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Bienviendos a Chile! Upon arrival into the airport you will be met and transferred to your hotel in Santiago. The rest of the day is free for you to get out and explore.
Encircled by snow-capped Andean peaks, the city of Santiago enjoys a particularly spectacular setting. This morning join a group city tour to discover Santiago’s appealing blend of the old and new. Walking to the Plaza de Armas gaze at the handsome colonial architecture including the grandiose Catedral Metropolitana, the Post Office and the Santiago City Hall. Continue to the Government Palace and the older neighbourhood of Plaza Concha y Toro marked by cobblestone streets and elegant 20th century mansions. Heading east through neighbourhoods with a thoroughly modern appearance stop at a local handicrafts store where you can try a Pisco Sour.
This morning you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Calama. On arrival you will be transferred to the little oasis village of San Pedro de Atacama. After hotel check in enjoy an afternoon shared city tour with a visit to the outstanding Museo Arqueológico Gustavo Le Paige. Housing more than 380,000 artefacts including Neolithic tools, ceramics and gold and silver ritual masks, the museum is famed for its prehistoric mummies, notably the withered ‘Miss Chile’.
After breakfast visit the 12th century pre-Inca fortress of Pukara de Quitor. Strategically located on a hill. Continue to the ancient settlement of Tulor where circular dwellings are interconnected by common passages and patios. Dating to 800 BC the site is the earliest known settlement in the area. Later in the afternoon see the impressive Licancabur volcano on your way to the village Toconao where the volcanic Liparita stone is quarried nearby. Heading in to the centre of the Salar de Atacama, the largest salt lake in Chile, arrive at the Chaxa Lagoon where you’ll find pink flamingos congregating.
It’s an early morning departure today as you travel to the Geysers del Tatio for a picnic-style breakfast and a stroll around the geothermal fields to see the geysers and pools of boiling water and mud. Enjoy a rejuvenating soak in the hot springs before heading back to San Pedro de Atacama. En route stop at the small village of Machuca where home-made empanadas, sopaipillas, coffee and coca tea can all be sampled. Later in the afternoon head to the dramatic wind-eroded landscape of Valle de la Luna where the angular geology is often compared to the surface of the moon.
Carved out of the ground like an enormous, sunken amphitheatre, the Chuquicamata mines are one of the world’s largest open-pit copper mines, dwarfing the huge ore trucks to resemble crawling ants on the crater floor. Join a group tour to learn about the copper mining process and to see the incredible feat of human engineering. Later in the afternoon continue north to Iquique passing the impressive Pintados geoglyphs along the way. Consisting of more than 400 figures etched into the hillside, the site features images of animals, birds, humans and geometric patterns. Continue to Iquique for overnight.
Morning visit to what was once the scene of a thriving industry built on vast nitrate deposits, the ghost towns of Santa Laura and Humberstone now stand empty and lifeless. Continuing your journey north through the desert you’ll pass the Pampa de Tamarugal, an artificial forest in the middle of the desert, and the 86m tall Atacama Giant geoglyph. En route to Arica along the Tiliviche ravine and the Chiva escarpment you’ll also see the well-preserved panel of geoglyps illustrating a herd of llamas.
Touring continues with the pre-Hispanic settlements of Cerro Sombrero and Cerro Sagrado where ancestral beliefs are illustrated through panels of geoglyphs. Visit the Archaeological Museum at the University of Tarapacá which is home to the Chinchorro mummies. Ascending towards the altiplano after lunch, pass diverse landscapes, more geoglyphs and the village of Poconchile and its 17th century church. The Cardones Canyon is a highlight with its 4m tall cacti. Visit the native Indian ancient fortress of Pukara de Copaquilla and the pre-Hispanic farm terraces of Socoroma before arriving in Putre.
This morning visit Lauca National Park and the Chungara Lake. During the ascent you’ll come across Andean bogs and strange flora such as the llareta plant, which only grows 1mm every year. Surrounded by the snow-capped Volcan Parinacota, the Chungara Lake is one of the highest lakes in Chile and when the wind is still, the reflection of the volcano is a staggeringly beautiful sight. Later visit the village of Parinacota where you’ll have the chance to meet some of the native Aymara inhabitants and learn about their traditional customs and beliefs.
Today marks the end of your unique Chilean adventure. After breakfast and hotel check out you will be transferred back to Arica airport for included flight to Santiago for onward departure connections.