This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Tailor made vacation
This trip is run by a company which specialises in only Central and South America vacations. It can be tailormade to create a unique vacation for your individual requirements by travel experts with intimate knowledge of the destination. The length of stay, standard of accommodation and even the itinerary can all be amended and tailored to suit your preferred style of travel and budget. Quality and value are the hallmark of these trips.
Responsible tourism: Patagonia tailor made vacation on a shoestring
Your vacation starts in the Chilean capital Santiago, a dynamic, multi-layered city at the foot of the snow-capped Andes, with a tight colonial core surrounded by elegant riverside suburbs, well-tended parks, dilapidated low-income quarters and industrial complexes.
As such, it is fascinating to visit but suffers serious industrial and vehicle-generated pollution. You will explore the colonial centre by bike, thereby not making any personal contribution to the destruction of air quality, using the many cycle lanes which have been built to encourage the inhabitants to take to two wheels. This way you will learn about the city’s historical heritage and visit a few of the well laid-out urban parks.
In the Chilean lake district you will explore the volcanic slopes close to Mount Osorno on a guided hike, where the local guide will tell you about Chile’s conservation efforts in the area.
In the south, you will visit two exquisite national parks: Torres del Paine (Chile) and Los Glaciares (Argentina). The administrative bodies of these protected wilderness areas of outstanding beauty, with their glacier-stubbed cobalt lakes, needle-sharp mountain peaks and wind-buffeted grassy plains, takes management of tourist visits extremely seriously. Torres del Paine gained national park status in 1959, and in 1978 was declared a UNESCO Biosphere reserve. Neighbouring Los Glaciares was created in 1937, and gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 1981. By paying the entrance fee to visit these parks you are helping contribute towards the preservation and conservation of these fragile regions.
You’ll stay for several days within Torres del Paine National Park itself, lodging at EcoCamp. The Chilean proprietors have a long-standing, highly commended approach to responsible tourism. EcoCamp has achieved Level 2 status in a public/private initiative coordinated by the Chilean government - the Sustainable Tourism Programme - which ensures that its members conform to legislation regarding both employment and environmental sustainability. EcoCamp is a great compromise between staying in a hotel room and camping: its long-term impact on the landscape is minimal; the eco-domes blend harmoniously with their surroundings. Electricity is solar-powered and waste is disposed of by a compost system. There is no central heating -Patagonian blankets are provided to keep you snug at night and heating is by low-emission wood-burning stove.
EcoCamp’s (and our) policy is to offer you programmes using shared transfers with other guests, cutting down on needless emissions. In fact, to minimise waste (and bring you a good-value vacation), where practical we’ve included excursions and transfers on a shared basis – we use the public coach service from Torres del Paine across the border to El Calafate in Argentina.
You will visit the popular Perito Moreno Glacier, where you can get up close to the towering wall of ice. In order to maintain its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the administration of the Los Glaciares National Park has adopted a programme fulfilling the Restructuring Plan for the Moreno Glacier area, necessitated by the impact of the increase in tourism. This restructuring includes road improvements, planning of visits through a new walkway system and services for visitors such as restaurants and toilets: all instated to enhance the site’s protection and the quality of the visit. While visiting the glacier’s site, you are helping to ensure the continuation of this policy, and your actual visit is guaranteed not to have a negative impact on the location.
The other hotels we use in this vacation are all small, constructed in keeping with local architecture traditions. The Su Merced in Santiago is a boutique hotel occupying a building which is protected by a conservation order in recognition of its historical and cultural importance. The refurbishment of the building was completed conforming to the exigencies of Chile’s Council of Monuments. The modest wood-built Estancia 440 in Perto Varas is a converted traditional Patagonian farmstead.
As is the case with all our private journeys, we adopt the services of locally recruited guides and drivers in each location in order to promote local employment. This also ensures that you have face to face contact with people who are intimately familiar with their environment and community, and have a vested interest in protecting it so as to ensure the future of tourism in their region. This will help to put a brake on the current tendency for people to leave their homes to seek work in the large urban centres, which harms the socio-economic viability of the countryside and smaller settlements and puts pressure on the infrastructure of the larger cities. EcoCamp, for example, has a stated policy of prioritising the employment of local Chilean naturalist guides whenever possible.
On your bike tour of old Santiago you will visit arty Lastarria quarter which since the 1990s has adopted a policy of restoration to preserve its traditional Bohemian character and the striking Spanish colonial façades. Hotels, restaurants and arts and crafts workshops outlets are creating a culturally significant neighbourhood with a strong sense of community and in 1997 it was declared an official Zona Tipica. Your hotel in Santiago is located here, and you will be able to contribute to the neighbourhood’s success by patronising its restaurants and shopping for locally-crafted souvenirs.
Where possible, your accommodation is in locally owned and operated properties, where the income filters through to the local community. Estancia 440 in the lake district is a converted 1930s residence run by a Patagonian couple; their aim is to expose you to the atmosphere of a traditional German-Patagonian farm homestead and preserve the existence of a culturally significant building.