Departing from South Africa on 01 November 2005, the group will fly to Santiago via Sao Paulo. Our first three nights will be spent in Santiago at the Novotel Hotel which is well situated in the residential area of Providencia, close to Providencia Avenue shopping areas and restaurants . While in Santiago we will travel to the east of Santiago in the region of the Andes to visit the award-winning vineyards and wineries of Concha y Torro and Santa Rita.
From Santiago, we fly south to Punta Arenas and proceed by road to Puerto Natales where we will board the Skorpios III for our exciting five day/6 night expedition cruise to the Southern Patagonian icefields. This cruise is, without doubt, the most awe-inspiring journey. The southern icefields of Chile are considered to be the third largest reserve of fresh water on the planet and crib of the biggest and most spectacular glaciers in the southern hemisphere. The scenery is breathtaking as we navigate through the fjords, channels and islands.
We will be following the route of the Kawaskar Indians and in Puerto Eden we will get the chance to see the last remaining families of these ancient people, that are on the point of extinction It is a trip that will have an enormous impact on you, and leave you with indelible memories. Somerset Tours & Travel has previously taken six groups cruising on Skorpios III and I have personally accompanied two of these groups. All who have cruised on the ship have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
After the cruise, we will continue to the Torres del Paine National Park where two nights will be spent at the Lago Grey Inn situated in the National Park with wonderful views overlooking the Grey glacier. Geologically and scenically this really is a most spectacular area. This southern area of the Patagonian Andes is composed of resistant granite intrusions, which over millions of years have been sculpted by glaciers into fjords, islands, U-shaped valleys, and the dramatic spires of Torres del Paine. The forests and pampa of Torres del Paine are home to a remarkable array of easily visible wildlife, including guanacos, foxes, pumas, nandus, condors, black-necked swans and flamingos.
The itinerary then returns via Punta Arenas to Santiago for a night before proceeding to San Pedro in the Atacama desert. Due to its important location at the crossroads of ancient trade routes, the San Pedro de Atacama oasis has long been influenced by neighbouring cultures, especially the great empires of the central Andes, the Tiwanaku and the Incas. We will base ourselves here for 3 nights/4 days to explore the natural, geological phenomena (geysers, snowcapped volcanoes, salt lakes and fresh water lakes teeming with wildlife) as well as archaeological sites, from ancient civilizations (the Atacama mummies predate the Egyptian varieties by several thousand years) to the more recent remains of ghost mining towns of the desert.
On our return home we will travel back to South Africa via Santiago and Sao Paulo. For those who are interested, there is a 3 night/4 day option to visit the impressive Iguassu Falls.