Galapagos to Patagonia

Galapagos to Patagonia is a remarkable 30-day exploration of South America, from Ecuador and the unique Galapagos Islands in the continent’s North West, to El Calafate at its southern tip.

Our momentous journey begins with a superb five-day cruise around the Galapagos Islands aboard Isabella II – a 56m yacht with capacity for 40 guests. This is the perfect, intimate space for exploring Darwin’s islands in comfort. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the sheer spectacle of the Galapagos Islands: this remote archipelago is a land of stark lava formations, lush green highlands, turquoise bays, and an abundance of strangely fearless and curious creatures, found nowhere else on earth. From the Galapagos Islands we head to mainland Ecuador and the Andean city of Quito, from where we explore the massive glacier-fed lakes and rivers within the Antisana Ecological Reserve. From here we continue to the great Bolivian city of La Paz, before crossing the largest salt flats in the world, Salar de Uyuni. This vast area of glistening white salt is an awesome sight and a great inspiration for photographers. We spend two nights at a hotel made entirely of salt blocks, giving us ample opportunity to watch extraordinary sunsets across the bright white expanse of salt. Moving into Chile, we cut through the great Atacama, the driest desert in the world, and home to colourful Laguna Colorada and its multitudes of pink flamingoes. Next stop is Chile’s sophisticated capital, Santiago, from where we explore the picturesque coastal town of Valparaiso. A major highlight of the tour is the lakes crossing from Puerto Varas to the Argentinian town of Bariloche located on the edge of the magnificent Lake Nahuel Huapi. Continuing south through Patagonia we arrive at the staggering Perito Moreno glacier at El Calafate – one of the largest continental glaciers in the world, where glistening icebergs ‘calve’ with a deafening roar. Finally, we head to the wonderful Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires, home to the vibrant La Boca district, birthplace of Tango!

Tour Fitness Level: Active

Highlights

Ecuador

  • Five-day Galapagos Island cruise
  • Visit to magnificent Antisana volcano and ecological reserve

Bolivia

  • Visit the extraordinary Moon Valley in La Paz basin
  • Explore the pre-Incan ruins of Tiahuanaco – South America’s 2nd Machu Picchu
  • Enjoy a traditional hangi with a Bolivian family
  • Cross the largest salt desert in the world by 4WD
  • Two-night stay at the world-famous hotel made entirely of salt
  • Exclusive banquet at the extraordinary Uyuni salt flats
  • Marvel at glaciers and thermal hot springs side by side at Polques

Chile

  • Two-night stay at a luxury resort in the Atacama Desert
  • An exclusive cocktail party in Moon Valley in the Atacama
  • Enjoy the bohemian charm of Valparaiso on Chile’s Pacific coast
  • See some of the most majestic scenery on the planet during the lakes crossing between Chile and Argentina

Argentina

  • Two-night stay at the Andean town of San Carlos de Bariloche
  • Experience, close up, calving of the world’s most famous glacier, Perito Moreno at El Calafate
  • See the best tango show in Buenos Aires
  • Visit the vibrant Buenos Aires neighbourhoods of La Boca and San Telmo

Inclusions

  • All flights between Australia and South America (inc domestic from your preferred Capital city)
  • All flights, transportation and transfers within South America
  • All ticketable taxes (may be subject to change)
  • All accommodation (twin-share)
  • All meals as specified
  • Experienced tour leader throughout
  • Expert local guides
  • All entrance fees in specified sightseeing
  • All local sightseeing as per itinerary
  • All visas and courier fees (except Chile visa which cannot be pre-paid – must be paid on arrival)
  • All tips and gratuities

Please note that whilst every effort will be made to adhere to the above pricing, currency fluctuations beyond our control can affect final tour costs. A booking form is to be completed by all passengers, followed by a non-refundable deposit of AUD $3,000 at the time of booking. All tours are based on a minimum group size of 10 people travelling.

Itinerary

17/02/2019 Australia – Santiago – Guayaquil (D)

Fly from your preferred capital city to Sydney, connecting with our Lan flight to Santiago. Crossing the International Date Line, we arrive in Santiago on the same day.

Depart Sydney Lan LA 806,  12.35

Arrive Santiago 11.10

Depart Santiago Lan LA 1446,  19.55

Arrive Guayaquil 23.20

On arrival in Guayaquil we transfer to our hotel.

Wyndham Garden Hotel

Guayaquil

18/02/2019 Guayaquil – Galapagos (BLD)

After breakfast this morning we transfer to the airport for our flight to the Galapagos Islands.

Depart Guayaquil Latam Ecuador XL 1413,  11.15

Arrive Baltra (Galapagos)  12.15

On arrival at Baltra Airport we transfer to the Itabaca Channel, taking a small ferry across the Channel to the north shore of Santa Cruz Island. We board our coach which takes us to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, where we learn about the unique montane ecosystems and biodiversity. After lunch, we visit El Chato Reserve, one of the best places in the archipelago to see giant tortoises in their natural habitat. The tortoises are easy to spot, lumbering around, eating grass and leaves and wallowing in the small pools. Later we make the short trip to Puerto Ayora where we board our yacht, La Pinta.

19/02/2019 Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos (BLD)

This morning we take a boat ride to Eden Islet, located off the coast of Santa Cruz, where we see blue footed boobies, reef sharks and frigates. Weather conditions permitting we take a ride in a glass-bottom boat to see the activity in the water beneath us.  We also visit the tiny island of Sombrero Chino, which gets its name from its appearance: a Chinese hat. This islet, formed only recently, makes a beautiful visit as we explore the wildlife along its 400-metre long trail, which begins at a crescent-shaped white sandy beach.

20/02/2019 Bartolome Island, Galapagos (BLD)

A Galápagos icon awaits us today: Bartolomé Island! We climb to the highest point on the island via a steep wooden staircase for fantastic views. After lunch, we board a boat to land at Sullivan Bay on the east coast of Santiago, a white coral sand beach great for swimming and snorkelling, and with a trail over a lava field that flowed here less than 100 years ago. This is the perfect place to see and feel the volcanic origin of Galápagos while observing its wildlife.

21/02/2019 Genovesa Island, Galapagos (BLD)

This morning we begin our exploration of Genovesa island with an easy stroll to observe marine and land birds.  After lunch we take a boat ride along the cliffs before disembarking for a steep climb up some stairs to the top of the island. Here the land is flat, allowing for a captivating walk of about a mile to the other side of this small island, where we can see large colonies of Nazca boobies, frigate birds and storm petrels and the elusive short eared owl.

22/02/2019 Galapagos – Quito (BD)

This morning we arrive at Baltra Island where we transfer to the airport to for our flight to Quito.

Depart Galapagos Latam Ecuador XL 1410, 11.25

Arrive Quito 16.02

Hotel Patio Andaluz

Quito

23/02/2019 Quito (BLD)

An exciting day today as we head to the Antisana Ecological Reserve, an hour’s drive from Quito. Here we see massive glacier-fed lakes and rivers and the fourth highest mountain in the Ecuadorian Andes, the Antisana volcano. Fifty percent of the Andean condors in Ecuador live in this spectacular reserve, as well as many other species of highland birds. Antisana is also home to a wide variety of plants and exotic multi-coloured flowers. In the afternoon we return to Quito and dinner this evening is at our hotel.

24/02/2019 Quito (BLD)

Quito has one of the best-preserved colonial centres in all of South America, and its integrity was assured in 1978 when the United Nations declared it a World Cultural Heritage site. Today we explore the colonial part of Quito, with its narrow cobblestone streets lined with whitewashed walls and, rising above, the steeples and cupolas of the city´s many spectacularly decorated historic churches. We visit La Basilica del Voto Nacional church, walk through the main plaza, where we see the Government Palace, La Compañía, and some of the most important churches built around the XVI and XVII centuries, including the San Francisco Monastery.

25/02/2019 Quito – La Paz (BL)

The Andean capital of Ecuador (2,850m) has a setting that few other cities in the world can match. During the 13th century, Quito was the prosperous centre of the Kingdom of Quitus before it became the northern capital of the Inca Empire. In the 16th and 17th centuries the Spanish built formidable temples, monasteries and mansions, creating an urban jewel, which is now a designated World Heritage site. Today, Quito brings the past to life in its museums, convents, stone-carved facades and golden altars of its many churches. After lunch we drive 25km north to the Equatorial Monument, which marks the middle of the world. Here you can enjoy the unique experience of standing with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere! This evening we transfer to the airport for our flight to La Paz via Lima.

Depart Quito Avianca AV 7388, 18.29

Arrive Lima 20.49

Depart Lima Avianca AV 7390, 22.27

Arrive La Paz 01.25

On arrival in La Paz we transfer to our hotel.

Hotel Europa

La Paz

26/02/2019 La Paz (BLD)

The amazing city of La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia and, as such, qualifies as the world’s highest capital. Enjoying an incredible location it well deserves its nickname, ‘the city that touches the sky’. Our tour begins in Government Square, from where we visit the Presidential Palace and the Indian handicraft market. We then drive out of the city to the extraordinary Moon Valley. Formed millions of years ago when the area was under water, it is a labyrinth of bizarrely shaped sandstone formations, which give the appearance of a lunar landscape.

27/02/2019 La Paz (BLD)

After breakfast we head to the legendary pre-Inca site of Tiahuanaco. It is thought to have been an important ceremonial centre and to have once bordered Titicaca. The influence of this ancient civilization was far-reaching, extending even to the coast of Peru where Tiahuanaco artifacts are common. These people are believed to have been even more advanced than the Incas in art, pottery, astronomy and mathematics. The site at Tiahuanaco is still under exploration and many of the monoliths have been moved to the Museo Nacional de Arqueología in La Paz for preservation and easier viewing. Still on site are the Gate of the Sun, the Acapana Pyramid and the Kalasaya compound.

28/02/2019 La Paz – Oruro – Uyuni (BLD)

After breakfast we leave the La Paz basin for our three-hour journey to Oruro. On arrival we visit the Lighthouse of Conchupata, which is one of Oruro’s historical specimens and from the top we have a wonderful view of the whole city. After lunch we continue our journey passing through the amazing landscapes of the Altiplano and onto the edge of the salt lake before transferring to our hotel, which is made entirely of salt.

Tambo Aymara Hotel

Uyuni

01/03/2019 Uyuni (BLD)

Located close to the border with Chile, the Salar de Uyuni is the largest and highest salt flat in the world. The contrasting colours of the blue sky and the dazzling white salt surface make for an amazing spectacle. Today we visit the village of Colchani on the shores of the Uyuni salt flats, where locals pack the salt after adding iodine. The sunset across the salt flats is truly astonishing.

Palacio de Sal Hotel

Colchani

02/03/2019 Uyuni – Ojo de Perdiz (BLD)

Today we travel across the salt flats by 4WD and explore the area. We visit the isolated Isla Pescado, a cactus-strewn island that lies in a sea of salt, some 60 km from the nearest land. After lunch we head to Galaxy Cave to learn about ancestral burials and see petrified cactus. We then continue to the town of San Pedro de Quemez before descending into valley of Ojo de Perdiz.

Tayka Ojo de Perdiz

Ojo de Perdiz

03/03/2019 Ojo de Perdiz – San Pedro de Atacama (BLD)

After an early breakfast we drive to an altitude of almost 5,000m as we travel to the Bolivia-Chile border and onto San Pedro de Atacama. Although it is a long day, the scenery is a visual feast: multi-coloured mountains, cone-shaped volcanoes, bizarre wind-sculpted stone formations, bubbling fumaroles at Sol de Manana and the colourful Laguna Colorado with its many flamingos. After crossing the border we quickly descend 2,000m to San Pedro.

Alto Atacama Hotel

San Pedro de Atacama

04/03/2019 San Pedro de Atacama (BLD)

At an altitude of 2,400m, San Pedro de Atacama is an oasis village fed by two rivers and we spend today exploring this delightful place. It is surrounded by the Andes, volcanoes, salt flats, high plateaus, grassy river beds and salt-encrusted caves. Its history stretches back more than 10,000 years and the cultures of the Incas, Aymaras and Atacamenans converge here. Today we explore the town before visiting the extraordinary Valle de la Luna.

05/03/2019 San Pedro – Santiago (BLD)

After breakfast we transfer to the nearby airport of Calama for our flight to Santiago.

Depart Calama Lan LA 141, 07.37

Arrive Santiago 09.44

On arrival in Chile’s capital we visit the historical centre of Santiago. We visit the historical ‘La Moneda’, the Presidential Palace and the main square. In the evening we have dinner in the nearby market place.

Crowne Plaza Hotel

Santiago

06/03/2019 Santiago – Valparaiso – Santiago (BLD)

This morning we leave Santiago to explore the coastal towns of central Chile, travelling through the wine-producing valleys of Curacavi and Casablanca. Of course, we stop to sample before continuing to Vina del Mar, which is known as the ‘Garden City’ for its pretty parks and flower-lined streets. After lunch we continue to the picturesque port of Valparaiso. It was built in the 16th century on a total of 43 hills, which are reached by narrow winding streets, staircases and a series of funiculars. Known for its eclectic architecture, the town has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

07/03/2019 Santiago – Puerto Montt – Puerto Varas (BLD)

Early this morning we transfer to the airport for our flight to Puerto Montt.

Depart Santiago Lan LA 257, 07.20

Arrive Puerto Montt 09.06

We transfer to nearby Puerto Varas and check in to our hotel. After lunch we commence a walking tour of this attractive German town.

Hotel Cabana de Lago

Puerto Varas

08/03/2019 Puerto Varas – Bariloche (BLD)

Today we start our lakes crossing. We drive through attractive alpine villages that have been heavily influenced by the German settlement that began in 1852. Skirting Lake Llanquihue, we pass the base of Osorno volcano before boarding a boat to cross Los Santos Lake to Peulla. After lunch we reach the Chile-Argentina border and continue through dense forest to Puerto Frias, before crossing the lake. From here we travel to Puerto Blast and board another boat to cross stunning Lake Nahuel Huapi.

Edelweiss Hotel

Bariloche

09/03/2019 Bariloche (BLD)

After breakfast we explore the magnificent forests that surround our hotel and in the afternoon visit beautiful Victoria Island in Nahuel Huapi.

10/03/2019 Bariloche (BLD)

Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapí is one of the jewels of Argentina. This is a spectacular area of lakes and rivers carved from ancient glaciers, majestic mountains, beautiful valleys and meadows covered with wildflowers. During our sightseeing today we visit Lago Mascardi and Cascada de Los Alerces on the way to the spectacular glaciers of Mt Tronador.

11/03/2019 Bariloche – El Calafate (BLD)

After breakfast we transfer to the airport for our flight to El Calafate.

Depart Bariloche Aerolinea Argentinas AR 1872, 10.45

Arrive El Calafate 12.30

On arrival at El Calafate we transfer to our hotel.

Kosten Aike

El Calafate

12/03/2019 El Calafate (BLD)

Today is a wonderful day as we visit the magnificent Perito Moreno Glacier. One of the largest active continental glaciers in the world, UNESCO has declared it a ‘Universal Patrimony of Humanity’. It flows into the south arm of Argentine Lake, breaking into glistening icebergs with a deafening roar.

13/03/2019 El Calafate – Buenos Aires (BL)

This morning we board a catamaran on Argentine Lake. The vessel gets close to the Spegazzini arm of the lake and enters a channel leading to Estancia Cristina. At this point we are surrounded by towering ice-capped mountains and glowing ice-blue bergs floating in the lake. We then transfer to a 4WD vehicle to drive to the longest glacier in South America, Mirador del Glaciar Upsala. Late in the afternoon we transfer to the airport for our flight to Buenos Aires.

Depart El Calafate Aerolineas AR 1821, 20.05

Arrive Buenos Aires   23.00

Pestana Hotel

Buenos Aires

14/03/2019 Buenos Aires (BLD)

Buenos Aires, the fabulous capital of Argentina, is the most European city in South America with many beautiful parks and plazas. ‘Portenos’, as the locals call themselves, are fun-loving people who enjoy their city and music. On our city tour we see Government House (Casa Rosada, or Pink House), the House of Congress, the Metropolitan Cathedral, Eva Peron’s tomb in the Recoleta Cemetery and the famous Italian La Boca district. In the evening we experience an exciting tango show.

15/03/2019 Buenos Aires (BLD)

A fun-filled relaxing day today as we head out of the city on a ‘Fiesta Gaucho’ tour. We drive into the fertile grasslands, or pampas, that surround Buenos Aires, to an estancia (horse ranch). After cocktails and delicious empanadas our hosts will provide a traditional Argentinian BBQ and a vibrant gaucho folk show.

16/03/2019 Buenos Aires – Sydney (B)

Today is at leisure in Buenos Aires. Late afternoon we transfer to the airport for our flight to Sydney.

Depart Buenos Aires LAN LA 442, 19.55

Arrive Santiago 22.25

17/03/2019 Depart Santiago LAN LA 801, 00.35

18/03/2019 Arrive Sydney after crossing the International Dateline

Arrive Sydney 09.15

On arrival in Sydney we connect with the flight to our chosen Australian airport.

FAQ's

If I am coming from Perth or any other major capital city in Australia, will it be possible to overnight in Sydney before the journey to Guayaquil?

Yes. We find many of our guests choose this option, in order to start the journey from Sydney to Guayaquil refreshed. Just let our consultants know if you want to take up this option and we will make the booking on your behalf.

Is personal security a problem in South America?

In most of South America security is not a big problem. However we remind our guests of the need to take sensible precautions. These include not wearing ostentatious jewellery, not showing or counting money in public, and not going to certain areas at night. Basically it’s a case of using common sense, particularly in large cities.

This tour spends a few days at altitude. Is this a problem?

Our leaders have been to altitude many times and are very competent in dealing with high elevation. Generally we don’t have too many problems with altitude sickness in South America. Our tour leaders carry pulse oximeters, which enable us to monitor everyone’s progress and adjustment to altitude. Additionally, our hotels and buses always carry an extra supply of oxygen in case the need arises.

How much spending money do I need for the entire trip?

Because almost everything is included, we would suggest an amount of USD $1200 per person as being ample for the whole month-long journey. However, if you’re a keen shopper and like to buy lots of gifts and souvenirs, you may require more.

Are credit cards acceptable?

Credit cards are acceptable for purchases throughout the tour. ATMs are available in most of South America for cash withdrawals. However we don’t recommend relying solely on these as the main source of funds – we suggest taking some cash in USD.

Do I need vaccinations for this journey?

IMPORTANT: A yellow fever vaccination is mandatory on this tour and the certificate for the injection must accompany each passenger, as, on arrival in Sydney, Australian immigration may ask to see it. In the rare case where a person cannot be given the vaccine, a certificate of waiver must be obtained. Tetanus should always be up to date. As we travel into malarial areas, a powerful insect repellent is essential and anti-malaria tablets are recommended. We suggest that you also seek advice from your doctor.

Is the water safe to drink en-route and what is the general standard of hygiene?

We err on the side of caution on all of our tours and advise travellers to drink only bottled water. This is easy to obtain everywhere. The standard of hygiene in South America is surprisingly high along the entire route. We recommend the use of hand sanitiser before each meal and occasionally during the day, as we will be handling local money and visiting public places.

What is the climate like at this time of the year?

The climate varies greatly along the route. The temperature range is generally between 20 and 30 degrees during the day, but can be as low as three or four degrees in the early morning and evening. Our pre-departure information booklets will provide weather tables for each location.

Do I need visas for South America?

A visa is required for Chile and this cannot be pre-paid. The cost is $117 USD payable on arrival.

A lot of companies have many expensive optional extras on their tours. Do you?

We don’t believe in a lot of expensive ‘optional tours’. Our itineraries are designed to make the best possible use of time and to include all the must-see sights, plus additional surprises. Therefore practically everything is included in the tour cost.

What is the standard of hotels like on this tour?

We endeavour to use centrally located hotels throughout. The hotels on this trip are of a high standard and generally between 4 and 5 star.

What currency should I take and are travellers cheques a good idea?

The currency for this journey is US dollars. They should be in low denominations, clean and undamaged. We do not recommend travellers cheques in South America as it can be very difficult and time-consuming to change them.

Are internet facilities available en-route?

All of the hotels we use have internet facilities. In addition there are many internet cafes located near to the hotels.

Do mobile telephones work?

Telstra and Optus mobiles work throughout most of the journey. You will need to ensure you have global roaming and a tri-band phone. Contact your service provider for further details.

How much should we tip the guides and porters?

There is no need to tip guides or porters as all tipping and gratuities are included in the tour cost.

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