Chile off the beaten track holiday
Description of Chile off the beaten track holiday
What this tailormade tour of Chile is all about is an overwhelming sense of freedom. You’ll escape the beaten tourist trail, leaving the colourful, colonial Santiago almost immediately for Chiloé Island, with its wood-shingled churches, fishermen’s houses on stilts and the fishing boats bobbing in the water in the harbour at Dalcahue. The island has no fewer than 16 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the cathedral in the capital, Castro. A highlight of touring the area with a guide is a visit to the local produce market, brimming with smoked shellfish, jumbo-sized fresh vegetables and hand-made cheeses.
Continuing to Puerto Varas in the lake district, with stunning views of the snowcapped volcano Osorno, you’ll make for Alerce Andino National Park and its vast larch forests, before a flight to Balmaceda in the Aisén region of Patagonia. On arrival you’ll pick up your hire vehicle, for a week of exploring on your own (though maps, suggested routes and stops, and 24-hour support are of course provided).
You’ll be driving on the 1,240km Austral Road (Carretera Austral), which cuts a swathe through some of Patagonia's most pristine territory and is rightly one of South America’s most iconic journeys. Expect often unpaved tracks, glimpses of remote farmsteads and wood-shingle churches, homely rustic lodges to stay in, and ample opportunities to pull over and hike mountain trails, through native forests or across glaciers, and take boat trips over lakes. Clear highlights include the peaceful village of Tortel, surrounded by cypress trees, and the popular resort of Puerto Guadal where you’ll stay on the scenic shore of Lake General Carrera, before flying back to Santiago to finish.
Chilean Patagonia, but not as most people see it. If you’re curious about traditional ways of life, love to beat your own trail, and have a sense of adventure, this tour might have been made for you.
PlanetWe realise that travel and tourism can benefit as well as harm the environment, the economy and the social and cultural structures of communities. The concept of sustainable tourism - the travel trade’s principles of using tourism to benefit local communities, conserve natural resources, and bolster the survival of cultural heritage – lies close to our heart. Our love and passion for Latin America encourages us to do everything in our power to protect the destinations we take you to. As members of AITO, we are committed to AITO’s Sustainable Tourism Guidelines, which means that we ensure that environmental and cultural demands are kept as low as possible.
We carefully select our local partners, some we’ve worked with for over 25 years. They have a proven record in training guides to set a good example in their respect for the surroundings and the local communities. We will always encourage you to keep a few basic things in mind, including refilling your water bottle, disposing of rubbish in a responsible way and by staying on designated roads and trails. Furthermore, we’ve partnered up with Water to Go in hope to reduce plastic waste by offering clients 50% discount on filtered water bottles.
We give preference to hotels and lodges which have a verifiable commitment to eco-friendly practices. During this holiday you will stay at Hostal El Puesto on the banks of Rio Tranquilo. They are dedicated to work in full on the three areas of sustainability: economical, social and environmental sustainability, and being coherent with their vision, taking care of their carbon footprint. In the architectural design of the hostel they have incorporated elements of energy efficiency, including the use of thermo panels, solar panels for heating and ACS, LED technology. Furthermore, they use water-saving taps. For all of their efforts, they are rewarded with obtaining the internationally recognised seal of Sustainable Lodging Biosphere. Moreover, your stay at Entre Hielos Lodge will be a special one, as it is based in Caleta Tortel, a small village in Patagonia that is elevated and connected by a set of wooden walkways. There are no cars allowed here. Additionally, the restaurant at the lodge offers home-cooked traditional Patagonian dishes using local ingredients.
We also strive to use accommodation that reflects the environment they are set in. In the heart of Santiago you will stay at Su Merced Hotel, with contemporary style rooms, but with an early 20th century residential style façade – in keeping with the local architectural style. Furthermore, in Puerto Varas you will stay at Estancia 440, a charming boutique B&B which occupies a lovingly refurbished 1930s house clad with wood-shingle tiles in typically Germanic local style. Materials and furniture have been chosen with great care and attention to detail to reflect a mix of classic décor and a more individual style inspired by the friendly proprietor’s pride in her family’s Patagonian cattle-rearing history.
PeopleWe pride ourselves on delivering our clients truly authentic and unforgettable experiences in Latin America which connect travellers with the people whose country they visit. On Chiloé Island for example you will enjoy a guided tour of the area surrounding Castro and visit its produce market, local fishing villages and you will enjoy lunch with a local family or at a traditional restaurant.
Moreover, if you’re taking this holiday in February you will be able to partake in a week-long fiesta in Puerto Guadal where you can watch Chilean-style horse racing and traditional games like La Taba.
On a self-drive holiday you have the flexibility to make stops and visit local towns and villages along the way. We are always happy to provide recommendations for places to visit, including local sights, museums, restaurants, bars, shops and market recommendations. On Lake General Carrera for example we would suggest you to drive to a nearby mine which was abandoned in 1986 by a French mining company. The old mining installations and machinery used to mine deposits of lead, zinc and copper are still in place.
As a company we support the interaction between visitors and the local community, and our expert guides are on hand to provide advice on the best way to communicate with the local community, what and what not to buy, as well as explaining the importance of giving gifts responsibly, and acting in a respectful way while taking photographs.