Day 1: Transfer to beautiful Spanish-style Hacienda. This trip starts in either Ovalle or Vicuña. Transfers can also be arranged from La Serena by prior arrangement (additional costs may apply, please ask for details). After approximately two hours driving along mountain roads, you will enter the mountain wilderness of the Rio Hurtado Valley in the Norte Chico - the Little North of Chile. Situated 92 km from La Serena, famous for its balmy coastal climate and great beaches, the hacienda is a Spanish colonial style property situated in its own private green oasis with clear rivers, swaying palms, towering cactus and a truly desert feel.
Arriving at the Hacienda is a delight. Offering six comfortable rooms decorated in a colonial style each with its own private bathroom, direct access to the palm garden and good insulation against heat or cold the setting is magnificent. Occupying its own 500 acre nature reserve with marked nature trails, a 3 km private river and beautiful palm garden guests can relax and enjoy one of the 310 guaranteed annual days of sunshine and feast on organic fruit and locally grown produce.
"We try to offer our guests an experience as close to nature as possible - you can enjoy swimming and relaxing by the river, you can pick and eat the tropical fruits or doze off in a shaded hammock. In our kitchen we only use natural and fresh food. After dinner we sit on the terrace, watching the stars while drinking a glass of Chilean wine".
Day 2: Ride into the wilderness to oasis camp. After breakfast in the palm garden we will meet at about 9:30 to prepare for our day's riding adventure. Your guide will acquaint you with the riding horses, the riding style and any safety precautions before we load up the pack horses and set off into the wilderness.
We pass through wild plateaus and canyons and ride out across the endless hills admiring the desert plants, agile mountain goats and expectant birds of prey. After a tasty picnic lunch and an indulgent afternoon siesta, we will continue on with our ascent which takes us to heights of about 2,000 metres.
Crystal-clear air allows us far reaching magical views down the valleys of the Andes. We camp in an oasis known as Maiten. In front of a camp fire, we will enjoy dinner and a glass of wine under the night skies crammed full of twinkling stars. Night camping. Wild site with running water but no services. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: Ride Maiten Sierra and back to the Hacienda. We continue our trip after breakfast. We will ride the Maiten Sierra and observe the extreme contrasts of nature. The minerals cause the rocks in the sierra to shine in a variety of colours. The desert scenery is fascinating: intense green algarrobo trees, cacti as high as a man and the incredible tranquility in this area.
Riding back to the Hacienda, herdsmen with their goats might cross our way. We arrive back into the calm oasis of the Hurtado Valley during mid-afternoon. Time for a bath and a rest or a nap. Dinner is served in the garden under the stars. Includes: (B), (L), (D) (wine/drinks available at extra cost with dinner). Night Hacienda in twin share.
Day 4: Morning relaxation. Afternoon return to Santiago. After a breakfast in the palm garden we will spend the morning relaxing in this little piece of paradise. Swimming in the river, sunbathing, hiking the nature trails or just relaxing with a good book. Afternoon transfer to Ovalle or Vicuña for flight to Santiago. On arrival in Santiago, take a private transfer to your comfortable hotel. Breakfast included. Night in 3* hotel in Santiago.
Day 5: Morning City Tour. Flight to Punta Arenas. Hotel. After breakfast, you will be joining a half day City Tour which will introduce you to some of the city's famous sights and scenic highlights. Lunch will be at the famous Mercado Central where you can enjoy crab the size of a dinner plate and a huge selection of fresh fish and seafood.
Afternoon private transfer to the airport for the flight south to Punta Arenas where you will be met by your driver for the transfer into town and the Hotel Chalet Chapital. Meet your guide who will escort you to dinner at one of the town's many fine restaurants. Night hotel. Breakfast and dinner included (wine/drinks available at extra cost).
Day 6: Drive to Puerto Natales. Night in remote refugio. After breakfast we will be driving out across the wide open Patagonia steppe to the cute waterside town of Puerto Natales situated beside Last Hope Sound. We will stop for a short lunch break and a chance to explore the souvenir shops here before hopping in the van for the drive north towards Torres del Paine. Our first night's accommodation is at a remote puesto on the land belonging to a nearby estancia.
This is a pretty drive where we will have our first proper sightings of the fabulous peaks of this national park. After a couple of hours we will arrive at the small Refugio that will be our base for the night. Nestled in a small valley with beautiful views of the Towers and a very remote and charming Patagonian feel the Refugio offers basic accommodation in bunk beds with hot showers and bathrooms available. Meals are taken in the small wooden hut.
After a chance to unpack and relax a little after the drive we will have our safety briefing and introduction to western riding. Time permitting we will take a short ride in the vicinity of the estancia to get accustomed to the style of riding and the tack. Breakfast and dinner included (with wine at dinner).
Day 7: Ride to Lago Paine. Wild camp. After packing up and loading up the pack horses we will set off on our exciting ride towards the Towers and Lago Paine. After skirting the lake, we will be heading north towards Laguna Stokes where a large natural vega or pasture exists and which attracts wild criollos from the surrounding hills to graze in the summer. With luck we may get to see these horses (please note the viewing is not guaranteed).
There will be many excellent photo opportunities on this route as we pass through forests, pastures and the lake where Lady Florence Dixie first camped having sighted the Towers. Eventually we arrive at our remote campsite with beautiful mountain views. We will be camping riverside at Lago Paine. Facilities: none. Hours in the saddle: 4-5 - 5. Includes: (B), (L), (D) (with wine at dinner).
Day 8: Ride to Dickson Glacier. Camp Laguna Azul. After breakfast, we will be riding out to Lake and Glacier Dickson. Dickson is one of the more remote and rarely visited glaciers in the Park due to its inaccessibility - in our opinion it is also one of the prettiest. Our rides takes us past the northerly peaks of the Paine chain where one of the peaks is topped by a black, craggy rock in the shape of a Tuhuelche Indian Face with a 'headband' that is decorated with snowdrifts even in summer.
The trail then heads north passing ancient southern beech forests and scattered lakes before reaching our solitary perch and viewpoint above this beautiful lake and glacier. This will be our picnic spot for lunch - a truly memorable destination. In the afternoon we will ride back via a different route to the startlingly azure waters of Laguna Azul.
This is one of the prettiest campsites in the park with camping lakeside on the sandy beach or among the beech trees on the soft grassy ground. Fire pits and indoor dining in case of inclement weather. Hot showers, bathrooms, small shop. Hours in the saddle approx 7-8. Includes: (B), (L), (D) (with wine at dinner).
Day 9: Drive to Serrano River. Ride to glacier lookout. After our final camp breakfast, we will be packing up the van and heading west with a beautiful drive across the heart of the Park. The scenery is quite spectacular and includes monstrous granite peaks, crystal clear turquoise lakes, beautiful valleys and waterfalls to say nothing of the exotic wildlife in the area.
After a couple of hours driving we will arrive at the beautiful Serrano River. With the dominating mountain peaks a seemingly perfect backdrop to the golden pampas the views from here are simply stunning. We will be driving to a nearby coral to meet our fresh horses for the day. After assigning horses to riders, we will saddle up for the fast ride to Mirador de los Hielos (iceberg lookout). Our ride takes alongside the Grey River towards the largest Glacier in the park, Glacier Grey.
We will eventually arrive at a lookout with dramatic views of the iceberg choked waters of Grey Lake with the immense Grey Glacier in the distance (the largest glacier in the Park). After plenty of time to rest, take photos and enjoy our incredible lunch perch we will rejoin our rested horses and head back to the Serrano River. Our driver will be waiting for us there as we bid goodbye to our new equine friends and transfer back to Puerto Natales on the new road. Driving time about 1 hour. Hours in the saddle approx. 5-6. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 10: Transfer to Punta Arenas via Penguins. After breakfast we will transfer to Punta Arenas stopping en route in Puerto Natales for some last-chance souvenir shopping. We will also be visiting the Otway Sound Penguin Colony for some time spent observing the cute burrowing Magellanic penguins. Continue to airport for onward flight. Includes: (B).
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