Discover the wild scenery of Chile's Patagonia from rural top-of-the-range lodges offering a palette of tailor-made outdoor excursions.
Chile’s Patagonia extends from the achingly beautiful lake district - with its ice-cream cone volcanoes, meadows, waterfalls and virgin forests - down to the glaciers and steppes of a more brutal, primeval landscape in the far south. The area of the lakes, traditionally a magnet for visitors from Chile and overseas alike, has become more accessible, and hotels, lodges and resorts of all standards have been established there. Chiloe, the misty and mysterious island off the Pacific coast, steeped in myth and legend, has long conserved a traditional way of life and now here too you can explore from a delightful top-of-the-range property, Tierra Chiloe.
Further south, on the fringes of Torres del Paine National Park, the lodge’s sister property, Tierra Patagonia, offers an equally exclusive opportunity to explore the mountains and glaciers of wild and untamed region in comfort and style.
Round off your adventure with a couple of days luxuriating at one of Chile’s most prestigious vineyards, set in a fertile valley not far from the capital, Santiago.
Day 1 Arrive Santiago, transfer to luxury hotel in prestigious Las Condes.
Santiago is set in a broad valley between parallel ranges of the Andes, with lofty snow-draped peaks, and a smaller coastal range with a Mediterranean feel. Santiago is a huge metropolis, a mix of the old and the contemporary, with neighbourhoods featuring tree-lined avenues and affluent tranquillity and others full of historic references and commercial bustle.
Transfer from the airport to your first class hotel, the Ritz Carlton. It’s in the calm, upmarket residential and commercial district known as Las Condes. Once you’ve settled in nicely you’ll be collected for your guided walking tour of selected districts of the city. In the shadow of glassy sky-scrapers you’ll discover fine historic buildings dating back to Spanish colonial times, sitting alongside eye-catching arty, contemporary structures. You’ll be seeking out some of the more interesting landmarks and arty neighbourhoods at a leisurely pace, allowing you to soak up the atmosphere of the capital.
Day 2 Fly to Castro, capital of Chiloe island in the lake district. Transfer to luxury lodge.
The remote and agreeable little city Castro has never lost its frontier feel, with its ramshackle, brightly painted wooden buildings spilling down from the hillside to the harbour. Continue by road to your lodge. Chiloé's patchwork fields, tiny coves and forested hills are somewhat reminiscent of Cornwall or Devon, as are the little fishing communities, colourful boats and thick woollen pullovers. But here there survives an evocative indigenous culture, with an imaginative mythology involving witches and troll-like creatures. A magical air pervades, rain or shine.
Among Chiloé's many photogenic attributes are the rustic wooden houses built above the water on stilts (palafitos), unique wood-tiled architecture and over 150 wooden painted churches dating back to the hegemony of the Jesuits. The island's coastline hosts dolphins, seals and the odd penguin, and there's a rich tradition of seafood cuisine. There's a bird-filled wetland right in front of idyllic Tierra Chiloé lodge, where a panorama of wonderful views unfolds.
Days 3,4 Choice of guided activities from the lodge.
Based at the lodge, you can choose from a number of half and full-day guided excursions including walking, cycling, horse riding and visits to villages and hamlets which have retained vestiges of the island’s unique culture. You will discover the graceful, Unesco-listed wood shingle churches, so different from the colonial Spanish baroque dominant elsewhere on the continent. Stroll along undulating coastal trails or through native forests, browse produce and crafts markets and savour seafood-based Chilote cuisine.
You should have the opportunity to sail on the lodge's exclusive boat, the Williche. A traditional Chilote wooden vessel built in Castro, she offers the best way to explore the creeks and bays of the outer islands of this labyrinthine archipelago. If you wish to be more adventurous, you can try your hand at sea kayaking - with luck you will spot seals and dolphins. Returning each day to the lodge is a highlight in itself, thanks to its wonderful views, spa and delicious food and wine.
Day 5 Transfer by road and ferry to the mainland, continue to lake Llanquihue.
Drive north to take a half-hour ferry trip across to the mainland of Chile - a short but possibly entertaining trip as your boat may be accompanied by a pod of playful dolphins while seabirds wheel above. Drive on through open countryside to your contemporary-chic lodge on the shores of the lake Llanquihue, where sparkling blue-green waters reflect the snow-stifled bulk of Osorno volcano. It’s just a 30 minute drive from leisure port Puerto Varas, which still harbours some of the German culture imported by Bavarian settlers in the 19th and early 20th century, including its iconic red and white church.
Day 6 At leisure at Hotel Awa.
You may well be tempted to spend the day enjoying the spa, the grounds and the spectacular views available at this innovative lakeside property – we agree, it will be hard for you to tear yourself away. However, if you love the outdoors, there’s an impressive list of optional excursions and activities in the surrounding countryside which we can arrange for you in advance.
These feature guided walks along hiking trails in the adjoining national parks, where a sprinkling of hidden lagoons studs untouched conifer forests. Water-borne activities include gentle kayaking on the picturesque and serene Ronclavi estuary or a more dynamic experience white water rafting on foaming rivers. Those with an interest in local culture would enjoy a day trip to towns and villages around the lake to learn more about the German colonisation along the shores of Lake Llanquihue over 150 years ago. Their heritage is still very much in evidence, including delicious details such as the popular kuchen on display in the tea rooms peppering the region.
Day 7 Fly to Punta Arenas in southern Patagonia.
Fly to Punta Arenas in southern Patagonia and continue by road to your lodge right on the edge of Torres del Paine National Park. With any luck, you will have glimpsed seen the remote ice-throttled peaks and glaciers from the air, but that won’t detract from the impact of witnessing this grandiose scenery up close.
Milky blue and gem-sharp emerald lakes, sinuous rivers, glaciers and wind-scoured steppes have forged a unique environment. Torres del Paine is the natural habitat of over 150 species of birds (flamingos, condors, eagles and ostriches) and 25 species of mammal (including guanacos, armadillos, silver foxes and pumas). Come prepared for elemental drama: the dictates of the weather prevail but this national park is well worth the journey south, whether slashed by rain or bathed in sunshine.
The road from Punta Arenas carves a lonely path across flat, ferociously wind-buffeted grasslands where you might spot a little hardy wildlife, but gradually the monotony of the landscape is overcome as the huge granite massif of Torres del Paine, with its icy spires, looms up on the horizon. You enter an area of blue green lagoons, waterfalls and tufty hillocks, where guanacos graze and water-birds shelter.
Tierra Patagonia, your stunning designer hotel, sits on a bluff overlooking the rain-fed lake Sarmiento, the largest in the region. All rooms have views over the water, and you are within a stone’s throw of the iceberg-dotted lakes, snow-jacketed mountains, scrawny forests and vast expanses of open steppe.
Days 8-10 Excursions and activities from the lodge.
Tierra Patagonia offers a full range of excursions within and around Torres del Paine National Park. You can explore on foot, horseback, bike, or boat – the portfolio of activities delves into every corner of the park. From a choice of hiking tours, wilderness bike rides, horseback adventures and kayaking expeditions, the team will create a plan tailor-made just for you. The expert guides will assess your physical activity level and your personal interests, so that you can explore Torres del Paine just the way you prefer.
Day 11 Fly to Santiago and continue to the Maipo Valley
Return to Santiago by air from Punta Arenas and continue by road to the Maipo valley in the foothills of the Andes, one of the world's outstanding wine-growing regions. Your accommodation is on a historic country estate also embracing the Santa Rita vineyard. Casa Real is within easy reach of the neighbouring vineyards and wine cellars, yet secluded within its own peaceful and immaculate grounds.
Day 12 At leisure at Casa Real and Santa Rita winery.
Spending a full day here gives you the opportunity to enjoy the house's elegant facilities, the museum displaying a private collection of Andean artefacts, and the flower-decked ornamental gardens, ancient trees and ponds dotted with black-necked swans. The property is certainly opulent, with a somewhat formal, aristocratic ambience. The décor, furnishings and sculptures are inspired by the colours and motifs discovered at Pompeii in the 1890s.
Your stay will include a tour of the Santa Rita winery and the chance to taste its splendid premium wines and fine cuisine.
Day 13 Return to Santiago for your international flight.