A mind-blowing road trip in the heart of Chile

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A mind-blowing road trip in the heart of Chile

Take the road trip offered by “Un Cercle au Chili” and be whisked away into a different world. Set off from Santiago to the Atacama Desert and the enchanting Patagonia.

If you are looking for an extraordinary adventure off the beaten track, Un Cercle can offer you a travel schedule full of charm through wild, fascinating landscapes. Their road trip will take you from the Atacama Desert and the strange world of the Moon and Mars Valleys, to legendary Patagonia, via Santiago and Valparaiso. Follow their lead and be inspired by their remarkable discoveries.

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A mind-blowing road trip in the heart of Chile

Stylish inspiration in Santiago

You will immediately fall under the spell of Santiago, with its dynamic Latin American spirit. An ambience of the Europe of yesteryear pervades the city centre, which bustles with life around the majestic Plaza de Armas. To soak up the spirit of the Chilean capital, make your way to the historic, bohemian district of Lastarria. Located near Cerro Santa Lucía (Santa Lucia Hill), a pretty wooded park, the Casa Bueras Boutique Hotel welcomes you to an intimate ambience reminiscent of a French, well-to-do house from the 1920s. Drink in the artistic atmosphere of the calle Victorino Lastarria, a cobblestoned street featuring arty cafés and trendy eateries with live music on the terraces.

Take a seat at the trendy restaurant-bar ChiPe Libre – República Independiente del Pisco, and sample some Pisco, the country's emblematic brandy, in moderation of course. It's a perfect accompaniment for pilpil marino, a traditional seafood dish from the Chilean coast.

You can experience another facet of Chilean culture at the casa La Chascona. Tucked away in the Bellavista neighbourhood, Pablo Neruda's former home will transport you into the intimate world of the iconic poet. You will feel inspired as you wander through his library and his marine-influenced collections.

Casa Bueras Boutique Hotel
Coronel Santiago Bueras 188
Santiago
Región Metropolitana
Chile
+56 2 2840 3700
www.lastarriahotel.com/

ChiPe Libre – República Independiente del Pisco
José Victorino Lastarria 282
Santiago
Región Metropolitana
Chile
+56 2 2664 0584
www.facebook.com/chipelibrerepublicaindependientedelpisco/

La Chascona
Fernando Márquez de La Plata 0192
Santiago
Región Metropolitana
Chile
+56 2 2777 8741
fundacionneruda.org/en/museums-houses/la-chascona-museum-house/

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A mind-blowing road trip in the heart of Chile

In the silence of the Atacama Desert

After this delightful stay in Santiago, your adventure in the wilderness of Chile can begin. You arrive in Calama, the gateway to Atacama, an evocative name which refers to an immense desert area stretching to the borders of Bolivia and Argentina. At an altitude of more than 2,400 m, a straight road runs to San Pedro de Atacama, a small tourist town with whitewashed mudbrick houses, nestling in the heart of an oasis.

Nearby, standing alone opposite the Altiplano mountains, is la Casita La Brea. In this charming stone house, you are offered a warm, family welcome and a room decorated with Andean-coloured fabrics. Night falls fast in the desert. Wrapped in warm clothing, and sipping a mate, a traditional infusion with many benefits, you contemplate the absolutely clear skies. You feel impatient to explore this mysterious world, bathed in total silence.

La Casita La Brea
Calle Sin Nombre n° 83
Solor
San Pedro de Atacama
Chile
+56 9 9024 2636
casitalabrea.com/

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A mind-blowing road trip in the heart of Chile

Between Mars and the Moon

As vast as the world, and watched over by volcanoes, the Atacama Desert is home to contorted canyons, salt lakes and other geological curiosities.

Early in the morning, an off-road vehicle will take you across a plateau edged with snowy peaks, to the Mars Valley. You will be immediately captivated by the harsh beauty of this site, also known as Death Valley, carved out by a rugged climate over millions of years. At altitude, oxygen is scarcer. Panting slightly, you travel on foot through a canyon made up of eroded cliffs whose red hue is reminiscent of the environment of Mars. The grains of sand carried on the wind penetrate the honeycombed stones. You can hear the rocks cracking under the effect of the heat and the salt crystals. At the end of the track stands a high sand dune. At its summit, you are rewarded by a breath-taking panoramic view of the volcanoes which rise up on the horizon.

Take refuge in the cool of the patio of the Ckunna restaurant. Here you meet other travellers with whom you can swap tips over a grilled salmon with sesame seeds. When the light dims, head off in the direction of Moon Valley, 13 km away from the town.

Get ready to discover a strange world, a spectacular theatre of stony sculptures with ghostly outlines. In the desert heat, you explore this lunar environment, cross narrow passageways and scale high steps. The geological formations around you stimulate your imagination. Remember to take some breaks to have a drink. Fascinated by the effects of erosion, you reach the top of a gigantic sand dune. When the setting sun illuminates this wonderful, warm-coloured valley, you experience a strong feeling of communion with nature. On the following day, you breathe in the dust of the tracks across the Salt Mountain Range until you reach the Escondidas de Baltinache lagoons. These little frequented lagoons will dazzle you with their impossible beauty and the colonies of flamingos alighted on their turquoise waters.

Ckunna
Tocopilla 359
San Pedro de Atacama
Región de Antofagasta
Chile
+56 55 298 0093
www.ckunna.cl

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A mind-blowing road trip in the heart of Chile

An artistic stroll in Valparaiso

On your return to Santiago, you set off straight away to explore the legendary Valparaiso, 120 km away on the north-west coast. Since the era of the sailing ship and European immigration in the 19th century, the magic of this port has continued undimmed. On your arrival, you fall under the spell of the hills forming an amphitheatre above the Pacific, and the little colourful, corrugated tiled houses, heaped on top of one another. You have booked a loft-style room at the Cirilo Armstrong Boutique Hotel. Nestled in the heights of Cerro Alegre, your elegant pied-à-terre stands out, with its panoramic bar looking over the entire neighbourhood.

Set off to investigate its sloping and erratically winding streets, where the frescoes and tangled electrical cables create a setting which is decidedly Latin. Tuck into some grilled fish and a mushroom risotto on the small terrace of the Café del Pintor, whose decor is reminiscent of an artist's studio.

Travel from one hill to the next on the lurching funicular railways, remnants of the city's golden age. At the end of the day, make your way to El Internado, the trendiest cultural venue in Valpo, the nickname given to the city by its residents. After visiting a photo exhibition on the first floor, treat yourself to a glass of fine Chilean wine in the tranquillity of the terrace with a superb view of the bay.

Cirilo Armstrong Boutique Hotel
Cirilo armstrong 12
Cerro Alegre
Valparaíso
Región de Valparaíso
Chile
+56 32 318 7257
www.ciriloarmstrong.com/en-gb

Café del Pintor
rriola 652
Valparaíso
Región de Valparaíso
Chile
+56 32 223 7023
www.facebook.com/CafeDelPintor/

El Internado
Paseo Dimalow 167
Cerro Alegre
Valparaíso
Región de Valparaíso,
Chile
+56 32 3354153
elinternado.cl

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A mind-blowing road trip in the heart of Chile

En route to adventure in Patagonia

On an elongated strip of land hemmed in by the imposing Andes mountain range and the tumultuous Pacific Ocean, the Chilean wilderness extends along the Carretera Austral which crosses Patagonia over a distance of almost 1,300 km. Your trip begins in Puerto Montt, the capital of the Lakes region, located south of Santiago.

You set off on a legendary journey to explore the turquoise coloured lakes, Dante-esque fjords and primitive forests overlooked by snowy peaks. Gradually, the tarmacked road gives way to gravel. Civilisation fades away in a cloud of dust, while a feeling of freedom carries you towards the Patagonian plains. In Hornopiren you have to cross an inlet by ferry.

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A mind-blowing road trip in the heart of Chile

The first dawn of the world in Pumalin

After a second maritime crossing, you arrive at the outskirts of a magical location: Pumalin National Park. At the Caleta Gonzalo information centre, you rent a hut so you can sleep in this vast protected territory, which became the property of the Chilean State after a donation from the couple who founded the North Face brand. After this first night opposite a splendid fjord, you set off to explore the humid forest along footbridges and wood-log stairways. This exciting route takes you across a river via a rope bridge to a wonderful waterfall. The perfect place to catch your breath amidst the abundance of nature.

Pumalin National Park
Sector Río Amarillo S/N Chaitén
Chaitén
Región de los Lagos
Chile
+56 65 225 0079
www.parquepumalin.cl/en/index.htm#modal

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A mind-blowing road trip in the heart of Chile

From a sensational glacier to a well-deserved rest

Set course for the Queulat National Park. During this half-day's journey, you pass the impressive white peaks of the Aysen region. We advise you to slip on some hiking shoes when you arrive at the entrance to the park. You will be eager to scramble up to the lookout point from where there is a striking view of the hanging glacier of Ventisquero Colgante. The roar of its falling ice will give you goose bumps.

To help you recover from these exertions, you could not dream of a more sophisticated location than the Puyihapi Lodge & Spa. Located on the edge of the park, the town of Puyuhuapi and its port will provide you with a small boat to take you to this paradise perched on a bank of Dorita Bay. Refreshed by a thermal bath and a gourmet dinner, get ready for a new day behind the steering wheel through landscapes of unspoiled beauty.

Round a turn in a steep road through the middle of the forest, you are amazed by the immensity of Lake General Carrera. Near the village on the lake of Puerto Guadal, you come across fly fishermen tickling for trout. Follow the banks of the lake to Terra Luna lodge, located opposite Mount San Valentin which rises up into the clouds at an altitude of more than 4,000 m. It's the perfect base camp for exploring this region on foot, one which has remained untouched by industrial development. On your arrival, an unbelievable sunset colours the sky red and orange. The night promises to be cosy under your transparent dome right by the water. On the following day, the owner of the establishment, a French adventure enthusiast, offers to guide you around the surrounding area where marine fossils are in abundance.

Queulat National Park
Región de Aysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo
Chile
+56 67221 2109

Puyuhuapi Lodge & Spa
Bahia Dorita S/N
Cisnes
Chile
+56 222 256 489
puyuhuapilodge.com

Terra Luna Lodge
Puerto Guadal
Chile Chico
Región de Aysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo
Chile
+56 9 8449 1092
terraluna.cl/es/terralunapatagonia

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A mind-blowing road trip in the heart of Chile

Caleta Tortel, a village at the world's end

Heading even further south, you take in the wild landscapes, cloaked in the magical light characteristic of Patagonia. Caleta Tortel appears as if by magic, against the backdrop of a splendid fjord. To reach this village on stilts, you cross a network of small canals and footbridges. You will really fall in love with this authentic location at the far end of the world. A feeling that yet more spectacular sites are to come encourages you to continue your fabulous adventure.

You set off for Villa O'Higgins, 155 km away. This peaceful village on the Argentine border marks the end of the Carreterra Austral. Climb aboard an old Chilean army motorboat for a cruise across the lake to see the impressive O'Higgins glacier. You will gasp in awe as you approach this transparent blue wall of ice; the final sensations of an astonishing journey.

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A mind-blowing road trip in the heart of Chile

Exploring the wild south of Patagonia

Isolated in the south of the country, 1,900 km away from Santiago, the Torres del Paine National Park is a major destination for lovers of spectacular nature. Here you are in the heart of fantastic Patagonia, with its snowy Andean peaks and cloudy lakes, whose water comes from glaciers and windswept moors. Kit yourself out with some warm clothing to contend with the local climate which can sometimes be harsh.

Once you have arrived in Puerto Natales, a guide will take you to the banks of the Grey Lake where a timely kayak awaits you for a four-hour trip. The journey gets off to a gentle start, amidst small, harmless icebergs. The current flows faster and your heart is thumping as you approach the River Grey. You experience a full range of emotions as you descend these rapids which bring your nautical excursion to an end.

You continue your adventure in the heart of this biosphere reserve with its astonishing landscapes. Awasi Patagonia offers you a unique experience in its private reserve, protected by a dense primary forest of white beeches, where you feel that you are alone in the world. You are allocated a driver and vehicle so you can set off to explore one of the most beautiful nature parks in Latin America. On the programme during your stay: observation of the condor, guanacas and, perhaps, a puma, a walk to watchtowers with dizzying views and, if you are feeling brave, the famous W trek which will take you around the park in five days. One thing is certain: your Chilean road trip will leave you with a lifetime of memories.

Torres del Paine National Park
Región de Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena
Chile
+56 61 2238581
www.parquetorresdelpaine.cl/en/

Awasi Patagonia
Estancia Tercera Barranca
Torres del Paine
Región de Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena
Chile
+56 2 2233 9641
awasipatagonia.com/