?

Give me (frequent, unwelcome question)    Dáme / regálame

 

Most frequent questions (yours):

How much is it?                                      ¿Cuánto vale?

What is this place called?                       ¿Cómo se llama este lugar?

What’s your name?                                 ¿Cómo te llamas?

Do you have a map?                                ¿Tienes un mapa?

 

In the street / places:

Where can I find a currency exchange?    ¿Dónde encuentro una casa de cambio?

Where is there a cash machine?                ¿Dónde hay un cajero automatico?

Where is the underground/subway station? ¿Dónde esta la estacion de metro/subte(Buenos Aires)?

Where can I find a taxi?                             ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un taxi?

Where can I find a Supermarket?            ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un supermercado?

Where is the hospital?                               ¿Dónde esta el hospital?

Where can I find a restaurant?               ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un restaurante?

 

In the hotel:

What floor am I on?                                   ¿En qué piso estoy?

Where are the elevators/lifts?                 ¿Dónde están los ascensores?

How do I access the Internet?                 ¿Cómo puedo acceder a Internet?

How do I call for room service?                ¿Cómo llamo para el servicio de habitación?

How do I call down to the front desk?      ¿Cómo llamo a la recepción?

 

In the restaurant:

A table for two/four please                     Una mesa para dos/cuatro, porfavor

I would like to drink…                             Me gustaria tomar….

May I see a menu?                                   Puedo ver la carta/menu?

I would like to order..                              Me gustaria pedir…

Can you bring me the check/bill please.     Me trae la cuenta por favor

 

Emergency:

I need help.                                              Necesito ayuda.

I have lost my passport.                        He perdido mi pasaporte.

Someone stole my money.                    Alguien robó mi dinero

I have been robbed.                                Me han robado

I need to call the police.                         Necesito llamar a la policía

I need to call the (country) Embassy     Necesito llamar a la embajada de (country)

Help!                                                           ¡Socorro!

 

Responsible Travel - our ethos

Andean Trails believes in Responsible Travel and actively supports several community projects.

Please see Our Advice and Our Ethos for more, and learn about the Projects We Support.

We operate the Inca Trail, our treks and tours with local firms.

We make sure that on our tours and Inca Trail we employ local staff, who are paid fair wages.

With the Inca Trail, We provide free life insurance to all of our porters. Tented accommodation and meals are provided for all trekking staff as well as foam mats, sleeping bags and rain ponchos. We have also provided the staff with trekking shoes. We ensure our porters carry a maximum of only 20kg. We offer them backpacks and they generally use back supports.

Clean burning fuel is used to cook the meals on the Inca Trail and porters carry gas stoves and butane bottles. We use biodegradable detergents when washing the cooking and eating utensils. If any part of our tour or trek is operated by another company, we try to ensure that high standards are maintained.

Our additional support helps the Huchuy Yachaq project which supports children and families in one of the poorest communities in the district of Cusco.

Responsible Travel - travel tips

Responsible Tourism – Code of Conduct:

  • Find out about your destination – take some time before you go to read about the cultural, social and political background of the place and people you are visiting.
  • Go equipped with basic words and phrases in the local language – this may open up opportunities for you to meet people who live there.
  • Buy locally-made goods and use locally-provided services wherever possible – your support is often vital to local people.
  • Pay a fair price for the goods or services you buy – if you haggle for the lowest price your bargain may be at someone else’s expense.
  • Be sensitive to the local culture – dress and act in a way that respects local beliefs and customs, particularly at religious sites.
  • Don’t undermine the local economic systems – we recommend you don’t give gifts, especially sweets as there are few dentists in the Andes. Much better to spend time chatting, playing and showing postcards of home. If you would like to donate clothes and shoes etc we are more than happy to do so through the relevant channels. Your tour leader can do this for you and some of the projects we support can be visited.
  • Ask permission before taking photographs of individuals or of people’s homes – and remember that you may be expected to pay for the privilege.
  • Avoid conspicuous displays of wealth – this can accentuate the gap between rich and poor and distance you from the cultures you came to experience.
  • Make no promises to local people that you can’t keep – be realistic about what you will do when you return home.
  • Minimise your environmental impact – keep to footpaths and marked routes, don’t remove any of the natural habitat and reduce the packaging you bring.
  • Don’t pollute local water courses- use biodegradable products, and wash basins.
  • Slow down and enjoy the differences – you’ll be back with the familiar soon enough.

Our environmental policy

All our activities are governed by our respect for the environment and the people who live in it. We aim to make a positive impact both in the UK and in the Andean countries we work in (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina).

We agree with the principals of sustainable development and specifically promote environmentally aware tourism in the Andean countries, in order to preserve the heritage of the people who live there and to help protect their environment.

In the UK we use recycled paper where possible, recycle what we can and attempt to keep waste to an absolute minimum.

Throughout South America we work together with local people, paying them a fair price, and putting money into the local economy. We do this by using local agents, local trek staff and experienced and qualified local mountain and cultural guides who have an in-depth knowledge of their own country. Our porters on the Inca Trail are fairly paid, carry a maximum load of 20kg and are supplied with tents and food. In other areas we use donkeys or horses to carry loads.

We use locally owned services such as hotels and restaurants, wherever possible. We buy fresh local produce for all of our treks from markets in each departure town. We use public transport whenever possible and feasible.

We have ongoing contact with the teams that we work with and also with local families in the areas we trek through, developing relationships with them and donating goods such as clothes and shoes to their communities, through appropriate local agencies. We also support local Peruvian charities, specifically NIÑOS in Cusco, and CARE in the Huaraz area, plus Huchuy Yachaq.

If you have any suitable (warm) clothes and shoes that you would like to donate to Peruvian children please take them with you and give them to your tour leader, who will ensure they go to a suitable organization.

When out on tour we encourage learning about the countries we travel in, the local culture of the teams we work with and the areas we pass through. Our guides hold informal talks with groups to inform about and discuss with them all aspects of local life. This helps understanding of the area and appreciation of the people who live there.

Our group sizes are kept to a maximum of 16 people, and we encourage smaller groups where possible. This minimises the negative impact we make on the local people, the wildlife and the environment, and increases the quality time spent in contact with the local people and environment.

When trekking we adhere to a responsible tourism code of practice and are also involved in ongoing training of our trek staff.

Health and Safety

A full Health and Safety document will be sent to you at the time of booking and before you travel.

You can also read it on our website, or contact us for more information.

Travel Insurance

It is a condition of booking any of our holidays that you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover you for trip cancellation (by you), activities involved and destination. This cover should include repatriation costs, air ambulance and helicopter rescue.

We work with Travel Nomads, who offer insurance solutions to people in more than 140 countries across the world.

Should you decide not to purchase this insurance, you must provide us with details of your alternative insurance with or before your final payment.

And lastly...

Many of our tours travel through remote areas.

We believe our clients should be aware that the remoteness of some of our tours so very special could also cause certain problems.

Thus, whilst we endeavour to minimise the chances of anything unexpected happening, it has to be noted that no itinerary can or should be rigidly adhered to.

This is the very nature of adventure travel and we expect our clients to be prepared for delays and slight alterations in our programmed events.

Also, shared tours may include travellers from all over the world whose native language is not English.

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