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How Much Do You Know About Chile? Test Your Knowledge

It’s the month of September! That means it’s time to celebrate Chile. It is Fiestas Patrias, the country’s independence holidays and a time to enjoy the beautiful Chilean culture. To start off this exciting month, we are sharing a short quiz to see how much you know about Chile. Take the quiz below and share your results. Good luck! 

 

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Escape the City! Best Day Trips from Santiago

Looking for a little escape from the big city of Santiago? We’ve got you covered! Here in Chile, there are so many amazing day trips to take, all which offer exciting adventures and unique experiences.

Peaceful vineyards? Check.

Nearby trekking? Check.

Immense sand dunes? Check.

Chile’s got it all! Check out some of our favorite day trips, all just a car ride away from Santiago city.

The Countryside in Cajón del Maipo

If you are looking for the opposite of city life, sway towards Cajón del Maipo. It’s a beautiful countryside region just outside of Santiago, with tall glaciers, the roaring Maipo River and vast open spaces. Travelers come for the the wide range of outdoor activities and incredible views.

El Morado National Monument is a popular park to visit in the Cajón. It’s a great place for trekkers to come and explore, especially with the San Francisco Glacier as a final destination. It’s also possible to horseback ride through the park, which is a good way to see this mountainous area from a different perspective. After a long day of physical activity, many travelers stop at nearby mountain hot springs. It’s a great way to decompress and soothe sore muscles, as well as take in the outstanding view of the Andes.

In addition to El Morado National Monument, there are several other areas that offer great views and active outdoor adventures. High-speed rapids mean adrenaline-filled white water rafting trips! There are also places to zipline or hike to a waterfall.

 

Traditional Chile in Pomaire Town

Go back in time and travel to the town of Pomaire! It’s the perfect place to come if you want to experience the traditions and culture of Chile. This tiny town is packed with typical Chilean food, such as pastel de choclo and empanadas de pino. If you’re feeling really hungry, you can order a giant empanada weighing up to 10kg!

Pomaire is also known for their adorable clay goods, specifically piggy banks. It’s a great souvenir to bring home from Chile! If you are interested in learning how to make clay pots, vases or animals, then you can take a brief class right on the street. Artisans are often willing to teach travelers the trick of the trade.

 

Beach Life Near Viña del Mar

Less than two hours from Santiago are the beautiful beaches in Viña del Mar. Viña is a smaller city, but has a very different vibe due to its close proximity to the Pacific. Both locals and tourists love to come here in the summer and relax in the warm weather.

There are many great beaches to visit near Viña. Reñaca has a very popular beach and Concón beach is a very calm and peaceful environment. While you are here, don’t forget to try some of the region’s delicious, fresh seafood! Some local favorites include ceviche or machas a la parmesana. 

 

Ski Centers in the Andes

Opposite from Viña’s beach life, are the Andes Mountains. During Chile’s winter months, the ski centers open up and welcome skiers and snowboarders of all ages and levels. You can come just for the day or stay through the week! The ski centers offer many fun activities, tasty food, cozy accommodation and of course — snowy slopes!

Valle Nevado is one of the closest ski centers, only about an hour from the city center. It’s close proximity to Santiago makes it a very popular spot to ski or snowboard.

Wine Time in the Valley

If there is one thing that Chile is known for– it’s the wine! Wine grapes are mainly grown in the Central Valley, not far from Santiago. The region’s predictable sunshine and dry climate make it the ideal place for growing grapes and producing wine. A multitude of grapes are grown, which means there is plenty of wine variety and flavor.

Try taking a “bike and wine” trip through Casablanca Valley. With this trip, travelers can explore local wineries, such as William Cole and Emiliana Vineyards by bike. It’s an active way to discover the region and its beautiful landscapes and delicious wine!

Additionally, Concha y Toro Winery is not far from Santiago and Santa Cruz, which is packed with vineyards, is just three hours away. Our guide to “Best Wineries to Visit in Chile,” can help decide where to visit.

This is just the beginning. There are so many wonderful day trips from Santiago, that the list could go on and on. Learn more by getting in touch with our sales representatives at reservations@cascada.travel. Our team is here to help you find your perfect adventure!

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Love Animals? Check Out Our Top Wildlife Photos

Look closely and you may be able to spot Chile’s most magical creatures. The country is filled with beautiful wildlife, ranging from the massive Andean condor to the elusive puma. Our team at Cascada works hard to find these incredible animals, while also keeping a safe distance and respecting their environment. We’ve managed to get a number of fantastic wildife photos! Check out our favorite shots:

The puma call easily be nicknamed the “King of Patagonia,” serving as one of the region’s top predators. They are quiet and blend in with their surroundings, making it difficult to spot them. Listen for the sounds of one of the puma’s favorite prey: the guanacos. Guanacos make a loud, alarming noise indicating a puma may near.

This species of owl is called the chuncho or austral pygmy owl. They tend to live in temperate forests here in Chile.

Do you hear that sound? It’s the distinct noise of a Magellanic woodpecker, one of Chile’s most beautiful birds. They are very important species to the ecosystem due to their unique feeding methods. The holes they create during feeding also make spaces for other creatures to hide, nest and feed.

The sly grey fox can be spotted in various habitats in Chile. It is much smaller than a red fox, only weighing up to 4 kg.

Everybody loves these cute, cuddly birds! King Penguins are the second largest penguin species in the world. Most of them live in Antarctica, with a small population residing King Penguin Park in Tierra del Fuego in Southern Patagonia.

This South American deer, also known as the huemul, is extremely tough to find. Sadly, this species is endangered with less than 1,500 of them left.

A mother guanaco and her young graze in the fields of Southern Patagonia. These sweet creatures show resemblance their relatives, the llama, vicuna and alpaca. They tend to live in herds and are easy to spot in Torres del Paine National Park.

There he goes! The precious dwarf armadillo wanders along the dusty path in Torres del Paine. This particular species of armadillo hibernates during the cold winter months, but can be seen during warmer parts of the year.

The Andean condor sits among the cliffs before taking flight in a windy, mountainous area of Chile. Watching it glide through the sky is quite a sight to see! This species is one of the largest flying birds in the world, measuring up to three meters in wingspan.

 

Want to see some of these unique animals for yourself? Look into our Wildlife Safari program and various wildlife excursion extensions in Southern Patagonia. Don’t forget your camera!

 

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How We Can Protect Patagonia

Today is World Environment Day, a special event organized by the United Nations that draws awareness to conservation and environmental protection.  This year the UN has a strong focus to #beatairpollution.  Here at Cascada, our recent focus is to protect Patagonia and preserve this region’s incredible wonders:

Practice Responsible Tourism

Responsible tourism is key to protecting Patagonia! It is the only way we can keep the region clean and healthy. Little things can really make a big difference and we believe it is important that visitors learn to travel in a responsible way. It’s as simple as…

  • Taking Back Garbage: This includes organic trash! Do not leave anything –your apple cores, granola bar wrappers or tissues in beautiful Patagonia. It looks bad and disrupts the ecosystem.
  • Staying on Marked Pathways: On treks, it’s important to stay on the marked pathways. It prevents erosion and the trail from widening.
  • Picking Eco-friendly Accommodation: Stay in places that support green travel, such as EcoCamp Patagonia.
  • Thinking Sustainable: Use refillable water bottles, look for biodegradable products and get rid “one-use” items, such as plastic bags.

 

Participate in Local Conservation Efforts

There are all sorts of events and initiatives that take place in Patagonia, helping to preserve its beautiful nature. The area is big, but the population is pretty small! Locals could always use an extra hand with their projects. Right now a few local initiatives include…

  • Fiesta de la Limpieza: In Puerto Natales, this Chilean initiative helps keep Torres del Paine National Park clean. A couple times a year, a group of volunteers hold a cleaning event to pick up trash left by irresponsible travelers. Learn more!   
  • Tu Mejor Huella: A campaign started late last year to help rebuild the base torres trail in Torres del Paine. Sadly, this trail is suffering from erosion and at risk of irreversible damage. Read about it here.
  • Kid’s Reforestation Program: EcoCamp organizes an event for children to come to Torres del Paine and help plant new trees.

Understand the Region and its Struggles

It’s hard to help Patagonia until you know and understand the problems the region faces. Take time to learn about the environmental problems, so you can better help to solve them. Here’s a brief overview of a few key issues in the region:

  • Climate Change: This is an issue that is not only impacting Patagonia, but the entire globe. With excess greenhouse gasses, our future planet is at serious risk. We have already seen negative change in Patagonia, such as retreating glaciers. In fact, a giant iceberg broke off Grey Glacier just this year!
  • Forest Fires: At least one fifth of Torres del Paine has been destroyed from forest fires! Fire spreads very quickly in the region due to the strong wind. Therefore, it is extremely important that travelers follow the parks’ rules and do not have campfires in areas not permitted. We have sadly seen how a small fire can quickly transform into a very big fire!
  • Waste: Recycle what you can and take everything back! With an increase in tourism, ecosystems are at risk due to excess waste.

 

Respect the Flora & Fauna

Patagonia is known for its unique wildlife and vegetation. People love to spot see the beautiful, colorful lenga trees, along with condors flying overhead and pumas hiding in the grasses. It’s all part of what makes Patagonia so incredible! To keep these animals and plants healthy and safe it is important that travelers do the following…

  • Keep a Safe Distance: Patagonia is full of incredible wildlife, such as pumas, condors, guanacos, foxes and more. We love to spot them, but we have to also respect them. Make sure to stay at a safe distance from the animals. This ensures safety for the traveler and the animal. Also: Do not feed or try to touch any of the animals!
  • Leave What You Find: There are many beautiful things to see! But remember to look, not touch. Even if you see an interesting rock or colorful flower, it belongs to the region. Taking natural souvenirs disrupts the environment.

With this in mind, the last and most important thing we can do is spread the word! Education is power. The more people who learn about conservation, the more change we are bound to see. Happy Environment Day everybody — let’s work together to make the world a greener place!

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Time’s Running Out! Vote for EcoCamp Patagonia

 Ecocamp Patagonia,  our partner and sustainable dome hotel, has been nominated for this year’s Readers’ Choice Awards by Condé Nast Traveler. EcoCamp is thrilled to be nominated amongst so many incredible hotels and resorts from all around the world. Help them bring home the win by voting on Condé Nast’s website.

 

6 Simple Steps to Vote 

1. Go to: https://www.cntraveler.com/rca/vote

2. Click on the “Hotels & Resorts” section

3. Log in with your Facebook or email

4. Select “EcoCamp Patagonia” under “Hotel or Resort”

5. Answer a couple of quick questions about your experience. It takes less than 2 minutes!

6. Submit… and that’s it!

More About EcoCamp

EcoCamp Patagonia is located in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park. It is the first geodesic dome hotel in the world, offering eco-friendly adventures and accommodation since 2001. This hotel deserves to win because…

1. Guests LOVE the excursions! EcoCamp provides opportunities to trek the “W,” discover new wildlife, go on a multi-sport adventure and more. Expert guides travel on every outing, leading guests along the trails and teaching them about the beautiful park.

2. The food and drinks are on point. EcoCamp’s chef creates tasty, creative meals that vary from day to day. Food is prepared with local ingredients and incorporates the flavors of Chile! Cocktails are also unique and original, prepared by the bar’s talented mixologists.

3. EcoCamp is fully sustainable, contributing to the fight against global warming. Roughly 95 percent of the energy used comes from hydro and solar sources and the hotel uses compost toilets, biodegradable products, a biofiltration system and more.

4. It’s the perfect “glamping” experience, providing guests with top-of-the-line accommodation and a rustic, outdoor vibe. Each dome has a “Patagonia feel” and is a cozy place to rest after a full day exploring the park.

5. Everything is organized for you! The logistics are sorted. All you need to do is book a flight and pick your excursions. Expert guides and staff members will provide you with any information you need, ensuring a fun and easy trip to Patagonia. Transportation, meals, activities and accommodation are all included!

 

So if you had a great time in Torres del Paine, please take a moment to vote! If you have any problems on the website or need additional information, shoot us an email at marketing@cascada.travel

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Happy 60th Anniversary Torres del Paine! This is Why We Love You.

Today marks 60 years since the opening of Torres del Paine National Park. It first opened back on May 13, 1959 and since then has seen significant growth in popularity and appreciation. Year after year the park draws in new visitors from all corners of the globe and even earned the title of “8th Wonder in the World.” All this attention may have you wondering, what makes this place so great? At Cascada Expediciones, the park holds a special place in our hearts. This is why we love it so much.

 

Pure Natural Beauty

Torres del Paine is one of those places that makes you just stop and stare. It’s full of natural beauty: home to sparkling glaciers, deep forests, rocky mountains and fierce rivers. The park gives its visitors an opportunity to connect with some of nature’s finest creations and explore one of the most beautiful areas in Patagonia. Some of the park’s highlights include:

The Base of the Towers

We can’t ignore where the park got its name. Torres del Paine means “Towers of Paine,” a name that is based on the three gigantic granite monoliths shaped like towers. This unique mountain formation is definitely a must-see highlight in the park. One of the best ways to view it is by hiking to the base point. From our partner and fully sustainable dome hotel EcoCamp Patagonia, visitors can embark on a day trek that lasts roughly 8 hours and is made up of 24 km. It’s a challenge well worth overcoming, especially considering the end prize is a picture-perfect view of the Towers.

Grey Glacier

 This massive glacier is without a doubt, one of the most spectacular sights in the park. Its many faces give visitors multiple perspectives of the icy shapes and forms in the glacier. Many visitors take a boat excursion to view the glacier. Additionally, it is possible to kayak in the glacial lake or even ice trek on the top of the glacier.

French Valley

This part of the park is very beautiful – particularly during autumn when the leaves turn deep shades of yellow, orange and red. French Valley is part of the W Trek, but can also be done in roughly 5 or 6 hours during a one-day excursion. The trail leads to a beautiful overlook of the valley with the hanging glacier nestled in between the snowy mountains.

 

Diverse Wildlife

With beautiful landscapes comes beautiful wildlife. It’s always a wonderful experience to come face to face with Patagonia’s special creatures, all living wild and free. There’s a number of unique animals to view, these are our favorites:

The Puma (and its prey)

The puma, the king of Patagonia- remains one of the park’s most sought out creatures. They are hard to spot as they quietly blend into the natural surroundings. But when you do see one, it is amazing! True wildlife lovers can sign up for a Puma Tracking Excursion, working with professional tracking experts to find these beautiful creatures. One of the key indicators is the guanaco, a llama-like animal that serves as the puma’s main source of food in the park. Guanacos make a very specific high-pitched noise when they sense danger to warn their herd. Look out for this noise and you are bound to run into a puma.

Condors

These supersized birds seek out windy spots in the park to glide through the sky. Condors are the largest flying birds in the world, with a wingspan of up to three meters. Seeing one up close is truly remarkable. They have such a specific way of flying, appearing to almost glide along with the wind.

Foxes, Hares, Skunks and More

Look carefully and you might spot one of the park’s smaller creatures. Watch for hopping hares after the sun sets or grey foxes peaking through the grasses. Skunks are also scattered around the park — but it might be wise to look at these guys from a distance. Additionally, there are hummingbirds and armadillos.

 

A Wide Range of Outdoor Sports

Outdoor sports enthusiasts – prepare yourself! Torres del Paine really has it all. Climb mountains, sail down rivers, explore glaciers, bike, hike or horseback ride. There are activities for all ages and abilities, all adventurous and enjoyable.

Trekking

Torres del Paine offers tons of fantastic trekking opportunities. Favorite multi-day treks include the W Trek and the Paine Circuit. Both hit all of the park’s popular trails and major highlights, while the Paine Circuit also incorporates a more isolated route to lesser-seen areas. Additionally, day treks can easily be arranged for those looking for a shorter adventure. Popular day treks include Base Torres, Lazo Weber, Cerro Ferrier, Fauna Trail, French Valley and more.

Kayaking

It’s too cold to swim, but perfect for kayaking! Serrano and Grey River offer some wonderful opportunities to paddle downstream. Additionally, some visitors go on a kayaking trip in the glacial lake to get an up-close view of Grey Glacier.

Climbing

For wild adventurers and adrenaline junkies, Torres del Paine is the perfect spot for a climb. It is important to be prepared and seek help from a certified and knowledgeable guide. But with the right preparation, a strong mind and physically-fit body, climbers can conquer some incredible heights. Click to learn more about three fierce climbers who did the unthinkable in Torres del Paine. 

Happy Anniversary Torres del Paine! Thank you for 60 years of your stunning landscapes and surreal atmosphere.

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5 Incredible Ski Slopes in Chile

Winter is on its way! In just a matter of time, the weather will cool down and the snow will start to sprinkle on top of Chile’s beautiful hills and mountain tops.

Chile is surrounded by the Andes Mountains range, and there are also many volcanoes and hills throughout the country. For skiers and snowboarders, it is paradise! Let’s take a look at some of the best slopes to hit for ski season:

 

1.Valle Nevado

Situated smack in the middle of the Andes Mountain range, Valle Nevado remains one of the most popular ski centers in Chile. It’s only an hour or so from the center of Santiago, which makes it a great day trip or weekend escape for those in the city.

The center has several cozy lodging options available, ranging from exclusive, higher-end to budget-friendly accommodation. Additionally, visitors can enjoy the heated pool, spa, Kids Zone, cinema and more. Valle Nevado also holds events regularly to help give their guests a fun and memorable experience. Such include: culinary and wine experiences, parades, live music and more! It will definitely be one ski trip to remember!

2. Portillo

Portillo has been around for quite a while! It’s actually the oldest ski center in all of South America and has been running for more than 60 years. The center is deep within the Andes Mountains, and just 5 km away from the Argentine border.

It has activities and programs for all types of people, with different levels, ages and abilities. It is also a place where summer ski training sessions are held for world-class athletes, such as the US, Canadian and Norweigan National Ski Teams.

3. Volcán Osorno

Ever wanted to ski down a volcano? Now is your chance! Down in the beautiful Lake Region near Puerto Varas, is a giant volcano called Volcán Osorno. There are skiing, snowboarding and tubing opportunities available year round!

The Lake Region is a great place to come as well. Besides Volcán Osorno, there are tons of nearby places to hike, eat, kayak and explore. It is a great place to stay and has plenty of fun activities to keep you busy for days.

4. Corralco

A great place to check out is Corralco in the Malalcahuello National Reserve. It is several hours South of Santiago but is an exciting spot to spend a few days skiing. Similar to Volcán Osorno, this is also a chance to do a little volcano skiing on Volcán Lonquimay.

Close to the slopes is some breathtaking natural views and adventures. Travelers can check out the great, immense forests filled with Araucaria trees or travel to Pehuenco Lagoon.

5. Nevados de Chillán

Chile’s small city Chillán is located roughly four to five hours South of Santiago. The mountain resort is to the Southeast of the city and called Nevados de Chillán. The resort is open throughout the year, with a waterpark and bike paths for the summer and skiing and spa opportunities in the winter.

Nevados de Chillán is a great place for the whole family. There are ski and snowboarding classes for all types of students and available in more than eight different languages. Additionally, there are snow tubing and sledding opportunities.

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The Best Wineries to Visit in Chile

There are so many reasons travelers come to Chile: unique wildlife, stunning nature, wild adventure sports and most importantly — delicious wine. That’s right, Chile is one of the top wine producers in the world, exporting roughly 2 billion dollars of wine in 2017. Its prestigious reputation in the wine industry draws in people from around the world.

With autumn right around the corner, it’s an exciting time for wine-lovers.  The autumn months mark the harvest season in Chile. That means there are wine celebration and many delicious tasting opportunities, along with bright fall colors and a picturesque landscape. There are tons of great wineries you can visit in Chile. Let’s take a look at some of the best:

 

1. Concha y Toro Vineyard

Travel an hour or so outside of Santiago and you will come across the Concha y Toro property. It’s a big area with beautiful scenery, fields of grapes, a production area, a small restaurant and a wine store.

At Concha y Toro, visitors can actually try the grapes from the vines to get a better sense of the different types of grapes used. Additionally, Concha y Toro will take you down to the famous wine cellar called Casillero del Diablo, which is also the name of the company’s popular wine. This cellar also has an eerie legend, which you can learn all about on your visit!

2. VIK Vineyard

VIK Vineyards in nestled within the Millahue Valley, an area known by the indigenous people as “Place of Gold.” This vineyard prides itself on the unique and stylish infrastructure, tasting opportunities and a world-class restaurant.

If you take a tour with Cascada Expediciones, you will get a unique experience at VIK Vineyards. We take our travelers on a horseback riding trip through the fields and taste wines paired with food prepared by Rodrigo Acuña Bravo, a well-known Chilean chef who incorporates unique flavors and local ingredients in his meals.

3. Emiliana Vineyard

If you are in the Casablanca Valley, make sure you stop by Emiliana Vineyard. This winery is listed as a top pick by Lonely Planet! It’s an organic vineyard and the company is highly recognized for their biodynamic and sustainable practices for producing delicious wine.

The wine has been awarded on numerous occasions for its high quality and exquisite flavor. It’s a great spot to check out if you are traveling through the Casablanca Valley.

4. Santa Cruz Vineyard

The Santa Cruz Vineyard is stunning, especially if you are visiting during the autumn months. Take a cable car up to the top of the hill and you will get a beautiful view of the valley. Additionally, you can check out their cultural displays, which portray the original indigenous villages from Chile.

This vineyard offers a lot of fantastic tasting and tour opportunities for visitors. They even have a night option, where you can drink wine under the stars!

5. Neyén Vineyard

Make sure you check out the Neyén Vineyard, situated within the Colchagua Valley. It’s a beautiful area and a nice place to take a leisurely walk with a glass of wine.

Take a tour with Cascada Expediciones and we will bring you on a lovely morning hike through the Neyén vineyards, introducing you to the region’s flora and fauna. Afterward, you can try some flavorful wine, accompanied by a tasty, country lunch!

To learn more about Chile’s incredible wines, sign up for a tour with Cascada Expediciones, Chile’s award-winning travel company!

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Preserving Easter Island’s Culture

It’s a very special time for one small, remote place in the Pacific. That place is called Easter Island and it’s home to a unique Polynesian culture with a collection of more than 800 Moai statues. During this time of year, island culture comes alive and locals show off what makes Easter Island distinctly theirs. The celebration is called Tapati Rapa Nui and it takes place every year in February.

Tapati Rapa Nui dates back to the 1970s, originally beginning to help preserve and celebrate the island’s sacred culture. It’s important for the younger generation to feel a connection to their roots. During the festival, islanders participate in various competitions and games. Activities include canoeing, swimming, dancing, singing and Haka Pei. Haka Pei is a traditional competition where islanders slide down a steep hill on banana trunks. It sounds fun, but can also be a bit dangerous! Therefore only individuals who are experienced in this activity should participate.

Locals participating in the festival divide into two teams. Each team is led by a female from the island. By the end of the week, islanders add all the points gained and announce a winner. A selected female from the winning team is crowned “Queen of the Tapati” on the final night. This moment is one of the biggest highlights of the festival.

The competition games are limited strictly to the local islanders. However, travelers are welcomed to watch and enjoy the festival. Besides the sports competitions, visitors can enjoy Easter Island food and admire the traditional handicrafts, clothing and body paint. One popular meal to try is called “Umu Tahu,” consisting of meat and fish. This dish is cooked in a traditional way, placing the food in a hole in the ground with hot stones and firewood. It’s a unique dish that you need to try!

With this festival, we can start to learn and connect more with Chile´s mysterious island in the Pacific. It is so important that small communities, like Easter Island, don’t lose their identities. As time goes on, we are at risk of losing more cultures, languages and traditions. According to The New York Times, “Roughly half of the world’s six or seven thousand languages has been in danger of going extinct.” But continuing festivals and celebrations, such as Tapati Rapa Nui, small communities are able to hold on to their traditions and share their culture with future generations.

 

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Chile’s 19 Best Micro Adventures

Thanks to the accessibility of air travel, the world has never been so easy to get around meaning that today’s holidays can easily cover the breadth of a destination or several countries with ease. But in 2019 we are discussing new concepts in travel, including what it means to be a tourist, swapping the term for conscious traveler

As travelers, we are known for our itchy feet. We count down the hours from our office cubicles, we daydream of the outdoors on our morning commute, and we make our way down a bucket list of exotic places. Thanks to the accessibility of air travel, the world has never been so easy to get around meaning that today’s holidays can easily cover the breadth of a destination or several countries with ease. But in 2019 we are discussing new concepts in travel, including what it means to be a tourist, swapping the term for conscious traveler.  Now we want to know the ethics behind a hotel, we want to hear about eco-credentials, and we want the experience to be more immersive, truer.  With this in mind, we reckon that 2019 should be all about the micro-adventure – instead of ticking off as many countries as we can, let’s par it back, engage in slow travel, and enjoy the moment. Here are the top 19 micro adventures we reckon you’ll love from right here in Chile!

Chile’s 19 Best Micro Adventures 

1.  Feeling the whip of hair in your face, the biting cold of snow on your fingers, the howling of wind in your ears … and then the frantic race to remove the layers as the sun shines down on you! A trek in Torres del Paine will awake the senses like no other place on Earth – did we mention the view?

2.  Riding downhill through a dusty vineyard slightly giddy after tasting some of Chile’s best wines.  The best part? Return the bikes and start the wine all over again. Try a tour of the Casablanca Valley here.

3.  Buying a fresh mote con huesillo (dehydrated peach with wheatberries in juice) and feeling the ice cold liquid quench your thirst on a blindingly hot summer’s day. Even better if you’re taking in the view of Santiago’s high rises and church spires from San Cristobal hill or the historic, Santa Lucia Hill.

4.  Camping beneath the stars in the middle of nowhere with only the sound of the wind and the celestial heavens for company.  It sounds even more enticing once you know that the Dientes Trek on Navarino Island (Tierra del Fuego) is literally the southernmost trek on planet Earth.  Now that’s what we call an adventure.

5.  Warming up your hands with a hot chocolate beside el Tatio, the granddaddy of all geysers and sacred figure in Andean mythology. A breakfast at 4000+m means high-altitude toast and epic views all around.

6.  Spotting your first puma. In fairness, it was probably your guide that spotted it (our guides appear to have magic puma spotting powers) but you’ll never forget your first time. Cue tears and copious amounts of existential questions about mankind’s place in the ecosystem.

7.  The strange sensation of looking up and witnessing a fully-grown Andean Condor flap past you. They are huge, you are small. Cue second round of existential questions.

8.  Witnessing the waters part for a whale fin and hearing the sound of the whale’s breathing. An awe-inspiring sight not to be forgotten in a hurry.

9.  Sitting on a rickety chair with a view of nothing but the horizon and perhaps a few sheep for miles around. An estancia visit is not just about sheep-shearing history, it’s about placing yourself in the shoes of old-world Patagonia when colonization was just getting started.

10.  Breathing in the salt from the historical center of Valparaiso. With the whirr of the tram, the rust-laden buildings, and the tangle of sky-high cables, the city center transports you back to a time of pirates and debauchery like no other place in Chile.

11. Sipping a fresh strawberry juice from one of the terrace restaurants hanging from the hills in Valparaiso. The view of the houses, rising like an ice-cream display cabinet on all sides, makes for a beautiful view beside the sea.

12.  Rising above the famous tower massif, namesake of Torres del Paine, from the dramatic Cerro Paine lookout. After an epic, hard slog upward, the view more than makes up it.

13.  Walking across Patagonian pampa with no one else around. Suddenly, there! The baguales, Torres del Paine’s unique wild horse pack, are foraging in the grass, the stallions emitting careful whinnies as they watch for pumas, their only predator. Observing their behavior and noting down your findings as part of a genuine scientific mission must surely count as conscious tourism, right?

14.  Skiing down perfect powder on one of Chile’s best slopes at Valle Nevado. You heard it here first!

15.  Crash! The waves are pounding the sides of your raft, and you’re rising up and down faster than riding a bucking bronco.  Suddenly your senses are heightened – you can see the sunlight filtering down through the trees, the drops of mildew from each tiny tree leaf, you hear the sigh of the air and the creaking of trees … Time can stand still even when you’re going fast. Check out our rafting expedition on the Maipo River here.

16.  The air can be chilly in Chile but the contrast is perfect when you’re lounging in a thermal pool on the side of El Morado mountain!

17.  Trying chañar ice cream and making your way through the new flavors in San Pedro de Atacama. You may still be in Chile but Andean food culture is still very much alive. Read the blog here!

18.  Breathing in the crisp autumn air of Torres del Paine in Fall. Seeing the Park’s colors during this season is definitely worth a spot on the list – your eyes won’t thank you enough.

19.  Laughing with people you’ve only just met but feeling as though you’ve known them forever. Nights in the EcoCamp Community Dome must surely count as one of the best micro-pleasures in Chile.

Chloe Says: I love this idea of embracing the small moments in travel! Chile is making a name for itself thanks to places like Torres del Paine, but there’s so much more to do here than just the W Trek! Why not see the Park’s quieter corners, such as on the full Paine Circuit? Or perhaps take in the length of Chile with our Best of Chile program which has been specially designed to show you the highlights (as well as some lesser known stuff) without going too fast?   Email me at reservations@cascada.travel. Happy travels!

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Atacama Must #1: Sunrise at the Tatio Geysers

It’s 06.30 am and the bus is completing its hard slog through the Chilean altiplano.  Around me are the dozing faces of tourists from all over the world, their heads gently bobbing to the rhythm of potholes and sharp corners. To the right, the sun is beginning to slowly rise, wispy tendrils of light that pierce the hazy gloom around us.

¨Time to wake up, everybody, we’re hereeeee!¨ Our guide, Francisca, calls, and each drooping head immediately comes to attention. The view instantly changes: what was vista upon vista of darkened, rolling hills has now flattened out to a valley marked by tall cliff faces with pockets of spiky grass. Funnels of steam drift from the ground like mini-volcanoes in every direction as though the earth is breathing. In the near distance, the mountains shine like newly-cut diamonds.

This surreal landscape is the Tatio geyser field, the third largest geothermic area of its kind in the world, that pours from the ground at a staggering height of 4320m (14,170 ft) above sea level. Getting here hasn’t been easy  -we have climbed 1912m in the last hour and a half since waking at the intrepid hour of 5 am in San Pedro. This moment, as we clamber from the van and wipe the sleep from our eyes, is a striking one and our eyes demand their fill of the 80 odd spouts of rising steam. It is also freezing, a good 8 degrees below zero, and we are all wrapped up warm (some of us have on 2 layers of down jackets).

After a brief bathroom break, it is time to begin exploring. We weave our way across makeshift pathways (occasionally stepping away from bubbling mini-geysers beginning to form) and pause at certain spots to take it all in. One of them erupts from the ground every minute or so, a spectacle that engulfs all those nearby in thick, warm steam. This is because geysers are the result of volcanic activity heating up cold rivers deep underground.  Everywhere you look in the Atacama you can see evidence of these volcanoes – in fact, the El Tatio area is home to 85 fumaroles/solfataras, 40 geysers, 5 mud volcanoes, 62 hot springs, and various sinter terraces.

After taking our fill at each one, we move on to the granddaddy of all geysers, El Tatio. El Tatio means the ¨old man who cries¨ in kunza, the original language of the Atacameño people, although Francisca dubs him the Killer Geyser. Over the years, El Tatio has actually claimed a few lives due to people seeking overly-ambitious photos, a sobering thought considering we witness more than one person stepping over the boundaries for their selfies as well as the deeply embedded footprints left by the unlucky souls who got too close to El Tatio.

By now the sun has well and truly risen and the temperature has increased comfortably. While Francisca and Ricardo, our driver, set up a heavily-laden table of breakfast goodies for us, we actually make the most of the sunrise by shedding our gear and taking to the natural hot spring opposite El Tatio.  The water is incredible and silky smooth, but eventually, the time comes for us to brave the cool air once more (yes, it’s almost torture after the heat of the spring).

We join Francisca and the rest of our group at the table where layers of hot toast sit next to cheese, jam, manjar (caramel spread), cake, and the ubiquitous tea/coffee/hot chocolate. As we huddle with our mugs and chat with the people in the group before a pool so clear it looks like glass, it feels a world away from home. This is what the Atacama Desert is all about – spectacular moments in a spectacular place that feels more like a new planet rather than good old Earth.  This is one to remember.

Before You Go

– Eat a light meal the night before – a small plate of pasta is plenty. This will help your body acclimatize

– Drink more water than you’d normally drink at home. You should be aiming for around 3 bottles of water a day in order to replenish the fluids you lose due to the temperature and altitude.

– Locals chew coca leaves, brought from Bolivia, which can help with the altitude and also wake your body up (its a natural stimulant). You can also drink coca leaf tea, available at many San Pedro cafes (we love the Roots Cafe).

– Take plenty of layers! Wearing layers is the best way to deal with the Atacama’s changing temperatures. Be warned that in the sun it can reach more than 27 degrees but the temperature drops instantly in the shade due to the lack of humidity. At night, it can go as low as -15 degrees Celsius.

– Wear sun protection! Sunblock is a must because you will likely burn at this altitude and sunglasses will come in handy too as it gets bright.

– It helps if you book the Tatio Geyser tour towards the end of your stay in the Atacama so that your body has had more chance to acclimatize to the altitude.

– The altitude may also make you require more bathroom stops than normal. Be aware that there are two sites to see at El Tatio, and both bathrooms are not always open.

Paty Says: As Helen writes, the Atacama Desert feels like nowhere else on Earth! Its colorful landscape is a beautiful contrast to the lush fields and towering mountains of Southern Chile so it would make a beautiful addition to your trip. We have several packages that include the Atacama, including our multi-destination tours, or you can add on one of our expertly-designed itineraries to the area’s top sights. Looking for something more particular? Send me a message to reservations@cascada.travel so that I can design something just for you!

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10 Reasons Why You Need A Yoga Retreat at EcoCamp

EcoCamp has been proudly sustainable since 2001, but did you know that yoga is on the cards too? Each morning and afternoon we hang up our trekking boots and give in to the asanas that attract so many to this stunning part of the world. In March 2019, EcoCamp will team up with Vajya Yoga to host our third successful yoga retreat (details below).  Sounds perfect, right? Here are some of our favorite reasons why a yoga retreat in our part of the world is just what you need!

Photo: @waterthruskin

1) Disconnect to Reconnect

Say goodbye to technology and constant connectivity, and say hello to Torres del Paine! It is easy to get lost in the humdrum of modern life, its bright lights, incessant phones, fast cars, and contamination. Here at EcoCamp, your distractions will slow right down and move from Facebook notifications to keeping your eyes peeled for pumas. We disconnect from tech for two reasons: a) to immerse ourselves in the energy of Patagonia, and b) to reconnect to ourselves and hear our inner voice.

2) Mindfulness through Movement

A yoga retreat at EcoCamp would not be complete without some additional activities, and why would you want to pass up an exploration of a setting as stunning as this?  The intense concentration that comes from hiking up mountains or from laying in wait to witness native foxes dig into a fresh guanaco carcass is one of the best ways to forget about the trappings of the past and future so that you give in completely to the present.  We are firm believers that movement is beneficial for your mind as well as your body, which is why a stay at EcoCamp is all about getting active, no matter how small.

3) Local + Organic Food

One of the best surprises about EcoCamp is the food – it’s delicious. It takes some serious logistics to bring in the amount of food that we need to the Park, store it, as well as ensure that everything we do stays within the limits of being sustainable, eco-friendly, and carbon neutral. We also bring ethics into our meals – that means no salmon, no soft drinks, locally sourced ingredients, organic wherever possible, and dishes that draw on the intricacies of Chilean and Patagonian cuisine.  And we can cater to your requests! We can go vegan, vegetarian or even gluten-free – you name it!

4) Empower the Community

Did you know that EcoCamp has its very own Chief of Sustainability?  Meet Arancha Azores, a native of Spain who has been with EcoCamp for years and who dedicates 100% of her time to conservation and social projects.  For example, in September we took part in the First Seminar of Inclusive Travel at the University of Magallanes to discuss our work with benefit corporation, Wheel the World, and our efforts to make our tours more accessible. In October we worked with AMA Torres del Paine to bring children from a local Punta Arenas school to help us with our reforestation efforts at EcoCamp so that they could learn about conservation. These are just a few examples of how we regularly empower the community around us.

5) Sustainable Comfort

Yes, we know you know this one – EcoCamp is a 100% carbon neutral hotel in Torres del Paine. But did you know that much of our technology was invented by us too? Back in the late 1990’s, when the idea of EcoCamp began to take shape, there weren’t many options out there in the world to model ourselves on. So we solved the problem ourselves, creating a unique circuit of domes that utilized natural light and resources, raising them off the ground so that they didn’t make any impact on the undergrowth, installing a composting toilet system, and developing our very own hydro and solar energy sources The result? The first sustainable hotel south of the Amazon and the first geodesic dome hotel in the world. Today, we have expanded quite a bit to include more domes, including the Wellness Domes, but all are just as sustainable as the very first.

6) Make Friends for Life

Something that we hear a lot from guests at EcoCamp is the amazing sense of camaraderie they feel while out on excursions, during briefing sessions with guides, or even when just chilling out in the Bar.  This feeling of closeness is something that can’t really be explained on paper – you’ll just have to come and live it for yourself (the Patagonian-inspired drinks certainly help!).

7) Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

That’s what it’s all about.  From sleeping in a Standard Dome (where you say goodbye to electricity and move with the movement of the sun), through to joining people from all walks of life on a trek or closing your eyes as you cross a wobbly bridge above a raging river, stepping out of the comfort of everyday life and embracing new challenges is one of the best parts of an EcoCamp trip. The best part? You are never forced to do anything you don’t want, meaning you can take it all at your own pace.

8) Embrace Gratitude

You won’t be able to help it. Starting your day with meditation with nothing but the wind of Patagonia to guide your breath is one of life’s great moments, even more so because here the very air seems to vibrate with its own energy. Whether it’s the happiness radiating from the guests and staff around you or perhaps it is the powerful magnetism of the Paine towers massif that you wake up to see every morning, there is something rather remarkable here.

9) Try an Eco-Massage!

The newest dome to join the EcoCamp skyline is Man Keokén (¨cave where the sun rises¨ in Tehuelche), one of our Wellness Domes where you can choose from two massage options that utilize natural oils and aromatherapy: deep-tissue or relaxing. This is one of the perfect ways to give in to the moment, ease those tired muscles, and relax.

10) Restore Your Body & Soul

If it sounds as though we are repeating some points, it might be because they deserve to be reiterated! At the close of your yoga retreat, you will feel noticeably lifted from within and maybe even struggle to board the van to leave. The magic of Torres del Paine, combined with the energy of EcoCamp, is something that will stay with you long after you leave, body and soul replenished.

Coming Soon: VajraSol Yoga Retreat

From March 10-17 2019, Vajra Sol will join us once again for another successful retreat. The vinyasa flow yoga on offer is a stronger practice than normal which allows for plenty of activity and room to go at your own pace making it ideal for all levels of experience. Each class focuses on integrating mind and body as well as posture, strength, and flexibility in order to nurture a healthy mind and a healthy body. Each yoga instructor is experienced and from diverse backgrounds, so each class could have its own unique spin. This retreat combines yoga with EcoCamp’s signature activities so that each day is a new adventure.

Mali Says: As a dedicated yoga lover (and teacher-to-be), I can affirm that yoga beneath the mountains is incredible. If it sounds like this would be the experience of a lifetime (we certainly think so!) then we would welcome your requests for a yoga retreat! Send your inquiry to reservations@cascada.travel. Interested in joining Vajra Sol? Get in touch with Sandra at info@vajrasoltravel.com

 

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9 Reasons to Put Argentina on YOUR 2019 Travel List

There’s a lot more to Argentina than just Buenos Aires, Mendoza, or Bariloche. To the north, you’ll find spectacular mountainous valleys, luscious vineyards, and cities filled with classic architecture, and to the south, some of the most amazing glaciers, mountains, and wildlife in the world. Here are some off-the-beaten-path reasons why Argentina should be on your travel list for 2019!

1. Visit a traditional peña 

For a taste of classic northern Argentina, there’s nothing more authentic than a peña. These folklore parties are communal events, with dancing, food, drink, traditional guitar music, and singing. But you probably won’t find any tango. “Folklorico” refers to northern style music and dancing, hence why peñas are extremely popular and easy to find in the north (but you can also find some in Buenos Aires, as a palate-cleanser for all the tango). But for something quintessentially northern, get thee to the nearest peña!

2. Fall in love with the city of Salta 

With a diverse and vibrant past, Salta is a gem in Argentina’s high mountain desert, with its stunning architecture only matched by the landscapes surrounding the city. Its dazzling Spanish-style buildings make it a great city to explore on foot, with the Cathedral, Plaza de Armas, and city parks being especially popular. The city’s aerial cable car system is also a great way to see the city from above.

3. Go back in time at the MAAM museum

At the High Mountain Archaeological Museum in Salta, guests can get a glimpse into the region’s past through an extensive and fascinating collection of artifacts and historical treasures, specializing in Incan artifacts. The museum’s most famed exhibit are the mummy children of Llullaillaco; three exquisitely preserved Incan children who are dated to be more than 500 years old and are considered to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries of recent times.

4. Visit the UNESCO Humahuaca Gorge

Forming part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Quebrada de Humahuaca, the colored hills of Humahuaca Gorge are a vibrant splash across the high mountain landscape. The area used to be part of a caravan road for the Inca empire, as well as later being the stage for strategic and important battles in the Spanish War for Independence. But the gorge itself – rolling hills tinted different colors thanks to varied sediment – is a natural marvel.

5. Drink world-class wine (that isn’t Malbec)

We all love a good Argentine Malbec, but every legendary wine region needs a sturdy and crisp white varietal to offer a yang to red wine’s yin. Argentina has just that in its lesser-known but delicious white “Torrontes” wines. Torrontes vines have thrived in northern Argentina’s windswept and chilly high mountains, producing a smooth and aromatic white wine that is sure to please the palate. With plenty of high-quality vineyards around Salta, there are great opportunities to learn about the wine-making process and taste some of the region’s best.

6. Be awed by Mount Fitz Roy

The iconic outline of one of Argentine Patagonia’s most famous peaks is known the world over thanks to the Patagonia outdoor clothing brand. But seeing the real thing has no comparison, and the area around the massif itself abounds with treks and hiking routes that show off the granite peaks from different angles and perspectives.

7. Hike across a glacier

Have you ever wanted to set foot on a glacier? Well now you can! In Los Glaciares National Park, one of the most spectacular spots to visit is the mighty Perito Moreno Glacier. Its sheer breadth, coloration, and easy access have made it one of the most famous tourist glaciers in Patagonia, and thanks to its stability, you can go for a ice trek across it! Just strap on some crampons, and set off (with a guide and some safety instructions first, of course)!

8. Visit a penguin colony in Tierra del Fuego

The experience of seeing a penguin in the wild is unrivaled, but seeing a whole colony? Unreal! Tierra del Fuego (Fireland) at the tip of South America is one of the best places on Earth to see marine wildlife such as whales and sea lions, and of course, penguins! Several different species, such as the Magellanic penguin, use various islands amongst the fjords and islands as breeding sites, and you can get up close either by foot or by boat and see these adorable birds in the flesh.

9. Go boating on the Beagle Channel

Have you ever wanted to follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin? You can do just that on the waters of the Beagle Channel. Named after the ship that took Charles Darwin on his famous voyage, the Channel is now a great place to spot marine wildlife, and take in the views of Tierra del Fuego’s pristine woods, fjords, and mountains.

Chloe Says: Argentina is still a bit of a secret, and who doesn’t love exploring places untouched by mass tourism? The trekking in Argentina has a very different feel and flair to it compared to Chile and I reckon it would complement your trip to Chile well! Check our Argentina tours here or send me an email to discuss the options – bespoke available too! 

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Juan Fernandez Islands: THE Paradise You’ve Been Looking For?

Imagine being marooned on a desert island and chances are good that you will conjure up images of lilting palm trees lining golden sandy beaches and turquoise lagoons with fierce waves lapping over coral reefs. Push yourself and you just might picture huts made of fallen tree branches constructed by an energetic figure who hunts dolphins and eats coconuts.

That last would be Robinson Crusoe, the stranded sailor dreamt up by Scottish writer Daniel Defoe, and who ignited a globe-wide burning interest in palm-lined beaches.

Turns out that this island – and its hero – are real and you can discover them for yourself right here off the coast of Chile. Defoe based his creation on Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor who spent four years and four months on the Juan Fernandez Islands (one of which today bears his moniker), a trio of remote Pacific islands that rise from the ocean as sharp, monstrous mountains.

Paradise Reason #1: As Remote As It Gets

650 km from mainland Chile is Robinson Crusoe, the only inhabited island out of the group.  It’s only settlement, San Juan Bautista, was almost entirely washed away in the 2010 tsunami but today is home to around 600 people. This tiny community live deeply connected to the moods of the ocean, wind, and land, and rely on only the simplest of pleasures; San Juan Bautista has only several streets, bars, and restaurants.

Paradise Reason #2: The Treks Are Out Of This World

When Selkirk was marooned on the island, he’d scan the horizon on top of a cliffside lookout known today as Mirador de Selkirk.  You can follow this same meandering path through eucalyptus and endemic forests that takes you past the Fuerte Santa Barbara fort once used by 18th century Spanish to protect themselves from raucous pirates. At its peak, you will be able to take in both sides of the island: the rainforest, azure sea, and sharp, jagged peaks. On the way down, you can call in at the Cueva de los Patriotas to see the short-term home of 300 Chileans who, in the early days of Chile’s 19th-century independence, still bore allegiance to Spain.  These damp, gigantic caves were too much for the soldiers who promptly surrendered.

Paradise Reason #3: It’s a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve

Only natural for a place as remote as this, right? The archipelago is a unique ecoregion that has seen its flora and fauna evolve slowly in isolation.  There are 140 native plants to be uncovered here – 101 of which are endemic. The rainforest is an evergreen tangle of vines and towering ferns. Of its 11 endemic birds, the Juan Fernandez hummingbird is it’s most famous of which 700 thrive in both the forest and San Juan Bautista. Have a read of this article to get to know the unusual critters that call these islands home.

Paradise Reason #4: Spectacular History is All Around

Go for a wander north of San Juan Bautista and you will find yourself in the presence of gun shells embedded in the cliff walls. Rather spectacularly, this was the scene of an epic battle between a German cruiser and a British warship during World War 1 in 1915; the Germans eventually blew themselves up instead of surrender.

Paradise Reason #5: The Big Blue Really is Perfect

Wet your toes and close your eyes, and you’ll find it easy to imagine yourself adrift at sea. The islands are volcano shafts that soar steeply from the ocean, but move just a little from the shore and the real abyss begins – 4000m down on all sides! Right beside this monstrous abyss is a concentration of sea life that makes for those perfect moments divers dream of, overflowing in flounder, lobster, moray eel, yellowtail troll as well as the Juan Fernandez fur seal, the island’s only native mammal.

Paradise Reason #6: Paris Buys Its Lobster From Here

Instead of paying a fortune in a far-away European restaurant, you can instead enjoy lobster freshly caught from the ocean right here in San Juan Bautista! Skiffs head out morning and night every day to take part in a fishing tradition that has been passed down through generations. Three-quarters of residents partake in the search for the Juan Fernandez lobster, hauling in a good 50,000 every year.

The Practical Stuff

– Weather can be unpredictable

– Regular commercial tourist flights in six-seater or eight-seater passenger planes are available from Santiago with Transportes Aereos Isla Robinson Crusoe

– The best way to get around? Catch a water taxi.

Chloe Says: Thinking about including Juan Fernandez on your next trip?  We can add on a stay in San Juan Bautista to any of your programs – it’s just a short hop from Santiago, Chile’s capital city. This is your chance to go really off the beaten track but if going somewhere so remote doesn’t appeal, why not book a trip to the island of Chiloe instead? It really is magic.

 

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Let’s Talk Inclusive Travel in Chile

Let’s Talk Inclusive Travel in Chile

The year is 2018 and accessibility is still an issue. This World Health Organization report shows that stigma towards people living with a disability is remains commonplace, while the travel industry still brushes over their basic needs. Here at Cascada and EcoCamp Patagonia we are – slowly but surely – trying to right this wrong, by bringing much-needed light to this issue and by working with the Chilean-born business, Wheel the World, to help make some of the world’s most beautiful places accessible to all.

Traveling with a Disability in Chile

You will find that the Chilean people are very accommodating and will go out of their way to help you, while most shopping malls, public buildings, museums, and higher-end hotels have ramp access. Wherever you go in Chile, be prepared to face uneven and broken footpaths unless you are in a modern part of town such as the eastern suburbs of Santiago or the city of Viña del Mar. Some roads have noise-indicated crossings. The news is always translated into Chilean Sign Language.  For more information in Spanish, the Chilean National Tourism Board, Sernatur, teamed up with Senadis (National Disability Service) to produce this guide to travel with disabilities in Chile. In English, you take a look at this overview here

What To Do

Santiago

Chile’s capital is improving with leaps and bounds in the accessibility department. While impaired travelers may find traveling by bus difficult (only a few are kitted out), the underground metro system is clean, efficient and easy to use. The first and last carriages contain spaces for wheelchairs and lifts are currently being installed in most metro stations. It would be wise to avoid the metro during rush hour as it gets packed, although the metro is trying to monitor the ‘preferencial’ carriages. Recently, the city unleashed tactile versions of its famous street art, a wonderful addition to the scene that is welcomed by the country’s 2.8 million visually impaired. 

Valparaiso

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is beautiful, with hills that look to be made of ice-cream. Keyword: hills. The city clings to them and sometimes looks to be falling down its sides, and if you struggle with steps then you will find a visit a bit of a struggle. In saying that, this is a fantastic city to explore filled with museums, quirky shops, street art, and portside charm, and our tours can go at your pace.

Torres del Paine:

Can now be traversed in a wheelchair! Our eco-friendly hotel, EcoCamp Patagonia, proudly has access to Joelette (see below) and can organize tours around the Park.  Kayaking to Glacier Grey can also be arranged. When staying at EcoCamp, ask for Suite 7. 

Inclusive Travel in Patagonia

In 2016 Alvaro Silberstein became the very first person in history to explore Torres del Paine National Park in a wheelchair. This tremendous achievement was the first project tackled by his enterprise, Wheel the World, which aims to inspire like-minded people to travel while at the same time urges the tourism world to make travel more inclusive.

EcoCamp helped crowdfund the making of Joelette, a wheelchair specially designed to cope with the rocky, uneven terrain of Patagonia. Joelette has one wheel and is stabilized by a person at the front and back of the chair; a special harness also allows the wheelchair to be lifted.

We Need Your Help!

2018 is the year when we want to take our campaign for inclusive travel global. The following video chronicles our efforts down at EcoCamp and should be a wake-up call to the tourism industry that things have to change. We need your help to do this. Every like equals a vote, and the three videos with the most votes shall be broadcast at the Adventure Travel Summit in Italy later this year If this doesn’t get the conversation happening, we aren’t sure what will. Follow the link and vote for our video here.

Why We Need to Have this Conversation

According to the World Health Organization, some of the biggest barriers to inclusive travel include:

– Lack of Accessibility

– Lack of Involvement:

– Lack of Services

We want: no discrimination, equal opportunities, and tourism for everyone. This doesn’t mean that we need to create something special, it means that the tourism sector includes everyone in its services. 

We must have this conversation to improve. All of us. Adventure shouldn’t be possible only for a few; the world – and adventure – should be for all.

 

Chloe Says: We hope that 2018 is the year for accessibility in travel to become talked about. We appreciate your help in voting for our video, sharing this post and – above all – thinking about ways that you can join the cause in your own community. Remember: our tours can all be customized to suit your needs.

 

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The 3 Best Untapped Hikes in Patagonia

Sometimes you just need to get away from it all. Patagonia is one of the last places on Earth where you can still get away from the modern world.  And hiking through it? Even better. Without further ado, we bring to you the best-untapped hikes in Patagonia, where isolation is the name of the game and nature is your neighbor.

Patagonia’s Big Drawcard

Patagonia is comprised of two parts: Argentine Patagonia and Chilean Patagonia, and both regions are diverse. Chilean Patagonia is about the same size as Germany, while its Argentine counterpart is closer to the size of Texas. Argentina’s slice is full of broad expanses that turn from windy steppe into forests of Southern Beech. Chilean Patagonia stretches south from no clear-cut point (some say from the region of Aysén others from Puerto Montt), extending from islands, forests, and channels and through to windswept grasslands and moors. Here the wind (2 of the world’s windiest cities are here) and water reign supreme but its the ice that rears above them all, sometimes as high as 3000 meters. Just 5% of Argentinians and 1.5% of Chileans live in this zone, meaning that this is about as undeveloped as it gets in today’s busy, rushing world.

The Best Time to Visit

The best time to travel in this unique zone is really up to you: summer (December-February) is the most popular time to trek, while Autumn is the photogenic time (March-May); Spring has the best chance for rain (September-November) while trekking in winter brings unique challenges that actually adds to the enjoyment of the trek (June-August). Whatever time you travel you can expect to have four seasons in one day, so you should take a read of this article on what to bring before you leave.

Trek 1: Paine Circuit

Also known as the ‘O’ Circuit, this trek makes a 130 km loop through the wilder corners of Torres del Paine National Park and also includes its popular cousin, the ‘W’. It is a physically demanding hike and your speed will be affected by the weather conditions; mud, in particular, can be difficult. Expect incredible daily views, early morning starts, and optional hikes to additional lookouts; ask us about upgrading to include a stay at the award-winning EcoCamp Patagonia.

Difficulty: Hard

Duration: 9 days

When: October-March

Highlights:

– Dickson Glacier & Southern Ice Fields (Day 2)

– Stunning views of the Escondido Valley (Day 3)

– John Gardner Pass via forests and past boulders and immense views of Glacier Grey (Day 4)

– Kayaking Lake Pehoe* (Day 5)

– French Valley + French River Hanging bridge (Day 6)

– Lake Nordenskjold (Day 7)

– The towers’ base (Day 8)

* Optional activity

Accommodation

Camp Dickson: An absolutely jaw-dropping backdrop is what you pitch your tent before here. The campsite is formed of an open field surrounded on all sides by mountains and glaciers; here you can find hot water showers.

Camp Perros: A more basic campsite with flush toilets and a building where you can cook.

Camp Grey: Named for its outlook to Glacier Grey, this is a popular campsite where you can find all the necessary amenities including a kitchen and hot showers.

Camp Pehoe: This is a comfortable site offering hot showers and even a laundry, located right on the banks of Lake Pehoe.

Camp Cuernos: One of the smaller refugios along the trail, its claim to fame being its excellent bar and restaurant. Hot showers.

Camp Torre Central: A privileged location right before the towers helps to elevate this campsite. 24/7 hot showers.

Trek 2: Cerro Castillo

Imagine standing at the top of a mountain, the modern world days away, with a magnificently blue lagoon before you that glimmers with all the light of the sun. This trek is something of a local secret, adored by Chileans but relatively unknown to outsiders. It is a challenging trek so you should prepare yourself prior to departure.

Difficulty: Hard

Duration: 5 days

When to Go: November-April

Highlights

– Pinon Pass + Glacier (day 3) 

– Cerro Castillo mountain pass (day 4)

– Lake Duff (day 5)

Accommodation

Villa Cerro Castillo Guesthouse: running water, hot showers, good food.

Camp Turbio: running water and plenty of benches

Camp La Tetera: running water, toilets, but no benches to eat your food on

Camp El Neozelandés: running water, toilets, benches

Trek 3: Dientes Trek

Walking here feels like exploring something new, the air tinged with the hint of the undiscovered.  Navarino Island is a remote speck at the end of the world – from here onwards there is only Antarctica. This island is especially famous for its density of archaeological sites dating back some 10,000 years, the middens of the Yaghan people as well as former 19th-century English missions. Trekking takes you mostly above the treetops, through mountains, forests, and marshes; Lonely Planet names this trek as the ¨best in South America¨. Tip: this part of the world is especially wet so make sure you trek with waterproof shoes and line your backpack well. 

Difficulty: Hard

Duration: 6 days

When to Go: December-March

Highlights:

– Puerto Williams, ( Day 1 + 5)

– Views across the unique forests of Cape Horn (blog link)

– Views of the Beagle Channel (Day 2)

– Crossing the Dientes mountains (Day 3)

– Climbing Virginia Pass (Day 4)

Accommodation:

Lakutaia Lodge: Your first and last night will be spent in this excellent, boutique hotel that overlooks the Beagle Channel and features wifi, bar, library and excellent food.

Camp Sites: Rustic facilities on nights 2, 3, 4

 

Chloe Says: It’s important to remember that with travel comes responsibility. If we are going to enter fragile worlds like Patagonia, then we need to make sure that a) we are prepared and b) that we watch our travel footprint – we don’t want to ruin the places that we love.  The good news is that all our programs at Cascada have their carbon offset by Carbon Fund, and we frequently give to endeavors working to keep these places pure such as the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund and AMA. Take a look at the Tu Mejor Huella campaign just kicking off at a national level here in Chile to protect the Park’s vulnerable areas. 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Cascada/EcoCamp Wins LATA Award in London

Cascada Named 2nd Best Tour Operator in Latin America

We are proud to report that Cascada Expediciones has earnt 2nd place in the LATA Achievement Awards, held this week at the Experience Latin America expo in London.  LATA, or the Latin American Travel Association, presented the award for DMC/Tour Operator of the Year in recognition of our dedication to nature, our country and our customers. EcoCamp Patagonia, our sustainable glamping experience in Torres del Paine, was named Hotel of the Year.  These accolades are a huge deal, LATA being the pinnacle of travel associations based in the Americas and comprising 340 like-minded businesses.

Still Guided by Nature

Around 25 years ago, Yerko and Javier were two city slickers tired of their jobs and tired of metropolitan living. Then they met Nani, a kayak instructor living in the Maipo Canyon (Cajon del Maipo), and their lives changed forever. What they had discovered was an awareness for nature that they had not had before, the lighting of an extra sense within them that tingled with energy and which suddenly woke them up to small details they had previously never noticed. This was the birth of Cascada Expediciones.

Fast forward to 2018, and it might be easy to think things have changed. After all, we have been named one of National Geographic’s Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth, and we have a big office in Santiago, Chile. However, that office is manned by locals passionate about being in and protecting nature, and Yerko, Nani and Javier remain hands-on to ensure their vision never gets diluted. Although we sell ourselves as a soft-adventure company, the truth is that nature is our goal – by immersing yourself in nature, you not only experience a world that is often distant for a lot of us, but you also develop a deeper respect for it.  Perhaps by harnessing this respect, we can protect it from the dangers of the future.

 

Chloe Says: We are so happy to win this award! If you’d like to stay up to date with all our news, promotions, and other fun travel tidbits, sign up to our monthly newsletter here.  Remember – we never give your information to third-parties and we will never contact you for any other reason. See you soon!

Featured

The Best Time of Year to Visit Patagonia Is Not When You Think

To put it simply, there is no single best time. Each season has its advantages and drawbacks, so deciding when to go is entirely up to you.  However, we reckon that autumn would be a strong contender for the best time to visit Patagonia. Photographers will love the color contrasts between the blue lakes and fiery tree foliage while wildlife lovers will be in heaven as the animals return to the walking tracks after the heavy footfall of summer.  Need more convincing? Read on 

For the Weather

It’s something of an accepted fact that the best time to visit Patagonia is during the peak summer months of December to February, but that’s not necessarily true. Summer is the warmest time of year, of course, with average high temperatures of around 15°C but it’s also the time of year when Patagonia’s infamous winds are at their strongest and can reach over 120 miles an hour. Spring and fall are slightly cooler, but the winds – while still potentially wild – tend to be less severe. 
 
Here’s an overview of the weather in Patagonia:
 

  • In Spring (September-November), you can expect it to be warm during the day but can still be chilly, strong winds, cold nights, and a strong possibility of rain.  Temperatures likely range between lows in the 30s (3-7 degrees Celsius) and highs in the 60s (14-18 degrees Celsius). Advantages of Spring travel are fewer crowds, lower prices, great time to examine plants and wildlife. 
  • In Summer (December-February), there will likely be warm days, cool but not cold nights, strong winds, and a possibility of rain, with temperatures ranging between lows in the 30s (6-8 degrees Celsius) and highs in the 60s (17-20 degrees Celsius). This is the height of growth season, the landscape is in full green. You have a high likelihood of seeing wildlife, but the large crowds may drive some species (such as pumas) away into more secluded areas of the park. Skies are mostly clear with good visibility during the day and night.
  • In Autumn (March-May) it starts to get cold, with cool days and a good possibility of rain and snow later in the season.  However the foliage is beautiful and there are fewer crowds, lower rates, good accessibility to areas of the park and amenities, and great opportunities to see wildlife so it’s perfect for photographers.
  • Winter (June-August) in Patagonia is perfect for people who enjoy exploring the great outdoors in all its forms, seeing dynamic landscapes covered in snow and ice, and having space almost entirely to themselves.  You should expect milder winds, the possibility of snowstorms and low visibility, unpredictable weather at times, and cold temperatures between the 20s (-3 – 0 degrees Celsius) and highs in the low 40s (5-8 degrees Celsius).  Although this is arguably the most challenging time of year to visit, winter in Patagonia produces captivating landscapes, showcasing the classic sights of Torres del Paine (Los Cuernos, Los Torres, Grey Glacier, etc) covered in glistening snow and ice (with very little plant life). A chance to see wildlife such as guanacos, pumas, etc.
 
 

For the Crowds

Summertime is peak season in Patagonia so you can expect there to be more people on the trails with you; you might find that you have to book hotels, refugios (basic mountain lodges) and campgrounds further in advance to secure your spot.  To boost your chances of an empty horizon, late autumn (April & beginning of May) is when the main attractions are much quieter.
 

For the Adventure

Just being in Patagonia is an adventure, but we know that some of you adrenaline junkies will be looking for something a little bit extra from your Patagonia tour. Patagonia is a great place for adventure sports like kayaking, mountain biking, and horse riding, as well as wildlife observation and hiking.
 
On the other hand, if skiing or snowboarding is more your idea of the perfect adventure, visit Patagonia in September for a hiking vacation with an Andes skiing stopover in Santiago on your way down.

For the Wildlife

Ñandus, guanacos, puma, pudus, and condors are just a few of the oddball animals that make Patagonia a magnet for wildlife-lovers. The good news is that you’re sure to see some animals and birds as soon as you leave the towns and cities behind, whether it’s mid-summer, mid-winter, or somewhere in between. But if you’ve got your heart set on meeting one of Patagonia’s more elusive birds or beasts, then the quieter seasons of spring and fall give many of the region’s quieter animals the space they need to break cover.
 

For the Colors

It might seem a little extreme to visit Patagonia just to watch the leaves turn from green to yellow to red, but if you’ve seen it once you’ll know what we’re talking about. The scenery of Patagonia is spectacular in general, but there’s something about the contrasting colors of fall that takes it to another level. Patagonia’s flaming fall forests set off the milky-blue lakes and cool, white mountains to perfection. That makes fall a good time to take a photography tour in Patagonia and make the most of this unequaled backdrop.
 

For the Hot Travel Deals

Spring (September) and fall (April & May) – or ‘shoulder season’ to use travel industry speak – are the best times to be on the lookout for red-hot travel deals for Patagonia. This is when you’re most likely to snap up cheap flights within Chile and Argentina and you’ll probably also find that many hotels will offer reduced rates or bonus free nights outside of the summer peak season.
 
Always check out LATAM and TAM airways for great offers on flights down to Chile and Argentina!
 
 

Alejandra Says: Here at Cascada, we are constantly raving about how awesome Patagonia is in Autumn! Not only is it visibly beautiful, but most of the other tourists have left meaning that the magnitude of the region feels like it is just for you. Our Wildlife Safari, which gives you a different daily excursion, is unbeatable during this time while further afield you can trek the solitude of Cerro Castillo. If you have any other questions, send me a message at reservations@cascada.travel. Happy travels!

 

 

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Featured

Inside The Lives of Patagonian Cowboys at Estancia La Peninsula

When most people think of Patagonia, their minds immediately go to the region’s iconic mountains like Mount Fitz Roy and the Torres del Paine; the creeping glaciers that loom over lakes of pristine water; and the allure of wide-open spaces at the end of the world, where mankind has no real foothold and exists at the mercy of the elements. There is truly no other place like it on Earth.

But what Patagonia has in natural wealth, it equally has in culture. An enduring example of this is the estancia.

Meaning “ranch” in Spanish, estancias are the heart of Patagonia’s cultural landscape. Starting in the 1800s, immigrants from European countries moved to Patagonia to take advantage of the grassy pampas as fields to rear large herds of sheep and cattle and cash in on the global demand for wool. The caretakers who would look after the herds, guachos (the Patagonian version of cowboys), would stay at these ranches that were spread out across the territories. Today, many estancias are still operational, and some, such as Estancia Peninsula, have opened their doors to the public, allowing visitors to learn about the gaucho culture and lifestyle.

The trip to Estancia La Peninsula starts with a boat ride from the city of Puerto Natales, the gateway to Torres del Paine. Leaving the city, the boat crosses Last Hope Fjord and drops off visitors at the estancia. Here, plains of grass and rolling hills glide off to a horizon of snow-capped mountains. The sky overhead seems endless, and Patagonia’s infamous wind whips across the landscape. The silence is broken only by the twitter of birds, the snort of a horse, the baww-ing of sheep, and the dull clink of mate gourds on wooden tables.

At the estancia, the curtain is drawn back to reveal a more rugged way of life, one that is grounded in kinship with the animals on the ranch, from the dogs to the sheep to the horses, connection to and respect for the landscape, close friendships, and learning to appreciate a slower, more isolated life. These estancias are often located great distances from each other, so the bonds between those who live and work at each ranch are strong and lasting. Being a gaucho is a true calling.

At Estancia La Peninsula, they give guests a peek into this life through activities and demonstrations. Visitors can go on horseback rides across the surrounding pampas, seeing and discovering new and different vistas and places in the region outside of the traditional treks and views in Torres del Paine. They can hike on trails that haven’t been trammelled by the thousands of feet that go to the national park nearby. They can birdwatch in peace and quiet, scanning the skies for the splayed black wing feathers of the condor. They can sit and watch the world go by, like generations of gauchos before them, feeling both a part of and disconnected from the mighty expanse of nature surrounding them.

But the main purpose of an estancia was and is the care and keeping of sheep, and so guests are treated to demonstrations and lectures about taking care of sheep on these vast plains. Once a year, the huge herds are rounded up for shearing, with expert shearers traveling from estancia to estancia to aid the gauchos in this mammoth task. According to a recent New York Times article, an expert shearer can go through 250 sheep a day, adding to the 24 million pounds of wool that Chile produces.

Therefore, guests can observe the process of shearing an entire sheep, as well as learning about how the gauchos work with their sheepdogs and horses for round-ups. As always in cowboy culture around the world, the bond between a gaucho and his horse is paramount.

But the owners of the estancia save the best for last.

One of the most cherished and time-honored (and delicious) traditions on the estancia and throughout Patagonia is that of the authentic Patagonian asado, or barbecue. A lamb is butterflied over a low-burned fire for several hours, cooking the meat to tender, juicy perfection, before being chopped up and served with sides and plenty of hearty Chilean red wine.

So, at the end of a memorable day of horsebacking riding and learning the routines and rhythms of life on an estancia, visitors get to sit down to a traditional asado of the best lamb and meat at the end of the world.

But at Estancia La Peninsula, the owners aim to bring the traditions of Patagonian yesteryear into the modern age, and so they balance their livestock work with current environmental policies, working alongside conservation efforts for wildlife and sustainably preserving the landscape, so that every aspect of the Patagonian experience, from the natural to the cultural, is kept intact for the future.

If you’d like to climb into the saddle and experience the life of a Patagonian cowboy for yourself, you can add a day trip onto your EcoCamp itinerary here

Featured

The Haunting Mythology of Chile’s Southern Islands

Mythology fans visiting Chile should make a point to visit the legend-strewn islands of Chiloé, a haven for fresh seafood, gorgeous wooden churches, rolling hills dotted with sheep…and timeless legends of trolls, mermaids, and ghost ships.

Chiloé: Land of Myths and Sea

A short ferry ride from the mainland, Chiloé’s isolation has given rise to a plethora of centuries-old stories about the islands and the sea surrounding them. These legends, despite the presence of modern, Spanish-brought religions, are still relevant and widely believed around the islands today.

The very creation of the Chiloé archipelago itself is rooted in mythology. Legend has it that the water god Caicai Vilu rose from the depths as a massive serpent, meaning to drown the lowlands of coastal Chile. Trentren Vilu, the god of the earth, battled the monster for a long time and in the end won, but was not able to reunite the islands with the mainland.

The Righteous Province, the male witches of the islands

Perhaps Chiloé’s most well-known and disturbing legends involve the brujos, a coven of male witches who have long been a dark presence over the island. Islanders who were reportedly members of the sect were brought to trial in the 1880s, and it’s from their confessions that much of what is known about the brujos originates.

Males wishing to join the cult, which is referred to as “The Righteous Province,” are required to undergo a grueling initiation process, including washing away baptism for forty days under a cold waterfall, signing a deal with the devil, and killing a loved one to use their skin as a purse in which to carry a book of spells. Members can transform into animals like dark birds and dogs, and are capable of powerful spells and sorcery.

The brujos’ cave is guarded by a Frankenstein-esque creature called the Imbunche or Invunche, a former child who was stolen during the first year of its life and mutilated by the witches. Its hands, arms, legs, and feet are disjointed, its head is slowly twisted around 180 degrees so it faces backwards, and its right arm is sewn into a deep cut in the right shoulder. The Imbunche is incapable of speech, communicating with cries and grunts, and is fed on human and animal flesh. Anyone who spies the Imbunche guarding the cave is immediately frozen to the spot for all eternity.

The brujos also employ a creature known as La Voladora to run nightly errands. A young woman, usually a relative of someone in the coven, is selected for this dubious honor. To carry messages for the brujos, the Voladora is fed a noxious drink that forces her to vomit up her internal organs. She then changes into a black bird and flies around the island at night. Her screeching cries bring bad luck, something many old Chilotes will warn people about when a black bird is seen.

Trolls, mermaids, and ghosts, oh my!

In addition to the brujos, the island plays host to a whole cast of mythological characters. El Trauco (the troll), for example, is the local trickster, who has also filled the role of convenient scapegoat for gallivanting men. The troll’s breath makes him irresistible to young women, especially virgins, and using his breath, he’ll lure them away into the woods and impregnate them. If in olden times a young virgin was suddenly out of the blue with child, the troll was always to blame.

But those very men that got off easy because of El Trauco had to keep their eyes peeled for his wife, the ugly La Fiura. A similarly halitosis-ridden woman, she lives in the woods, wearing only moss for clothing. She lures young men by bathing seductively in ponds and under waterfalls before seducing them and then either killing them or making them lose their minds.

But as Chiloé is an archipelago, many of their legends gravitate around the ocean.

The resident sea-god bigwig is Millalobo, a frightful apparition with the body of a seal and the head of a human mixed with a fish. His name means “gold wolf,” because he is always covered in gold. He controls the animals of the sea surrounding Chiloé, is married to a former human called Huenchula, and has three children: La Sirena (a mermaid), El Pincoy, and La Pincoya.

El Pincoy, who has the body of a seal like his father but only a human head, is tasked with carrying out Millalobo’s commands. La Pincoya, an ocean goddess renowned for her beauty, appears to fishermen covered in kelp, either riding the waves or walking along the beach. Her appearance represents times of good fishing if she faces the sea. But if she faces the land, the fishermen know to expect a food shortage.

No island is complete without a ghost ship legend, and Chiloé has an excellent one in El Caleuche. The ship, staffed by drowned soldiers and fishermen who are carried there by a magical sea horse, moves secretively in fog and is capable of travelling above or below the water.  Island inhabitants have reported hearing beautiful music and sounds of partying onboard. It is also said that the ship is used by the brujos as a mode of transportation.

There are also many more myths that are a part of Chiloé’s heritage, including El Basilico, a cockerel-headed snake who turns people to stone with his gaze, the camahueto, a calf with a special horn that is said to cure all manner of ailments, and the peuchen, a giant flying snake that sucks the blood of sheep.

The myths of Chiloé have long pervaded the literary culture of Patagonia as well. Bruce Chatwin made reference to the Imbunche and coven of male witches in his famous travelogue In Patagonia, and José Donoso drew inspiration from the Imbunche myth as well in his dark and brooding novel, The Obscene Bird of Night. There is even a strong argument that the fabled “giants” of Tierra del Fuego were inspiration for the character of Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Eager to learn more or see the place that inspired the myths? Chiloé is reachable via ferry by car and bus, is accessible by plane, and is waiting to entrance you. Maybe you’ll come back with some magical stories of your own.

Featured

Dientes Treks Wins “Best Transformational Travel Experience” at the PURE Awards

At Cascada Expediciones, we are proud to offer unique, experiential travel programs that go above and beyond in helping people discover parts of the globe they’d never thought they’d see, immersing themselves in nature and culture in ways that will provide life-long memories, and transform who they are as a person and as a traveler.

That’s why, we are pleased to announce that, at the PURE Awards at the PURE Life Experiences Show, our adventure travel program, the Dientes Circuit, won in the best “Transformational Travel” experience category!

Thank you to everyone who voted for us; we are honored and humbled to offer and be a part of such an incredible wilderness experience that people have truly connected with, and we look forward to continuing to share this experience with anyone who cares to try this epic trek.

What is the Dientes Circuit?

If you’re reading this article and thinking “but what IS the Dientes Trek?” you’re probably not alone. The Dientes Trek is virtually unknown, despite being named as the best trek in South America by Lonely Planet, and as such, is undeveloped and offers the perfect wilderness experience. It is the southernmost trek in the world, and yet almost no one knows it exists.

Located on Navarino Island in Chilean Tierra del Fuego, the 33 mile long Dientes de Navarino trek follows a circuitous path that leads through an ever-changing landscape of mountains, valleys, peat bogs, forests, meadows, lakes, and river, culminating in reaching the summit of the Dientes Massif for 360 degree views of the Beagle Channel, the cities of Puerto Williams in Chile and Ushuaia in Argentina, the Wollaston archipelago, and Cape Horn itself. Tierra del Fuego is home to a wealth of pristine landscapes and biodiversity, boasting of some of the highest species concentrations of mosses, lichens, and liverworts anywhere on Earth.

As such, with so much pure wilderness and a lack of civilization, trekkers are free to experience the trail as it has always been: undeveloped, save for trail markers, and secluded. Surrounded by Patagonia’s legendary landscapes, the Dientes Trek is a return to classic nature trekking, leaving behind the vestiges of civilization for new horizons and untrammelled paths, seeking communion with the earth and yourself.

Read more about the Dientes Trek and its sights and experiences here and check out our latest video:

What is a Transformational Travel Experience?

On the PURE Life Experiences website, a transformational travel program is defined as:

        “An immersive, perspective-shifting itinerary that challenges and inspires the sophisticated traveller on a deeply personal level, creating emotion through the powerful medium of storytelling and transforming their life for the better.”

Transformational travel is a deeply personal experience, since everyone is unique and different experiences will move and affect them in different ways. Some may find a culinary tour highlighting the cuisine of a little-known region or village as being transformative; others may find climbing their first mountain or kayaking down a river to be the experience that awakens something in them that they didn’t know was there before. On the Dientes Trek, the exposure to raw nature and disconnect from modernity have touched travelers, reminding them of the beauty, power, and fragility of nature and mankind, and how we are connected and depend on each other.

Ultimately, a transformational travel experience is about what moves and transforms you, and that is up to you. The important thing is to go out there and seek it.

How can I hike the Dientes Trek?

We offer an all-inclusive 6 day program covering the entire Dientes Circuit, including a bilingual guide, domestic airfare to and from the mainland, camping equipment, food and supplies, and lodging in the town of Puerto Williams at the beginning and ending of the trek.

The trek follows the entire Dientes trail, which is 33 miles (53.3 kilometers) long. Because of the ruggedness of the trail, the isolation, and Patagonia’s infamously unpredictable weather, the Dientes Trek is only recommended for experienced outdoorsmen and trekkers. But with such spectacular views and complete immersion in nature, all the difficulties are well worth it.

Click the link here to find out more about our Dientes program, and then talk to our sales staff here for more information about making your trip a reality!

Thank you again!

Your votes are what made this award possible, so thank your for your support; we couldn’t do it without you.

Featured

Chile Wins Best Adventure Travel Destination for 3rd Year in a Row

Viva Chile! For the third year in a row, from 2015 to 2017, Chile has been named the best adventure travel destination in South America at the World Travel Awards, an award ceremony that is known in the industry as the “Oscars of tourism”. Congratulations, Chile!

Why Chile?

We can’t say we’re that surprised, though. With diverse and varied landscapes covering the entire country from top to bottom, each destination offering unique opportunities for exploration and fun, it’s no wonder that Chile walked away with the top prize!

The driest desert in the world, the Atacama

Starting in the Atacama Desert in the north of the country, visitors are entranced by the Martian quality of the landscapes, with its red sand and bizarre rock formations, valleys of towering, rippling rock in a variety of colors, shimmering high altitude lakes that attract local wildlife like flamingos and vicunas (a relative of the llama), volcanoes, geysers, and much more, there’s no other place like it on Earth!

Santiago, skiing, and wine

From there, guests can head to the central zones, home to the cosmopolitan, storied streets of the capital city of Santiago, full of art, culture, a blossoming restaurant scene, hip bars and more. All this just short drives away from the Andes mountains, where during the winter you can shred the slopes at two of South America’s best ski resorts, Valle Nevado and Portillo, the wine valleys where you can go on tours and tastings, or Valparaiso on the coast, the heart of Chile’s bohemian scene with its vibrant houses, street art, and funiculars.

The Lakes District

Heading further south, you’ll find the Lakes District, home to volcanoes, pristine lakes and rivers, Germanesque architecture and food, temperate rainforests, and wild forests teeming with life. Verdant and rich with wildlife and culture, it’s a superb place for an adventurous getaway.

Torres del Paine and Patagonia

From the Lake District, there is only one place left to go: Patagonia. Home to Torres del Paine National Park, the eighth natural wonder of the world, Tierra del Fuego on the tip of the continent, and countless mountains, lakes, glaciers, and sprawling pampas, it’s the end of the line, the last pure wilderness on Earth. Drawing people from all over the world and all walks of life to its splendors and opportunities for adventure, it’s a truly once in a lifetime experience!

All this, and so much more, is what Chile has to offer.

 

Hiking, biking, kayaking and more!

So, you may be wondering, what kinds of outdoor activities can I do in Chile? Literally almost anything!

Hiking and Trekking

If you’re a hiking junkie and love nothing more than hitting the trails, Chile has you coveredThe Atacama Desert is crisscrossed by innumerable great hiking trails, taking trekkers through slot canyons, valleys, open plains, and along desert trails, passing by ancient petroglyphs and archeological sites, lakes, mountains, valleys, rivers, and wildlife, perfect for hardy trekkers looking for a challenge.

Further south, the forests of the Lakes District offer cool shade and fantastic views, offering trails that showcase the almost obscene biodiversity that Chile is blessed with. Glimpsing volcanoes through the trees while walking alongside roaring rivers, past turquoise lakes, and under ancient trees, it’s a walk through history and time.

But Chile’s hiking mecca is undoubtedly in Patagonia. Torres del Paine National Park is home to two of the most popular and frequented treks on the continent: the W Trek and the Paine Circuit. Visit the wonders of Torres del Paine, like the Grey Glacier, the base of the Torres, and French Valley, on the W, or go for the whole enchilada and circle the ENTIRE Paine Massif on the Paine (or “O”) trek. Or, become part of a small but elite group to hike the Dientes Trek, a stunning circuit located on Navarino Island in Tierra del Fuego, that has been lauded as one of the best treks in South America, but hardly anyone has heard of it!

Cycling and more!

But if you’re not so hot on hiking or want to experience Chile differently, fear not! There are activities here for every interest!

Cycling is also hugely popular and available all over the country, where you can mountain bike through the slot canyons of the Atacama Desert, the forests of the Lake District, or the pampas of Torres del Paine. Or, if you prefer something more relaxed, go on a bike and wine tour of the vineyards in Chile’s central wine valleys, where you get to spend a day biking between vineyards for tours and tastings!

Chile also has some of the best whitewater rafting and kayaking in the world, such as the legendary rivers of the Lakes District, whose rapids are world-renowned for their ferocity and fun. Kayaking can also be found, from the Lake District down to the lakes of Torres del Paine, where a popular activity is renting a kayak and paddling close to the face of the mighty Grey Glacier!

Prefer winter sports? Visit during the winter months of June to August to go skiing at some of the best ski resorts in South America, such as Portillo and Valle Nevado near Santiago for downhill, or Corralco and Chillan in the Lakes District for its cross-country trails…plus the chance to ski on a volcano!

But there’s even more that you can experience here! There’s horseback riding, ziplining, canoeing, rafting…the list is endless! That’s why Chile is proud to offer the ultimate in adventure travel!

What is Adventure Travel?

But what exactly is adventure travel?

Adventure travel is defined as “a type of tourism involving travel to remote or exotic locations in order to take part in physically challenging outdoor activities.”

So, if you love traveling all over the world to unknown locales full of wonder, and availing yourself of outdoor sports that both challenge and thrill you as a way to experience the landscapes, culture, and activities that that place has to offer, then you’re an adventure traveler, and we bet you’d love Chile!

Discover South America’s best adventure travel destination for yourself!

Talk to our expert sales staff to find the perfect Chilean adventure for you!

Featured

5 Boozy Ways To Celebrate Chilean Wine Day on September 4th

Let’s raise a glass of Chilean wine to Chilean wine!

On September 4th, National Chilean Wine Day, Chileans come together to celebrate a key part of their national character and  gastronomy: wine! First brought over as vines by conquistadors in the 1500s to grow and produce wine for religious ceremonies, following a request sent to King Carlos V of Spain by Pedro de Valdivia asking for “vines and wines to evangelise Chile”, Chilean wine has grown into a magnum opus, an icon of Chilean identity the world over.

Renowned for its luscious reds and crisp whites, and famous for classic varietals such as Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc, but also providing a haven for lesser-known grapes like Carmenere, Chilean terroir is ideal for wine, with the perfect combination of weather, soil, and climate to produce some of the finest wines in the New World.

Of course, we hope you can be here in Chile to celebrate this national occasion with us, but no matter where you are, there are ways to revel in this bacchanalia! So here’s five ways to make Dionysus and Chileans proud on National Chilean Wine Day, either here or at home!

1. Go on a wine tour – If you happen to be visiting Chile during our National Wine Day and will be based in Santiago, a must-do to mark the occasion is to head to the vineyards outside the capital for wine tours and tastings! Santiago is only a short drive from several of Chile’s best wine-growing valleys: Maipo, Colchagua, and Casablanca. Full of blue skies and tree-covered hills rolling up out of a patchwork valley floor of immaculate vineyards, it’s an enchanting sight, ideal for a relaxing day of wine-related festivities. You can visit the famous Concha y Toro vineyard for one of their popular day tours, or rent a bike and go cycling along the dirt roads that connect the vineyards to visit several vineyards for tastings and tours, with lunch included! Many vineyards also offer free tastings and special events on this day, so if there’s a specific vineyard you want to visit, such as Concha y Toro, Emiliana, or Santa Rita, check their website to see if they have anything special planned! But either way, spending the day wandering through leafy vineyards, learning about the history and processes of creating Chile’s refreshing wines, and tasting the results for yourself is a great way to celebrate 500 years of history!

2. Make a batch of one of Chile’s famous wine-based drinks – While popping open a bottle is a fine way to celebrate, did you know that Chile has many wine-based drinks and cocktails that are easy to whip up and enjoy, no matter the weather? For a refreshingly sweet summer sipper to cool down with on hot days, try out Melon Con Vino, a hollowed out honeydew melon filled with chilled white wine like Sauvignon Blanc and powdered sugar. Pass the melon around for everyone to take a sip, and good summertime memories are guaranteed! Another fruity summer libation for people who prefer red wine is borgona, a fruit cocktail of chilled red wine, strawberries or peaches, and sugar. Borgona is especially popular at fondas for Fiestas Patrias, the nationwide celebrations held in honor of Chilean independence from Spain. For something to warm you from the inside during the winter, navegado is Chile’s succulent version of mulled wine, consisting of warmed red wine like Carmenere, Pinot Noir, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon, heated with juicy sliced oranges and flavored with spices like cinnamon sticks and cloves.

3. Make a wine flight – Chile grows and produces such a wide range of varietals, it’s hard to know where to start when introducing yourself to the world of Chilean wine. But one great way to kick off your Chile wine education is by preparing a wine flight to compare and contrast the subtle differences between different varietals and vintages. There are several ways you can do your own wine flight; you can either do your own research online, using resources such as Wines of Chile, or head to your local wine store for recommendations. You know your tastes best, so ask the sales assistant for wine recommendations based on what kind of wine you generally like, such as red or white, or go in a different direction and try something new! A good place to start for really getting to know Chilean wine is with Carmenere, Chile’s flagship wine. Similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere was thought to have died out in its native France after the phylloxera plague of the mid 1800s, but was rediscovered in Chile in the 1990s, where it had been mistaken as Merlot. Start by selecting several bottles of Carmenere, each from a different region of Chile and a different year (so, for example, one bottle from the Maipo Valley, another from the Colchagua Valley, each of either the same year or with a few years difference, although please note that Carmenere is a wine best drunk young). During the tasting, pay attention to the difference in the bouquet of smells from each vintage, the contrasting tastes from different areas or years. This can be done with any number of Chilean vintages, allowing you to travel through the wine regions of Chile and become a local expert “somm” with each sip!

4. Treat yourself to a boozy romantic getaway in the wine valleys – There is nothing more relaxing and decadent than spending several days of wine-induced bliss with your significant other in a luxury hotel amongst Chile’s peaceful vineyards, enjoying fine wine, food, and leisure activities far away from the problems of the real world. Hide away in the secluded and tranquil Colchagua Valley, one of Chile’s premier wine-producing locales, for three perfect days of wine, food, and fun. Or, if you crave a little adventure and thrills, pair your wine getaway with a ski trip! The wine valleys are just a short drive from the cosmopolitan streets of Santiago, and just an hour or so beyond those are the epic slopes of the Andes, riddled with pitch-perfect runs that attract skiers from all over the world! Spend several days hitting the slopes, followed by downtime to relax and rest at a luxury hotel in the wine valleys for the perfect winter vacation.

5. Prepare an authentic Chilean meal paired with Chilean wine – Everyone knows that good wine is meant to be paired with good food, and Chilean gastronomy is no exception. With wine having been produced here since the mid 1800s, that’s a long history of working with food and flavor to find what tastes good together. Empanadas, humitas, pastel de choclo, fresh seafood; there’s so many different areas of Chilean cuisine to explore. With so much biodiversity, Chile is blessed with incredibly fresh and accessible ingredients, which can be found in abundance at markets all over the country, such as the famous Mercado Central in Santiago. Here, you can find everything you need to make a scrumptious Chilean meal, paired with local aperitifs such as pisco sours and wines to complement the meal. Best of all, with our Culinary Tours, you get to prepare the meal with the help of a local chef! But, if you’re on your own, we recommend a chilled white wine to go with Chile’s fresh fish, such as congrio or hake, or to go with red wine, fire up the grill for a traditional Chilean asado, with plenty of hearty meats and luscious red to wash it all down!

So salud to Chilean wine!

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Our 6 Favorite Kid-Friendly Destinations and Programs in Chile

If a trip to Chile is high on your list for a family vacation, but you’re a tad unsure if the little ones will be on board, fear not! With its mountains, ocean, deserts, forests, and cities, there can be found all over Chile destinations that appeal to kids young and old, and many of our programs are designed or can be customized to offer something for everyone in the family. Whether your kid is a budding astronomer, a wildlife enthusiast, or an outdoor adventure junky who just can’t wait to hop on their bike or hit the trails, we’ve got you covered! Here’s our top picks for our programs and destinations for family-friendly, kid-approved adventures!

1. Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve: Tucked away within the steaming temperate rainforests of Chile’s stunning Lakes District, the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve is an outdoor explorer’s dream. With prehistoric trees, pristine lakes and rivers, volcanoes trailing smoke across the blue sky, and a wealth of wildlife that can be glimpsed while out hiking, it’s like you’ve traveled back in time to before humans walked the Earth. Our 4 Day Huilo Huilo Rainforest Multi-Sport Adventure takes families white water rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and ziplining throughout this incredible wilderness for an unforgettable adventure. Kids love the ziplining, which is one of the longest lines in South America, and the chance to scream and shout while tackling the white water rapids of the Fuy River. Best of all, at the end of the day, the family can kick back and relax in local hot springs, while Mom and Dad can unwind with a cold one from the Petermann Brewery. So, if you’re the kind of family who enjoys heading out into the wilderness on the weekends for some thrills and spills, this is the trip for you!

2. Lakes District: While the Huilo Huilo is a definite highlight of the area, Chile’s Lakes District has endless opportunities for adventures and fun. Our Chile Lake District 4 Day Adventure or 5 Day Premium Adventure are based in the gorgeous Germanic town of Puerto Varas, an enclave of German-inspired architecture and food located on beautiful Llanquihue Lake, with the majestic Osorno Volcano dominating the skyline and wowing the little ones. Days are spent exploring the nearby parks Alerce Andino and Vicente Perez Rosales, home of the spectacular Todos Los Santos Lake. Activities include biking alongside Llanquihue Lake, rafting on the Petrohue River, kayaking, hiking, and even fly-fishing! The rest of the time is spent relaxing and getting to know the culture of the region, as well as tucking into the area’s delicious German-inflected cuisine. Best of all, parents, the area is famous for its craft breweries, so after a long day of thrills with the kids, you two can chill with a cold one in the evening! For families looking to balance cultural experience with outdoor adventures and sports, either of these programs is perfect.

3. Atacama Desert: Is this Earth or Mars? The surreal, otherworldly rock formations, hazy desertscapes, resilient wildlife, and ghost towns of the driest desert in the world do indeed make visitors feel out of this world. Our many Atacama programs have activities to suit all ages and interests. Want to go hiking? All of our Atacama programs, such as the 4 Day Explorer, include hikes in the Atacama’s famous Valle de la Luna, with amazing views and weird rock formations bound to intrigue the little ones. Want a bit more adventure and thrills? Epic Atacama Multisport has you covered, with horseback riding, cycling, and more! Is your kid interested in archeology and history? The Atacama Hiking – Cultural Journey takes you deep into the desert to discover ancient villages and archaeological sites that offer glimpses into the lives of the people who used to call this harsh landscape home. There’s much more in store as well, such as trips to the watch the Tatio Geysers erupt, visiting high-altitude lakes frequented by flamingos, and even the chance for a hot air balloon ride over the desert at sunrise! The opportunities are endless.

Plus, if you have a little stargazer in your family, then the Atacama is not to be missed. Its location, climate, and lack of large cities give it some of the clearest night skies anywhere on Earth. The Milky Way can clearly be seen with the naked eye, planets and other astronomical bodies studied with telescopes, constellations outlined, meteor showers ‘wowed’ at…maybe you’ll even glimpse a satellite or the International Space Station flying by overhead. Our Atacama Desert Astronomical Dinner extension, which can be added onto any Atacama program, is perfect for those who watch the skies, as guests can enjoy a delicious dinner out in the desert while a local astronomy tour guide shows you the wonders of the night sky.

4. Wildlife Safari at EcoCamp Patagonia, Torres del Paine: Does your kid LOVE nature documentaries? Get wild about wildlife? Spend hours pouring over animal books and beg to go to the zoo? Do them one better, and take them to Torres del Paine to see the local wildlife! Nestled in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia, EcoCamp Patagonia is not just any ordinary hotel – it’s made out of geodesic domes, and eco-friendly ones at that! If staying in a dome doesn’t sound like the coolest thing ever, we don’t know what is! What we do know is that kids LOVE EcoCamp! Thrilled by our unique hotel rooms, the location, and the opportunity to see wildlife on site, it’s a kid paradise. But it’s what takes place out in the park that really makes an impression. Our unique Wildlife Safari program takes guests on day trips around the park, with activities ranging from hikes to nature walks to boating, all with different levels of difficulty. These day trips are perfect for families with kids, as the excursions are of a manageable length and the difficulty levels are suitable for children. Plus, they show off parts of the park that kids will love to see, such as the massive front wall of the immense Grey Glacier (which is sure to get some ‘wow! Cool! Look at that!’ from open-mouthed onlookers), or learning about the local flora and fauna on nature walks that get you up close and personal with the park’s residents, like spindly-legged guanacos or ostrich-esque Darwin’s Rheas.

5. Penguin Watching in Tierra del Fuego: This one is a guaranteed winner with the kiddos, because who doesn’t love penguins!? Beaches and islands throughout Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego are covered in these cuddly, waddling critters, and getting to see them in person is a sheer delight for kids and adults alike. With our Full Day King Penguin Viewing excursion, you’ll visit the King Penguin Park in Tierra del Fuego, where the only colony of king penguins – the stars of March of the Penguins –  in South America can be found. But did you know that there’s a penguin colony here where you can actually WALK around amongst the penguins? Our Half Day Magellan Strait Penguin Adventure takes you to Isla Magdalena to meet the locals – a colony of 150,000 Magellanic penguins. Perfect for close observation and great photo opps, this tour also offers the chance to see dolphins, sea lions, and maybe even whales! These programs are a great extension for EcoCamp programs, as well.

6. Salta, Argentina: Is the next Indiana Jones in your family, excavating ancient artifacts from under the kitchen sink and hiking through the jungles and high plains of the back yard in search of adventure? A trip to Salta in Argentina’s northern provinces has both you and your little explorer covered! Located in the northwestern reaches of Argentina, near the Atacama desert, Salta is a splendid colonial city, a place trapped in time with stunning architecture and a fascinating mix of indigenous and Spanish culture. With walking tours through the city center, an aerial cable car ride to take in the view (sure to elicit ‘ohhhhs’ and ‘ahhhhs’ from the tiny peanut gallery) visits to museums such as the famous MAAM, which houses Incan artifacts and is the home of three mummified Incan children that are more than 500 years old, hikes through high-mountain canyons full of colorful strata layers, and wine tastings of the region’s refreshing Torrontes wines (for the adults only, of course!), Salta is easily one of Argentina’s best up-and-coming family destinations.

Curious about one of the above programs, or want to find out what other programs we have are good for the entire family? Talk to our sales team here!

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EcoCamp Patagonia Voted 32nd Best Hotel in the World

We are thrilled to announce that EcoCamp Patagonia was selected as the 32nd Best Hotel in the World and the 2nd Best Hotel in South America in Travel + Leisure's prestigious World's Best Awards. The annual survey compiles votes from over 300,000 T+L readers to identify the best in the travel and tourism industry, and we are so proud and honored that EcoCamp has received this distinction. 

Located in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia, EcoCamp Patagonia was founded in 2001 by Yerko Ivelic and Javier Lopez, two Chilean engineers and the founders of Cascada Expediciones. With the goal of creating a unique, sustainable accommodation option in remote Torres del Paine, they took inspiration from the local indigenous Kaweskar tribe and their “leave no trace” lifestyles and houses, crafting state-of-the-art geodesic domes that run of solar and hydraulic energy, are fully eco-friendly, and allow guests an immersion with their surroundings that other hotels lack. It was the first hotel of its kind in the world.

Since then, EcoCamp has served as an inspiration and trailblazer in ecotourism, inspiring the creation of eight other similar hotels around the world, and spurring interest in sustainability and ecotourism in the region. Guests have come from all over the world to partake of the EcoCamp experience, and their appreciation and support of our work and goals is evident in this award.

We are thankful and humbled by the honor. We thank our guests, our industry partners, and our staff for their dedication and support, and will continue to serve our guests and work towards a more sustainable future.  

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Fly Over The Atacama Desert In A Hot Air Balloon with Cascada’s Keila Jimenez

At Cascada, we believe in making sure that the programs we provide are the best, which means trying them out for ourselves! For this adventure, our USA Account Executive, Keila Jimenez, shares her experience flying over the Atacama Desert at sunrise with our "Atacama Sunrise Ballooning" extension program, available as an add-on for Atacama programs. 

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I call this adventure "Floating over the Atacama", which is the driest desert in the world!

On April 16th, the adventure began when the transfer van for Balloons over Atacama picked me up at 7:10 AM from my hotel. I must say, I was a bit nervous. Our destination, Ayllú de Tulor, is one of the usual places used for hot air balloon takeoffs and landings. Cary Crawley, our flight pilot and host, was waiting for us at the site. Next to him, the crew, all of them local Atacameños, were in charge of putting together the breakfast, as well as inflating the balloon.

First, they offered us a rich breakfast, with "medialunas" (croissants) fresh from the oven, and coffee. While we ate, Cary gave us the safety talk and explained how the whole activity would work. Then, everyone began to unfold the fabric of the balloon to proceed with inflating the balloon, which was a show not to be missed! I took a croissant and I went with my camera to capture the roughly 15 minutes "balloon inflation". This part was very exciting, witnessing how this great fabric would become our ship.

Once this imposing red balloon was ready in front of us, it was time to take off!!!

The sun had just appeared on the mountain range when the pilot invited us to climb into the basket, following what was learned in the safety talk. There were 14 of us, and one by one, we all entered the basket and prepared our cameras… and suddenly, without realizing it, we were floating over the desert at a height of about 400 meters … which is a lot for a person who suffers from vertigo like me! We all watched in silence, marveling at this landscape that we rarely enjoy from above.

From the sky, it was possible to see the beautiful desert landscape below us, full of colors that changed as the sun rose. The flight was smooth and very relaxing; it gave one the feeling of floating and I easily forgot my fear of heights! During the 50 minutes that the flight lasted, the pilot explained details about the elevation, wind, direction of the globe, etc. He also acted a tourist guide, showing us the town, the mountain range of the Andes, volcanoes, and the beautiful Salar (salt flats)!!

When we reached a height of about 700 meters and we have all taken thousands of photos, the pilot started the descent near Coyo, another Ayllu near the Valley of the Moon. The landing is far the most QUIET experience I could have imagined, the pilot was so delicate that it was alsmot impossible to believe. Here, we found the crew with champagne and juices to toast and finish off this great experience! The most beautiful thing is that, at the end, the pilot gives you a Certificate of Flight with your name and your signature, to help you rememeber this memorable moment! Cute, right?

Finally on land, I feel like doing it again a thousand times!

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Discover the Incredible Legend of the Laguna del Inca at Ski Portillo

We all love a good love story. Particularly ones about deep, eternal love that spans centuries, that even death itself couldn’t extinguish.

The site of such a tale can be found just a short drive from Chile’s capital city of Santiago.

Nestled in the alpine reaches of the Andes, the Portillo ski resort retains a well-deserved reputation as being one of the best ski resorts in the country and even the world. It was the first ski resort founded in South America, and to this day, skiers from all over the world head to this valley to carve their way down the slopes and luxuriate in the grandeur of the high Andes.

But one of the things that makes the resort a prized retreat is not only the sublime opportunities for skiing and snowboarding, but its location. Laying directly in front of the resort and flanked by mighty peaks is a stunning mountain lake of shimmery aquamarine. The lake, known as “Laguna del Inca” or “Lake of the Incas,” is a breathtaking sight in winter or summer – in summer, set against the bare slopes that race right down to the water’s edge, and in winter, surrounded by snow and ice. Day and night, the sheer surface holds a pristine mirror to the majestic peaks of the Andes.

But the lake is more than a pretty feature of the landscape. It hides an ancient Incan legend.

Long before the Spanish arrived and conquered Chile, back before the lake was the brilliant blue we see today, the valley was home to an Incan village. Since the Incans were known as the “children of the sun,” the high mountains were perfect for rituals and traditions honoring their heritage.

A prince and brave warrior named Illi Yupanqui lived in the valley, and as he was a prince, he was also known as the “son of the Sun.” A young, eligible man, he was in need of a wife.

He found exactly who he was looking for in Kora-Illé, a gorgeous princess with emerald eyes full of vibrant color and life. The two fell in love and believed themselves to be soul mates.

They were engaged to be married, and it was decided that the wedding ceremony would take place at the summit of one of the mountains surrounding the lake. The wedding party dutifully made the long trek to the heights, where the princess, bedecked with her wedding finery, stood ready.

In keeping with tradition, the princess needed to descend a steep slope with her entourage behind her. The path was treacherous, a narrow trail covered in loose, slippery stones precipitously routed on the edge of the mountain just above the void of the valley. But the princess forged ahead, ready to marry her prince.

Illi Yupanqui waited.

Suddenly, shouts rang out, echoing through the valley.

When Illi Yupanqui ran to discover the source of the noise, he saw to his horror that his bride-to-be had fallen from the path. Although he raced down the mountain to her side, it was too late.

Distraught over her sudden death, the Prince decreed that she would be laid to rest in the only place that matched her beauty: the lake on the valley floor.

Covered in a white sheet, Kora-Illé was confined to the depths of the lake. As she sank, the color of the water magically changed to match the crystalline blue of her eyes.

A different retelling of the story also has it that the princess fell during a royal hunt known as a “nascu.”

But whichever version you choose to believe, the prince forever mourned his lost love…even to this day.

On cold, full moon winter nights, when huddling by the fire with a hot beverage cradled in your hands after a day of leisure or sport…there! Can you hear it? Is that the wind howling throughout the valley? The gentle whisper of snow blowing off the high crags and peaks? Or could it possibly be the haunting wails of Illi Yupanqui, continuing to cry for the princess with the blue eyes, who rests for eternity at the bottom of the lake out there in the darkness? You decide.

Visit Ski Portillo during the summer skiing season and discover for yourself the mystery of the Laguna del Inca.

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7 Types of Chilean Bread You Need to Try

When visiting Chile, if you feel like you’re seeing panaderias (bakeries) on almost every block and are wondering if your mind is playing tricks on you, it’s not. Chileans are the second biggest bread consumers in the world, after the Germans, with each person putting away an average of anywhere between 86 and 95 kilograms of bread a year.

While that may seem like a lot, once you try Chilean bread for yourself, it’s easy to see why bread is Chile’s premier dietary staple: it’s delicious! Almost everyday of the year, panaderias around the country churn out batch after steaming batch of fragrant, warm bread of many varieties that quickly disappear into to-go bags as customers whisk them off home before the bread gets cold for evening once (teatime). Many people eat bread with most meals. To truly understand the national character, a trip to the local neighborhood panaderia to try out the different varieties is essential.

To start your Chilean bread education, here’s seven of Chile’s favorite breads that you are likely to encounter at a meal spread, and which you should try! Tell us your favorite Chilean bread in the comments below.

1. Marraqueta – The marraqueta is Chile’s version of a French baguette; not necessarily in shape or texture, but in that it is a cultural signifier, a symbol of Chilean gastronomy around the world, an instantly recognizable national icon. Also known as pan batido and pan frances, the marraqueta is a single loaf of bread that’s halved into four smaller rolls, but still connected by a thin base layer of bread that keeps the separate rolls attached but makes it easy to break off the rolls for individual enjoyment. With a crunchy crust and light, fluffy filling that’s produced by baking the rolls with a pan of water in the oven to create steam, marraquetas are popular for making sandwiches and as a bun for completos and choripan. It’s thought that the marraqueta first came to Chilean shores thanks to a pair of French brothers going by the name Marraquete, who arrived in the early 19th century. The French connection is also found in the use of similar ingredients for marraquetas and many French breads, which are made using only flour, water, yeast, and salt.

2. Hallulla – Probably the second most popular bread after marraquetas, the hallulla is a circular, flat roll with a starchy filling. Used most commonly for making Chile’s hearty sandwiches or toast topped with pebre, a Chilean “pico de gallo”, the different flavor and texture is produced by adding vegetable shortening or butter to the mix. Unlike the marraqueta, the hallulla hails from the Middle East, where it was eaten around Easter, and it made the journey to the New World with the Spanish.

3. Pan Amasado – Although Chileans are bonafide bread lovers, pan amasado holds a special place in their hearts, not only because of its flavor and oven-warmed heat, but also because it can easily be made at home, unlike other breads. This is why you can frequently find street vendors hawking “pan amasado!” from carts with rounded clay ovens on top that bake the bread and keep it warm right there on the street. Literally translated to “kneaded bread”, pan amasado has a flaky crust and a soft, doughy filling, and is best enjoyed right after it’s been baked when it’s still piping hot from the oven. With a circular, disc-like shape similar to sopaipillas or hallulla, it can be eaten with pebre, butter, or even something sweet like manjar, Chile’s answer to dulce de leche.

4. Coliza – Flat and square, the coliza is similar to the hallulla in taste and appearance: a chewy, heavy bread, but with a flakier crust and easier to crack and break apart to eat in pieces. Not much is known about how the coliza originated or came to Chile, but it’s especially tasty when toasted with butter or jam. Lots of bakers also like to have with the coliza by adding embellishments and decorations to the flat-top crust, tracing designs and images, or using rolls or cut-outs of dough to illustrate scenes or pictures.

5. Bocado de dama – These crispy rolls are arguably the prettiest type of bread one can buy at panaderias in Chile! The roll of fresh dough is wound into a circle which gives the bread the appearance of a cinnamon roll! Also known as pan macarena, the bocado de dama is a bit of a mystery when it comes to its origins and how it arrived in Chile. Despite this, it is believed by some to Chile’s most culturally significant bread, even more so than marraquetas, because of the complexity of layering the dough to create the rippling, spiral effect, the addition of sugar and other ingredients, how each individual loaf is cut from a giant “roll” of layered dough before baking (also similar to how cinnamon rolls are made), and also because of its privileged place in Chilean high society cuisine prior to marraquetas taking over. Translating to “mouthful of lady” or “bite of lady,” its name originates from how high society ladies in Chile’s past favored this bread for once because it was easily breakable into tiny pieces that could be delicately eaten in a ladylike fashion. Less popular now than they were in the past, bocado de dama is baked less frequently at panaderias, but it still a lovely sight and a great bread for snacking on!

6. Dobladita – If you like your bread crunchy and crispy, then the dobladita is the Chilean bread for you! A flat slab of dough is folded twice to form a triangle, which is then coated in melted butter and baked to perfection! Although not ideal for sandwiches, dobladitas are great for snacking on at once, and to have with condiments like pebre, butter, or jam. The type of dough and style of making these is similar to that used to made empanadas, sans the filling.

7. Sopaipilla – For readers of our blog, the sopaipilla should a familiar and yummy sight! For those not in the know, the Chilean sopaipilla is a popular street food, a tiny, flat disk made from flour and softened Andean pumpkin. Fried in hot oil, it’s a handy snack on the go or for once, and can be topped with any number of condiments, from ketchup and mustard to hot sauce and pebre. Sopaipillas are a staple of Hispanic cuisine, and they vary depending on the country or region. For example, in New Mexico and other parts of the States with strong Hispanic influence, sopaipillas are a sweet bread that puffs up like a pillow and is best eaten with honey or sugar, whereas in other South American countries, sopaipillas tend more toward the savory. However, Chile’s sweet tooth will not be denied, and so Chileans have their own winter-time version of sopaipillas known as sopaipillas pasadas, where old sopaipillas are drenched in syrup and then eaten like pancakes.

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12 Pictures of Yoga at EcoCamp That Will Make You Want to “Namaste” With Us

Yoga is good for the mind and body. So is being outdoors. Bring the two together, and it's a harmonious partnership.

At EcoCamp Patagonia, we believe strongly in the physical and mental powers of this ancient art, and think it is an immenseful beneficial experience to practice it in nature, removed from the pressures of the real world. Cut off from the world, with no Wi-Fi and isolated in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park, it's the perfect place for yoga. Perched at the edge of the EcoCamp site, with an expansive, calming view of the surrounding grasslands, the spacious, cozy Yoga Dome is the ideal place to start the day, stretching your body and mind to prepare for the day's adventures ahead. With our yoga teacher guiding you through classic poses and helping you relax, meditate, and wake up, with the mighty Torres rising in the background and the rising sun painting the landscape before you, it refreshs you and allows you to tackle the day with a clear head and heart, and energized body.

In honor of International Yoga Day, we hope these twelve pictures of our Yoga Dome and its practioners will inspire you to roll out your yoga mat and strike a pose, or, maybe even, come for a "namaste" with us to see why practicing yoga in Patagonia is such a special experience.

1. Our yoga dome lights up the night.

2. Pulling bow pose with a view.

3. A calming moment of padmasana. 

4. Stretching to prep for a day on the trails. 

5. Balance is key. 

6. Warrior pose. 

7. The walkway to the new Yoga Dome. 

8. Can you imagine a better place for yoga?

9. Breathe in, breathe out.

10. Fresh air and calming views. 

11. A moment to unwind…

12. A good stretch.

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Running the Patagonia International Marathon with EcoCamp Ambassador Laura Lisowski

I see skies of blue and clouds of white, the bright blessed day, the sacred night

And I think to myself… what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people going by.

I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do.

They’re really saying… I love you.

And I think to myself… what a wonderful world.

Around mile 13 a fellow marathoner caught up to the pack of runners I was in, smirking knowingly as he turned up his handheld speaker which so fittingly emitted Louis Armstrong’s ‘It’s a Wonderful World’.  I looked over, laughed, and even slightly shook my head, knowing that as cliché of a moment as it was, it was one that would surely stick with me for years to come.  

This wonderful world indeed seemed to whiz by me in a blur as I finished the back half of the Patagonia International Marathon, the tune seemingly serving as a temporary remedy to help me overcome the endless stretches of painfully beautiful hills, a glaring reminder of the long training runs I hadn’t done back home in London.  I crossed the finish line, taking mental snapshots of as many views of Los Cuernos as possible while trying to regain my breath.  I shook hands with fellow finishers.  I searched for the nearest apple or sandwich.  

I looked around and absorbed every single thing I could about this moment: the sunshine beaming down on my face, the surprisingly wind-free conditions, the way the late morning light hit the snow, the people congratulating each other, in awe of what they had just accomplished.  This was my place and these were my people.  

All I could think was: I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  I’m not sure I had ever felt that emotion so entirely before.

What I and the other thousands of runners had completed together that September morning would be a memory not soon (if ever) forgotten.  Many marathons are run each year- and people run them for different reasons: personal goals, with or for family members, fundraising for a cause, etc.  But this experience felt somehow different.  With crossing that finish line, we would be bonded for life, not just by the race we had just completed, but by the experience of running in truly the most beautiful place on earth.  That, and the effort it took to get there in the first place.

Running in Patagonia is a different type of experience than running anywhere else.

It’s not just about a dedication to training, or the steady pulse of your feet hitting the pavement relentlessly for 26.2 miles on race day; It’s about getting back to the basics, and stretching our physical and mental limits as humans.

It’s about being reminded with every step that we are all a part of and wholly responsible for this uniquely pristine land.

It’s about respecting what we all stand for: beauty, purity, great wide open spaces – and the protection of them.

It’s about coming together as one, rather than being wedged apart, despite being individual racers, each with his or her own story, opinions and backgrounds.

The runners dedicated themselves to traveling many hours and thousands of miles, and in many cases, even days to being in Patagonia arrived to the race that day with one overarching personal truth: this is the place, and these are the moments that make us feel alive.

They give us faith.  They give us hope.  

My Patagonia marathon experience and desire to help do my part in this world and minimize my own footprint was only amplified by my stay at Ecocamp Patagonia with Cascada Expediciones.  

As Torres del Paine’s first fully sustainable accommodation, Ecocamp is a place that you can relax in what feels like the most luxurious place on earth, but also feel good about doing so.

Ecocamp lives and breathes the same truths and mores as the runners who are attracted to the Patagonia marathon, and it’s not hard to see why it is so special to so many of us who stayed there before and after race day.  

The Ecocamp team fully embodies the spirit of giving back, teamwork, and supporting one’s own community: 90% of the guides are employed from local regions, all food is bought from nearby suppliers, the majority of the decoration inside the domes comes from Argentinian and Chilean artisans.  And this isn’t limited to just the staffing and importing of products, but extends as well to the thoughtful construction of the domes themselves.  The semi-spherical Ecocamp domes have skylight windows, are heated by the old-fashioned way (fire) and are constructed in such a way to minimize their impact on the Earth.  

The property stays at the forefront of the newest green capabilities and actively seeks ways to improve and to do better (currently, electricity is limited and propane gas is used for heating, but the founders are in active talks to implement solar energy for heating in the near future).   

The same way that we, as runners, are used to pushing our limits to the best of our ability, Ecocamp prides itself on pushing comfort ‘to the limits of what is sustainable’.  Through their ethos, they demonstrate that within us all exists a capacity and ability to take care of and respect the land we live on.  What matters most is our continued conscious effort and dedication to doing so.  Ecocamp is trying harder than anyone I know, and creating a truly unique experience in doing so.  

Track and field coach and cofounder of Nike’s Bill Bowerman once said, “The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. It’s to test the limits of the human heart.”

I couldn’t agree more, and a stay at soulful Ecocamp combined with the experience of the Patagonia Marathon gave me the ultimate heartfelt experience.  

Life feels simpler out there, but it feels just right.

Featured

6 Things to Do in Santiago During Winter

Winter in the city is a magical time, and with its mountainous surroundings and cosmopolitan hustle and bustle, Santiago is a winter wonderland on par with the best of them. Surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Andean Cordillera, Santiago is South America’s rising star city, bursting with cultural activities, outdoor fun, a vibrant culinary scene, and endless entertainment options, from dawn til dusk and at all hours of the night. Add winter to the mix, and you have yourself the ultimate winter getaway. Whether you want to hit the slopes of the world-famous ski resorts just hours from Santiago, wine and dine yourself at the city’s bars and restaurants, or escape the cold by perusing Santiago’s many museums, art galleries, and shopping options, Santiago has something for every winter person, whether you’re a homebody who loves to cuddle up by the fire with a glass of wine, or an adrenaline junkie craving the thrills of a ski slope.

Plus, with our "Discover Winter in Chile" special, you'll receive either a free hotel night or a free Bike & Wine tour!

1. Soak up the view of the Cordillera from Santiago’s best lookouts – Santiago is beautifully situated in a sprawling river valley, towered over by the Cordillera of the Andes Mountains. These hulking mounds of ancient rock dominate the skyline and are equally impressive and humbling at any time of the year, but they are especially spectacular in winter, when the jagged peaks are dusted in white snow. One of the best places to appreciate the sheer scale of Santiago in relation to the mountains and enjoy the Instagram-worthy vista is from the top of Cerro Cristobal, a hill in central Santiago that is topped with a statue of the Virgin Mary, has a funicular, and is a popular spot for walks and family time on the weekends. But, if it’s a particularly cold day and you can’t motivate yourself to brave the cold for the view, head to the Gran Torre at the Costanera Center. This sleek skyscraper is the tallest in South America, and recently opened a viewing platform on the top floor, where visitors can be ‘wowed’ by a 360 degree panorama of those epic, snowy mountains and Santiago’s urban sprawl.

2. Stock up on woolen goods – Being so far south and abutted on both sides by mountains and ocean, Chile gets cold in winter, so Chileans know how to keep the chill at bay. Knitting is practically a national pastime (for women and men!), and as you walk the streets during winter, most Chileans will be bundled up in a fuzzy cocoon of cozy knitwear. To score yourself some fashionable lana, check out weekend artisan ferias, as well as boutique clothing stores. One item to definitely splurge on would be anything made from vicuna wool. A relative to the llama, vicuna fur is gloriously soft and traps heat well, perfect for a souvenir hat or scarf that will keep you warm for many winters to come. Or, for something a bit more classic, go for sheep's wool from the wide-open pampas of Patagonia in the south. 

3. Ski your heart out at nearby ski resorts – The mountains that create such a dramatic backdrop to the city also give central Chile some of the best ski slopes around, and as such, Chile is a world-class destination for downhill skiing. Tucked away in the mountains just 2 hours from the city, Ski Portillo is home to some of the finest downhill runs in the area, with athletes traveling from all over the world to train. Slightly closer at only an hour outside Santiago, Valle Nevado sits perched above the clouds, overlooking South America’s largest skiable area stretched over three separate valleys. Both resorts have a variety of runs and off-pistes for all levels, from beginner to advanced, offer equipment rental and other amenities and entertainment options, and on average get more than 20 feet of snow per year. There’s no better place to enjoy a summer of skiing than at Santiago’s ski resorts. And best of all, when you need a break from the slopes, make the short drive back into town to enjoy all the fun that Santiago has to offer!

4. Raise a glass to winter wine – Chile’s reputation for fine wine is justly earned, and with many of the country’s best vineyards located a mere hour or so away in neighboring valleys, there’s no excuse not to head out of the city for some wine tours. On the tours, you’ll learn about the winemaking process and the history of wine in Chile, and also be treated to tastings of the vineyard’s choice varietals. But there’s also plenty of wine-centric things to do in the city, such as seeking out one of Santiago’s wine bars, like Bocanariz or La Liguria, for a few glasses or to compare and contrast with a wine flight, or trying a steaming cup of navegado, which is the Chilean version of mulled wine (try out the recipe here). After all, wine and winter go hand in hand.

5. Chow down on tasty winter fare at one of Santiago’s great restaurants – Whether looking for a sit-down dinner at a fancy restaurant, eager to try some authentic Chilean dishes, or hankering for a quick snack on the go during all that sightseeing, Santiago has you covered! For street food, look no further than the empanada and sopaipilla carts that can be found on many street corners, where you can stuff yourself on chewy, savory sopaipillas made from Andean pumpkin, or any of a variety of empanadas, such as cheese, ground beef, or neapolitana. For quintessential Chilean food, try out one of the city’s many fuente de sodas – the Chilean equivalent of a diner – for seasonal dishes like cazuela or pantrucas, or head to classic restaurants like La Liguria to take on Chile’s hearty sandwiches. But Santiago is also proving itself a rising star in innovative cuisine, with new, imaginative restaurants serving up unique takes on traditional Chilean recipes opening up every day. Just take Borago, ranked as one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World, or Aqui Esta Coco. No matter what you’re craving, Santiago will provide.

6. See the sights with fewer crowds – Sightseeing in winter can sometimes be hindered by bad weather or low temperatures, but one added bonus is that there will be fewer or no crowds at popular tourist sites! Take in the splendor of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Santiago without the masses of people; stroll through trendy neighborhoods like Lastarria and Bellavista and feel like a local instead of just being part of the tourist crowd; see the whimsical home of Chile’s beloved poet, Pablo Neruda, sans the crush of tour groups; and wander through Santiago’s many fine museums, like the Fine Arts Museum, the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, the National Museum, the Natural History museum, and many more, free to peruse the exhibits and educate yourself at your leisure.

Find out more about our winter tours and deals here!

Featured

Submit your best hiking photo and you could win a trip to Patagonia with us!

Do you love the great outdoors? Do you love photography? Do you love sharing your photos with the world, displaying your adventures, the amazing places you visit and interesting people you meet?

Would you love to win a free trip to Patagonia?

Now’s your chance! Put your passion for photography and travel to the test and enter our new photo contest! All you have to do is submit your BEST hiking picture, and you could win a free “Wildlife Safari” for 2 at EcoCamp Patagonia in Torres del Paine, Chile, where you’ll get to experience the dramatic landscapes and plentiful wildlife of Patagonia, complete with a stay at our award-winning, eco-friendly hotel. The photo could be of a pose on a dramatic rock outcrop with a stunning view, an uphill slog through the woods, a quiet moment of contemplating nature… just be creative and have fun! For contest terms and conditions, please see below.

So what are you waiting for? Hit the trails and get those shutters clicking! We can’t wait to see what you’ve got! Follow the link to participate (you need Facebook) : wshe.es/uEuKlDJT

“SHOW US YOUR BEST HIKING PICTURE” PHOTO CONTEST TERMS & CONDITIONS

1. ENTRY: No purchase necessary to enter or win. Contestants will enter by submitting digital photos through the available contest form and are eligible by liking our Facebook page, “Cascada Expediciones”.

To be eligible, images must meet the following requirements: (a) show/highlight hiking in a natural setting/environment, and (b) must be JPEG format only. Maximum upload size is 8Mo.

2. ELIGIBILITY: The picture with the most votes wins. This contest is open to anyone over the age of 18. Employees of Cascada Expediciones are not eligible to participate.

3. CONTEST DEADLINE: Entries must be submitted by Monday, July 24th, 2017.

4. WINNER SELECTION: Votes will be collected until July 24th, 2017. Voting is done by “liking” your favorite photo in the contest photo gallery.

The photo that receives the most votes at the end of the collection period wins. All decisions are final.

5. PRIZE: The winner will receive a “Wildlife Safari” for 2 people at EcoCamp Patagonia (Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile) for 5 days in either September, April, or early May (low season) in a Suite Dome. Dates are subject to availability. Flights to/from Chile (international) and to a regional airport in Patagonia are not included in the prize. More information about the Wildlife Safari program:

https://www.cascada.travel/en/Tour/EcoCamp-Patagonia-Wildlife-Safari?sku=PATSD5PDH

6. WINNER NOTIFICATION: The winners will be officially notified by July 31st. Inability to contact a winner may result in disqualification and the selection of an alternate winner.

7. GENERAL CONDITIONS:

a. Participants hereby grant Cascada Expediciones a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide license to broadcast, publish, store, reproduce, distribute, syndicate, and otherwise use and exhibit the Submission (along with the winner’s name), in all media now known and may later will come into being for purposes of trade or advertising without further compensation. Participants represent and warrant that they are the owners of the photography they submitted.

b. Any entry considered inappropriate, offensive and defamatory, not fitting the stated category of Hiking photography will be rejected.

8. USE OF CONTEST INFORMATION: All entries become the property of Cascada Expediciones,which reserves the right to use any and all information related to the contest, including submissions provided by the contestants, for editorial, marketing and any other purpose, unless prohibited by law.

9. NOT ENDORSED BY FACEBOOK: By participating in this contest, you acknowledge that this contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook and release Facebook from any and all liability arising from or related to this contest. The information you are providing for this contest is being provided to Cascada Expediciones and not to Facebook, and will be used to notify you if you have won, and to inform you about programs and special offers from Cascada Expediciones.

10. CONDUCT: All contest participants agree to be bound by these Official Rules. Cascada Expediciones, in its sole discretion, reserves the right to disqualify any person it finds to be tampering with the entry process, the operation of its web site or is otherwise in violation of these rules.

11. LIMITATIONS OF LIABILITY: Cascada Expediciones is not responsible for late, lost or misdirected email or for any computer, online, telephone or technical malfunctions that may occur. If for any reason, the contest is not capable of running as planned, including infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention or technical failures of any sort, Cascada Expediciones may cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the contest. Entrants further agree to release Cascada Expediciones from any liability resulting from, or related to participation in the contest.

12. WINNERS LIST: The names of the winner will be available on the Cascada Expediciones Facebook Page after the contest has been completed.

Featured

Try Chile’s classic hot dog for “Completo Day”!

In Chile, May 24th can only mean one thing: it’s Dia de Completo, or Completo Day!

What is a completo? It’s Chile’s favorite kind of dog – hot dog, that is.

Just as with cities like Chicago and New York, which have their own quintessential versions of hotdogs in the “Chicago Dog” or the “New York hotdog”, the completo is Chile’s classic fast food ‘dog, although they’re a little more lenient with swapping out toppings.

Popular as a street food and for meals, the completo – which literally translate to “the complete” – is an iconic part of Chilean cuisine, bringing together three of Chileans’ favorite things: fresh veggies and avocado, a hearty red meat sausage, and a giant, toasted bun, usually made from Chilean marraqueta bread.

There are many different kinds of completos, but the “Completo Italiano” is the most common and popular, so called because its main ingredients – mashed avocado, diced tomatoes, and a squirt of mayonnaise – are the same colors as the Italian flag.

Other versions of completos include the standard completo, which comes with avocado, tomatoes, and sauerkraut; the dinamico, decked out with avocado, tomatoes, mayonnaise, and sauerkraut; the “as”, which swaps out grilled meat and with all the fixings of a completo italiano; and finally, the carb-o-licious combo of “a la pobre”, which has fried onions, french fries, and a fried egg on top of the sausage.

To celebrate Completo Day, here’s the recipe for the classic Completo Italiano. Happy eating!

You’ll need:

  • Hot dogs
  • Buns or rounded loaves that you can split open
  • Avocadoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Mayonnaise

To do:

  • Cut open and gut the avocados. Mash the contents together
  • Wash and dice the tomatoes
  • Cook or grill hot dogs until done
  • Toast the buns
  • First, add the hot dog to the toasted bun. Then pile on tomato, followed by a swab of avocado, and then top it with a drizzle of mayonnaise. Feel free to add other condiments such as ketchup

Enjoy!

Featured

These Chilean Hot Springs Are The Perfect Place To Soak During Winter

Chile’s location on the far end of the Pacific Ring of Fire – a geographic hotspot of tectonic plate movement and active fault lines that results in regular volcanic and seismic activity – has an unexpected but welcome side effect: a network of close to 270 thermal hot springs spanning the length of the country, many of them perfect for a relaxing soak on a cold winter’s day.

Winter in Chile brings with it many opportunities for outdoor fun and leisure, and what better way to enjoy those snowy days and nights than laying back to relax in a natural pool of soothing, steaming thermal water while a quiet snowfall blankets the landscapes around you? Sounds like the ultimate, “treat-yourself” paradise, right?

With our Discover Winter in Chile special promotion, you’ll find tours in Chile’s most spectacular winter landscapes, from the snow-dusted salt flats of the Atacama to the quiet, snow-covered forests of the Lakes District and beyond, with regional hot springs every step of the way ready to heat you up and treat you to a day of steamy relaxation!

1. Termas de Puritama – It can get cold up in the chilly heights of the driest desert on Earth, so what better way to escape the elements than sliding into an all-natural, high-altitude, sodium-sulphate thermal bath? Located near the tourism hub of San Pedro de Atacama, this desert paradise of eight toasty pools, nestled amongst bunches of pampas grass and local flora on the floor of a rocky valley, is a relaxation oasis. A small waterfall connects two of the eight pools, filling the air with the gentle sound of flowing water, and with wooden walkways connecting the pools, changing rooms, and picnicking areas, it has everything you need to while the day away in heat-induced enjoyment.  

2. Laguna Verde Hot Springs – Located alongside the iridescent Laguna Verde in the altiplano desert, these charming, heated baths, which are built up with rocks to form circular pools, are warmed by nearby volcano activity, and are ideal for a quick rest after trekking or hiking. With blue sky above, blue water next door, and a skyline rippling with volcanoes and colored sand, it’s a place for soaking yourself as well as soaking up the views.

3. Termas de Chillan – After long days hitting the slopes of Chillan’s epic ski runs or secluded backcountry trails, dip into the healing waters of Termas de Chillan as a reward. Officially recognized by the Chilean Health Department as a “healing spring” thanks to waters rich in magnesium, iron, sulfur, and potassium, local indigenous groups have used these springs for rejuvenation and rest for thousands of years. Lounge in the pools to your heart’s content, while gazing at the snowy mountainsides.

4. Termas Geometricas – Hidden in the depths of a lush forest in Chile’s Lakes District, these Japanese-style hot springs are arguably the most famous in Chile, and for good reason. Red walkways twist and wind their way through a series of thermal baths and cold plunges that turn the surrounding forest into a steaming, ethereal Nirvana of relaxation. Located far from civilization in the heart of the Villarrica National Forest, you are guaranteed peace and quiet to rest your weary bones after days spent skiing on nearby slopes or hiking through snowy forests, and enjoy the views of the site’s two waterfalls and surrounding foliage. With the waters rich in magnesium sulfate and salt, they’re reputed to help with digestive issues, work wonders on skin, and act as a stress-reliever. Either way, spending the day luxuriating in a maze of volcano-heated water is the ultimate cure.

Featured

The Ultimate Guide to Skiing in Chile

Perched above steep valleys and clinging to snow-covered slopes throughout one of the most dramatic mountain ranges on Earth, Chile’s world-class ski resorts have everything you need to hit the slopes and spend your days “shoop-shoop-shooping” down some pretty epic runs and soaking up that high altitude sunshine and chilled air.

But with so many choices, how to pick the best resort for your skiing needs? Are you a downhill person, or more nordic? What about variety of runs? Different terrains? Groomed or powder? Where has the best snowfall?

Here’s our definitive guide to the best skiing in Chile, with recommendations for what gear to bring, stats comparing the top ski resorts, additional activities around Chile you can add to your ski trip, and more, all so you can choose your dream ski vacation. Plus, for a limited time get a free hotel night or Bike&Wine tour when you purchase a ski program with our “Discover Winter in Chile” special offer!

Hope to see you out on the slopes soon!

When to go

Most of the resorts open in late June and close in September or even early October; timing varies depending on the particular resort, as well as what the snow and climate is like that particular year.

High season falls during the middle of July, which is also when Chilean schoolchildren are on a two-week break for their winter vacation, so if you’re considering skiing during July, booking in advance is highly recommended.

However, the season can often run as late as October for ski resorts in the Lakes District, like Nevado de Chillan and Corralco, thanks to the heavy, annual snowfall, consistently cold temperatures, and easy powder.

What to bring

Clothing

1st Layer – Wicking

  • Thermal Underwear
  • Long-sleeved thermal shirts
  • Form-fitting thermal pants
  • Long socks (thick and warm material)

2nd Layer – Insulation

  • Fleeces/sweatshirts/pullovers/vests
  • Waterproof/warm leggings

3rd Layer – Protection

  • Waterproof winter shell jacket
  • Waterproof winter shell pants
  • Warm ski gloves
  • Ski/snowboard boots
  • Cold weather hat
  • Sunglasses or ski goggles

Other Accessories:

  • Sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher)
  • Sunscreen lip balm (SPF 30 or higher)

Types of Skis:

There are different kinds of skis you can choose from to suite different skiing styles or terrains. Most resorts will offer equipment rental or stores where you can purchase gear, but for many skiing enthusiasts, their own skis are an extension of themselves and they take them everywhere. Here’s a brief rundown of the different types of skis and what they’re good for:

  • All mountain skis: suitable for groomed runs (a marked ski path down a mountain) for all levels; ideal for downhill and moguls
  • All mountain wide skis: Good for groomed runs and powder; ideal if you enjoy downhill and nordic
  • Powder skis: best for powder (non-groomed, like nordic) and backcountry skiing
  • Backcountry skis: good for powder and backcountry trail skiing

Different Styles of Skiing in Chile

The most common styles of skiing found in Chile are:

  • Downhill: the most common and the most popular form of skiing in Chile, and arguably the world.
  • Nordic/cross country: Less strenuous than downhill, involves skiing over relatively flat terrain with slight ups and downs. Best for exploring woods and back country
  • Backcountry: similar to cross country, but usually is less well-marked or known trails
  • Freestyle: skiing with aerials such as jumps and flips, as well as moguls, cross, half-pipe, and other acrobatics

Where to go

Valle Nevado

Valle Nevado is where Chileans come out to play during the winter. Only 35 miles away from Santiago, it’s close enough to allow for easy day trips to the slopes, but also has plenty of cozy accommodations and amenities for longer stays, and is considered one of South America’s finest and most modern ski resorts. Located above the treeline and composed of three separate valleys that together make up South America’s largest skiable area, the views from the runs and pistes across the surrounding mountains are staggering, with the one drawback that when there is bad weather, visibility is very low. With run options from beginner to expert, and a first-rate Terrain Park for advanced skiers to try out freestyle tricks, Valle Nevado offers some of Chile’s best skiing, and is perfect for any type of ski vacation, from a family getaway, to a couple's’ retreat, to a getaway with friends.

  • Where: Valle Nevado (35 miles east of Santiago, roughly a 90 minute drive)
  • How to get there: Transfers to/from are available with our programs in Valle Nevado, but there are also buses and the option to bring your own car. Please note: the road to Valle Nevado operates on the one-way system during ski season, with cars going up to the resort from 8 am to 2 pm, and down from 2 pm to 8 pm.
  • Vertical drop: 2,657 feet
  • Types of skiing/ski runs: downhill, heli-skiing, snowboarding, freestyle
  • Average annual snowfall: 276 inches (23 feet)
  • Runs: 44 runs (17 lifts)
  • Groomed runs: Yes
  • Off pistes: Yes (weather and avalanche risk permitting)
  • Difficulty level: Beginner to expert
  • Services: ski-in/ski-out, ski school, equipment rental, hotels, on-site restaurants, shopping, heated pool and spa, entertainment options (cinema, kids zone), fitness center, medical center.

Ski Portillo

A two hour drive from Santiago, Ski Portillo is arguably the most internationally renowned of Chile’s ski resorts, with a rich history. Frequented by world-class athletes training for championships such as the World Cup, Portillo has slopes for everyone from beginners to advanced. Its chairlifts were designed specifically for its somewhat intimidating but breathtaking slopes, and if the skiing doesn’t take your breath away, the scenery will. The resorts’ sunshine-yellow blocky hotel is perched above the shimmering blue Laguna del Inca Lake, which is legendary for being the burial site of an Incan princess. Surrounding by steep, snowy mountains that rise up out of the lake to brush the sky, it’s a stunning place to either enjoy an easygoing ski holiday or hone your skills with the best of the best.

  • Where: Aconcagua Valley (102 miles, roughly two hours north-east from Santiago)
  • How to get there: Transfers to/from the resort are built into our Portillo skiing programs, but there also are daily buses
  • Vertical drop: 2,500 feet
  • Types of skiing/ski runs: downhill, heli-skiing, snowboarding
  • Average annual snowfall: 291 inches (24.7 feet)
  • Number of runs: 35 runs (14 lifts)
  • Groomed runs: Yes
  • Off pistes: Yes (weather and avalanche risk permitting)
  • Difficulty level: Beginner to expert
  • Services: ski-in/ski-out, school, equipment rental, hotel with full board, yoga room, on-site restaurants, photo service, gym, daycare center, entertainment activities (movies, play room), massage and sauna beauty salon, medical center.

Nevado de Chillan

Formerly known as Termas de Chillan, this cozy ski resort nestled back in the wilderness of Chile’s Lakes District is the ideal wintry getaway for cross-country enthusiasts and skiers looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city resorts for some peace and quiet. The landscapes also offer a refreshing change of scenery, switching up the roof-of-the-world peaks and plunging valleys of the central region for meandering runs and backcountry trails through snowy forests, with three of the local volcanoes looming over the runs. With a wide variety of outdoor sport activities outside of skiing and snowboarding, including South America’s long ski run, the 13 kilometer Las Tres Marias run, and some truly “treat-yourself” spa and thermal hot springs opportunities, Nevado de Chillan is a winter wonderland.

  • Where: Las Trancas, Bio-Bio region (roughly 6 hours (500 km) north of Santiago)
  • How to get there: Our Nevado de Chillan program transports you by train and then transfer from Santiago to the ski resort. Other options include driving and bus.
  • Vertical drop: 3,608 feet
  • Types of skiing/ski runs/other activities: downhill, nordic, snowboarding, snowshoeing, dog sledding, snowmobiling, night skiing, cat skiing, heli-skiing
  • Average annual snowfall: 400 inches (33 feet)
  • Number of runs: 29 runs (12 lifts)
  • Groomed runs: Yes
  • Off pistes: Yes
  • Difficulty level: Beginner to expert
  • Services: ski-in/ski-out, ski school classes, equipment rental, hotels with full board, restaurants, hot springs and spa, gym, entertainment activities, childcare.

Corralco

Surrounded by prehistoric araucaria trees and with the mighty Lonquimay volcano looming in the backdrop, the 1,800 hectares of the Corralco Ski Resort offers sublime skiing terrain in the south of Chile, about eight hours away from Santiago. With downhill runs open for beginners to advanced, and plenty of oft-ignored backcountry trails that explore the slopes of nearby volcanoes and wander through quiet, snowy forests, it’s a peaceful place to escape the crowds of the Santiago ski resorts and treat yourself to some rest and relaxation at the local hot springs.

  • Where: close to Temuco (roughly 8 hours (714 km) south of Santiago)
  • How to get there: With our Corralco ski program, you will fly into Temuco regional airport and then be transferred to the resort. Alternative independent transfer options include: buses/cars from Temuco.
  • Types of skiing/ski runs/other activities: downhill, nordic, snowboarding
  • Vertical drop: 3,018 feet
  • Average annual snowfall: 275 inches (22 feet)
  • Number of runs: 26 runs (6 lifts)
  • Groomed runs: Yes
  • Off pistes/backcountry: Yes
  • Difficulty level: Beginner to advanced
  • Services: ski-in, ski school classes, equipment rental, hotel, restaurants, spa, entertainment activities, gym.

Volcano skiing

Hands down, one of the coolest places to ski in Chile is on the slopes of one of the country’s many volcanoes.

The Lakes District is home to some of Chile’s most spectacular – and most active – volcanoes, such as Villarrica. While that may seem a bit unsettling, to be puttering around on an active volcano, Chile is always prepared for natural diasters, and so has excellent alert systems that work to detect potential volcanic and seismic activity and keep locals and visitors safe.

The Villarrica and Lonquimay volcanoes are the hot spots (no pun intended) for downhill and backcountry volcano skiing and snowboarding in the Lakes District, with good runs and excellent views of the surrounding mountains and landscapes. Osorno Volcano, close to Puerto Varas, also houses a ski resort, and is a great photo opp spot thanks to the volcano’s smooth, conical profile against the horizon.

Why Go Skiing in Chile?

It’s true that there is quality skiing available all over the world, so why come all the way down to Chile just to shred some powder? In addition to the excellent slopes and myriad resorts to choose from, there’s plenty more you can do with a winter trip to Chile. Here are just some of the benefits of choosing Chile for your next ski holiday:

  • Summer skiing: Chile’s winter months of June-September take place when most of the world is experiencing summer, so if you need a break from the heat or can’t stand to be away from the slopes for another six months, a trip to Chile is a great way to enjoy the ski season not once, but twice a year!
  • Wine tours – Many of the top ski resorts host Wine Weeks during their season, as well as serving some of Chile’s finest varietals in their bars and restaurants, but one of the benefits of staying at a ski resort near Santiago is that you’re also close to Chile’s famous wine valleys. Located a few hours drive from the capital, the green-and-brown checkered valleys of Maipo, Colchagua, and Casablanca are home to luscious vineyards that produce sumptuous red and white wines. Many vineyards offer tours and tastings, with lectures about the history and process of winemaking in Chile.
  • Access to cosmopolitan life and activities in Santiago: if you’re planning to ski at Portillo or Valle Nevado, you’re right next door to one of South America’s most up-and-coming cities: Santiago! Emerging as more than a stopover city en-route to Chile’s other attractions, Santiago is distinguishing itself with a burgeoning culinary scene, a stimulating nightlife scene, charming gorgeous classical neighborhoods clustering against sleek skyscrapers (including the highest skyscraper on the continent, the Gran Torre), a flourishing arts and culture scene, and a wealth of outdoor activities just outside the city limits.
  • See some of South America’s most enchanting landscapes in winter-time glory: Chile is home to some pretty spectacular places: the Atacama desert; Torres del Paine National Park; the Lakes District; Chilean Patagonia. Each region has its own unique flavor and natural wonders, and visiting them in winter offers a whole new perspective. It also bypasses the crowds of high season during the summer, allowing you to discover Chile’s landscapes without the hustle and rush of people. See the Valle de la Luna dusted with snow; hike through a snow-covered and quiet Torres del Paine; marvel at the snow-capped peaks of Argentine Patagonia, and more. And don’t forget, with our special “Discover Winter in Chile” special offer, when you purchase one of our selected programs, you’ll receive your choice of either a free hotel night or a free Bike&Wine tour!

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EcoCamp’s 15th Anniversary Celebration With Chilean Band BORAJ

The 2016-17 season is over.

Yet for all those who traveled to EcoCamp – or worked with us – during these 8 months, this season was unlike any other season. EcoCamp was born 15 years ago, when Javier Lopez, Yerko Ivelic and Nani Astorga founded the first geodesic hotel in the world in the wilds of Torres del Paine National Park. During the past 15 years EcoCamp has become one of the most inspiring hotels in the world, while creating lifelasting memories for guests from around the world and serving as a model for sustainable tourism worldwide.

To conclude this 15th season we wanted to think big while surprising everyone. May 4th was the date.

We knew the founders would be at EcoCamp to celebrate with some friends so we could not miss the date. We secretly invited Chilean band BORAJ, basically our favorite band. We wanted to play them live in our Community Domes: the most amazing birthday gift for EcoCamp’s founders (they love music).

BORAJ is an incredible mixture of folk, post-rock and electronic music that instantly connects listeners with nature. With the same urge to protect the environment and the same passion for vast landscapes, BORAJ – with its 8 musicians – was the perfect band to chill-out and pay tribute to the beautiful location of EcoCamp.

But this incredible live performance was not all. Our staff and last guests of the season gathered and remembered the best moments of the season with short video featuring highlights like New Year’s Eve and the first Torres del Paine Circuit of the season. Then the show started, with Community Manager Timothy Dhalleine opening the show with a bit of Ska and Gipsy Music with the musicians of BORAJ before the Chilean Band played, for about an hour.

We will remember the dazzling smile on everyone’s face and the pride of the founders, who had seen EcoCamp grow like a snowball effect with the same spirit of conservation, community and love for the pristine mountains of Southern Chile. We will remember the harmonic voices, the saxophone, the synths, the guitars and the violin sounding in the Community Domes in a mind-blowing melody. And we will remember the amazing people that make EcoCamp such a unique place.

Listen to Boraj’s 2nd EP “LA COSTA

Thank you.

(Below: EcoCamp founders Javier Lopez, Nani Astorga, and Yerko Ivelic, at EcoCamp for the 15th anniversary party.)

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Celebrate World Penguin Day With These 15 Facts about Penguins in Chile

Who doesn’t love an adorable penguin!? With their waddling gait, cute cries, and whimsical personalities, they are loved the world over, and Chile is one of the best places to see several species of penguins up close and personal.

So to celebrate World Penguin Day, enjoy these facts about Chile’s favorite flightless birds (sorry, Lesser Rhea).

  1. There are 5 species of penguins that live in Chile: King, Humboldt, Magellanic, Rockhopper, and Macaroni penguins.
  2. Did you know you don’t have to go all the way to the south of Chile to see penguins? Penguins in Chile can be found as far north as La Serena, which is about a 5 hour drive from Santiago.
  3. Magellanic penguins were named after Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer who discovered the penguins on his historic 1520 circumnavigation of the globe. The Magellan Strait in Tierra del Fuego is also named after him.
  4. Wonder where the Macaroni penguin got its name? Well, if you’re familiar with the popular tune “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, you’ll know the line “stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni”. In mid-18th century England, “macaroni” was slang for flamboyant dress and fashion, so the Macaroni penguin was named for this due to the crown of gold feathers that splay out from its head. Very macaroni, indeed.
  5. Macaroni and rockhopper penguins belong to the same genus of penguins known as crested penguins, distinguishable by the gold feathers on their heads.
  6. In 1990, Chile created the National Humboldt Penguin Reserve, protecting three islands in northern Chile that are important breeding grounds for the endangered Humboldt penguin.
  7. King penguins, which can be seen in southern Chile, are the second biggest penguins in the world, behind emperor penguins.
  8. The King Penguin Park in Tierra del Fuego was originally founded to protect 8 individuals who chose the spot for breeding, which was rare as king penguins mostly breed and live further south, and this colony is the only place to see king penguins outside the Sub-Antarctic islands. Now, roughly 150 penguins live there.
  9. The Magellanic penguin colony on Magdalena Island near Punta Arenas is home to more than 120,000 penguins!
  10. Magellanic and Humboldt penguins can also be found on the islands of Chiloe in the Lake District.
  11. There was a Penguin Revolution in Chile! It’s not what it sounds like though; in 2006, when Chilean students were protesting the educational system, it became known as the “penguin revolution” because of the black and white outfits the students wore.
  12. Chile is estimated to be the home of 20,000 breeding pairs of Magellanic penguins.
  13. Magellanic, Macaroni, Humboldt, and Rockhopper penguins all lay two eggs, but the king penguin only lays one.
  14. Every kind of penguin in Chile except for the King penguin is either endangered or listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This is due mainly to oil spills, loss of fish populations from overfishing and climate change, and ocean acidification.
  15. Penguins are some of the most beloved wildlife in Chile, and their likeness has been used on a specialty stamp series for the post office of the Chilean-Antarctic territory.

Join us on one of our penguin viewing tours to discover these cute waddlers for yourself!

Featured

4 Books About Chile to Fuel Your Wanderlust for International Book Day

As any lover of literature knows, reading takes you to places you’ve never been, and travel writing is especially transportive. Weaving personal experience with useful and insightful facts and information, travel books, or “travelogues”, have been a part of travel since the time of Marco Polo. Since then, as humans have traveled and explored the globe, they’ve kept records of their travels to help those who will follow in their footsteps.

Equally, travel writing can also serve as an inspiration, helping readers discover places and cultures they’ve never heard about before, and inspire them to visit for themselves.

With its breathtaking landscapes, fascinating culture, rich gastronomy, and engrossing history, Chile has plenty to offer the avid armchair traveler, whether it’s wandering the pampas of Patagonia, traversing the streets of Chile's many cities, or sitting at a traditional Chilean table for evening “once”. And with so many interesting things to discover in the pages of a book, it’s not long before the armchair traveler becomes a world traveler.

To celebrate International Day of the Book and whet your appetite for a trip to Chile (or remind you of happy memories from traveling here before), here’s 4 books, either written by Chileans or by travelers, extolling the virtues, vices, history, culture, and all-around wonder of this fair country at the far end of the world! Happy reading and happy International Day of the Book!

Travels In A Thin Country by Sara Wheeler

This first-person account of traveling through Chile by British journalist and writer Sara Wheeler follows her adventures from the tippy top of Chile all the way down to Patagonia in the south, and then even further, to Chile’s outpost in Antarctica, Villa de las Estrellas. Told with classic, dry British wit and peppered with insightful information on Chilean history, culture, and geography, Wheeler goes beyond traditional guidebook fare and the standard “what’s what” of getting to know Chile, hitting all the highlights but also going more in-depth about unknown topics and locations, seeking out the bizarre and unknown, the back-country ghost town as opposed to the affluent seaside resort, striking up conversations with strangers and walking away with memorable stories, such as her successful quest to find one of the almost mystic communes of the Elqui Valley. This book is great for people hoping to explore Chile from the top down, or those looking for interesting information to inform their travels but with a more personable touch, not as cookie-cutter as a guidebook.


 

In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin

Arguably one of the most beloved travelogues of all time, Bruce Chatwin’s ode to the people and landscapes of Patagonia is one that has padded the backpack of many a Patagonian traveler. Starting out with his childhood fascination with a piece of brontosaurus skin in his grandmother’s cabinet, Chatwin later travels all over Chilean and Argentine Patagonia, chatting with ranchers and sheepherders, uncovering the eery legends of the misty islands of Chiloe, and making his wide through the diverse landscapes of this beguiling part of the world. Exquisitely written and structured in a style to mimic the nomadic wanderings of Chatwin and the lifestyles of those he encounters, “In Patagonia” is essential reading for lovers of travel writing and visitors to Patagonia alike.

My Invented Country by Isabel Allende

Written by one of Chile’s modern literary stars, novelist Isabel Allende, “My Invented Country” is a loving but objective look at life in Chile before, during, and after the Pinochet dictatorship through the eyes of a young journalist who grapples with her decision to leave the country. Author of such beloved novels as “Zorro” and “The House of the Spirits,” Allende draws readers into her childhood with her distinct writing style, balancing humor and wit with somber reflections about the life of a expat. Go behind the scenes of the ancient house and family that inspired “The House of the Spirits,” explore the streets of Santiago and the Chilean countryside, sit at the table with a Chilean family, and follow Allende as she struggles to come to terms with the triumphs and tragedies of her life as she leaves Chile and permanently settles in the USA, connected by the events of 9/11, a date of loss and tragedy in both Chile and the US. For travelers hoping to know more about Chilean culture and homelife from an insider’s perspective, “My Invented Country” is a must-read.

Across Patagonia by Lady Florence Dixie

One of Torres del Paine’s first tourists, an English society woman by the name of Florence Dixie, recounts her time living, hunting, and exploring the untamed south of Chile between 1978 and 1979, a time when Patagonia was an almost unexplored wilderness. Tired of life in England, Lady Florence Dixie set sail for South America with her husband and two of her brothers, looking for adventure. The group lived and traveled in the area around Torres del Paine, hunting local wildlife like guanacos for food, a pastime and necessity that Dixie both enjoyed and regretted. However, the most thrilling part of the book involves her discovery of and encounters with the wild horses, or baguales, of the area, including a fearsome but memorable incident with a daring wild stallion. Complete with beautifully detailed black and white sketches of the wildlife and landscapes, “Across Patagonia” is a must for Torres del Paine lovers who want to know more about how the area was discovered and what it was like before it became a popular tourist spot.

Want to read even more? Check out these 5 Chilean novels you can cozy up with on a long, cold, Chilean winter’s night.

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These 10 Regional Dishes are Chile’s Go-To Winter Fare

It may be heading toward summer in the northern hemisphere, but down in the southern half of the world, winter has getting ready to set in, and nothing helps people get through the long, cold days and nights better than some hearty seasonal foods and beverages using delicious native ingredients and recipes passed down from generation to generation. 

Stretching from high desert, to swampy forests, to icy fjords and glaciers, Chile’s diverse environments each come with their own version of “invierno”: dry and blisteringly cold, wet and chilly, icy and snowy… the list goes on. But luckily, the locals of each region have their own special concoctions to stave off the chill. Winter visitors will be greeted by a rich smorgasbord at restaurants and host family tables all over the country. Here’s a sampling of some of Chile’s most popular winter dishes and drinks!

The North

La Calapurca

Often, a rich hearty stew is just what the doctor ordered on cold nights, and Chile has their own special addition to the culinary genre in ‘calapurca’. Similar to the preparation of curanto in Chiloe, early versions of this dish, which is a traditional recipe of pre-Columbian origins in the high Andes, called for the soup to be heated with hot stones or set over coals. The stew has slight variations in Argentina and Bolivia as well, but in Chile, typical ingredients include beef, lamb, potatoes, onion, chicken, carrots, mote (a hominy-type wheat kernel), and paprika. The spicy stew is especially popular during and after festivals and big holiday celebrations such as New Year’s to recuperate after partying (hangover cure?). Whatever you use it for, it’s sure to warm and fill you up!

Porotos con Riendas

Literally translated as “beans with reins,” this comfort food specialty originated in the Chilean countryside. Typical ingredients include beans, spaghetti, pumpkin, some manner of sausage or pork, onions, and spices such as oregano and cumin, but households may have their own variant on the recipe. The resulting dish is a creamy concoction packed with delicious veggies, protein, and carbohydrates, all stewed in a creamy sauce. Que rico!

Ulpo

Need something warm to wash down those rich entrees? Ulpo could practically be called a meal in itself! The word, which originates from the indigenous Quechua language of northern Chile, means ‘dry flour,’ referring to the primary ingredient. Toasted flour is combined with milk, hot water, and sugar or honey and stirred together until well blended. Ulpo is usually drunk in the morning with breakfast or to replace bread at breakfast, and can also be prepared using red wine. Bottoms up!

Central Regions

Beef or Chicken Cazuela

One of Chile’s most popular and well-known delights is the tantalizing cazuela stew. A mixture of chicken, beef, chunky potatoes, corn on the cob, Andean pumpkin, squash, carrots, and assorted other vegetables and seasoning are simmered in a light broth until everything is fully cooked to melt-in-your-mouth, falls-off-the-bone deliciousness. People are served a bowlful of broth and ingredients, and hungry diners can either chop and mash up the respective ingredients and mix them with the broth, or can eat each ingredient separately with the broth. Whatever way you like it, it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser!

Pantruca

Ask many a Chilean about their favorite childhood memories of winter, and a fair number of them will probably include this doughy staple. Strips of savory dumpling dough get cooked in a simmering broth of chunks of beef or another hearty meat, onions, carrots, cilantro, and other spices until they’re tender and juicy. Slurp them up to your heart’s content and feel this classic warm you up from the inside out.

Leche Asada

Enough with the entrees and big dishes! Time for some dessert options! In Chile, you’re in luck when it comes to everyone’s favorite part of the meal, as Chileans have an insatiable sweet tooth. A classic wintery dessert is “leche asada” a type of milk pudding similar to flan. Made with milk, caramel, eggs, and orange, it is usually made in celebration of Chile’s Independence Day, which falls in September. But whenever you choose to chow down on this luscious treat, it’s sure to hit the spot!

The South

Sopaipillas and sopaipillas pasadas

Popular all over Chile and throughout the year, sopaipillas are the perfect complement to a winter meal or for just a snack on the go. A circular disc of savory pumpkin dough is deep fried in oil, and the steaming result is a crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside goody. Street vendors are usually found outside bus and metro stations, as well as at markets and gatherings, and many restaurants offer them as well. Toppings for the street food variety can include ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise, but one of the best ways to enjoy sopaipillas during the winter is to soak them in a orangey sugar sauce called chancaca, creating finger-licking good ‘sopaipillas pasadas.’

Pulmay

One of Chiloe’s culinary pride and joys is their impressive curanto, a delectable mix of clams, mussels, chicken, sausage, potatoes, onions, milcaos (a type of potato patty), and seasoning piled on and under giant leaves in a hole in the ground and cooked to perfection using red-hot heated stones! But if digging a hole in your backyard and preparing a huge meal outside in the cold during winter doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, the inhabitants of the island have pared it down to an easier indoor stove top version called pulmay. Using the same ingredients, pulmay can be prepared in a pressure cooker, over a bonfire, or using a grill. The end result? The best clambake you’ve ever had, with its own regional flair of flavor and ingredients.

Navegado

Need a drink to warm you up?  This toasty beverage, made using Chile’s world-class red wines, is Chile’s version to mulled wine. Prepared with a heady mix of red wine (varietal is up to you, but Chile’s cabernet sauvignons and carmenere wines are excellent options), succulent orange slices, sugar and assorted spices like cinnamon and clove, the mixture is heated until almost boiling while being mixed. Serve piping hot and it’s good for all that ails ya. The name “navegado” or “sailed wine” comes from an observation made at some point in the past that the orange slices floating in the drink looked similar to boats and ships bobbing around out on the ocean. In addition to being a great winter drink, the “navegado” is associated with youth movements in the sixties, and so is also a popular beverage at folk clubs through the South, where you can nurse a hot cup of navegado while listening to traditional Chilean music and songs. Que viva!

Cordero al Palo

When Patagonia was first colonized, sheep farming was one of its most lucrative industries thanks to the rambling pampas and wide open fields that were optimal for grazing herds. As whole families and communities depended on the animals for their livelihood, special barbecues in celebration of holidays and to commemorate the end of work events such as herding and shearing started to become a local tradition. These communal asados, or barbecues, were (and are) occasions for music, dancing, storytelling, and sharing succulent food and drink with kith and kin. One of Patagonia’s most recognizable and desired culinary dishes arises from this legacy: the roasted lamb. A lamb is gutted, skinned, prepared with any seasoning necessary, and then stretched open on a spit and aimed at about a 70 degree diagonal over a slow burning, low fire. While the lamb roasts, other ingredients are prepared such as potatoes, fried cakes, salads, and of course, plenty of red wine to go around! When the lamb is thoroughly roasted with crispy skin, the body is removed, carved up, and distributed. Time to eat up!

Whew! Are you full yet? Because if not, there’s even more! If you’re hankering for a quick bite to eat while meandering around town on a chilly afternoon or before hopping on a bus to head off to another part of this lengthy and endlessly fascinating country, get thee to the nearest street corner vendor and tuck into a delicious cheese, pino, or napolitana empanada. For a sweeter option, seek out a vendor of calzones rotos, deep fried dough molded into small circles and sprinkled generously with powdered sugar (a la funnel cakes.)

Whatever your personal tastes, Chile’s winter offerings have something to please everyone. So what are you waiting for, foodies? Click here to learn more about our winter tour options!

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Chile’s 6 Most Popular Winter Sports

With landscapes that were crafted by nature to be perfect winter wonderlands covered in fluffy white snow, hearty seasonal meals that banish the cold, and stores throughout the country stocked with wooly garments to bundle up in, Chile is the ultimate winter country – especially for winter sports enthusiasts!

If you eagerly await winter each year so you can break out your skis or snowboard, or love going for a hike through the mountains after a freshly fallen snow, or just love winter in general (who can resist a warm fire, a mug of cocoa, and snow falling outside?), Chile is the place for you! With excellent skiing and snowboarding, seasonal hiking trails, and even getting the chance to lead your own sled-dog team, here’s some of the most popular winter sports available around Chile for everyone to enoy!


 

1. Skiing – Skiing is Chile’s classic winter sport, thanks to the spectacular Andes Mountains that run down the length of the country. With their soaring heights, epic slopes, and heavy snowfall, Chile has a reputation for having some of the best downhill skiing in the world, which can be found at famous ski resorts like Valle Nevado, Portillo, Corralco, Chillan, and more. Some resorts – like Portillo – even offer heli-skiing, with a helicopter dropping you off on the highest peaks past the standard runs and lifts. Many resorts also offer lessons, gear rental, and a variety of slopes to suit different experience levels. If you love skiing, wintry Chile is a must!

Discover our Snow Adventures here!

2. Trekking the W Trek in winter! – If you’re a trekking aficionado, chances are you’ve heard of, want to experience, or have already hiked the iconic W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. But as this trek gets more well-known, it also gets more crowded, especially during the Patagonian summer months of December through March. Luckily, there are now alternatives for those who want to explore the park undisturbed or experience a different season. The W Trek will now officially be open to trekkers during the winter months, so if you love hiking in winter, being wowed by incredible, snow and ice covered landscapes, and exploring nature with no other humans around, winter in Torres del Paine is the place to be!

Be among the first to hike the winter W here!

3. Snowboarding – If skiing isn’t your forte, Chile’s winter resorts offer plenty of high-quality snowboarding slopes as well! Resorts like Portillo offer first-rate snowboarding areas, as well as the opportunity to be heli-lifting to desired pistes and runs.

Hit the slopes here!

4. Sea kayaking – Sea kayaking? In winter? You bet! Down in the Magallanes region, sea kayaking is becoming increasingly popular, as it’s a great way to get up close with local marine wildlife like dolphins. Near Punta Arenas, you can go sea kayaking by San Isidro Cape, where you can marvel at the surrounding landscapes and wildlife while paddling through the cold, fresh waters of the Cape.

Paddle your way to wintry adventure here!

5. Hiking – Beside the W, there are plenty of trails throughout Chile that are open year-round, and are equally lovely to experience in summer or winter. Close to Santiago, the trails of Cajon del Maipo can be explored in any season, and are a great way to escape the bustling metropolis for a day of wintry solitude. Down in Patagonia, just a short drive from the town of Puerto Natales, the trek up Dorotea Hill offers stunning views of the surrounding pampas and waterways of Ultima Esperanza Sound.

Hike the winter trails of Chile here!

6. Dog sledding – Yes, it’s true! There are places in Chile – mostly in the Lakes District – where you can harness your inner polar explorer, hop on the back of a wooden sled, and yell “mush!” to a team of excitable, fluffy dogs and set off across the crisp white snow for a day of dog-sledding.  

Do you have a favorite winter memory in Chile? Let us know in the comments!

Talk with our travel experts at reservations@cascada.travel to find out more about all our epic winter tours! 

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Get to know Puerto Natales – The Gateway to Torres del Paine

Known as the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park, the town of Puerto Natales may seen by many as a quick stopover before heading off into the surrounding wilderness in search of adventure and natural wonder, but taking a few days to explore the town and its immediate surroundings offers a glimpse into the diverse and fascinating history and culture of this part of Patagonia.

Located at the mouth of Ultima Esperanza Sound, Puerto Natales is a quaint town of colorful houses that swells with life and activity during the bustling high-season summer months, then settles in to weather the cold winters. With numerous dining options, cultural activities, enchanting views of wind-blown pampas and deep-blue waters, and friendly locals, Puerto Natales is proving that it has plenty to entice visitors to stay a while longer and discover what it has to offer.

A Brief History

Originally inhabited by the Kaweskar and Tehuelche tribes, Puerto Natales was officially “discovered” by European sailor Juan Ladrilleros in 1557. He named the area Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope) because it was his last chance to find the Strait of Magellan, after exploring the warren of watery channels that snake into Patagonia’s interior from the ocean.

The next expedition to come along was the HMS Beagle (of Darwinian fame) in 1830, carrying famous Patagonian explorer Robert FitzRoy. Following this, other adventurers like Santiago Zamora and Lady Florence Dixie came to see what the area had to offer. Zamora is notable for discovering the various lakes in Torres del Paine, and Dixie documented her travels and discoveries in her book Across Patagonia where she recounts adventures like finding the local wild horses, known as ‘baguales.’ She was part of the first “tourist expedition” to Torres del Paine, where she dubbed the iconic trio of spires for which the modern-day park is named “Cleopatra’s Needles”.

The town of Puerto Natales was officially founded in 1911, to serve as a port for the booming sheep industry. The thriving sheep and wool trade brought hordes of immigrants from a plethora of nations: Britain, Ireland, Germany, Croatia, Italy, Spain, and Greece. Many Chileans, especially from the islands of Chiloe, also moved to Puerto Natales to take part in the regional hot commodity. A cold-storage plant, left over from the height of this era, has been restored and is the current site of the upscale Singular Patagonia Hotel.  

Today, tourism is the main industry, with many hostels, hotels, coffee shops, souvenir stores, tour companies, and sportswear stores catering to visitors.

What To Do

Need a break from all the trekking and adventuring? Puerto Natales has plenty of fun and intriguing activities available around town, as well as easy hikes or walks located a short drive from town.

  • Municipal Historical Museum – Go beyond the natural allure of Patagonia to discover its complex and diverse cultural life at this five-room local museum, where you can look at preserved artifacts from the Kaweskar and Tehuelche tribes, as well as photographs and objects documenting the colonization of the area.
  • Muelle Historico – Located along Puerto Natales’ picturesque waterfront, the remnants of this historic dock are a popular photo-op spot because of the incredible views of the sound and mountains, with rows of spindly wooden pillars leading off into the waters of Ultima Esperanza Sound.
  • Estancia Puerto Consuelo – A visit to a traditional estancia (Patagonian ranch) offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of this region. Go on horseback rides, learn about the sheep and wool industry, and enjoy traditional parillas (barbecues) at this blast from the past.
  • Cueva de Milodon National Monument – Located 15 miles from town, this cave is where the remains of an ancient giant sloth were discovered in 1895. This discovery was immortalized by writer Bruce Chatwin, who wrote about the cave and sloth in his popular travelogue In Patagonia. Now, guests can follow a path around the cavern, as well as pose with a life-size statue of the giant sloth. This trip is available on its own or as part of an itinerary for EcoCamp Patagonia.
  • Monumento al Viento – Located on the waterfront, this statue of a man and a woman flying, with arms outstretched, is sure to fill viewers with a sense of wonder and joy.
  • Dorotea Hill – If you need a break from rough trekking, the hike up Dorotea Hill is just what the doctor ordered. A short drive from town, the trail winds up a hill for roughly an hour and a half,  resulting in a phenomenal panoramic view of the surrounding waters and pampas, with the mountains of Tierra del Fuego far off in the distance.
  • Cerro Mirador del Golfo – Even more spectacular views are waiting at Cerro Mirador del Golfo, which can be reached via a path through a forest of native trees, mosses, and lichens.
  • Plaza de Armas – A charming square at the center of town, the Plaza de Armas is a lovely place for a stroll, to check out the Paroquia Maria Auxiliadora across the street, and peruse the nearby restaurants, cafes, and souvenir stores.
  • Monumento de la Mano – Be held in the palm of Puerto Natales’ hand (literally) at this photo-opp monument, featuring giant fingers emerging from the Earth. This “hands on” spot can be found down on the waterfront promenade.
  • Day Tours – If you want to get out of the city for a day but still want to return to a warm, cozy bed and hot shower at night, there are plenty of options for day tours exploring the surrounding wilderness, like boat and catamaran tours of Last Hope Sound, daily hikes, horseback rides, and more. Talk with our travel experts to find out more!
  • Horseback Rides – Channel the spirit of the local cowboys (baqueanos) of Patagonia on horseback riding tours through the surrounding pampas (plains), forests, and mountains. Popular routes include a ride to the Condor Viewpoint, where condors are frequently sighted gliding on air thermals, and Sofia Lagoon. 

Where To Eat

Hankering for a taste of that authentic Patagonian cuisine? You’re in luck! The restaurant scene in Puerto Natales has a wide variety of options to suit everyone’s palate, from acclaimed fine dining to cheap and casual eateries, serving up all manner of traditional Patagonian recipes or haute cuisine variations with modern gastronomic innovations. For drinks, be sure to try out some of the regional beers, or the local take on the classic Pisco Sour: the Calafate Sour, a cocktail made with the indigenous Calafate berry.

Fine Dining

  • Aldea – A cozy, rustic atmosphere with great, local food is a combination that can never go wrong, and Aldea has the formula down pat. Tuck into hearty servings of rich, decadent dishes like the wild hare or lamb, and wash it all down with some of Chile’s world-class wines.
  • Afrigonia – Ask anyone in Puerto Natales where to go for fine dining, and this name flys off their lips. Offering creative and original dishes served with artsy flair, it’s also praised for its wine pairings and is a great way to reward yourself after long days of hiking and exploring the wilderness.
  • The Singular Patagonia Restaurant and El Asador – Using only the highest quality regional ingredients, Laurent Pasqualetto, the head chef at the luxurious and classy eponymous restaurant of the Singular Patagonia Hotel, recreates Patagonian classics with his own unique flair. For something a bit more traditional, try out El Asador, an intimate grill where Pasqualetto and his team craft barbecue masterpieces with local meats like guanaco and lamb. Top it all off with a signature drink from the bar.
  • Santolla – The giant Magellan king crab may look like something out of a nightmare, but its tender meat is a staple of Patagonian cuisine. Santolla (a colloquialization of centolla, the Spanish word for crab) offers scrumptious dishes centered on this monster of the deep, all served in the warm, intimate atmosphere of their reconstituted shipping container location near the center of town. Warm yourself up with a hearty bowl of classic chupe de centolla (king crab pie) with chunks of crab meat and cheese, or dive right in for a crab boil.
  • Ancestros Patagonia – Featuring traditional Patagonian cuisine, Ancestros Patagonia also treats guests to a cultural show educating them about the Selknam tribe who used to inhabit Tierra del Fuego.

Casual Eateries, Cafes, and Other

  • Pizzeria Mesita Grande – If you’re jonesing for some good pizza after (or before) all that hiking, Mesita Grande is highly recommended by locals and visitors alike. Chow down on a classic favorite like plain cheese, or try out pizzas featuring local ingredients like cordero (lamb), all while sipping on local beers on tap.
  • Base Camp – Located next to the Erratic Rock hostel, Base Camp is your basic but delicious pizza and beer pub, offering warm pies and local beer, as well as serving as a local collection point for recycling, gear rental store, and information center.
  • Baguales Brewery and Restaurant – Nothing hits the spot better than a cold beer after a long hike, and the Baguales Brewery turns the taste of Patagonia into delicious beer. Try out their Pale Ale, which won bronze at the 2011 Copa Cerveza de America, or their limited edition brews like the Mate 101, made with the popular herb used in the caffeine-rich drink favored by gauchos, or the dark ale Azabache. The restaurant itself has a large array of options, including hamburgers, Mexican food, and more.
  • Cafe Kaiken – With a warm and friendly atmosphere and genial staff, Cafe Kaiken is a great stop for delicious and filling meals, such as local fish, homemade pasta, and more.
  • El Living – For people looking for yummy and varied vegetarian options, El Living has plenty of good fare to offer. Try out one of their fresh salads, and be sure to bring a book along so you can participate in their international book exchange (take a book, leave a book).

Coffee Shops – With the tourism boom, a large number of charming cafes have sprung up around town. Some of the most highly recommended by travelers are:

  • Patagonia Dulce (great for hot cocoa and with good dessert)
  • Espacio ñandu (coffee shop with souvenirs for sale, located right by the Plaza de Armas)
  • Creperia Cafe & Te (crepes and tea, as well as Patagonian prints by Julieta Fernández Cánepa for sale)

Shopping

There are plenty of souvenir stores located around town, many of them near the Plaza de Armas. There are also outlets to buy or rent outdoor clothes and trekking/camping, so if you forgot something back at home, never fear! Here are just some of the most popular places for shopping; there are many other options that you can encounter simply by walking around town.

Outdoor Gear Outlets:

  • The North Face
  • La Maddera
  • The Gear Spot

Souvenir Stores/Shopping:

  • World’s End – local souvenirs, books, maps, and more
  • Etnia Souvenirs and Wool – local souvenirs and curios, clothing and accessories made from local wool
  • Espacio Nandu – Peruse some souvenirs while enjoying your coffee
  • Emporio de la Pampa – Recommended for its local brown bread, cheeses, wines, coffee, and more

Where To Stay

As a town that gets most of its business from tourism, Puerto Natales is not lacking in a wide variety of accommodation styles, from the luxurious to the basic. With so many options, here are our most highly recommended hotels and hostels in or around Puerto Natales.

Hotels (3-4 star)

  • Weskar Lodge
  • Hotel Martin Gusinde
  • Hotel Francis Drake
  • Hotel IF Patagonia
  • Hotel Natalino
  • Aquaterra
  • Hotel Remota
  • El Muelle Boutique Hotel

Hostels/B&B

  • Hostal Amerindia Patagonia

Do you have any other recommendations about Puerto Natales? Want to share your own experience? Let us know in the comments!

Did this article inspire you to discover Puerto Natales yourself? Talk with our travel experts here or check out our many programs in the area to find one that’s right for you!

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New Government Agreement protects 11.1 Million Acres of Land in Patagonia

Today is a historic day for conservation in Chile, as this morning, President Michelle Bachelet signed an agreement for the creation of a vast network of national parks and protected land in southern Chile, encompassing more than 11.1 million acres.

The project – the largest of its kind since 1960 and which will expand Chile's percentage of protected land from 19% to 29% – was made possible by Kris Tompkins and Douglas Tompkins, formerly of outdoor clothing retail giants Patagonia, North Face, and Esprit.

The couple, who retired from their companies to live in Chile and focus their time, energy, and money on conservation through organizations such as Tompkins Conservation, have spent years purchasing land and restoring land around Chile to create new protected parks, such as Patagonia Park in the Aysen region, all with the goal of gifting the land back to the Chilean government so it could be protected for the future. 

The 4.5 million hectares will protect land and biodiversity in Chile’s extreme south, extending down to the south from Pumalin Park in the Los Lagos region. In total, the Tompkins will be donating a million acres, including their flagship properties Patagonia Park and Pumalin Park, and the Chilean government will contribute almost 9 million acres of federal land that has yet to be designated national parks. 

With the new land, the government hopes to create a 1,500 mile long chain of 17 national parks, which will be known as the Ruta de los Parques, enticing guests with its promise of lush, pure nature and adventure travel activities like trekking, kayaking, cycling, and more. The parks are speculated to bring in up to $270 million a year and employee up to 43,000 locals. As Chile grows more popular as an adventure travel destination, supporting ecotourism initatives and their massive money-making potential has become a top priority for the government. 

President Bachelet praised the agreement on Twitter, saying: “Great day for Chile! The vision of the Tompkins, and the will and contributions of the State, will create the network of National Parks of Patagonia.”

A great day for Chile, indeed, and a great day for Patagonia and conservation! Thanks to the efforts of the Tompkins, the Chilean government, and all others involved, these lands will now be preserved for future generations to enjoy and protect, as well as restoring land and offering refuges for endangered species. The pakrs will serve as a fitting tribute and enduring legacy to Doug Tompkins, who tragically passed away in 2015 after a kayaking accident on General Carrera Lake in Chile.

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Patagonia’s Past: The History of the Irish in Chile

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day, and that means that today, across the world, Irish people and people who wish they were Irish will be downing insane amounts of beer, tucking into corned beef and soda bread, and having a merry ol’ time. Including the Irish-Chileans.

Wait…Irish people in Chile? You bet! (Luck of the Irish, right?) 

In the 18th century, when large waves of European immigrants were pouring into the Chilean south to take advantage of the “free” land (most of which belonged to native tribes) and/or to seek a better life away from oppression and persecution in their native countries, the Irish were one of the most notable and influential groups, with their large numbers now reflected in a hefty number of modern Chileans boasting of Irish heritage (at least 120,000 direct Irish, 700,000 from the British Isles).

With the majority migrating over to Chile in the 18th and early 19th century, Irish-Chileans form a very important part of the cultural fabric of the south, with many immigrants becoming sheep farmers in the Magallanes region. Spain (which owned Chile until the War of Independence in the early 1800s) put Chile on the map for many Irishmen as a viable place to move to, which they did in droves, to a place where the fields of waving grass, wide open pampas, and chill weather of the Magallanes region likely reminded them of home. This made them prime movers-and-shakers in the colonization of Patagonia and Chile’s south.

For the Irish, Chile offered a haven from the Protestant government back in England, which harshly discriminated against Irish Catholicism. Their flight to South America was part of a larger immigration trend known as “The Wild Geese,” which referred to the Irish leaving their homeland en masse during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries to flee religious persecution. Arriving in Chile, they brought their religion and culture, and Irish cultural identity fused into the overall cultural identity of the south of Chile. Today, many Irish-Chileans in the south can point to their heritage through the  “Hispanicization” versions of their surnames, where their Irish last names have been tweaked to fit the language of their new home.

One of the best places to unearth the history of the Irish in Chile is in Punta Arenas, a tiny town on the Strait of Magellan that is today mostly known for its tourism and as being the gateway to Chile’s Patagonia landmarks such as Torres del Paine National Park.

In the famous Punta Arenas Cemetery, which has been called one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world and is a Chilean National Monument, it is possible to find evidence of the vast Irish population in 18th century Punta Arenas.

Irish-Chileans have shown their influence in all areas of Chilean society, finding success in the military, politics, the arts, and medical fields.

The most famous Irish-Chilean is Bernardo O’Higgins, known as the Liberator or the “Father of Chile” thanks to his leading role in the Chilean war for independence from Spain and his influence in the politics that helped shape the new republic.

Despite his illegitimate birth, he traveled and studied extensively during his youth, returning to Chile after his father’s death. He then became involved in the liberation movement, offering political advice (such as the necessity of forming a national congress) as well as fighting bravely on the battlefield during the war, advancing to the rank of general.

When the war ended in 1818, O’Higgins accepted the position of Supreme Director, and was the first leader of Chile as an independent country. He made great strides in creating the political, economic, and social framework of what a country needs to operate, such as establishing courts, markets, hospitals, and more, but ultimately his efforts to depose the Chilean nobility’s place at the top of the social food chain and implement true democracy resulted in him being ousted by a coup. He left the country, never to see it again, and passed away in Peru in 1842.

Today, there are monuments dedicated to him all over Chile, as well as one in Dublin, and he is revered as one of Chile’s founding fathers. The town of Villa O’Higgins, located in the Aysen region and accessible via the Carretera Austral, was founded and named after him.

But back to the celebration at hand. Everyone knows that to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day, you gotta have good beer, and that’s something that Chile has plenty of – thanks to the Germans.

Despite their well-documented love of beer (although whiskey was arguably the en vogue drink back in Ireland at the time), the Irish did not make a big splash when bringing their heritage of brewing to Chile. This may be because another country was also courting Chile’s lovely freedom and opportunities. The Germans – who also settled in the south and have a strong cultural footprint there as well – helped Chile develop a strong tradition of craft brewing that has recently resulted in a microbrewery boom.

Today, Saint Patrick’s Day is mostly celebrated by Irish-Chileans and expats, with Irish-themed pubs like the Shamrock in Santiago hosting parties. In previous years, The Wild Geese, the official society for Irish people in Chile, have helped organize festivities, such as lighting famous Santiago landmarks green, like the above image of the statue of the Virgin Mary on San Cristobal Hill.

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7 Chilean Women to Inspire you on International Women’s Day

From poets, to senators, to educators, to a female conquistador, Chilean women are a powerhouse. In a society that is known for its overt “machismo” overtones and more conservative views towards women, Chilean women prove again and again that they are strong, intelligent, and determined people who are capable of incredible feats of bravery and artistry, who will stand up for what they want and what they believe in, and that their goals and dreams are changing the traditional gender roles that have long defined Chilean society.

So today, in honor of International Women’s Day, we’re honoring seven of Chile’s most inspirational  and influential women, as well as giving a shout-out to the hardworking women at Cascada Expediciones, EcoCamp Patagonia, and all over the world: happy International Women’s Day/Feliz Dia de la Mujer!

Ines Suarez

One of the most influential people behind the colonization of Chile was the independent and fearless Ines Suarez, a young woman from Spain who accompanied the first group of conquistadors to travel to Chile. Arriving in the New World with Captain Pedro de Valdivia, who was also her lover and whom she supported endlessly during illness and hardship, she helped found and settle the capital city of Santiago, and was instrumental in helping protect it against attacks by the native Mapuches. She is also the subject of the popular novel “Ines of my Soul” by Isabel Allende, where an elderly Suarez recounts her life’s story.

Violeta Parra

The founder and trailblazer of the “Nueva Cancion Chilena” movement in the 1960s, Violeta Parra was and is one of Chile’s most beloved singer-songwriters, crafting powerful hymns about life, love, and her home country. She is regarded as the “Mother of Latin American Folk” thanks to her hard work to revitalize traditional Chilean music and folk art, a sentiment and movement that spread beyond Chile and encouraged other South American countries to go back to their folk art roots. Her most famous song is “Gracias de la Vida” (Thanks to Life), which is still widely covered and performed by other artists.
 

Gabriela Mistral

Latin America’s first winner (male or female) of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Gabriel Mistral is most well-known for her poetry, which is universally loved among Chileans. Her poems, which ruminated on themes such as death, love, patriotism, and loss, are notable for the rich language and powerful emotions they evoke. They have never been officially translated into English, which many support since they feel that the feelings and emotions she invoked would be lost when translated into another language. Like fellow poet Pablo Neruda, she also worked as a diplomat, but she was a dedicated educator as well, campaigning for liberalizing education and giving all social classes equal access to good schools. She also served as director of one of Santiago’s most prestigious girls schools, a coveted and influential post.
 

Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende is one of modern Chile’s greatest literary exports, a diverse and prolific writer whose flowing and vibrant prose is instantly recognizable. Mostly famous for her fiction novels such as “The House of the Spirits”, “Zorro”, and “City of the Beasts,” she also has written nonfiction work about her life growing up in Chile, her Chilean family, leaving her country during the dictatorship, and Chilean culture. She currently lives in California, and she has been awarded the National Prize for Literature and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
 

Michelle Bachelet

Michelle Bachelet was and is Chile’s first female president, first serving from 2006 to 2010, and winning the presidency again in 2013 for her current term, which will end in 2017. She was also the executive director of UN Women (United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women), an organization within the UN working toward international empowerment for women, ending violence against women, encouraging women to get involved in politics and leadership roles, among other goals. Her presidencies have been marred by some scandals, which have affected her approval rating among Chileans, but agree or disagree with her politics, her involvement in national and international politics is a huge step forward for women everywhere.

Maria de la Cruz

Maria de la Cruz was the first woman ever elected to the Chilean Senate, and was an outspoken champion of women’s right as one of Chile’s most prominent suffragettes, as well as a political commentator and journalist. Using her radio program “Maria de la Cruz Habla” (Maria Cruz Speaks Out), de la Cruz was vocal about women’s struggle to win the right to vote, and highlighted the need for women to be more involved in national politics. In 1946, she founded the Feminine Party of Chile, which quickly became popular among working and middle class women, and after one failed attempt, won a Senate seat in 1953. She was removed from Congress not long after, however, due to allegations that she was involved in watch-smuggling from Argentina – allegations that are now widely considered to have been fabricated to remove her from the government. Nonetheless, she continued to speak out on her radio show until late in life.


 

Gladys Marin

Gladys Marin was a powerful force behind the opposition movement against dictator Augusto Pinochet, being the first person to file a lawsuit against him for his human rights violations. She served as Secretary-General and then president of the Communist Party of Chile, and, after leaving the country for a short time during the dictatorship for her own safety, she returned to help the underground movement toward restoring democracy. She filed her lawsuit against Pinochet in 1998.

Do you know a remarkable Chilean woman (or any woman!) who has inspired you? Let us know in the comments!

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On This Day in Patagonian History: The Glacier Republic

Did you know that there’s a mini-nation located somewhere amongst Chilean Patagonia’s vast expanses of crawling glaciers?

Well, there is! On March 5th, 2014, Greenpeace – never one for subtle gestures – used a loophole in Chilean law to declare that 8,800 miles of glacier-covered land was its own independent country – a “Glacier Republic” micronation.

Yes, that’s right. Some of the glaciers you may see during a trip to Patagonia – great walls of blue and white stretching back into a bleak wilderness of ice and rock, those great movers and shakers who helped form the iconic landscapes that draw visitors from all over the world – aren’t Chilean or Argentine. They are autonomous.

How was this possible?

Greenpeace has some good lawyers, is how. The glaciers are unprotected by Chile’s environmental laws and Constitution. Furthermore, the water code does not distinguish them as a holding source of valuable, fresh water for Chile’s many rivers and lakes, and many activists have raised concerns about gold mining practices in southern Chile that could pollute or damage the glaciers, as well as the fact that many glaciers are receding at an unprecedented rate due to climate change. Using this legal loophole, Greenpeace was able to lay claim to almost 9,000 miles of glaciers in Chile’s frigid south, vowing to protect it until Chile’s lawmakers will protect it themselves.

The creation of Glacier Republic is part of an activist promotional campaign by Greenpeace, making a stance against the fact that, although Chile is home to 82% of South America’s glaciers, there are virtually no laws in place to protect them. To announce the birth of a new nation, Greenpeace took out a full page ad in the New York Times.

To be a real nation, there are some requirements, which Glacier Republic has been granted courtesy of Greenpeace. It has a flag (a light blue rectangle with the black outline of three peaks) and a Declaration of Independence, as well as 40 international embassies (that are housed at Greenpeace’s offices). Glacier Republic’s capital is a tent located in an undisclosed location somewhere on the land. Greenpeace also issues official Glacier Republic passports and will soon kick off a soccer team. 

Its population: 165,000 petition signers (who do not live on-site). People have even been married there! 

Despite the measures taken to validate the micronation, the Glacier Republic has not been acknowledged by the United Nations, and therefore is not seen as a legitimate, independent country.

Greenpeace has stated that once sufficient legal protection for the glaciers is in place, Glacier Republic will cease to be and will be reabsorbed back into Chile.

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Celebrate Mulled Wine Day with Chilean Navegado

There’s nothing better than a full mug of heartwarming mulled wine on a cold, wintry night, and so, in honor of March 3rd – National Mulled Wine Day – we’re breaking out Chile’s take on this classic blend of warm wine, citrusy fruit, and delectable spices: navegado.

Similar to its European counterpart, this toasty beverage is made using Chile’s stupendous red wines, boiled together with juicy orange slices and assorted spices like cloves and cinnamon. Especially popular in southern Chile, where long, cold winters and dreary rainy seasons call for cozy drinks suited to nights spent cuddling by the fire or sitting by the window watching rain or snow fall outside, navegado is a favorite at folklore parties, known as penas or fondas. These events are traditional Chilean festivities where people come together as a community to eat traditional foods like empanadas, drink, and listen to classic Chilean folk music. Navegado is also frequently associated with the counterculture, youth movements of the 1960s.

Meaning “sailed wine”, the name pays tribute to Chile’s intimate relationship with the sea, which many Chileans rely on for food and their livelihoods. The name originates from a popular observation that the bobbing slices of orange floating in the wine look similar to boats or ships out at sea.

To try this hearty libation, here’s the recipe so you can make it yourself and bring a little Chilean warmth into your home!

Please drink responsibly, and do not drink and drive.

You’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 liters of red wine (dry red, like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Carmenere)
  • 1-2 oranges, thinly sliced, with peel
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 6 cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • Optional: anise; additional liqueur such as Grand Marnier or orange liqueur

Preparation:

  • Place all ingredients in a large pot
  • Heat over low heat for 25-30 minutes, with gradual stirring
  • Take care to keep the heat low, so the alcohol evaporates slowly and allows the other fruity and earthy flavors to become more pronounced
  • Once ready, serve warm in mugs with slices of orange floating in glass
  • Enjoy!

Recipe serves 4 people

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Visit Valparaiso, Chile’s Street Art Capital

Located just a short drive from Santiago, the San Francisco-esque city of Valparaiso is a popular stop for visitors hoping to get exposed to Chilean art and culture, as well as some fresh sea breeze after the stuffy, high mountain air of Santiago.

Squashed up against the coast, Valparaiso is a bonafide artsy city, a la New York’s West Village or San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury at the height of their hippie movements. But aside from its historic funiculars, vibrantly painted houses, and cascading hills, Valparaiso has another claim to fame that is rapidly helping this seaside “Jewel of the Pacific” assert itself as Chile’s bohemian, counterculture city par excellence: its street art.

Splashed over the walls and houses of the city, Valpo (as it’s affectionately known by residents) has amassed quite the collection of colorful and creative murals, stencils, and paintings, marking it as a top destination for street art enthusiasts, along with other street art meccas like Berlin, London, and Melbourne. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Valparaiso takes great pride in its history and culture, and the local government and citizens encourage and support local and visiting artists, with many businesses either requesting, bartering, or paying for their storefronts or buildings to be given an artsy touch-up.

But it isn’t just the sides of buildings that receive the creative treatment. Street art in Valpo can be found anywhere: transforming a stairway into a cascade of piano keys by painting them black and white; tiny stencils of weird and wacky creatures that peek out from corners; or even using natural materials like stones or plants to create images.


 

The majority of the street art is concentrated in the more tourist-centric district of Cerros Concepcion and Alegre, a short walk from the historic seaport neighborhood. Cobblestoned streets ramble up and down these hills, which are packed with restaurants, shops, galleries, hotels, and bars. Valparaiso’s iconic corrugated-iron-fronted houses line the streets, brightly painted and accented. Around every corner there is a fresh, new discovery: another brilliant view of the ocean and the city spread out over the hills, a whimsical hostel with quirky decorations, local bands or artists performing in a plaza or square, or, of course, a brilliant and striking piece of local art.

The variety of styles used is just one of the reasons Valparaiso has become famous for its street art, with artists creating original pieces and styles, but also utilizing common techniques such as wild-style, graffiti, character, piece, mural, and stencil. Many artists also pay tribute to the styles of some of visual art’s greatest practitioners, such as a beloved mural of Van Gogh, impersonating his fluid and vibrant Impressionist style, showing him in a field of sunflowers under a swirling sky reminiscent of “Starry Night.”

Artists have traveled from all over the world to contribute to Valpo’s street art (it’s rumored that Banksy has a piece somewhere, but it’s never been confirmed), but the local fare is hard to beat. Three of the most well-known and prolific local street artists are Inti Castro, Charquipunk, and Teo (the latter of which is responsible for the aforementioned Van Gogh mural), whose styles are instantly recognizable to the trained eye and can be pointed out on guided street art tours. For example, Charquipunk is famous for his nature-themed murals, especially focusing on Chile’s beautiful diversity of birds, particularly hummingbirds.

Throughout Valparaiso can also be found examples of a uniquely Chilean urban art movement: the Ramona Parra Brigade (Ramona Parra Brigada). Created in 1968 at the dawn of the Socialist presidency of Salvador Allende, tensions were high over economic uncertainty and social issues, and during a large student protest in Santiago, a young woman named Ramona Parra was shot and killed. Having belonged to the popular youth Communist Party, a community of young artists and activists took up the baton, named their collective after her, and started to cover the walls of Santiago with their art in protest. Their murals – distinctive for their bold, black outlines and the use of dynamic, eye-popping primary colors – were (and still are) symbols of resistance to authority and oppression during the dictatorship, using symbols like raised fists, the sun, the faces of workers, and icons of Chile like birds (symbolizing freedom and liberty).

Although Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion are generally regarded to be the heart and soul of Valparaiso’s street art, exploring a little further afield also turns up interesting finds. The Open Air museum on Cerro Bellavista, for example, is a great spot for admirers to explore the streets at leisure and discover the art organically. Opened in 1992, this outdoor collection of 20 murals features the diverse artwork of Chilean and Latin American artists, and is located just down the hill from poet Pablo Neruda’s “La Sebastiana” house, which is a classic stop for most visitors.

Discover and be awed by Valparaiso’s street art on our day tour here.

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Patagonia’s Past: The Legend of the Calafate Berry

When visiting Patagonia, especially during the breezy spring and summer months of November through March, while traipsing along the well-worn trails you’ll probably encounter deep-blue, almost purple berries dangling from small bushes huddled under trees and other shrubs. While they could easily be mistaken for blueberries, don’t be deceived: these are Calafate berries, indigenous to the region, deeply rooted in Patagonian folklore, and delightfully yummy to snack on.

The Calafate shrub, berberis microphylla, can be distinguished by their straight, brick-red stems and small, boxy evergreen leaves covered in a glossy sheen. Growing to a height of between 3 to 4 feet, the stems are also covered in short spikes to protect the fruit and flowers.

But the Calafate shrub is much more than just a native plant. Its berries serve as the inspiration for one of the most pervasive mythologies in the region: that anyone who eats a Calafate berry will return to Patagonia’s captivating landscapes again.


 

This belief stems from two different origin stories, the first centered around an elderly Tehuelche woman. The Tehuelche, a tribe native to the region, were nomads who would move and live together around Patagonia, hunting and foraging for food and leaving behind evidence of their visits with hand imprints left inside caves.

One winter, as the tribe was preparing to move from their current home, the old woman realized that she felt too weak to travel. With no one to help her or stay with her, she stayed behind as the tribe moved on, left to endure the brutal winter alone.

With the unforgiving winter cold settling in around her, it seemed like the old woman would perish in the harsh weather. Suddenly, magically, she was transformed into a calafate bush, allowing her to survive. Birds flying by, seeing the safety of her branches, sheltered there against the wind and cold. Then, when the bush flowered and bore fruit later in the year, the birds returned to feed on the fruit, which they have done every year since.

The other, and perhaps the more widely known and retold fable, tells the story of a beautiful young woman named Calafate, who was the daughter of the chief Aonikenk. Her eyes, a lovely, golden color, were said to be the most beautiful thing about her. The chief was very proud of his daughter, and was fiercely protective of her.

One day, while out on a walk, Calafate encountered a young Selknam, who came from a rival nomad tribe. Upon seeing each other, they instantly fell in love. However, knowing that their two tribes would never allow the union, they hatched a plan to run away and elope.

When the chief found out about the plan, he was distraught and furious. Not understanding why his daughter would choose to be with a Selknam, he decided that the evil spirit Gualicho must have possessed her. He went immediately to a shaman, asking how the escape could be thwarted. In response, the shaman turned Calafate into a bush, with blooming yellow flowers to match her golden eyes.

Unable to find Calafate at the time they were to have eloped, Selknam searched for her, finally finding the bush she had been transformed into. The chief’s coup de grace against their love had been giving the bush spiky thorns, thus allowing the young man to only look at his beloved, but never touch her. Heartbroken, the young Selknam perished.

The shaman, pained over the anguish he had caused the young lovers, took pity on them, and turned the yellow flowers into purple berries which represent the Selknam’s heart, so that the two could stay together.

It is the passion of the young lovers’ love that produced the “return to Patagonia” prophecy, since anyone who eats the berries come under the timeless spell of these Patagonian lovers and are compelled to return.

The prophecy that eating Calafate berries will ensure return to Patagonia has become a popular tale throughout Chilean and Argentine Patagonia. The berries are ubiquitous and can be easily found and identified (but always check with a guide or native flora book before picking and eating), and many stores in tourist towns like Puerto Natales also sell Calafate berry products such as jellies, jams, and candies. The Calafate Sour, a variation on Chile’s popular national cocktail the Pisco Sour, can be found and enjoyed at some bars throughout Patagonia.

Even early explorers, such as Charles Darwin and Lady Florence Dixie (who was the "first tourist" to Torres del Paine, which you can read about here), discovered and were taken with the sweet flavors of the berry. In her book "Riding Across Patagonia", Lady Florence Dixie describes the bush and its fruit like this: “…soon we all dismounted round a huge califaté bush, and there we ate our fill of its sweet juicy berries, taking a supply with us to be eaten after dinner, mashed up with sugar, as dessert.”

Although some may decry the legend as being reduced to a cheap tourist ploy, there is something comforting in the knowledge that is has been set in stone that you will inevitably return to place full of such natural beauty and captivating landscapes.

 

Want to discover the legend of the Calafate berry for yourself? Learn more about our many Patagonia tours here

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Take a Bite of Chile’s Best Sandwiches

Cultures and countries all over the world have each added their own unique twist to one of the most common and enoyable meals of all time: the sandwich. The medianoche, the Philly, the banh mi, the doner kebab, the croque monsieur…a good “sammie” transcends borders and connects people all over the world, because who doesn’t love a good sandwich?

But while many subspecies of sandwich have achieved fame outside of their host country or culture, Chile’s delicious and varied leaderboard of offerings have sadly remained sequestered behind the mighty Andes, unable to penetrate international cuisine. But that’s slowly changing as the world of Chilean gastronomy is starting to make itself heard, thanks in part to Chile’s growing popularity as an adventure travel destination.

Chile’s array of sandwiches are an essential part of the Chilean culinary landscape, combining classic recipes with local ingredients and flavors. These gut-busting conglomerations of meat, vegetables, condiments, and bread are a bonafide part of Chilean culture all over the country, and are guaranteed to satisfy all types of palates and leave even the most ravenous traveler stuffed and contented. So let’s take a bite of the appetizing world of Chilean sandwiches for a taste of what you can find on a typical Chilean diner menu.

Barros Luco

Juicy, tender slices of beef covered by oozing layers of cheese, all squished between a light, fluffy bun made from one of Chile’s signature breads – what could be better? Named after former president Ramon Barros Luco, who always requested it at the fashionable gentleman’s club Club de la Union in Santiago, the Barros Luco is a popular lunchtime sandwich due to its simplicity but also down-home comfort food flavors, and is also sometimes enjoyed for dinner, breakfast, or as a late-night snack for soaking up alcohol while heading home from a party.

Barros Jarpa

A cousin of the Barros Luco, the Barros Jarpa is made with slices of ham instead of beef, but still covered in melty cheese between toasted slices of bread. Another similarity is that the Jarpa takes its name from another politician, Ernesto Barros Jarpa, the former foreign minister of Chile and also a frequent visitor to the Club de la Union. Always in a rush, he would request a sandwich that was faster and easier to make than the Barros Luco, hence the use of ham.

Lomito

The lomito is so beloved and ubiquitous in Chilean gastronomy, it’s on par with the US hamburger in terms of cultural relevance and popularity. To many, it is the unofficial official sandwich of Chile. Finely sliced fillets of pork are grilled or slow-braised – depends on the restaurant or fuente de soda (a typical Chilean diner), which may have their own secret recipe – to mouth-watering perfection, and then heaped onto a Chilean bread bun and topped with tomato slices and sauerkraut. Most people also pile even more toppings into the sandwich, such as mashed avocado, homemade mayonnaise, and melty mantesco cheese. The helpings of ingredients are incredibly generous and the sandwich towers so high that most people need to tackle it with a fork and knife.

Churrasco

Also a common and tasty sight at greasy spoons and fuentes de soda all over Chile, the churrasco is loaded up with delicious flavors and is sure to leave even the most hearty eater with a food baby! Slices of tenderloin steak are grilled and piled onto a toasted bun (usually a marraqueta or hallulla loaf), before adding mashed avocado, tomato slices, and mayo for the classic churrasco italiano. A slightly different but also popular version, known as the “Churrasco a la pobre” (poor man’s churrasco) is made with caramelized onions, french fries, and a fried egg. In the northern region of Coquimbo, a local variation consists of a fried fish and a mix of tomatoes, onions, and green chili (otherwise known as an ensalada Chilena).

Chacarero

This legendary beast is responsible for helping spread the gospel of Chilean sandwiches across the Andes and onto the great, wide world, as it was distinguished as one of the best sandwiches in the world in a 2013 article by Time Magazine. Succulent slices of beef, tomato slices, avocado, green chilis, and then (wait for it) green beans are squished between slices of Chilean bread, creating a flavorful and filling masterpiece which gets even better with the addition of homemade mayonnaise and other condiments of your choosing. Like the lomito and churrasco, this sandwich is usually too much of a handful for hands, and needs to be eaten with utensils.

Chemilico

This variation on the Barros Luco makes this classic sandwich even more suited to breakfast by adding eggs! The grilled meat (typically beef) is topped with a fried egg, which is cooked to perfection so the egg yolk can break open and ooze all over the tender meat strips. Squeeze it all between two slices of bread and you’re good to go.

Completo

While not exactly a sandwich, any Chilean would be loathe to leave the completo (Complete) off any self-respecting sandwich list. This local rendition of the hotdog is one of Chile’s most popular street foods, consisting of a sausage in a toasted marraqueta loaf bun, and then topped with diced tomatoes, mashed avocado, and slathered with mayonnaise. This version, arguably the most popular, is known as the “Italiano” thanks to its colorful resemblance to the Italian flag. Other ingredients can also include sauerkraut and ketchup, and you can order it in a variety of sizes, from a standard 6 inch to a several foot long affair to share with friends. While the heaping helping of mayo may set off some visitors, it’s a wonderful, tangy complement to the earthy flavors of the tomatoes and avocado, and ordering it sans mayo will definitely get some raised eyebrows. But no matter how you choose to enjoy it, the completo is a not-to-be-missed part of the Chilean street food scene.

To find out more, go to ChileSandwich.com to download the new app from the Chilean Tourism Board to find recipes, photos and more, or check out our culinary day tours that will get you up close and personal with the delights of Chilean gastronomy!

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7 Summer Sports You Can Enjoy in Chile

With winter chills and heavy snows settling over much of the northern hemisphere, the joys of summertime – the feel of warm sunshine on bare skin, cold popsicles by the pool, spending a relaxing day hiking or going for a bike ride – seem like a distant memory.

But down in Chile, summer is in full-swing and the livin’ is easy. The sun is out, the mood is happy, families are on vacation, and Chile’s mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes, plains, and beaches are ready for action. With a wide variety of outdoor activities available across the country to help visitors and locals get to know Chile’s natural spaces, there are almost endless chances to spend an invigorating day outside exploring with any of these fun and popular summer sports.


 

1) Surfing – Cowabunga! Chile’s 4,270 kilometers of coastline are prime real estate for much more than swimming, sun-tanning, and sandcastles – Chile is home to a vibrant surf culture. Although there are surfing opportunities in the south, the far north of the country and a few beaches close to Santiago, such as Ritoque near the ritzy coastal city of Vina del Mar, offer the best waves. Pichilemu, a coastal resort roughly three hours southwest of Santiago, is Chile’s surfing capital, and is where most of the national championships are held. But head further up the coast to the town of Arica, and you’ll find a different scene at “Gringo Beach,” where most visiting foreign and US surfers come out to play. But be warned: even in the height of summer, the waters can be unbearably cold, so wearing a wetsuit is recommended. Fun fact: our very own EcoCamp Patagonia ambassador, Ramon Navarro, is one of Chile’s surfing elite, competing locally and internationally.

2) Fly Fishing – Chile is internationally renowned for its flavorful fish, such as salmon and sea bass, and where there are excellent fish, there is excellent fishing. Southern Chile is home to some of the best fly-fishing in the world, drawing avid fishermen from all over the world to its beautiful and languid rivers.

With the fishing season lasting from November to May, Northern Patagonia takes top prize for most popular fishing spots, with the glacial-fed waters of the Lakes District and the Aysen region standing out for their various lakes and rivers. Teeming with prime trout and salmon, the mineral-rich and sheltered waters have allowed these non-native species to flourish. The variety of rivers offers something for every type of fishermen, with the rivers of the Lakes District more suited to riverboat fishing, whereas the Aysen region has plenty of shallower rivers, inlets, and streams that are ideal for wading.

The rivers surrounding Torres del Paine, such as the Serrano River, also offer great fly-fishing opportunities, with the dynamic peaks of the Paine Massif as the perfect backdrop.

Discover how you can go fly-fishing near Torres del Paine here

3) White-water Rafting – Once a rarity in the world of Chilean sports, white-water rafting is now a beloved summer sport for foreigners and locals alike, thanks in part to Cascada Expediciones! Back when Cascada was founded in 1991, rafting was virtually non-existent in Chile, a country still discovering its virtues as an outdoor adventure destination. Seeing an opportunity, Cascada’s founders Javier, Yerko, and Nani, who had experience rafting from studying in other countries, began offering white-water rafting tours and programs, becoming adventure travel and tourism pioneers in Chile. Nowadays, people travel from all over the globe to raft Chile’s rivers, on trips which can last from one to eight days depending on the river.

Two highlights of Chile’s white-water rafting options are Cajon de Maipo and the Lakes District. Cajon de Maipo, located about an hour and a half away from the capital city of Santiago, is a mountainous canyon frequented by the outdoor enthusiasts of the capital, who relish the clear air, fresh water, and abundant nature just a short drive from the city. The joining of multiple rivers and streams as the water flows through the canyon makes for some thrilling rapids and stunning views, but the waters are generally regarded as an easier challenge than its southern counterparts.

Further down south is where it gets really interesting. Turbulent and pristine waters, flowing downward from snowcaps and glaciers in the upper Andes, feed the rivers and lakes of the enchanting Lake District, offering endless routes and opportunities for fun, with a range of different classes of rapids suited to experience level. The Futaleufu River is regarded as one of the best rivers in the world for rafting, its name meaning “Big River” in the native Mapuche language. The Bio-Bio river, the second largest river in Chile, also has its fair share of world-class rapids, but damming along the river has stemmed the flow.

Discover white-water rafting in Chile here. 

4) Kayaking – Kayaking is one of the best ways to explore Chile’s many lakes, rivers, and coastal bays. In the south, abundant rain and melting snowfall guarantees year-long access to fresh, cool water. Kayaking is especially popular in the Lakes District, famous for its many beautiful waterways and its wealth of nature reserves that are perfectly suited to outdoor activities. Once again, the Bio-Bio and Futaleufu rivers reign supreme as top kayaking destinations. Lately, sea-kayaking has been enjoying a surge in popularity around Chile, especially down in southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, where, during the summer, visitors have excellent chances to see migrating whales, dolphins, local pinnipeds like seals and sea lions, and other wildlife, as well as soaking up the spectacular mountains and fjords of the region.

Paddle your way to adventure with our kayaking programs here

5) Hiking – Hiking is a quintessential summer activity, and Chile has plenty of it. If exploring the arid expanses of the Atacama Desert is your goal, there are many trails and paths that take you down into shaded canyons, valleys, and slot gorges through which rivers flow that will take you out of the heat of the day. Closer to Santiago, day hikes into the Andes mountains near El Colorado and El Morado are a great way to escape the city for a day, hiking through the Andes to discover hidden glaciers and stunning views.

Of course, the most popular and well-known hiking trails can be found in Patagonia, especially in Torres del Paine National Park, home to the famous W trek which winds its way around the staggering Paine Massif. Throughout Patagonia, there are many hiking possibilities, including but not limited to trails throughout the extensive national park system, along the Carretera Austral, around Tierra del Fuego, and the Dientes Trek on Navarino Island, widely regarded as one of the best but least known treks on the continent.

Across Chile, hiking trails can range in length and duration from day hikes to multi-day affairs, with variations in difficulty from easy to difficult.

Join us for a walk or hike here
 

6) Cycling – Whether your pleasure is a leisurely bike ride through the countryside or a thrills-and-spills mountain biking trip, Chile’s many regions are ready to satisfy.

In the Atacama desert, biking through the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat) or Talabre gorges  are sure-fire way to get your blood pumping, as well staying out of the extreme heat of the summer sun. For the city-dwellers of Santiago, the trails of Cajon de Maipo once again come to the rescue and offer the perfect getaway for a day of mountain biking. But for those craving something a bit less extreme, biking around Chile’s world-class vineyards in the nearby valleys of Colchagua, Casablanca, and Maipo are the ideal counterpoint.

Heading further south can be found what is arguably Chile’s most popular cycling route: the Carretera Austral. Running through the up-and-coming Aysen region of northern Patagonia, this stretch of sometimes-asphalt-sometimes-gravel was the dreamchild of former dictator Augusto Pinochet, who hoped to unite the isolated communities of the southern regions through a central road. Although the project never quite accomplished its goal, the 1,240 km road, which meanders past mist-drenched forests, gushing rivers, turquoise lakes, and staggering mountains, has found its calling as a mecca for cyclists, who come to cycle the entire length of the road and soak up the views.

Cycle through Chile with us here

7) Rock climbing – Backed by one of the longest mountain ranges on Earth, Chile abounds with  opportunities for rock-climbing, ranging from the basics to extreme challenges. With over 2,500 miles of Andes running the length of the country, there are many established spots for climbing, but undeveloped or unknown areas also hold great potential.

Starting in the north, the craggy canyons of the Atacama Desert offer intriguing walls to test and improve technique on the bizarre rock walls, with Socaire Creek near San Pedro de Atacama and La Pampilla near Coquimbo standing out as popular areas. Closer to Santiago, Cajon de Maipo and the surrounding mountains are also frequented by climbers of all ages and skillsets.

Of course, the gold standard for extreme rock climbing in Chile can be found in the peaks and mountains of Patagonia, where rock climbers flock from all over the world to test out their skills and technique on granite giants, such as scaling the three “Towers” of Torres del Paine (read more about some of the daredevils who tackle this challenge here). 

Find out about these summer sports programs and more here!

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Chile Battles “Worst Wildfires in Nation’s History”

Chile is currently experiencing the worst wildfires in the nation’s history, with up to 120 separate blazes throughout the month of January destroying towns, forests, and vineyards near the capital of Santiago, and down through the southern regions of O’Higgins, Bio Bio, La Araucania, and Maule.

The severity of the fires, which have scorched nearly a million acres, has prompted President Michelle Bachelet to declare a state of emergency. Eleven people have already been killed, mainly firefighters, and more than 6,000 citizens evacuated from their homes.

Although summer blazes are normal in Chile, the tinder-box conditions of a ten-year drought, strong winds, and high temperatures have all exacerbated the situation. Thus far, most of the fires are believed to have been started by human actions, and 43 people have been arrested and are under questioning for suspected arson.

Although small rural towns, like Santa Olga, and outlying neighborhoods have been destroyed, the fires have primarily impacted forests, pastures, fields, and smaller, family-owned vineyards, killing historic 150 year old vines.

Firefighter corps from all over the country have been fighting the blazes nonstop using ground and air support, with help from the national government. Due to the multitude of fires and their ferocity, some locals have had to resort to fighting fires themselves, with firefighters sometimes not being able to respond to a call until hours after a fire has passed.

Local resources overwhelmed, the Chilean government put out a request for foreign aid, which many countries have answered.

A Boeing 747-400 SuperTanker jet, on loan from Global SuperTanker in the United States thanks to a generous donation from a Chilean member of the Walton family, arrived in Chile last Tuesday to help fight the fires. Capable of dumping nearly 20,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in a single run, the massive aircraft, staffed by expert pilots, has been making multiple daily trips since arrival, taking off from the Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago and flying low over priority areas to drop water or retardant. The plane has become a viral celebrity on Chilean social media, trending under the hashtag #supertanker with many people posting pictures, videos, and even memes of the plane.

In addition to the SuperTanker, Russia has also provided the Ilyushin aircraft to help with combating the fires, and other countries, such as Uruguay, have also pitched in with firefighters, supplies, and money.

Thanks to the outpouring of support, the number of fires has diminished. Exact numbers are varied, but there’s roughly 83 fires still being battled at last estimate on February 1, with 59 fires under control, and nine extinguished. 

In solidarity for their countrymen, the Chilean people have also mobilized to help both the firefighters and those affected by the fires, running multiple donation and fundraising projects to collect money and much-needed supplies like water and nonperishable foods, and taking them to the affected areas.

At the moment, the fires have not affected any major tourism areas, although heavy smoke has been hovering over Santiago and the coastal areas of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar.

If you would like to donate to help Chile in fighting and recovering from these fires, Desafio Levantemos Chile has an official donation page available here.

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“Wheel the World” makes History in Patagonia

A few days before Christmas last year, Alvaro Silberstein made history as the first disabled person to explore Torres del Paine National Park – with the aid of a very special wheelchair.

Silberstein, a Chilean engineer who is currently studying for an MBA at UC Berkeley in the US, was rendered unable to walk after a car crash twelve years ago. An avid outdoorsman and adventurer, Silberstein refused to spend the rest of his life confined to a wheelchair. Putting his background in industrial engineering to work, he teamed up with friends and colleagues to find a solution.

The result was “Wheel the World”, an initiative with goals to inspire disabled people to not let their disability discourage them from exploring the world and achieving their dreams, as well as making a call to action for tourism organizations in remote locations such as Torres del Paine to have disability-friendly exploration options to make tourism more inclusive.

To kickstart the project, Silberstein decided to tackle the famous W trek in Torres del Paine National Park. To do this, he needed a hardy, all-terrain wheelchair that could handle the unpaved, rocky, and uneven paths of the park.

Designed by the French company Joelette and built in Canada, the one-wheeled wheelchair chosen for the project operates with the assistance of two people acting as stabilizers at the front and back of the chair. Outfitted with a harness, the chair and occupant can be lifted up and over rough terrain to get to wilderness areas previously inaccessible to people with disabilities.

To raise money to purchase the chair and for other expenses, Wheel the World was Crowdfunded by EcoCamp Patagonia and other local tourism organizations. The chair itself cost $8,000 USD, plus $9,000 for assistance while on the trail and transportation and media content to promote the project.

By the end of the trip, which lasted from December 19 to December 23, Silberstein and his friends had completed over 50 km of Torres del Paine National Park, visiting Grey Glacier, the base of the Torres, and a visit to Refugio Los Cuernos.

Only a few weeks after Silberstein’s historic trek, the wheelchair has helped another disabled person experience the once-impossible – eleven-year-old Nicolas Paez. Stricken with a severe form of epilepsy, confined to a wheelchair, and unable to speak, Nicolas was able to visit the base of the Towers using the chair and the aid of the guides and his family.

Check out Nicolás’ experience in Torres del Paine!

The wheelchair has been donated to the park, where EcoCamp has access to it, so other people with disabilities who want to visit the park can use it. But Silberstein still has big plans for “Wheel the World,” and he already has his next destination in mind: Easter Island.

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8 Reasons Chile’s Central Wine Valleys are the Perfect Romantic Getaway

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, which means it’s time to start figuring out how to mark the occasion. But this year, in place of the usual fancy dinner with wine, why not go right to the source of that aphrodisiac libation and spend Valentines in the heart of South American wine culture: Chile’s wine valleys.

Central Chile’s dry soil, sheltered valleys, late summer rains, and golden sunshine have proved a match made in heaven for wine-growing. Vines first brought over by colonizers in the 16th century have since proliferated into a diverse array of award-winning varietals, with decadent reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, and Pinot Noir; crisp whites like Sauvignon Blanc; and inspired blends.

As Chile grows ever-more popular amongst the tourists of the world, access to the vineyards of Chile is becoming easier than ever, with new luxurious hotels opening up in the wine valleys, numerous fine-dining options, fun outdoor activities, and tours and wine-tastings available at most vineyards.

With the Colchagua Valley – the cradle of Chile’s flagship wine, Carmenere – recently named by Travel+Leisure as one of their top 50 romantic getaways, central Chile’s wine district is rapidly establishing itself as the ne plus ultra destination for romantic, wine-filled getaways in South America.

Beautiful surroundings

The idyllic wine valleys of central Chile are not only ready to satisfy your thirst, but are incredibly easy on the eyes. In spring and summer, rolling mountains rise out of patchwork-quilt fields of vines that stretch across the valley floor, crisscrossed by roads and the occasional hacienda, hotel, or winery hiding in a shady oasis of trees. In fall, the fields turn undulating shades of orange, red, and yellow as the leaves change and wine-growers take to the fields to harvest their grapes (this event is called ‘vendimina’ and is usually celebrated in early-to-mid March). Wine routes (rutas de vino) take travelers through the most famous wine valleys in the central region, such as Maipo (a roughly 45 minute drive from Santiago), Colchagua (2 1/2 hour drive), and Casablanca (hour-long drive).

Wine tastings par excellence

Red, white, rose, blends, sparkling wine: whatever your taste, Chile’s vineyards have something for everyone, so even if you like red and your sweetheart is more of a Sauvignon blanc person, everyone walks away happy. Most vineyards offer tastings of their most popular wines, usually including a small flight of reds and whites. The vineyard’s sommelier or representative each discuss the wine as it’s being tasted, describing its age, body type, and the different smells and tastes one may find in the wine. For the true wine-lovers, many places will also offer a spit bucket so you can really dive into comparing and contrasting the wines without the tipsiness.

Go cycling, horseback riding, or hiking through the vineyards

Long roads meandering through immaculate-aligned fields of green vines are the perfect siren call to spend a day or afternoon biking, walking, horseback riding, or taking a carriage ride under a sunny sky. The terrain of the valleys is relatively flat, making for easy-going excursions full of fun and happiness with your partner by your side. You can book a tour for a full day of biking and wine tasting here. 

Fine dining

Since the dawn of man, we’ve known that with good wine, there must be good food. Although Santiago is the culinary hub of Chile, gourmands will find plenty to love in the restaurants of the wine valleys. Be it a traditional asado of Chile’s prime meats, a seasonal treat such as summery pastel de choclo or humitas, or seafood fresh from the nearby coast, delicious and filling meals full of local flavor and zest are to be easy to find – and paired with the best wines, of course!

Vineyard Tours

Most vineyards offer tours of the winemaking facilities and aging cellar, followed by a tasting of the winery’s finest varietals. Although the wines are the pièce de résistance, the tours themselves are informative and intriguing, offering unique insight into how different vintners grow and age their wine, and what techniques they utilize, such as Vina Nativia’s 100% organic natural touch to viticulture.

You’ll also be treated to fascinating historical tidbits about the history of winemaking in Chile. At Vina Carmen vineyards, guests can visit the spot where the vine for Carmenere was first rediscovered in 1994 by French ampelographer Jean-Michel Boursiquot, who distinguished it from the merlot vines it had been mistaken for. In the hallowed halls of Concha y Toro in the Maipo Valley, you’ll know you’re in the presence of New World wine royalty. In addition to being one of Chile’s most emblematic and famous wineries, they are the only South American label to be included in the exclusive Club de Marques wine association.

Luxury accommodations

Thanks to the swelling popularity of Chile’s vineyards amongst tourists, boutique hotels, lodges, and high-end accommodations have started popping up in the wine-centric valleys of Maipo, Casablanca, Maule, and others to meet the demand. Built and decorated in a variety of styles ranging from chic and modern simplicity to rustic decor with classically inspired architecture, there’s a style to suit everyone’s palate. Away from the noise and crowd of big cities, these hotels are quiet, secluded, and perfect for lazy afternoons, late mornings, and nights cuddling under the stars. Find out more about our luxurious getaway options here

Boutique shopping options

Even though Santiago and its wealth of shopping options is a quick car ride away, the wine valleys have plenty of gift shops and stores to help you pick out souvenirs to help you remember your romantic weekend in Chilean wine country. Most vineyards have a gift shop, where you can purchase bottles of wine, wine stoppers, wine openers, and other oenophile tricks-of-the-trade.  Some vineyards even have the option to ship a crate of wine back home for you and save you the trouble of transporting it yourself. If you’re looking for something a little less “exit through the gift shop,” many towns often have quaint shops retailing local handicrafts and souvenirs.

Easy access to nightlife and cultural activities

Need a night away from heady wines and candle-lit dinners to try something a bit different? Chile’s central wine valleys are perfectly positioned to offer guests a multitude of entertainment and activity options. Head to the capital city of Santiago to partake in the city’s thrumming nightlife scene, climb Cerro Cristobal to bask in the Chilean sun and take in the view of the city and Andean cordillera, stroll through the boulevards of Barrio Lastarria and Bellavista, and get lost in the energy of one of South America’s most happening cities. If a trip to the coast sounds more your speed, the port city of Valparaiso offers fresh seafood, vibrant and diverse street art, and gorgeous hilltop vistas.

Plan your perfect romantic getaway in Chilean wine country here.

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Celebrate Melon con Vino Day, January 15

January 15th marks the celebration of one of Chile’s most popular summer drinks: melon con vino, or melon with wine.

Given the affectionate shorthand “Melvin,” melon con vino is a honeydew melon which has been hollowed out and filled with cool white wine mixed with some powdered sugar. This sticky-sweet concoction is a godsend in the sweltering Chilean summer, and is usually shared by a group of friends or family while at summer barbecues, picnics, and festivities, hence its reputation as a communal drink, similar to sharing a pitcher of beer or a carafe of wine.

Herman Villagran, one of the creators of the celebration and editor of the popular beverage culture magazine Rayuela Corta, sees the event as a chance to spend time with loved ones and celebrate this aspect of Chilean culture and gastronomy.

To celebrate this unofficial holiday – now in its sixth year – here’s the recipe for the classic melon con vino, authentically Chilean and forever delicious.

Please drink responsibly.

You’ll need:

  • One honeydew melon
  • 2 liters of white wine (Sauvignon Blanc is the preferred choice)
  • Powdered sugar
  • Ice (optional)

Instructions:

  • Chill the white wine in advance
  • Cut a hole in the top of the melon. Keep the lid.
  • Using a spoon, scrape out the insides of the melon to form an empty cavity, being careful not to scrape too hard and cut through the outer rind. Leave some chunks of the fruit inside the melon
  • Pour the chilled white wine into the melon until almost at the brim
  • Add three spoonfuls of powdered sugar and stir into the wine
  • Optional: if wine is not chilled enough, add ice to mixture, or place the melon in the fridge for 15-30 minutes
  • Add straws, a group of your favorite people, and enjoy!
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Whales, Penguins, and Dolphins: Dive into Tierra del Fuego’s Underwater World

If you’ve ever wanted to see humpback whales breaching, visit a penguin colony, and sail through waters teeming with sea lions, dolphins, and other marine animals, Tierra del Fuego in southern Chile and Argentina is the place to go.

Perched on the curling tip of the South American continent, the 18,000+ square miles of Tierra del Fuego are flush with creeping glaciers, mist-shrouded forests and fjords, and aegean blue waterways steeped in nautical legends and folklore. Dubbed the “Land of Fire” or “Fireland” by Portuguese sailor and explorer Ferdinand Magellan (namesake of the Magellan Strait) after he spotted multiple fires from native tribes burning on the shore, this water-drenched land of fire is a haven for some of the world’s most diverse marine wildlife, including seals, dolphins, and the gentle giants of the oceans: whales.

Whales

Visitors flock to Tierra del Fuego in the hopes of being among the rare few to witness one of most enthralling sights anywhere on the planet: a whale in its natural habitat. Thanks to the sheltered waters, unique underwater topography which allows whales to move closer to shore safely, and abundance of krill and minerals, the chances of a sighting (and maybe even a breaching, the holy grail of whale sightings) are good, especially during the summer months of December through March, when whales migrate around Cape Horn to mate and give birth.

The most frequent sightings are of southern right whales, followed by humpback whales, blue whales, grey whales, southern minks, southern fins, and southern sei whales. On the Argentine side of Tierra del Fuego, close to the town of Ushuaia on the Beagle Channel, orcas (killer whales) have also been seen.

A popular spot for sightings and observation is the 416 square mile Francisco Coloane Marine Park near Punta Arenas, Chile. The first aquatic reserve in Chile (it has since been joined by the "Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park" further up the coast, the largest marine park in the world), during breeding it becomes a watery home to humpbacks, minkes, and southern rights, as well as seals and penguins. Visitors have the best chance of making a sighting between January and April, but the observation season officially lasts from November to May. For the ultimate thrill, go sea-kayaking through these whale-filled waters for a whale of a time! Even if the whales are being shrewd, the vistas of nearby glaciers and fjords still make for a lovely outing.

Penguins

Apart from the whales, Tierra del Fuego’s penguin colonies are arguably the region’s biggest draw for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.

The most common penguin of Fuegian waters is the Magellanic penguin, also named after Ferdinand Magellan who was the first to record observations about them during an expedition in 1519.

A colony of more than 150,000 mating pairs spends September-March on the tiny island of Isla Magdalena, located a short ferry ride from Punta Arenas, where they breed and raise their chicks before migrating further up the coast for food and warmer weather during the winter months. Even though the island is a national monument and is protected because of its importance as a breeding site (Magellanic penguins are endangered due to frequent oil spills, which kills upwards of 42,00 penguin's per year, as well as loss of food from overfishing by humans), there is a marked-off hiking path around the island which guests can walk through and observe the penguins and their breeding grounds at close quarters.

There are up to 10 Magellanic penguin colonies throughout Chilean and Argentine Patagonia (Isla Magdalena is the largest), and the species is monitored by scientists and conservation groups.

In addition to the Magellanic penguin, Humboldt, Gentoo, and Rockhopper penguins also have breeding colonies throughout the region. But a true rarity amongst the local penguin colonies is the king penguin colony at King Penguin Park.

In 2010, a group of eight King penguins (the second largest penguin in the species, just after the emperor penguin of “March of the Penguins” fame) set up a small colony in Bahía Inútil, much to the surprise of the locals. King Penguins are native to the Sub-Antarctic islands farther south, and rarely venture this close to the mainland, much less to create a colony. To protect the colony (which has since grown), the King Penguin Park was opened in 2011 to allow visitors to safely observe and learn about the penguins, and to help conserve the species.

Dolphins

There are two types of dolphins most commonly found in Tierra del Fuego: the Commerson’s dolphin, and Peale’s dolphin.

Peale’s dolphin, distinguishable by its small body and fluid grey-white markings, is the only dolphin which cannot whistle. Killed en masse during the 1970s and 1980s by local fisherman who used their flesh as crab bait, the species is not overtly endangered, but conservation groups have started to voice concern that more concentrated efforts need to be made to preserve their numbers. Despite the killing, they remain the most prolific dolphins in the area, and can be found up and down the southern coasts of Chile and Argentina, gliding through the water at fast speeds.

The Commerson’s dolphin is instantly recognizable by its bold black and white markings, leading it to also be known as the “panda dolphin.” It is found along the coast of South America, but is unique in that a similar, related subspecies also exists in the Indian Ocean, with slight variations in body shape and coloration. Like the Peale dolphin, they have also been killed for crab bait, and are frequently caught in gillnets closer to shore, which they can access due to their small build.

Luckily, thanks to a boom in tourism in Tierra del Fuego’s towns and nature reserves, more awareness is being raised about the threats facing Peale’s and Commerson’s dolphins, so better conservation efforts can be undertaken.

Sea Lions

A common sight around Tierra del Fuego are the area’s hordes of seals and sea lions, who feed on fish and krill, and live in the region year-round.

One of the best spots to observe the seals and sea lions at their leisure is at the pinniped-extravaganza of Isla Marta, located near Isla Magdalena. The tiny island – which is protected and off-limits to tourists – is home to thousands of elephant seals, South American sea lions, and South American fur seals. Males establish territories on the beaches that encompass large groups of females with which he mates (mating season for the sea lions takes place from September to December, with pups being born from December through February). The males fiercely defend their territory and protect their harem of females, and fights between competing males can become bloody and even deadly. This is especially true of elephant seals, whose sharp teeth draw blood quickly and the mammoth size of alpha males should be daunting to any would-be competitor.

Tierra del Fuego’s waterways are also the hunting grounds for carnivorous leopard seals, who prey on penguins, as well as krill and fish.

Dive into the ecologically diverse and fascinating world of Tierra del Fuego's waterways with our wide range of programs here!

Half Day Magellan Strait Penguin Adventure

Full Day King Penguin Viewing Excursion

Full Day Humpback Whale Viewing Excursion

5 Day Navarino Island and Antarctica Adventure

– Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia Adventure

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2017 Designated International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development

It’s a new year, which means that around the world, people are making resolutions to better themselves.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is getting in on the action, designating 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

Through this order, which encourages people to “Travel – Enjoy – Respect” the world, the UNWTO hopes to promote, highlight, educate, and raise awareness about the myriad ways sustainable tourism spurs development around the world and is a beneficial force in the travel and tourism industry – a global juggernaut which annually moves 1 billion people around the world on vacations per year, generates trillions in global gross domestic product, and employs roughly 1 out of 11 people.

Through social media campaigns and other awareness-building, the UNWTO hopes the year will result in influencing travelers, businesses, and governments to support sustainable tourism initiatives.

The fact that the UN has designated an entire year to this cause is a huge win for the industry, which focuses on the future of travel and hopes to lessen or eliminate its negative impacts around the globe, which can include environmental destruction, loss of wildlife, poverty, inequality and unemployment, loss of cultural values or heritage, and more.

Firstly, what is sustainable tourism? The UNWTO defines it as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”

For the year, the UNWTO has five goals for promoting tourism in these areas: 1) inclusive and sustainable economic growth;  2) social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction; 3) resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change; 4) cultural values, diversity and heritage; and 5) mutual understanding, peace and security.

The celebration kicks off with an opening party in Madrid, Spain in January, followed by a year-long extravaganza of conferences, exhibitions, awareness campaigns, events, and even a blogger’s competition, before finishing up in December with a closing ceremony in Geneva, Spain. All UNWTO events, such as World Tourism Day on September 27th, will be celebrated around this theme.

Why does this matter to us? Here at Cascada, sustainable tourism is a key part of our values and philosophy as a company, and for all our employees as well. This dedication to sustainability is especially evident in the founding principles, design, and operation of our partner hotel, EcoCamp Patagonia, the world’s first sustainable geodesic dome hotel.

Running on green energy through solar and hydraulic power, practicing localism, reducing waste and recycling, using composting toilets, being Carbon Neutral, and working every day to further reduce its environmental impact, EcoCamp is a leader and inspiration in the field of sustainable tourism.

From all of us here at Cascada Expediciones and EcoCamp Patagonia, we look forward to supporting the 2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and continuing to work toward creating a more sustainable industry and world.


 

To find out more about what you can do to support sustainable tourism and be a responsible traveler, visit the United Nations World Tourism Organization website here.

Follow campaign on Twitter: #IY2017

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Watch the Skies: Stargazing and Astronomy in the Atacama Desert

When poet Pablo Neruda wrote about the bright stars and night sky of his beloved Chile, he used simple but strong phrases, evoking color and movement. With a few words – “…the night sky is full of stars, and the stars, blue, shiver in the distance…" – he captured a sense of peaceful vastness, coupled with both fascination and helplessness at the grandness of the night sky.

We can’t know for sure what night sky he was looking at when he wrote these stanzas for his famous One Hundred Love Sonnets – maybe an ebony sky sprinkled with silver stars twinkling over the ocean at his Isla Negra home, maybe a night sky clouded with haze amid the bustling of cosmopolitan Santiago – but reading his words today, they bring to mind the impossibly clear, forever brilliant starry skies over the Atacama Desert.

Sprawled over the altiplano of northern Chile, the Atacama Desert's 600 miles are home to an otherworldly mix of the bizarre and the beautiful. Featuring out-of-this-world vistas like Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley), and Valle de Marte (Mars Valley), it is one of Chile’s top travel destinations, both for its diverse landscapes and cultural allure. Visitors can be awed by the steaming geysers of the Tatio Geyser field, observe wild flamingos at the shimmering Chaxa Lagoon, play with optical illusions on endless, crunchy salt flats, hike through jagged valleys of rock and sand, and immerse themselves in the history and culture of this ancient region. The Martian-esque landscapes have even served as shooting locations for outer space sequences in films such as Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets.

Recently, over the last ten years, the Atacama has seen a boom in “astro-tourism,” drawing avid stargazers, astronomy enthusiasts, and astro-photographers from around the world who seek out unpolluted skies for the best views of distant galaxies, clusters of shining stars, and the nebulous Milky Way. And the Atacama is now one of their top destinations.

Why is the Atacama one of the best places on Earth for stargazing? The desert has a lucky combination of unique atmospheric conditions to thank for that.

Firstly, the Atacama Desert is located in the nosebleed section of Chile – as in, it's at high altitude. San Pedro, the central tourism hub where most hotels and tourist companies are located and the closest town to top attractions like the Tatio Geysers and Valle de La Luna, sits at roughly 2,407 meters above sea level, high enough for some people to experience mild symptoms of altitude sickness. This high altitude brings the stars just that much closer to Earth, making them clearer and easier to observe. Secondly, it’s the driest non-polar desert on Earth, receiving less than 0.6 inches of rain a year. The lack of moisture also contributes to a lack of cloud cover. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the Atacama’s small human population and isolation results in a blissful lack of radio interference and almost no light pollution.

All these elements combine to make the Atacama heaven on Earth for watchers of the skies.
 

Observatories of the Atacama Desert

Some of the most technically advanced and scientifically renowned observatories in the world are located in the Atacama Desert, taking advantage of the altitude, aridity, and almost non-existent light pollution to scan deep space and investigate the mysteries of the universe.

Sitting perched on top of a hill, the Paranal Observatory is arguably the most famous of the lot, and holds tours for the public to see the facilities. Home to the Very Large Telescope, the Paranal has been instrumental in such groundbreaking observations as tracking the movements of planets around a black hole, and taking the first ever picture of an exoplanet.

But the uncontested giant of Atacama’s observatories is ALMA. Meaning “soul” in Spanish, the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) is the largest and most ambitious land observatory ever built, a $1.5 billion, multinational project drawing astronomers and scientists from all over the world to use its immense 66 antennae telescope, which is more powerful than the Hubble telescope. Public tours are extremely popular, and generally need to be booked a month or so in advance. But don’t expect to get too close to ALMA’s legendary telescope. Located at 5,000 meters above sea level, the risk of altitude sickness and the delicateness of the equipment make the site off-limits. But the thrill of seeing one of the most powerful telescopes ever built is best enjoyed from a distance, where the scale of the project can be truly appreciated.

But it’s not just the sky that’s of interest to science. NASA has also used the sandy, rocky terrain to test Mars rovers being prepped for space travel.

Where and How To Watch the Skies

In addition to observatories offering day tours, most hotels and tourism companies in San Pedro de Atacama offer year-round stargazing tours and excursions led by local astronomy experts with top notch equipment or access to smaller, tourism-oriented observatories.

One of the best ways to marvel at and learn about the Atacama’s night skies is over an outdoor dinner with a local astronomy expert, who offers an accompanying lecture during dinner and points out planets, constellations, and other celestial objects.

Atacama Stargazing Tips

  • Before planning a trip to the Atacama for stargazing, be sure to check this year’s lunar calendar, in case there are any astronomical events you’d like to observe, like meteor showers or eclipses.
  • Don't go stargazing during a full moon!  At peak fullness, the brightness of a full moon over a desert landscape is a hauntingly beautiful image, but washes out the night sky.
  • Invest in a star chart or stargazing apps to find constellations and planets. If you’re attending a tour, the guide will be able to point these out for you, but it’s also fun to try and puzzle out the night sky on your own!

Want to spend a night under the Atacama’s starry skies and learn about the wonders of the night sky? Click here to learn more about our Atacama tours.

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Feliz Año Nuevo: Chile’s New Year’s Eve Traditions and Epic Fireworks

Pop open the bubbly and raise a glass, it’s New Year’s Eve!

All around the world, many countries and cultures have their own regional ways to ring in the new year. For Chileans, it’s an occasion to party and be merry until the wee hours of the morning, drink traditional drinks like cola de mono, travel to the coast to see Valparaiso’s annual fireworks or watch the fireworks in their hometowns, and run through a laundry list of customs to ensure a prosperous and successful coming year.

So, welcome in the new year Chile-style with these traditions guaranteed to bring you joy and good fortune in the new year. Feliz Año Nuevo!

New Year’s Eve Customs and Traditions

Twelve Grapes – At midnight, Chileans eat twelve grapes, one for each month. The significance of the grapes can be threefold: 1) to bring good economic fortune, 2) to make 12 wishes – one per grape – for the new year, and 3) predicting how the new year will treat you based on whether the grapes are sweet or sour.

Yellow underwear – Was the previous year a dud for your love life? Wear yellow underwear and someone special will come along with the new year. Alternatively, some people say wearing the yellow underwear means you will become engaged within the next year. But either way, love will be in the air! Bonus points if you wear the underpants inside out, and if they were a gift.

Empty Suitcase – Is one of your New Year resolutions to travel more? Chileans have a trick to guarantee that that goal comes true. Before midnight, take your empty suitcase for a stroll around the block for a year full of new adventures and memories in exciting, far-off places.

Lentils – To have a prosperous new year full of abundance and economic success, eat a hearty serving of lentils on New Year's Eve. Bring on the abundance!

Money in the shoe – If you don’t think the lentils or grapes did the trick for making bank in the new year, place a $1000 Chilean peso in your right shoe. According to the superstition, it will multiply in the coming year. Shall we call it a shoe-investment?

New Clothes – Hoping for big changes? Only wear new clothes on the big night, for a year filled with the new and in vogue.

Gold Ring in Champagne – While sipping the celebratory champagne, make sure to put a gold ring in the flute and drink the liquid while the ring is still in the glass. This will bring you good luck

Kiss at midnight – The classic “kiss at the stroke of midnight” bodes well for a year without loneliness.

What to Eat and Drink

To wash down those lentils and grapes, Chile’s NYE beverages of choice are cola de mono (a White Russian-esque concoction of aguardiente, coffee, milk, and cinnamon), wine, pisco, beer, mixed drinks, and, of course, flowing bottles of champagne.

To soak up all that alcohol in advance, many families will have a big, filling dinner before heading out to join the party in the streets. And for the day after, either left-overs or some good, fresh Chilean seafood to cure the canas (hangover) because there’s nothing like fried fish or a hearty seafood stew to cure what ails ya. Pan de pascua (Easter bread), a fruit cake-type bread filled with dried and candied nuts and fruits, also makes a handy snack while out celebrating.

Where’s the Party?

Although cities all over Chile host epic NYE extravaganzas and there are endless parties to attend, nothing holds a candle to Valparaiso’s famous harbor fireworks show.

Valparaiso’s prime location at the far end of a coastal, bowl-shaped harbor (mirrored by Renaca and Con-Con at the far end with Vina del Mar in the middle) is perfect for a grand fireworks display, especially since the natural shape of the bay makes it possible to see the entirety of the bay from almost anywhere along the coast. That’s why, for years, barges loaded with fireworks have put on the most spectacular fireworks show in South America, which even made the Guinness Book of World Records in 2007 for the launch of 16,000 fireworks.

Spaced throughout the harbor, the show starts at midnight and lasts roughly twenty minutes, with the flashy explosions and cascading sparks beautifully reflected in the water. To add to the magical effect, people watching from their houses on the hills of Valparaiso send off paper lanterns to light up the sky.  

Best of all, on NYE, it’s legal to drink in the street, so all across Valparaiso there’s a never-ending party running from dusk til dawn. Just grab a drink and join the fun! Also, for people who love partying late, Chile is the place to be for New Years. People will often stay out dancing and enjoying the festivities until as late as 8 in the morning, before returning home to sleep off the night's excesses.

But even if you can’t make it to the fireworks in Valparaiso and Vina, there are a plethora of partying opportunities around the country, especially in Santiago.

From all of us here at Cascada Expediciones, we hope you have a safe and fun New Year’s Eve, and we wish you a prosperous and successful 2017! Feliz Año Nuevo!

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A Field Guide to Earthquakes in Chile

On Christmas Day, 2016, the world woke up to the news that yet another dramatic earthquake had hit Chile. Luckily, this one had a happy ending.

When the quake hit off the coast of the main island of Chiloe in southern Chile around 11:22 am on Christmas morning, Chile’s National  Emergency Response and Public Safety office (ONEMI) quickly ordered more than 5,000 people to evacuate the coast and low-lying areas in case the earthquake had triggered a tsunami. Home videos of the quake – which registered as a 7.6 on the Richter scale – showed houses shaking ominously, ceiling lights being jostled around, furniture and decorations shifting as the walls around them moved back and forth, and food displays toppling over in grocery stores.

Thankfully, a few hours after the quake, the tsunami alert was lifted and people were allowed to return home. Apart from some damage to highways and roads, there was no destruction and according to official reports, no one was injured.

Many would say it was a Christmas miracle that a quake this big only had minimal impact and didn’t harm anyone. But it wasn’t just luck.

It comes down to a country and its people being so earthquake-ready, it’s practically in their DNA. In fact, 95% of earthquakes here have no effect on daily life, tourism activities, or result in any damage or loss of life. Chile has been experiencing quakes both big and small since time immeasurable, and to stay safe in a country which is frequently shaken up, Chileans use a combination of safety infrastructure, disaster preparedness, and “keeping your head during a disaster” savvy to deal with big shakes like this one.

How, you may ask? Here’s a brief history of some of Chile’s biggest terremotos, as well as information about why Chile is the epicenter of so much seismic activity and all the ways Chileans are prepared in case of a disaster.

Why does Chile experience so many quakes?

In this land of fire and ice, the dynamic and epic landscapes we know and love and that people flock from all over the world to see, were formed and are constantly being altered and influenced by ancient and powerful geological forces.

Chile is located on the tail end of the “Ring of Fire,” a Lord of the Rings-esque name for a geographic circle stretching from New Zealand up through Japan and eastern Russia, and then down the west coast of the Americas to Chile. This ring marks where the outer edge of the Pacific tectonic plate grinds itself against the tectonic plates of the other continents, and the resulting fissures and fault lines build up pressure, which are released through earthquakes and other seismic activity. The “Ring of Fire” is also distinguishable for the heavy presence of volcanoes and volcanic activity along its lines, with Chile being home to roughly 90 active volcanoes alone (don’t worry, they’re not that active.)

History of Earthquakes in Chile

Records of Chile’s powerful quakes date back to the 1500s, and earthquake preparedness is a key component of the Chilean conscious. Most quakes are very small and have little effect, but the terrifying might of Chile’s largest and most deadly quakes is a constant reminder of the power of this natural mover-and-shaker.

Chile holds the dubious distinction of being the site of the largest earthquake in recorded history, which hit the city of Valdivia in the south of Chile on May 22nd, 1960. Parts of the city were completely leveled by the massive tremors, which clocked in between a 9.4 – 9.6, and the resulting tsunami spread out across the Pacific, hitting as far away as New Zealand. Anywhere between 1,000 – 6,000 people were killed overall around the world.

Another infamous quake hit Chile in February 2010, an 8.8 monster which caused massive damage to cities in the south like Concepcion and nearby infrastructure, left millions without power or water, and killed more than 700 people. The world rallied around Chile as it recovered from the quake, giving aid and donating needed goods.

How Chile Handles Earthquakes

Chileans are old pros at handling their country’s ubiquitous terremotos. Many people, when a quake hits, can even hazard a fairly accurate guess at how big the quake was, and if it’s below a certain level on the Richter scale, most people won’t bother to get up. Often, people can’t even feel the small quakes; they’re just so accustomed to them.

But still, luck favors the prepared, and when it comes to disaster relief, Chile is ready. Across the country, strict building codes and laws require buildings, roads, bridges and other structures to adhere to high standards of disaster-resistant design, using techniques such as shock absorbers at the base of the building, vibration control technology, and cross bracing steel beams to create a structure that will have enough flexibility and stability to withstand the vigorous shakes.  

But preparedness goes beyond infrastructure. Several times a year, coastal cities hold simulation drills so citizens know evacuation routes in case of tsunami. Earthquake drills are also held, and Chile’s emergency response office and teams prep and run practice exercises year-round to be prepared for the worst.

So, you can see that when it comes to earthquakes, Chileans know how to stay safe!

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Desert in the Sky: A Visit to the Atacama Desert with Cascada’s Key Account Manager

Would you like to go to Mars? Bounce around on the moon? Walk through a rainbow? Float through the stars? Be somewhere truly out of this world? You can do all that in the Atacama Desert.

Step into the otherworldly majesty of this high altitude desert with Cascada’s Expediciones’ key account manager for Latin America and Europe while she embarks on a trip through the highlights of the Atacama Desert, and see and experience this incredible part of Chile through her eyes.

The Heart of the Atacama: San Pedro

My Atacama adventure started with a quick flight from Chile’s capital, Santiago, to the city of Calama. From the minute we landed, we were surrounded by the stark beauty of the Atacama…and definitely the heat! But we were quickly ushered onto a bus and driven to San Pedro de Atacama. As we drove, we watched the peaks of the Cordillera de la Sal (the Salt Mountains) slide past outside the window. On the way, our guide also told us about what we would be doing on the trip.

After about an hour and a half, we arrived in San Pedro. It's a small village furnished with squat, red and white adobe buildings that house a population of roughly 4,000 inhabitants. We had the afternoon free to explore, so we headed out for a leisurely few hours to roam the dusty streets, meet the locals, peruse artisan shops, and try local foods. A quick stop at the church was one of my favorite sights of the day, as it’s the second oldest in Chile, and the simple but beautiful construction is perfect for quiet, contemplative thought and prayer.

An afternoon spent exploring is also perfect for helping acclimatize to the altitude, since San Pedro sits almost 8,000 feet (2,407 meters) above sea level, which can lead to some mild altitude sickness if you’re not used to it.

After exploring, we returned to the hotel to be briefed about the rest of the trip. There were a lot of interesting people from all over the world in my group: mountain climbers who told terrifying stories about the peaks they'd climbed, a young couple on a trip, and a few people from Australia. We all got to know each other over dinner in the village and stayed up late talking.

Valle del Marte/Muerte and Salar de Atacama

The next day, we headed out into the desert to explore the Valle del Marte on the Corniza trail and visit the Atacama Salt Flats. On the way there, our guide told us an interesting story about how the valley's martian name came from a French explorer who named it after the red planet due its red coloration and rock formations, but when locals heard him saying ‘marte’ (Mars), they all misunderstood due to his accent and thought he was saying “muerte” (death) and the name stuck. I never knew that! The short and pretty easy walk up the Corniza trail revealed a magnificent vista of the valley with San Pedro in the distance. We were all awestruck. 

In the late afternoon, after a few more hours exploring San Pedro, we drove to the Salar de Atacama, which is a vast expanse of salt lakes and flats. The views were very pretty, the lakes a shimmering blue that reflected the sky. And we also got to see wild flamingos! It was a very relaxing second day and a good start to the rest of the trip, letting us get used to the altitude without being overexerted. We then returned to the hotel in San Pedro for dinner and rest. 

Valle del Luna, and Rio Grande Pueblo

On the third day, we started out with a cultural tour at the Pukara de Quitor historical site, which is a former Indian fort is dated to be of pre-Inca origins, built by the Atacamenians when they needed a central point of defense. The ruins were partially restored, and we explored the site's church and museum. There was also a cemetery, which we could enter if we wanted, but the guide did not recommend it, out of respect for the deceased. Throughout the tour, the guide was incredibly knowledgable, sharing all this information about the people who used to call this place home. 

After lunch in San Pedro, we drove to one of the Atacama's most famous sites, the Valle de la Luna, or Valley of the Moon. Since it's one of the most popular tourist destinations here, it was very crowded and there were a lot of tourists. But it was still amazing. The mountains throughout the valley have a truly "out of this world" feel, full of spiny ridges, dramatic peaks, and bizarre rock formations. After exploring the valley floor, we climbed a short ways to a viewpoint to watch the sunset, which bathed the landscape in color. Even though it was crowded, that was a beautiful moment. We drove back to San Pedro under a night sky full of stars. 

We were up bright and early the next morning for the drive to the starting point of our desert trek! The beginning of the hike was very relaxed and easy, allowing us to get warmed up. But then the hills started getting steeper, with lots of ups and downs, which was starting to put a strain on all of us! The place we were hiking was called Valle de Arcoiris (Rainbow Valley), and it was filled with multicolored strata layers that created a breathtaking array of colors. We also passed by petroglyphs and cave paintings left behind by ancient people. 

After 6-7 hours of hiking through the valley, we finally arrived at our overnight stay near San Bartolo, and what a wonderful sight it was! Our guides had already set up a whole table with fruit, food, water, and drinks for when we arrived. After relaxing a bit and having something to eat and drink, we spent the evening hanging out. The views from where we were staying were very peaceful, so I did some yoga to center myself after the long day. Then, when the sun went down, the sky was filled with the most amazing stars I've ever seen. It was so clear and bright. I swear, it's the best sky in the world.

The next morning, after breakfast and some more yoga to limber up for the hike ahead, we continued trekking through the Rio Grande gorge. The terrain was more difficult the second day, with steeper and more frequent hills. Because of the river below, there was also more vegetation than we'd seen previously. At one point, as we were crossing the gorge floor, we were able to wade through the cool water of the river, which was very refreshing and really helped with the heat! Walking through the river with the canyon walls rising around us was the best moment of the day for me. 

After pausing for lunch, we continued on, and that's where the going got tough. The terrain was very difficult and the heat didn't help. It was probably the most tired I've ever been, but it was still great because of our surroundings. Finally, we arrived in the tiny village of Rio Grande to spend the night. We were all dead tired, but we'd seen some truly interesting and unique places that day, so of course it was worth it!

On the last day of our desert trek, we explored the village of Machuca, which is a quiet rural town of dusty red stone houses with straw roofs, and the nearby river valley, which was beautiful. The area also had lots of local wildlife, like guanacos and vicunas, so we took lots of pictures! At one point, we climbed to a viewpoint overlooking the village, which gave us a very interesting persepctive. Just a tiny village in the middle of a vast desert. 

Geysers, Green Lakes, and Volcanoes…oh my!

After returning to San Pedro, our next destination was the geyser field at El Tatio. Named after an ancient Quechua word meaning ‘oven,’ El Tatio is home to more than eighty geysers and is one of the highest geyser fields in the world. Visitors usually like to arrive at sunrise, when the intense heat rising from the geysers hits the cold morning air, resulting in clouds of steam that dreamily float through the air. But we took a different approach to avoid the crowds.

We arrived at the site early to trek up Copa Coya Hill, which is located near the springs and geysers. There were lots of tourists around. It was weird to see so many people after being out alone in the desert over the last few days! The first part of the hike was pretty easy, passing cool rock formations, but then the trail got really steep as we climbed straight up the mountain. But the view at the top…wow! That was really incredible, we could see the whole cordillera surrounding us. After lunch at the summit, we hiked back down and past the now-empty geyser field, which was peaceful and which we had to ourselves. We returned to San Pedro for dinner and a good night's sleep!

The next day, I sadly had to say goodbye to the group (whom I'd gotten to know very well over the trip) because I had to return home, but the rest of the group got to continue on to Bolivia! While there, they visited Laguna Verde, with its piercing turquoise blue waters that dazzle the surrounding sepia desert. And best of all, they climbed a volcano! 

Bolivia’s imposing Licancabur volcano dominates the skyline, its highest reaches often dusted with snow and the dormant summit cradling a small lake. To climb the mountain, it’s necessary to cross the border into Bolivia and spend the night, as the ascent to the summit starts at 2 am! Although the hike up the side of the volcano isn’t technical or overly difficult, the steep grade and the altitude can result in slow progress. But reaching the top is well worth it. Not only do you get major bragging rights for ascending a volcano, the views are unbeatable, with the pristine aquamarine of Laguna Verde in the foreground and hills, mountains, and valleys stretching off into the distance. After that, the group returned to Chile for the flight out the next day. 

Does this adventure sound like something you would enjoy? Click here to find out more about our programs in the Atacama Desert!

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How to make “Cola de Mono”, Chile’s traditional holiday drink

What better way to celebrate the holidays than trying your hand at making Chile’s traditional Yuletide beverage, cola de mono?

Translating to “monkey’s tail,” this creamy and smooth libation is rumored to have you “swinging like a money” (hence the name) thanks to a potent dose of heady aguardiente. With a taste and texture similar to a White Russian cocktail, cola de mono is also a great substitute for eggnog lovers, as eggnog isn’t readily available in Chile. Most households have their own unique, stylized recipe which they make for Christmas and New Years, and it pairs nicely with Chile’s quintessential seasonal treat, pan de pascua (fruitcake).

So, try something a bit different and new with your holiday celebrations this year with this Chilean classic. Feliz Navidad!

Please drink responsibly.

You’ll need:

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 broken up cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon finely ground nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee
  • 1 cup Chilean aguardiente, white rum, brandy, or vodka

Instructions:

  • Combine the milk, water, sugar, cloves, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan
  • Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves
  • Add instant coffee and stir
  • Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Remove cinnamon stick and cloves
  • Add aguardiente or other alcohol.
  • Pour into empty bottle and refrigerate until chilled (at least 4 hours, but overnight is ideal).
  • Serve and enjoy! Salud!

This recipe makes 6-8 servings.

 

Featured

A Very Merry Chilean Christmas: Chile’s Holiday Traditions

Deck the halls and light the lights, it’s that special time of year!

Countries around the world each have their own unique holiday traditions, and Chile knows exactly how to celebrate this joyous season. But you’ll find no White Christmases here (but lots of cheer!). With the holiday season taking place during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, instead of chilly weather and warm fires, holiday revelers enjoy their shopping and festivities in warm, sunny weather, cooling off with trips to the beach or seasonal foods and beverages.

So, let’s gather round, sing some carols (a round of Feliz Navidad, anyone?), and unwrap all the joys of a Chilean Christmas.

Santa Claus is coming to Chile

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas takes on the persona of “Viejito Pascuero” or “Papa Noel” (Old Man Christmas) for Chilean children, but he’s still recognizable with his classic red and white suit, bulky sack full of presents, and “bowl full of jelly” physique. Flying to people’s houses on Christmas Eve in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, he slides down the chimney to deliver gifts. Chilean children are encourage to write letters to Old Man Christmas requesting what they want, which are then dropped off in a special box at the post office to be delivered. The post office also has a program where children in need can leave a letter for Santa and kindhearted individuals choose a letter and then buy and send the desired presents to the child in question. Cheers to goodwill toward man!

Decking the halls

Putting up festive Christmas decorations is one of the best parts of the season, and Chileans love decorating their tree and adorning the rest of their house with lights and garlands. Since traditional pine and fir trees aren’t native to Chile, most families use fake trees, which are available in a variety of sizes, and many people and businesses start putting up Christmas decorations as early as late November. Most homes will also feature a traditional nativity scene. Town squares (plaza de armas) are generally the site of large Christmas trees and nativity scenes, and are a beautiful sight when lit up at night.

Celebrating “La Noche Buena”

Instead of waiting until Christmas morning, Chilean families gather around the tree and open their presents at midnight on Christmas Eve, or “La Noche Buena.” Following a big turkey dinner, many families attend Christmas Eve Mass or “Misa de Gallo” at their local church, where traditional villancicos (Chilean carols) are sung. Afterward, families return home to celebrate Christmas together, sometimes with a friend or family member dressed up as Santa to give gifts to the children. Some cities and municipalities also set off put on firework displays.

Christmas Day

Ah, the most wonderful day of the year! After staying up so late the night before, Christmas Day is a relaxed occasion, with families spending the day together enjoying their new gifts, going to the beach or pool, and watching Christmas specials on TV. A late afternoon, leisurely lunch usually consists of tasty leftovers from the previous night’s turkey dinner.

Say, what’s in this drink?

Instead of cradling giants cups of hot cocoa with fluffy white marshmallows, Chileans must find a way to battle the summer heat when it comes to their holiday drinks. But you won’t find any egg-nog stocked on grocery shelves (sorry, nog lovers!). Instead, you’ll get to enjoy the cool smoothness of cola de mono, or monkey’s tail. Similar to a White Russian, the drink is made with aguardiente, coffee, milk, sugar, and cloves. Most people make their own homemade version, and it’s also regularly drunk on New Year’s Eve as well.

Another drink gracing the holiday table is borgona, a chilled red wine and strawberry mixture. This festive libation (red drink to match all the red and green decorations!) is a perfect concoction for the summer months, filled with fresh and delicious seasonal strawberries, and featuring Chile’s signature red wines.

A Christmas Feast

While chestnuts roasting on an open fire are in short supply, Chileans whip up plenty of other delicious treats for the holidays.

In addition to the cookies, chocolates, and candies traditional of most Christmases around the world, one seasonal food item you’re almost guaranteed to find in every Chilean’s home during the holidays is “pan de Pascua” or Easter Bread. This chewy bread, filled with dried or candied fruits and nuts, has a similar taste and texture to fruitcake, but pan de pascua usually has more prevalent flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg. These cakes are one of the most iconic parts of the Chilean Christmas, and can be found in supermarkets and bakeries starting as early as late November.

Besides pan de pascua, Chileans know how to make a proper Christmas Eve spread! The night before Christmas is marked with either a large family dinner of roasted turkey (or chicken) with sides of potatoes balls and vegetables, or a traditional Chilean asado (barbecue).

Seasons greetings from Cascada Expediciones! Have a safe and wonderful holiday.

Featured

Summer Eats: Chilean Foods and Beverages for Summer

When it comes to the best foods and libations for summer, Chileans have it made in the shade.

Between December and February, summer settles over Chile, and across the country – from north to south – Chileans have plenty of tried-and-true summer treats to keep the heat of Andean summer at bay. With farmers markets stocked with seasonal bounties of fresh fruits and vegetables, there's endless possibilities for delicious snacks and meals, as well as cooling drinks to sip on while strolling the streets on a warm summer evening. So here’s some of the best foods and beverages you can enjoy while visiting Chile during the summer!

Mote con huesillo – The appearance of this part-food, part-beverage summer staple is sometimes off-putting to foreigners, but this is about as classically Chilean as you can get (there's even an expression saying that something or someone is "as Chilean as mote con huesillo.") Mote, which is cooked and husked wheat, is added to a sugary water mixture filled with rehydrated slices of peach, making a syrupy, smack-your-lips delicious drink for a hot afternoon.

Borgoña – Whoever said red wine shouldn't be chilled clearly hadn’t tasted Chile’s divine borgoña (burgundy). Mixing chopped strawberries, sugar, and ice with some of Chile’s world-class red wines, the result is a luscious and fruity libation to be savored throughout the summer, although it's especially popular at Fiestas Patrias (Independence Day) festivities, and around Christmastime.

Melon con vino – A refreshing glass of cool white wine always hits the spot on a sultry summer evening, right? Well, Chileans have raised the bar with melon con vino, or wine with melon. At the height of summer, melons are in full season, so pairing a ripe, fresh honeydew with some of Chile's crisp white wines is a match made in heaven. After cutting a hole in the top of the melon and hollowing out its insides (leaving some chunks of fruit inside), the gutted interior is filled with chilled white wine and topped with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, and then it's bottoms up! Melon con vino is especially popular on hot summer afternoons for asados, picnics, and family dinners.

Completos – There’s nothing better than a hot dog and a cool beverage on a hot afternoon. Chileans know this just as well as the next person, and throughout the summer (and the year), you’re welcome to kick back with a cold one and Chile’s delicious take on the hot dog. The completo (translates to “the complete”) has various renditions but the most popular is the Italiano. Named after its colorful resemblance to the Italian flag, a toasted marraqueta bun is stuffed with a juicy hot dog and topped with diced tomatoes, mashed avocado, and a hearty swab of mayonnaise, with the option to add additional condiments such as ketchup and mustard.

Pastel de choclo – With corn coming into season in summer, then arrives one of Chile’s most popular and beloved dishes: pastel de choclo. A seasoned blend of corn and sweetcorn is added to an earthenware pot filled with delicious filling ingredients such as chicken, ground beef with minced onions, a peeled hardboiled egg, olives, and sometimes raisins. The whole ensemble is then cooked in an oven until ready, and can be topped with anything from pebre (Chile’s version of pico de gallo) to sugar.

Humitas – This relative of the tamale can be found in abundance during the summer, and can be enjoyed as either a sweet or savory treat with accompanying vegetables such as tomatoes, or sprinkled with sugar to enhance the flavors. Prepared with fresh corn, onion, and butter, everything is ground together to make a mash that is shaped, and then baked or boiled inside corn husks.

Empanadas – A staple of Chilean street and table food, empanadas can (and should) be enjoyed year-round. Different ingredients are wrapped up in doughy pastry and then either baked or fried. Ubiquitous around the continent, the most common and popular variety in Chile are the ground beef-onion combo of empanadas de pino, followed by empanadas de queso and napolitanas.

Sopaipillas – Fried dough for days! A popular street food any time of the year, sopaipillas are a great and cheap on-the-go snack during summer, especially when splashed with a healthy serving of chilled pebre (a condiment similar to pico de gallo). Made with zapallo (a savory squash), rounded disks are fried to a cripsy on the outside, chewy on the inside perfection. Then, add the condiment of your choice, such as ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, or salsa.

Ice cream – It may not be a uniquely Chilean foodstuff, but Chile still puts its own spin on this summer classic. Chile’s insatiable sweet tooth for ice cream (helados) comes out in full force during the summer, with ice cream parlors and street carts open everywhere. Choices can range from a simple cone and favorite flavors such as chocolate or vanilla to splurging for a fancy sundae or trying local flavors such as lucuma, cherimoya, or chocolate al merken.
 

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Eight Reasons to visit Chile’s Aysen Region

With glaciers, aquamarine lakes, shimmering blue caverns, and steaming temperate rainforests, the Aysen region of Chile has much to offer, but is often overlooked in favor of more famous Patagonian landmarks such as Torres del Paine. But that’s changing as more travelers take a chance on its outdoorsy charms, and come away greatly rewarded. 

Sandwiched between Chile’s Lake District and the Magallanes region, Aysen was just named as one of Lonely Planet's top spots to visit in 2017 in the latest edition of their popular "Best in Travel" guides. To experience the best of Aysen, our travel specialists will hand-craft a customized trip for you, perfectly suited to what you want to do and see, so whether you enjoy cycling, kayaking, fishing, hiking, or incredible vistas,  Aysen has it all and is waiting to be discovered. So, send us an email to reservations@cascada.travel to start planning your Aysen adventure, and for now, enjoy these eight reasons Aysen should be on your travel list!

1. The Marble Caves – These celestial caves are like something out of an Impressionist painting. The Marble Caves of General Carrera Lake are arguably the region’s main tourist draw…and for good reason. The waves have worked their magic on the calcium carbonate rock formations in the lake and along the shoreline, producing swirling rock eddies of cerulean, teal, cobalt, and azure. Add sunlight and the clear, blue glacial water, and a dazzling light show is created as colors shift depending on time of day, season, and water level. The caverns are very popular with photographers for this reason. Touching is off-limits, but who needs it with these visuals?!

2. General Carrera Lake – Straddling Chile and Argentina, General Carrera Lake (Lake Buenos Aires on the Argentine side) is mostly well-known as being the location of the captivating marble caverns. But the lake’s mineral-rich, iridescent waters have also made it a popular spot for trout and salmon fishing, as well as boating and kayaking.

3. San Rafael Lake and Glacier – The best Patagonian glaciers aren’t just found in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares. One of the most stunning and accessible examples of Patagonia’s ice giants can be found in the Aysen Region at the Laguna San Rafael National Park. Creeping outwards from the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, the San Rafael glacier regularly calves off huge icebergs into the San Rafael Lake, where boats and ferries must carefully skirt around the icy monstrosities while getting visitors as close to the advancing front wall of the glacier as safely possible. This park is also home to the entire Northern Patagonian Ice Field, which spawns multiple other lakes, rivers, and glaciers.

4. Carretera Austral – Starting in Chile’s enchanting Lake District and ending in the remote town of Villa O’Higgins in Aysen, this 1240 kilometer road is the result of a passion project originally dreamed up by dictator Augusto Pinochet as a way to unify Chile’s southern extremes and bring together isolated communities. Twenty years later, the still-incomplete road – which alternates between gravel, dirt, and pavement – is now extremely popular among cyclists as a great route for seeing the misty mountains and luscious forests of northern Patagonia.

5. Patagonia Park – This relatively new addition to Chile’s illustrious park system is the brainchild and darling of Kris and Doug Tompkins, of Patagonia, Esprit, and North Face fame and fortune. The couple bought up huge swathes of land around Patagonia for conservation and wildlife protection, with the goal of gifting the land back to the government when their conservation projects were underway. In the largest of these parks, Parque Patagonia, fences and other impediments to wildlife have been removed, allowing guanacos and other fauna to return, helping restore lands damaged by sheep farming. Parque Patagonia was recently opened to the public as a park-in-progress, with access to hiking, fishing, boating, and overnight backpacking.

6. Queulat National Park – This hidden gem of a national park is home to one of Chile’s few examples of a temperate rainforest, which can be experienced whilst driving or cycling down the Carretera Austral which snakes through the park. Trekking paths take guests through humid, evergreen forests, past clear streams and trees almost dripping in soft mosses. The main attraction is the park’s hanging glacier – between two mountain peaks, a glacier sits poised on the edge of a cliff as twin waterfalls cascade down the face of the mountain.

7. Cerro Castillo National Reserve – The battlement-like rock formations and towers of Cerro Castillo (Castle Hill) are a commanding sight for visitors to this national reserve. For those seeking something a bit less regal, the human-esque features of the Piedra de Conde are also a whimsical reason to stop by. The area is popular amongst mountaineers and hikers, and is also one of the best places to try and catch a glimpse of the rare huemul deer, as well as guanacos and even pumas.

8. Baker River – Streaming out of General Carrera Lake, Baker River carries the glacial sediments from the lake down-river with it, creating a brilliant aquamarine ribbon that cuts and slithers through the landscape. The largest river in Chile, the Baker has constantly come under threat from damming projects, but the preservation efforts of the communities who live close to the river and visitors who enjoy the river’s tranquil waters – ideal for fishing, kayaking, boating, and more – have made it one of the only rivers of its kind in the world to be undammed. One popular spot is the Caleta Tortel, a community of stilted houses built along the waterfront near the mouth of the river.

Did that whet your appetite? Contact us at reservations@cascada.travel and we'll help you plan a customized trip!

Featured

Of Mosses and Men: Inside the Enchanting Miniature Forests of Cape Horn

You’ll want to be careful where you step at the OMORA Ethnobotanical Park on Navarino Island in Tierra del Fuego. Located in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve – heralded as one of the most sustainable places on Earth – OMORA specializes in scientific research projects examining the biodiversity of the region. 

It’s also where visitors can come face to face with the diverse and prolific “miniature forests of Cape Horn” – mini-universes of vibrant and luscious mosses and lichens that guests can explore through the park’s unique “Magnifying Glass Tourism” initiative.

Picture yourself in a serene forest. Trees with cracked and rough bark form an interweaving canopy of green overhead, that either drips rainfall or spackles the rich, dark earth with sunlight. Everything smells like dirt and nature; an intense, primal smell of damp, growth, decay, and water and soil. Somewhere in the silence, the tock-tock-tock of a native woodpecker can be heard. Plastered along the bases of all the trees and sprawled over logs and rocks is a kaleidoscopic sea of greens and teals. At first glance, they are pretty, a nice addition to the surroundings. But look closer. Notice the differences. That moss has a soft, spongy surface, whereas its neighbor has a similar texture but the color is different. Peer harder. Get as close as you can. See the miniscule world. Tendrils stretching out. Insects making their daily commute through plush, green highways. A living organism. There is something incredibly fascinating and magical in little worlds, in the tiny and unseeable. Worlds in miniature. That’s what you’ll find when you cross the threshold into OMORA’s world of mosses and lichens.

Now, most people may not jump at the chance to spend a day looking at mosses. But OMORA’s program knows how to turn this seemingly mundane task into a nature adventure, unveiling entire universes hiding in plain sight, revealed with the simple addition of a magnifying glass.

Turismo con lupa, also known as magnifying glass tourism or ecotourism with a hand lens, was created by Dr. Ricardo Rozzi and his colleagues at OMORA. This “behind the looking glass” approach to science and education has proved highly successful, connecting tourists with the region’s biodiversity through a hands-on method that is both entertaining and enlightening.

Nowhere else on Earth can hold a candle to the lush mini-forests of Cape Horn. Why?

Thanks to the region’s cool, wet climate and the shelter provided from tree canopies, the moss and lichen communities of Cape Horn has flourished and diversified. In fact, the vast array of species in the park makes up an astonishing 5% to 7% of the entire world’s population of mosses, lichens, liverworts, and hornworts, some of which cannot be found anywhere else! That’s a lot of green!

With up to 50 different types of mosses and lichens calling a single tree home and vying for space, there are opportunities aplenty to examine and explore the differences in texture, color, and appearance of the species.

Visitors to OMORA are taken on guided tours with research and graduate students currently working or studying at the park’s research center. The treks and pathways weave through forests of native lenga, nirre, and coihue trees, taking a sheltered path that both showcases the richly green and earthy landscape and gives the best viewing opportunities for the mosses.

Guides point out different species along the trek, first inviting guests to observe them with the naked eye before getting a closer look with the magnifying glasses. This intimate look into a world that few see or truly understand gets explained along the way by the guide, pointing out details about each species, highlighting differences, and also discussing the various uses for such plants, like medical properties and how a mosses’ close relationship to its environment can indicate dramatic changes in the environment related to global warming and climate change.

The OMORA Ethnobotanical Park – created in 2000 – is located on Navarino Island in Chilean Tierra del Fuego. The island is also home to the Dientes Massif, which is famous for its dynamic shapes and the demanding Dientes Circuit, as well as the tiny town of Puerto Williams.

In addition to magnifying glass tourism and research, the park hosts science workshops for local school groups, as well as offering cultural trails around the park that expose visitors to the history and culture of the Yaghan people, an indigenous tribe formerly native to the area.

Interested in taking a walk through this other worldly abode? Our Navarino Island and Dientes Trek programs each include a visit to this fascinating program. Check out our Related Programs in the sidebar to find out more!

Featured

Endangered huemul deer make comeback in Huilo Huilo

A victory was scored last week for wildlife conservation in Patagonia!

The Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve in the Lake District has finally, after a thirty year absence, welcomed home a dearly departed friend – the huemul deer!

The huemul or South Andean deer, a small species of deer which appears on the Chilean national coat of arms, disappeared from the region in the 1980s, as human activities drove the huemul into endangered species territory.

But thanks to an 11-year effort mounted by conservation societies and organizations such as the Centro de Conservación del Huemul del Sur, the Department of Agriculture and Livestock, and the Department of Wildlife Foundation, five deers that were bred in a quarantined area of the park were finally released into the wild again on Saturday, November 26.

The deers – decked out in tracking collars so their movements and actions can be monitored as the repopulation effort takes off – were released of their own accord through a technique called “Soft Release,” where the deer were allowed to leave the enclosure on their own time, without being pressured or stressed. After the first two deer left the fenced area, joyous cheers, music, and dancing arose from an assembled crowd of onlookers, including authorities, representatives of the involved agencies, and locals overjoyed at the return of this iconic animal.

 

At the moment, there are still twenty deer living in the quarantined area, but hopefully they too will soon be released into the overall reserve to enjoy the 100,000 hectares of forests, fields, lakes, and rivers.

So, welcome back to the Huilo Huilo, little huemuls. We all know that there’s no place like home!

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Vote for us in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards 2017!

Fans of EcoCamp Patagonia and Cascada Expediciones, we need your help!

Travel + Leisure’s 2017 World’s Best survey is now open for voting, and Cascada Expediciones and EcoCamp Patagonia are included in the "Hotel" and "Tour Operators" categories! If you could spare a few minutes, please vote and help us be chosen as two of the world’s best hotels and travel companies.

Here’s how to do it:

Open from November 7, 2016, to March 6, 2017, the survey allows people from around the world to rate hotels, cities, tour operators, airlines, and more on categories like quality of tour guides, accommodations, food, value, activities, and itineraries and destinations.

And best of all, by participating in the survey, you’re automatically entered into a competition to win a $10,000 dream vacation, with other additional prizes!

Link to survey: CLICK HERE

To vote for Cascada Expediciones:

  • Click on the “Tour Operators and Safari Outfitters” category
  • Look under “C” for “Cascada Expediciones”
  • Rate us!

To vote for EcoCamp Patagonia:

  • Click on the “Hotels” category
  • Select the “Mexico/Central America/South America” option
  • Select “Chile” for country
  • Look for “Torres del Paine National Park” under “Other Locations”
  • Rate us!

(Alternatively, you can use the “Search” option.)

Then, be sure to share with your friends. The more votes, the better!

Thank you for your vote and your help! We couldn’t do what we do without you – our loyal, energetic, and adventurous travelers who helped make Cascada and EcoCamp what they are today. It’s an honor and pleasure to host you and help you embark on exciting, enriching, and life-changing adventures in some of the world’s most spectacular locales.

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A Toast to Carménère: Celebrating World Carménère Day, Nov. 24

Today, we raise a glass to Chile’s flagship wine: Carménère.

This bold, complex red varietal, now a notable stand-alone wine but originally used for blends, is Chile’s version of Malbec; a high-quality, New World nectar of the gods that’s putting its parent country on the wine-world map.

In honor of World Carménère Day, we’re going back to the roots of this once-thought-extinct, Old to New World vine, exploring its distinctive taste and how it became a global ambassador for Chilean winemaking.

What is it?

A medium-body red wine regularly compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère is actually a genetic cousin of Merlot. Its deep red, almost crimson, color was the inspiration for its name: carmin, the French word for crimson.

The savory taste is often described as being “softer” than a Cabernet Sauvignon, with lush tannins, an almost spicy mix of tastes and aromas, and a gently bitter, peppercorn-esque finish. Drinkers and sommeliers frequently pick out notes of cherry, raspberry, blackberry, spices, and a husky taste similar to that of the scent of dark chocolate, tobacco, and leather. In its early years, it can also have a flavor similar to green peppers.

History

Carménère originates from the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France, the realm of such wine legends as Burgundy and Merlot. Despite these pedigreed cousins and surroundings, the terroir of France proved insufficient to properly grow the vine, and growers and vintners largely ignored it. There were some years where no vintages of Carmenere were produced due to low or poor quality yield.

When the great Phylloxera plague of the 1850s swept through French vineyards, devastating crops and destroying matured vines, Carménère was thought to have been wiped out. Luckily, a few cuttings survived, having been carried to the New World by colonizers. It was in the verdant, fertile valleys near the capital city of Santiago where the vines were able to take root and flourish.

However, for years, the grapes were thought to be a unique varietal of Merlot. Because of this confusion, they were not allowed to fully ripen and were mixed with pure Merlot grapes, producing a yield of subpar vintages in the 1990s that soured Chile’s growing reputation as a serious Merlot maker.

It wasn’t until ampelographer Jean-Michel Boursiquot came along in 1994 to evaluate Chilean vineyards that Carménère was finally recognized for what it was, and could start to be cultivated separately and treated as its own wine.

Chilean Climate and Terrain

Why would Carménère thrive in Chile when it couldn’t thrive in France, the cradle of great wine? Carménère is fickle, requiring the proper climate and terrain in order to live up to its full potential. Chile’s sheltered central valleys offer unique advantages. Humid, moist air blowing in from the Pacific Ocean gets trapped by the natural barrier of the Andes mountains, and with dry soil, plentiful sunshine, and a late summer rainfall, the grapes have ample time to ripen and can be harvested at their prime.

Where to Find it

In Chile, most Carménère vineyards are located in the Central Zone, namely in the Colchagua, Maipo, and Rapel valleys near Santiago, and many vineyards offer tours and tastings to visitors. To find Chilean Carménère outside of Chile shouldn’t be too hard. As of 2015, Chile is the fourth biggest exporter of wine in the world, mainly exporting to the US, the United Kingdom, China, and throughout Europe. In liquor stores, bars, and restaurants around the world, curious drinkers can be introduced to this almost-lost wine thanks to some of Chile’s most well-known and popular exporting vineyards, such as Concha y Toro.

For a taste of non-Chilean Carménère, there are several regions in Italy, California, and Walla Walla, Washington where Carménère has also been able to find a foothold.

When to Drink and Pairings

Most wine experts and sommeliers will advice that Carménère is a wine that’s best to drink young, within the first few years, allowing time for the more herbaceous aspects of the wine’s personality to mellow and let the more biting, acidic components and flavors to shine through.

As with many red wines, Carménère pairs nicely with hearty meat dishes, and is a popular choice for Chilean asados (barbecues).

 

So cheers to you, Carménère! A toast to this vivacious libation, and happy World Carménère Day!

Featured

The Dientes Trek: A guide to the best trek you’ve never heard of

It’s time to venture off the edge of the map to discover the epic mountains and views of the Dientes Trek.

South America is a mecca for some of the most cultural, scenic, and adventurous treks on the planet, such as the W Trek in Torres del Paine and the Inca Trail. But there’s one trek you’ve probably never heard of, and you should definitely add it to your travel list.

Prepare to sink your teeth into the Dientes Trek.

This “southernmost trek in the world” test of endurance in the heart of a vast and rugged island at the end of the world is growing in popularity, and for good reason. Not only does it boast of all the amazing scenery Patagonia is renowned for, but its anonymity gives it exactly what true explorers want: untamed nature far from the distractions of civilization; a new trail that’s untrammelled by the shoes of a million travelers who’ve come before and sullied the atmosphere of isolation.

Over the course of six days, take a bite out of the rocky valleys, virgin forests, pure rivers and lakes, and the jagged spine of the Dientes Massif on a trek that invigorates the mind and body, goes beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinary, and presents itself with a wild spirit that stands tall as the Dientes themselves, ready to be recognized as one of the great treks of South America.

What to know

  • Where: Navarino Island in Tierra del Fuego, Chile.
  • Distance: 53.3 km (33 miles)
  • Time: 6 days/5 nights is the recommended amount of time to truly enjoy the trek, but some people choose to do it in 5 days/4 nights. Some people choose to extend it to 7 days.
  • Difficulty: Demanding – best for experienced trekkers. This trek tests your stamina and calls for long days of rough hiking on uneven terrain in virtually untouched territory. But the landscape and solitude makes the struggle well worth it.
  • When to go: Mid-December to mid-March. This falls during Patagonian summer, but the weather can still be unpredictable, with strong possibilities of high winds, rain, and chilly temperatures.
  • Where to stay: Puerto Williams is the starting and ending point, where there are hotels and lodgings, but during the trek itself, as the trek is still undeveloped and lacks refugios, tent camping is the only accommodation.

The Sights

Navarino Island hangs from the tip of South America, the last chunk of rock before the nautical-lore-drenched waters of Cape Horn. Starting from Puerto Williams (where the trek also ends), the trails winds in a haphazard circle into the interior of the island.

Although the sky-scraping peaks of the massif are quick to draw the eye, be sure to turn your gaze to the ground to become acquainted with the hardy trees, shrubs, and other vegetation that defy the chilly temperatures and punishing winds to take root and survive. Thanks to the abundance of water and moisture here, you’ll also encounter Tierra del Fuego’s miniature treasure trove of world-famous mosses, liverworts, and lichens. For wildlife, if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see one of the beavers who’ve set up shop in some of the island’s rivers and ponds.

Looking skyward, the toothed peaks (hence the name, as “dientes” means “teeth” in Spanish) of the massif make for a striking skyline, with grand names and outlines like Mount Codrington, Mount Lindenmayer, and the indented spires of the Dientes de Navarino themselves.

As the trail climbs higher among the craggy peaks, Tierra del Fuego’s legendary waterways will be seen, including the Beagle Channel, Nassau Bay, and the seas and islands of Cape Horn, as well as numerous lakes, rivers, and swamps among the mountains along the way. At the trek’s summit, accessible through the rapidly-ascending Virginia Pass, Tierra del Fuego’s oceans, channels, forests, mountains, and the towns of Ushuaia and Puerto Williams are all laid out before you. It’s a breathtaking sight from the top of the world.

What you see on a day-to-day basis depends on your pace and the amount of days you plan on taking to complete the trek, but on our 6 day trip, here’s a layout of what you’ll see each day.

Check out this video! 

 

History of the Dientes Trek

One of the main reasons the Dientes Trek is just now starting to gain recognition is that it’s still a relatively new path. The route was first established in the early 1990s by Clem Lindenmayer, an Australian climber and writer for the popular travel guide series Lonely Planet.

As it so happens, the Dientes Trek and Lonely Planet go way back, with the trek holding the ultimate Lonely Planet pedigree. In addition to having founded the trek, the mountains Cerro Clem and Mount Lindenmayer bear Lindenmayer’s name. The mountains were christened by the Chilean Ministry of Natural Resources in 2001, which was also when the route was marked with its 38 official numbered trail markers.

Adding to its list of Lonely Planet accolades, the Dientes Trek is also glowing endorsed as the “best trek in South America” by Carolyn McCarthy in the Lonely Planet “Trekking in the Patagonian Andes – 32 Great Treks” guide.

Is your interest piqued? Join us on the Dientes Trek for an extraordinary experience in a lost world that few have ever seen.

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Best travel apps for your trip to Chile

 

Tickets are booked. Bags are packed. Passports ready to go. You’re off on your next great adventure! The mighty peaks of Torres del Paine are waiting to astound you, the delicious local cuisine and world-class wines are ready to fill you up, and the inhabitants are all set to welcome you to their country! But wait. There are always ways to be better prepared when traveling to somewhere new, so be sure to load up on some handy travel apps for your Smartphone before jetting off. But which ones are best – and which are best for use in Chile?

We’ve got your back. We’ve assembled a list of some of the many apps out there that can help out if you get in a jam while visiting or can help make your visit even smoother and more entertaining by providing tips and information at the push of a button.

Chilenismos:

Even if you spoke Spanish prior to your trip here, this app is indispensable for keeping up with Chileans’ rapid fire speech and colorful lexicon of informal slang words and expressions. Bacan, claro? (Terrific, right?) Over 380 unique “chilenismos” are easily searchable and translated in English and Spanish, and you can quiz yourself through a game feature that will have you feeling and speaking like a local in no time! Cachai? (You get it?) Super!

Price: $0.99 (only available for iOS)

XE Currency:

The Internet’s go-to currency converter website is now the go-to converter app for your Smartphone. Let it to do the math for you. Stay on top of fluctuating exchange rates and convert US dollars and more to Chilean pesos with ease.

Price: Free (iOS and Android)

Ramblr:

You’re on the trip of a lifetime. All those amazing videos and pictures of Torres del Paine and the wilds of Chile need to shared with the world. You deserve an app that can capture all the amazing memories you’re making and share them with other travelers and with the folks back home. Ramblr combines live tracking of your routes and where you’ve been with photos, videos, text, personalized information about type of trip, difficulty, GPS location, and much more so both you and all your friends and family can see everything in one easy place!

Price: Free (iOS and Android)

 

Google Translate with Word Lens:

Fast and easy translations on the go, and with Word Lens, simply hold up your phone in front of street signs, directions, or menus, and voila – instant translation into more than 100 languages when connected to Internet (52 offline). Includes modes for handwriting and two-way conversation translations, and a phrasebook to keep track of expressions and words that catch your attention. All aboard the translate train!

Price: Free (iOS and Android)

Google Maps

At EcoCamp, our guides will help you find your way around the park, but for your solo adventures, there’s no better place for quick and easy on-the-go navigation and information about local attractions, restaurants, museums, and more than Google Maps. Whether trying to figure out where to go for lunch in Santiago, locating a hostel in Puerto Natales, or just trying to orient yourself, Google Maps has you covered from start to finish of your Chilean adventure.

Price: Free (iOS and Android)  

 

Weather Timeline/Dark Sky

Patagonia is well-known for keeping travelers on their toes with its sometimes unpredictable and unexpected weather. Stay on top of all the current atmospheric changes and happenings with Weather Timeline and Dark Sky, two of the most popular and well-reviewed weather apps on the market. The interfaces have been praised for their user-friendliness and engaging layout, offering hour-by-hour updates, predictions, and more. Weather Timeline is available for Android, and Dark Sky is downloadable for both Apple and Android.

Weather Timeline Price: $0.99

Dark Sky Price: $3.99 iOS, Free on Android.

AlpineQuest GPS Hiking

When taking the path less traveled and voyaging into the wilderness, a good map is always necessary, and AlpineQuest won’t lead you astray! This topographical map app gives you your location via GPS and then shows you the surrounding area, including local road and attraction information, and then can save a copy of the map on your phone for when you go offline. As this app is currently only for Android, Topo Maps ($7.99) is a good alternative for Apple users.

Price: $9.99 (Android)

First Aid – American Red Cross

Even though we always hope nothing will go wrong while traveling, it’s always good to be prepared! This handy-dandy app is sure to help you when you’re in a bind and need fast and simple medical information. The app contains basic first aid, and will walk you through instructions for treating various ailments such as burns and broken bones, and a button in-app lets you quickly call 911 and emergency services.

Price: Free (iOS and Android)

Honorable Mentions

DuoLingo

This nifty little app is perfect for before, during, and after your trip for learning languages on the go. It’s always good to speak at least the basics of a country’s native language, to be respectful to locals and also to make it easier for you. DuoLingo makes the learning fun with colorful graphics, smooth and flowing interfaces, quick and easy lessons, quizzes, and scheduled reminders when you miss lessons.

Price: Free (iOS and Android)

Sky Map:

With its clear skies, the Atacama desert and Patagonia are some of the best places for stargazing. Sky Map helps you discover constellations, tracks the phases of the moon, lets you quiz your knowledge of the night sky, and much more.

Price: Free (iOS and Android)

Heading off the grid in Patagonia? Check out our article here about the best apps for a trek through the wilds of Southern Chile!

Do you have any suggestions for your go-to travel apps? Let us know and happy travels!

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The Benefits of Visiting Torres del Paine in Low-Season

A trip to Torres del Paine is in the works. But which season is the best time to visit?

You’ve done your research. You’ve seen the pictures. You know that summer is  usually the prime time to visit Torres del Paine National Park. The comfortable temperatures, verdant greenery, and (mostly) clear skies of Patagonia in December through February have made the southern summer the most popular season in which to see Chile’s star national park in all its glory. However…

There are definite advantages to jettisoning the popular opinion in favor of taking the road less traveled. The truth is, no matter the season, Torres del Paine has much to offer, see, and do, and in some cases, even more unexpected and stunning treasures are available for the select few who decide to forego the crowds of summer and experience Torres del Paine during her quieter months.

Here’s a few of the reasons a trip to Torres del Paine during the low-season is just the ticket for an exclusive and rare experience in one of the world’s greatest natural wonders.

Fewer Crowds – It’s a fact. As Torres del Paine becomes more well-known and popular, more and more backpackers and trekkers are heading to its trails during the high season to see the sights for themselves. That’s all well and good, but one of Patagonia’s main attractions is its isolation and serenity, which when you’re constantly surrounded by people on the trails shatters the ambience of being in pure nature and detached from society. Visiting the park during the low season months of September, October, March, and April has the advantage of fewer crowds, less people, and less distractions. Attendance falls during these months due to a false perception that the weather suddenly turns unbearable, or that none of the shelters or hotels will be open. Lucky for you, the weather is still fine (albeit a bit colder,) businesses are still open, and the less-crowded trails and off-season views are there for you to enjoy at your leisure.

Unique wildlife viewing – During the summer months, the high flow of visitors can make it more difficult to see some wildlife as they retreat from the noisy crowds. Granted, there will always be prime opportunities to see some of the region’s curious critters. There will be guanacos aplenty, as well as gangly ñandúes (ostrich-type birds) and soaring condors. But what about those rare gems of Torres del Paine: the puma, foxes, or tiny huemul deer? Those are hard enough to see under any circumstance, but with lesser human traffic in low-season, there is less noise, less strange smells, and less disturbances that may drive the wildlife to more protected and isolated areas of the park, thereby increasing the likelihood of a once-in-a-lifetime sighting.

See a different side of the park – You’ve seen the pictures that made you want to visit Torres del Paine in the first place: clear blue sky, the imposing grey and black slabs of the Cuernos rising over the aquamarine of Lake Pehoe, the blue and white shades of Grey Glacier. Imagine seeing those iconic views, but with the first buds of spring. Green gently popping out of a brown landscape. Watching the park’s unique plants slowly come back to life. Can you see it? The rebirth of spring in Patagonia? Or, even more striking, imagine a trek through the French Valley, but surrounded by the bold oranges, reds, and yellows of autumn foliage? The slight nip to the air that hints winter is on its way? Hillsides of shrubs and trees drenched in color? Fall in Patagonia is one of the best times to visit for autumn-enthusiasts, photography lovers, and just about anyone who can appreciate a good view. It paints a pretty picture, one that’s sure to be seared into your memory (and your camera) forever.

Favorable weather – Ask anyone. Locals. Past visitors. Online travel sites with lists upon lists of where to go, what to do, when to do it. There’s no way around it: there is no perfect season in Torres del Paine. Each has its advantages and drawbacks. Even at the height of summer, gnarly winds can whip your hair into a tangle and even unbalance grown men. Days with a forecast for clear will be overcast and drizzly. Hence, it makes sense that even in spring or fall, the weather is still ideal for trekking, hiking, cycling, or doing whatever your heart desires during your visit. As long as you don’t mind a little extra chill to the air in the morning and at night, low-season weather should be no problem for you.

Better bargains – If you’re someone who enjoys stretching a budget and making every penny count, low-season is the time to get more bang for your buck. In summer, with more people begets more demand begets higher prices. So be a savvy-spender and avoid the swell of high season traffic and pricing by coming during low and shoulder seasons! As mentioned above, the weather will still be fine, you’ll be privy to seeing aspects of the park invisible to high-seasoners, (most) hotels and businesses will still be open (never hurts to check during your research as some places have shorter seasons than others), but essentially, you’ll stretch your budget longer by avoiding the crowds and get to add experiences to your trip that maybe before you wouldn’t have been able to include in your budget!

Does a trip to low-season Patagonia sound like your cup of tea? Then click here to learn more about our Fall in love with Patagonian Autumn speciall offer! Join us at EcoCamp Patagonia during the fall months of April and early May, and receive one FREE hotel night in your choice of Santiago, Punta Arenas, El Calafate, or Puerto Natales! 

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Cascada’s 25 Favorite Adventure Destinations In and Around Chile

So, you want to come to Chile! Awesome! But with so many geographically and culturally diverse places to visit in such a long country, how do you pick the best spots so you get the most out of your trip? From all of us here at Cascada Expediciones – all seasoned adventurers who’ve traveled and lived all over this amazing country – here are our top 25 recommendations for adventurous destinations in and around Chile.

 

Chilean Patagonia

1. Torres del Paine National Park – Voted the eighth wonder of the world, Torres del Paine is one of Chile’s crown jewels, with never-ending opportunities for adventure and discovery. The park’s 935 square miles encompass mountains, glaciers, rivers, lakes, and wind-swept plains, crawling with the park’s diverse wildlife and plantlife. Find out all the ways you can experience the park here.

2. The W Trek – If you’re traveling to Torres del Paine, chances are you’ve heard of the W Trek. This traditional trekking path winds around in a “W” shape around and through the Paine Massif and takes backpackers through the park’s “Best of” list, including the Grey Glacier, the Towers, French Valley, and more. Experience EcoCamp’s unique spin on this trekking classic here.

3. Base of the Towers – They’re the towers that gave the national park its name. They’re three striking granite spires that tower overhead, piercing the blue sky. They’re the eponymous “Las Torres” or “Towers” of Torres del Paine. This hike is an essential part of the classic W Trek, but can also be done on its own. Find out more here about how you can visit this iconic natural masterwork of nature.

4. Grey Glacier – It’s the purest blue you’ve ever seen. A blue that defies description; a deep, rich iridescence. It’s humbling. It’s awe-inspiring. And to see it in person…is a treasure. The Grey Glacier is just one of Patagonia’s many beautiful ice flows, jetting out from the colossal Southern Patagonia Ice Field, but coming face to face with its immense, front wall of compacted snow and ice in dazzling shades of white and blue is an unmissable experience. See the Grey Glacier for yourself on one of these trips here.

5. Valle del France – Surrounded by the stately mountains of the incredible Paine Massif, the French Valley is an essential part of the classic W Trek or as a solo hike in Torres del Paine National Park. Hike through forests, past rivers and streams, and gaze upwards at towering mountain peaks.

 

Argentine Patagonia

6. Los Glaciares National Park – Located in Argentine Patagonia, Los Glaciares National Park is most famous for being the home of Mount Fitz Roy and the Perito Moreno Glacier. But its many treks, other glaciers, valleys, and hills offer a wide variety of exciting outdoor opportunities.

7. Mount Fitz Roy – This iconic peak is recognizable to many adventure buffs as the outline for the logo for the popular outdoor clothing company, Patagonia. Renowned for its dynamic shape and stately appearance, it’s one of the most popular attractions in all of Patagonia. Located in Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, there are several popular treks and hikes that offer unique perspectives and views of the mountain. Find out more here!

8. Perito Moreno Glacier – The first time you see a glacier is something you will never forget. The feeling of being faced with a mammoth wall of blue and white ice, the culmination of millions of years of snow and water fusing together to form this landscape-shaping mass, is an honor and a thrill. Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier is an astounding sight, popular because of its accessibility and size. For the uber-adventurous, there are even ways to go hiking on the glacier itself! Learn more here.

 

End of the World

9. Tierra del Fuego – The curling tip of the South American continent, the Tierra del Fuego archipelago is a treasure trove of pristine nature and cultural surprises. Go whale watching, walk amongst penguins, follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, visit the southernmost city in the world, and explore the wooded mountains and ecologically abundant waterways of this far-flung realm. Click here to find out more about how to visit Tierra del Fuego.

10. Navarino Island – Looming just across the Beagle Channel from the great island of Tierra del Fuego, Navarino Island is home to one of the most spectacular but under-appreciated treks in South America: the Dientes Circuit. Backpackers venture through valleys and forests under a skyline dominated by the craggy peaks of the Dientes Massif, rewarded with stunning views of Cape Horn and surrounding Tierra del Fuego at the trek’s summit. But one of the best ways to see the wilds of Navarino Island? A fly-over in a small plane! Learn more about the Dientes Trek and how to take a plane over Navarino Island here.

11. The Magellan Strait – Ever wanted to come face to face with penguins? See a humpback whale? Boat alongside sea lions? The Magellan Strait in Tierra del Fuego is a spectacular place for marine wildlife viewing, as well as encountering unforgettable vistas of Tierra del Fuego’s magnificent islands, covered in mountains and forests. Ply the waters of the Magellan Strait on the tours here.

12. Antarctica – Ah, the Great, White Continent. That frozen, icy terra incognita that has haunted the minds of explorers and scientists for centuries. But the gateway to Antarctica is now open and waiting to be explored. Visit Chile’s civilian base on King George Island, see the Collins glacier, and witness a testament to the perseverance of man at the artful Russian Orthodox Church located at Bellingshausen Station. Cross Antarctica off your bucket list here.

 

Chile's Gateway to Patagonia

13. The Lakes District – Chile’s version of Arcadian paradise, the “Los Lagos” region is a haven of lush woods and tranquil lakes, a land of water, volcanoes, and infinite opportunities for exploring. Not only a fun place for outdoor activities, the Lakes region is also a great spot for gastronomy and culture, especially to witness and understand the influence of German immigrants to southern Chile.

14. Huilo Huilo Rainforest – Located in the Lakes District of Chile, the Huilo Huilo rainforest and Biological Reserve is a wonderland of raging rivers and ancient forests coated in luscious mosses – the perfect place for lovers of hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking!

 

Northern Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia

15. Atacama Desert – It’s the driest desert in the world, but a hotbed of fascinating culture, history, and unexpected natural formations. In addition to housing the popular tourist attractions of Valle de Luna and the El Tatio Geyser Field, the Atacama is renowned for its crystal-clear night skies, perfect for star-gazers or just about anyone who enjoys looking at a starry sky. Find out all the ways you can experience the Atacama here.

16. Valle del Luna – It’s just one small step for man to this otherworldly lunarscape in Chile’s Atacama Desert. A mesmerizing conglomeration of craggy valley walls, sun-bleached desert expanses, and martian rock formations have given this place a fitting name – Moon Valley. Plan your trip to the moon here.

17. El Tatio Geyser Field – Great gushing geysers! In the altiplano of the Atacama Desert lies the Tatio Geyser Field, one of the largest in the world. With over 80 active geysers, most people love to visit in the morning, when the steam from the erupting geysers fills the air and lends an aura of mystique and enchantment to the area. Check out how to visit them here.

18. Salar de Uyuni – Located in Bolivia, the Uyuni Salt Flats are as trippy as they are beautiful. In the rainy season, heavy rainstorms swamp the vast plains in water, turning the salt flats into an endless, sheer mirror. Visit them here on our Bolivia extension program.

19. Humahuaca, Argentina – Visit the painted desert hills of the Quebrada de Humahuaca in northern Argentina, a mountainous valley delegated as a UNESCO World Heritage area thanks to its cultural relevancy following the Camino Inca. Visit it with our Northern Argentina adventure here!

 

Central Chile

20. Santiago de Chile – The beating heart of the country, Santiago is Chile’s central hub: the best place from which any adventure around Chile can begin. Home to an eclectic mix of modern and historical, new and old, past and present, there’s something for everyone, be it art, theater, gastronomy, museums, nightlife, or easy access to the surrounding wilderness for hikes, skiing, and more.

21. Valparaiso and Vina del Mar – Flush with vibrant street art, mouth-watering seafood, and colorful houses that cling to the steep hillsides, Valparaiso is South America’s San Francisco: a place for the artists, the free-spirits, the rebels, the dreamers. Its next-door neighbor, Vina del Mar, offers the perfect complement to Valparaiso's chaos: sun-drenched sandy beaches, wide, shaded boulevards for strolling, museums and shopping, and just a short drive away, a group of massive sand dunes with stunning views of the harbor. Visit "The Jewel of the Pacific" and the "Garden by the Sea" here.

22. Maipo and Colchagua Valleys – Just a short drive from Santiago, the Maipo and Colchagua Valleys sit nestled between rolling mountains, their fields patterned with miles upon miles of some of South America’s best vineyards. Famous for their red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, a trip to the vineyards for tastings and tours is great for wine enthusiasts and casual drinkers alike. We’ll raise a glass to that! Uncork a wine getaway here.

23. Skiing in the Andes Mountains – As the longest mountain range on the planet, the Andes are ripe with opportunities for all types of outdoor sports, especially skiing and snowboarding! Running from Santiago down to the south, people from all over the world come to famous ski resorts such as Portillo, Chillan, and Valle Nevado to shred Chile’s exciting slopes!

24. Hiking in the Andes Mountains – Just as the Andes are great for skiing, there are plenty of beautiful treks and hikes. Just outside Santiago, El Colorado and El Morado are popular amongst hikers, delving into the heart of the mountains to find remote valleys, glaciers, and peace and quiet from the rush of Santiago.

 

Pacific Islands:

25. Easter Island – A perfect place to explore on foot or by bike, Easter Island is a must-visit destination on most people’s travel bucket lists – and for good reason. Home to the famous Moai statues that have perplexed and fascinated anthropologists since their discovery and other evidence of the traditions and history of the Rapa Nui people, the island is a treasure trove for cultural enthusiasts.

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A sneak “peak” at the opening of EcoCamp’s 2016/2017 season!

Perched on a hilltop in a place so naturally splendid it was voted the eighth wonder of the world, dwarfed by the sheer size and majesty of Torres del Paine National Park’s eponymous granite spires in the background, the mushroom-headed domes of EcoCamp Patagonia huddle close to the ground against the cold. Wind ripples at the ivy-green tarp covers, dappled by sunlight and passing clouds. Staff in cozy sweaters and fleeces bustle around, delivering fresh sheets, blankets, and fluffed pillows. Inside the Community Domes, chairs and couches sit poised, covered in warm blankets and pillows, with crackling fires from the wood stoves heating the spacious rooms adorned in warm colors and charming decorations. In the still air outside, birds chirp in the leafless trees and shrubs. Guanacos graze on dry grass. Water trickles down mountainsides.

The park is slowly waking up from a long, cold winter, and so is EcoCamp.

Suddenly, the crunch and squish of car tires over mud and gravel breaks the silence. Car doors slam. The door to the quaint and welcoming Reception Dome is opened and closed. The first guests have arrived.

The 15th season of EcoCamp Patagonia has officially begun.

EcoCamp’s first guests of the 2016/2017 season are driven from nearby Puerto Natales to the EcoCamp in Torres del Paine, a driving time of about an hour and a half, but with lovely views along the way. From a distance, the green domes can be seen peeking out from the trees on the hilltop. But the showstopper is the view behind EcoCamp: two of the spires of the famous Torres jutting up from a gap between Mount Almirante Nieto and Nido de Condor. After driving through a landscape of gently sloping hills, the awe inspired by the closeness to the Towers is indescribable.

Guests are first shown to the Reception Dome, which is open from 7am to 11pm. While picking up their keys, guests can also browse the snazzy new EcoCamp store, where shirts, reusable water bottles, postcards, and more items are available for purchase.

After checking in, the guests are given the year’s first “Ecotour” of EcoCamp’s unique and world-renowned facilities. During the tour, guests learn about the myriad ways EcoCamp sustainably operates, such as its use of hydraulic and solar energy, its composting toilets, and the careful attention to detail paid to proper recycling and trash disposal. All the domes sprawled around the hilltop are connected via a network of charming wooden walkways. Guests become acquainted with their dome, and are shown where to find the Community Domes and the Yoga Dome, as well as a short “Interpretive Trail” near the Yoga Dome that meanders across a small gully to the next hillside. On this short walk, guests can rest on benches and at park tables to enjoy the views, soak up the sun, read a book, and relish the moment.

As evening settles in, the guests of the season head to the heart of EcoCamp: the Community Domes. The Community or Core Domes are four of the largest domes on site, connected via passageways and looking out onto a rustic patio covered in outside furniture and featuring a great view of the surrounding landscape. There are two main dining rooms, sandwiched on either end by the Bar Dome, a fantastic place to enjoy a drink while chatting with your fellow travelers, and a smaller dome with couches and chairs to relax in and read.

At EcoCamp, dining is a family affair: guests sit together in the Dining Domes, sharing tables so everyone can swap stories and get to know each other.

Rustic woodball lanterns and candles gently lit the space, which is nicely heated by a woodstove fire and natural light from the large windows.

As it’s the start of the season, EcoCamp’s head chef is experimenting with new flavors and recipes, such as a tasty octopus starter, or a gently grilled hake fish with mashed sweet potatoes.

Guests choose their dinner options in the morning during breakfast, giving them something to look forward to after a long day of venturing around the park. Pair it all with some of Chile’s best wines and a night sky full of stars, and a memorable first evening was had by all! After a briefing about the next day’s activities, it’s off to bed for a good night’s sleep.

In the morning, it's time for the first yoga class of the season! The Yoga Dome is one of the most magical parts of EcoCamp. Accessible by a sloping path lined with stones and logs, the Yoga Dome sits on a spacious wooden platform at the edge of the hill, with a panoramic view of the rolling hills and snow-capped mountains off in the distance. Water trickles through wooden logs and troughs on the edge of the platform, inflecting the air with the gentle sound of running water. Inside, the yoga dome is filled with light, a large wooden floor, and plenty of yoga equipment.

The first morning of yoga proves to be a real treat, with Mother Nature rewarding the early risers with a spectacular sunrise. The lucky yoga participants enjoy stretches and poses while the rising sun – viewable through the yoga dome’s large front window – paints the clouds a kaleidoscopic gradient of reds, oranges, and pinks. Behind the dome, the Torres are bathed in color.

After a scrumptious breakfast spread and preparing a to-go box lunch of sandwiches, fruits, and snacks, the guests are off for the first excursions of the season! The first day’s activities include a boat trip to the incredible Grey Glacier, or a hike on the Lazo Weber trail to see wildlife, native plants, and an unbeatable view of the immense Paine Massif.

And at the end of a great first day, everyone returns to EcoCamp for drinks and dinner. Best of all, after a day exploring together, the bonds have started to form. The first guests are becoming part of the EcoCamp family.

Cheers to an amazing 2016/2017 season! We hope to see YOU at EcoCamp soon to share in the experience!

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How to party like a Chilean for Fiestas Patrias!

Chileans love a good party, and at no time is this more evident than when they celebrate Independence Day!

Falling on the 18 and 19 of September, Chile’s “Fiestas Patrias” is a national celebratory affair, a multi-day extravaganza of grand parades, traditional food and drinks, music, dance, and partying!

Although the 18 and 19 are the official days for the festival (which is also collectively referred to as ‘dieciocho’), many businesses and schools take the whole week off, allowing people to travel to see friends and family to celebrate the holiday.

If you’ve made plans to come to Chile around Fiestas Patrias, here’s some tips on how to party with the best of them and have an epic time celebrating Chile’s independence!

1. Know your history – Before putting on your party hat and heading out for some crazy fun times, it’s a good idea to know what exactly you’re celebrating. The 18 of September, the official first day of Fiestas Patrias, actually doesn’t celebrate the day of Chilean independence from Spanish rule, but rather the day that the First Assembly of the Government gathered in 1810 and proclaimed Chile’s autonomy. What followed was eight years of war and conflict, with Chile finally gaining freedom in 1818. But Chileans have been honored Fiestas Patrias since 1811, the year after the proclamation.

The 19 of September marks the Day of the Glory of the Armies, honoring the military’s triumphant defeat of the Spanish under the leadership of Bernard O’Higgins, the liberator of Chile. The occasion is honored with a lavish military and naval parade.

2. Eat your heart out – If you’re a foodie, Fiestas Patrias is one of the best times to feast on Chile’s diverse and sumptuous cuisine! Empanadas de pino – doughy savory pastries filled with chopped beef, sauted onion, raisins, a olive, and a hard-boiled egg – are plentiful, and are a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs way to fill up and absorb some of those devilish drinks! Add some delicious grilled meats from a nearby asado, and you’re good to go! Finish off the meal with tasty alfajores, breaded cookies stuck together with the Chilean version of caramel, manjar.

3. Grow a food baby at an asado – One of Chile’s most beloved culinary pastimes is a traditional asado, or barbecue. Similar to their Argentinian counterparts, Chileans love red meat, and are also fond of juicy sausages and hot dogs, such as the popular choripan combination of flame-roasted chorizo sausage stuffed into a toasted marraqueta bun. Anticuchos (skewers) of sausage cuts, chicken, beef, and onion slices can be found in juicy and delectable abundance, in addition to traditional cuts of chicken, beef, and sausages.

4. Drink! Salud!  – We know what most people want to do at a party: drink! Chileans stock an excellent bar and put their best foot forward when it comes to beverages. The most popular concoction for this particular celebration is chicha, a sugary liqueur-type aperitif distilled from apples or grapes. Another favorite is melon con vino, wherein a chilled melon is hollowed out and filled with white wine and powdered sugar for a sticky-sweet elixir. One of Chile’s most formidable libations also comes out to play: the terremoto. This feisty mix of wine, fernet, and a dollop of ice cream is so named because if you’re not careful, it’ll “shake you up and make you fall over.” Wines, beers, and pisco round out the spread for one carousing week!

5. Go to different fondas – Finding the best parties during Fiestas Patrias is simple: just head to the nearest fonda! An iconic aspect of dieciocho, fondas are huge party tents or venues lavishly decorated with fluttering Chilean flags and other accoutrements. These make-shift party and dance halls – similar to what you would see at fairs – spring up all over the country, and are where most of the festivities take place. Many of the largest fondas are located around Santiago, with the Chilean president usually officially opening celebrations at one of the most famous and prominent fondas.

6. Learn to dance the cueca – Step into your dancing shoes and your best twirly skirt, and prepare to dance the cueca! Fashionably attired in traditional huaso (Chilean cowboy) style, men approach the women, adorned in charming dresses of bold colors and frilly lace with a wide skirt for spinning. Handkerchiefs in hand, the two circle each other on toe-tapping light feet in an artful choreography meant to be representative of the courtship between a rooster and a hen. Although the cueca may not be as sensual as other South American bailes like the tango and samba, it’s still a real treat both to dance and to watch. But if you try to learn it, be forewarned! The routine of footsteps is deceptively complicated (especially if you’ve been enjoying one too many terremotos or chichas)!

7. Go to a rodeo – Besides soccer, rodeo is the most popular sport in Chile, and has been the official national sport since 1962. Taking place in crescent-shaped corrals known as medialunas, Chilean huasos showcase their skills in horseback riding, roping calves, and dancing cueca. The huasos also wear traditional garb, consisting of broad-rimming straw hats, flannel ponchos, and spur-heeled boots.

8. Wave that Chilean flag with pride! – It’s mandatory for all public buildings to hang the Chilean flag according to specific instructions, such as that the flag must be in perfect condition, and must be hung either from the front of a building (horizontally or vertically) or from a white flag pole. In addition, all the fondas are outfitted with flags and decorations of the traditional red, white, and blue colors, so don thee now your gay Fiestas Patrias apparel, buy a flag to wave, and join in!

9. Fly a kite – Let out your inner child, buy a paper kite from a vendor, and send it fluttering in the breeze! This aspect of Fiestas Patrias is very common for children, who sometimes make their own kites with colorful designs such as pop culture characters or the logo for their favorite futbol (soccer) team. Fun carnival-style rides and games are also popular, such as tug-of-war, sack races, and hopscotch.

Feliz Fiestas Patrias! Have a safe and fun time, Chile!

Featured

25 Things You Didn’t Know About Chile!

Ready for some fun Chilean trivia?

This year, Cascada Expediciones is celebrating 25 years of helping you embark on dream trips – hiking through Torres del Paine in Patagonia, soaking up the sun on the lofty altiplano of the Atacama desert, exploring the city of Santiago, relaxing with a glass of wine at one of central Chile’s premier vineyards, and even more. It’s all in a day’s work, and the natural bounty of Chile’s gorgeous landscapes, intriguing history and culture, welcoming people, scrumptious food and drink, and exciting adventure opportunities make it an easy job to do!

So to kick off our 25th birthday celebration, we’re sharing twenty five of our favorite facts about this amazing country. Cheers to you, Chile!

 

1. The origin of the name “Chile” may come from the indigenous Mapuche word “chili,” meaning “where the land ends.” It could also be based on the Mapuche imitation of a bird call which sounds like “cheele cheele.”

2. Ever wonder if we’re alone in the universe? Chile does and is one of the few countries on Earth that has an officially funded and recognized UFO research bureau. The department is part of the Air Force and monitors the activity of unusual aircraft. Also, many Chileans love to “watch the skies,” posting home videos of suspected UFOs and alien activity. Close encounters of the Chile kind! 

3. Chileans are the second biggest consumers of bread in the world – just behind the Germans. No wonder, considering how unbelievably delicious the different types of bread are, such as the popular marraqueta loaves.

 

(Marraqueta loaves. Source: walobuby.com)

4. The Gran Torre in Santiago – a staggering 64 stories high – is the tallest building in South America. Head up to the newly opened observation deck for an amazing view of the city and the surrounding Andean cordillera.

5. One of the most interesting cultural traditions in Chile takes place on the islands of the Chiloe archipelago – the minga. When a family wants to move their house, the community comes together to literally remove the wooden house from its foundations, and uses a team of oxen and logs to pull it to its new home, or ties it to a boat and gently floats it to a different island!

6. The Atacama Desert is the driest desert in the world, with average rainfall measuring about 0.6 inches a year. There are some places in the Atacama that have never even registered rainfall since recording began. But when the rains do come, parts of the desert bloom with beautiful fields of purple flowers that stretch for miles.

7. Crack open a cold one! Even though Chile is internationally known for its succulent red wines and its devilish Pisco, Chile also has a strong and diverse beer culture! This is thanks to a strong influx of German immigrants from the late 1800s, who came to Chile to live in the South and brought their brewing traditions (and cuisine and architecture as well) with them. So be sure to sample some local craft brews during your visit.

8. Chile is affectionately known by its inhabitants as the “pais del poetas” or the “country of poets”. This is because two of the country’s most well-known and beloved literary figures were the poets and writers Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda, who both won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

9. Chileans know how to ring in the New Year with style! On New Year’s Eve, the coastal cities of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar put on the biggest firework show in South America, launching an amazing display over the giant harbor that borders the two cities for the ultimate fiesta! In 2007, a Guinness World Record was achieved for setting off 16,000 fireworks.

10. Chile is home to the Guinness World Record Holder for the world’s biggest swimming pool. Housed at the San Alfonso del Mar Resort, the pool stretches the length of 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools and holds 66 million gallons.

11. Chile may be known for its wine, but the vines are not indigenous to the region. Vitis viniferia vines were first brought over by the Spanish colonizers.

12. The whaling ship Essex – whose doomed adventures served as the inspiration for Herman Melville’s classic novel “Moby Dick” – went through its dire straits encounter with the destructive whale and the subsequent struggle for survival off the coast of Chile. After the Essex sank, the remaining sailors were able to survive for some time on some islands off the coast before being saved and taken to the port city of Valparaiso.

13. Oh brave new world! It’s rumoured that William Shakespeare’s inspiration for the character of Caliban in his play The Tempest came from reading explorer accounts and descriptions of the native tribes living in Tierra del Fuego in the far south of Chile.

14. The largest earthquake ever recorded – a 9.5 on the Richter scale – took place near Valdivia, Chile in 1960. The shake lasted roughly eleven to thirteen minutes, and overall claimed anywhere from 1,000 to 6,000 lives due to the severity of the quake and the resulting tsunami. But don’t worry – Chile has a long history with earthquakes and all the buildings are built to withstand tremors big and small.

15. Chile has one of the only two permanent civilian bases on the continent of Antarctica. Named “Villa Las Estrellas,” the small town is home to a school, a hospital, a post office, and even a small souvenir store.

16. One route of the Pan-American Highway ends in the town of Quellon on the grand island of Chiloe, featuring a giant marker for photo opportunities and even the chance to purchase a commemorative declaration. The other (official) route crosses the continent and ends in the Argentinean city of Ushuaia.

17. Think that the flag of Chile looks like the flag of Texas? You’re right…BUT the Chilean flag is actually 21 years older than the Texan flag. However, both are modeled after the stars and stripes flag for the United States of America. The colors and symbols on the Chilean flag stand for: white – the snow of the Andes Mountains; blue – the sky and the Pacific Ocean; the star – guidance and progress; red – the blood spilled in the fight for independence.

18. The street food is to die for! Savory sopaipillas, empanadas, completo hot dogs, candied peanuts, fresh juices, crates of candies and chips…there’s almost no need to ever go to an actual restaurant (almost)! The street food is plentiful, cheap, and mouthwateringly good. The variety and types of foods and beverages changes depending on the season (for example, more fresh juices and mote con huesillo in the summer) but there’s always something tasty to be found when out and about.

19. Chileans love their ice cream, so if you scream for ice cream as well, you’re going to be in good company. Chileans enjoy their tasty treat year-round, and ice cream parlors are as plentiful in Chile as Starbucks are in the States. Plus, many ice cream shops feature flavors based on local fruits and other ingredients.

20. Sorry, Egypt, but the world’s oldest known mummies were actually found in Chile! The Chinchorro mummies were discovered in the Camarones Valley, and the oldest one is dated to be from around 5050 BC.

21. You can see penguins in Chile! There are multiple places to see nesting and breeding sites for a variety of penguins, including Magellanic penguins, Humboldt penguins, and southern rockhopper penguins throughout the country, including Chiloe and Tierra del Fuego.

22. Chileans are a patriotic bunch and love to celebrate! September 18th commemorates the day the nation united to seek liberation from Spanish rule, while September 19th honors “Day of the Glories of the Army” and Chileans go all in for this can’t-miss party! Most people get a full week off work or school to celebrate las fiesta patrias, partying, dancing the national dance of cueca, drinking, eating traditional foods, and spending time with family and friends at ‘fondas’ (festival venues) that spring up around the country.

23. Chile’s largest native tribe, the Mapuches, were known for their ferocity in battle. They were the only indigenous group to stop the advance of the Incan empire into their territory, AND they give the encroaching Spanish conquistadors a run for their money as well.

24. Chileans are very warm people, so don’t be surprised if they give each other (and you) a peck on the cheek in greeting. It’s the Chilean way!

25. It’s a fascinating, beautiful country waiting to be discovered, full of vibrant people just waiting to share their culture with you. (Ok, this one you probably already knew or guessed, but it’s still true!)

Ready to see Chile for yourself? Take a look at our carefully designed tour options OR get in touch so that we can create something unique for you.  As always, if you liked the post – share it  – and help spread the word about how amazing Chile is!

Featured

How to run a marathon in Patagonia

 

The fifth annual Patagonian International Marathon is just around the corner! Come mid-September, the roads of Ultima Esperanza Province will thunder with the pounding of runners’ shoes as competitors from all over the world race through some of the most staggeringly beautiful scenery on Earth!

First held in 2012, the race has drawn athletes from more than 40 countries, all running to raise awareness for conservation, environmentalism efforts, and regional tourism.

We know, we know – you’re probably lacing up your running shoes now, pressing ‘play’ on your “get pumped” playlist of choice, and fitting to head here for the marathon! Please do come, we welcome you!

But first, how exactly does one run a marathon at the end of the world?

A marathon in isolated Patagonia presents its own unique set of challenges. Not only are you competing against your fellow runners, you’ll also be competing against the elements, such as Patagonia’s infamously notorious weather. With the race falling on the cusp of late winter/early spring in Chile, unpredictable weather can include high winds, rain, and chilly days.

We’ve assembled a list of items (both physical and mental!) we think will come in handy for getting the most out of your time at the Patagonia Marathon, and don’t forget to join us for the EcoCamp Runner's Stay so you can enjoy a few days of well-earned rest after the race and get the opportunity to see more of Torres del Paine’s highlights!

1. General marathon information:

  • Location: This year, the race will take place in the Ultima Esperanza province of the Chilean Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica region. The race route is located on the outskirts of Torres del Paine National Park, with the park to the southeast, and the nearby town of Puerto Natales to the northeast.
  • Length: The race is divided into three different lengths: marathon (42km), half-marathon (21km), and 10km. The starting points are staggered depending on the length you plan to run, but all lengths finish at the same finish line at Villa Serrano near an entrance to the park.
  • Temperatures: On average, around this time of the year, temperatures can vary from 2-10 degrees Celsius (35-50 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Runners Categories: Hares (16-17, 10K only!), guanacos (18-29), pumas (30-39), huemules (40-49), zorros (50-59), condores (60+).
  • Start Time: The 42k begins at 9:00 am, the 21 and 10k starts one hour later at 10:00 am
  • Registration: Registration closes on August 31st. Pricing depends on time of registration and length of race. More information can be found here: http://www.patagonianinternationalmarathon.com/en/registration/
  • More questions: Please refer to the marathon’s official FAQ page here: http://www.patagonianinternationalmarathon.com/en/faq/

2. Dress in layers:

Break out your best running gear! Many popular marathons take place in more temperate locales and usually in late spring/early summer, but running a marathon at the far end of the world requires more than physical preparation! Packing a good selection of running gear so you can be prepared for any kind of weather or can either add on or take off unnecessary clothing during the race will give you peace of mind so you can concentrate all your energy on what’s really important: running that marathon the best you can! Here’s some of our all-weather gear recommendations:

  • Wicking socks
  • Moisture wicking/flexible/warm running tights or pants
  • Insulated waterproof running jacket
  • Warm headband or beanie
  • Sturdy running shoes that can handle gravel, asphalt, and are comfortable on both flat, climbing, and declining terrain.
  • A good reusable water bottle
  • Runner’s sunglasses
  • Sunscreen (even in winter, the atmosphere in Patagonia is very thin and it’s better safe than sorry.)
  • Baseball cap or visor in case of sun 
  • A listening device with your favorite marathon music! Or leave the music for another time, and let the sounds of Patagonian nature and your fellow runners motivate you through the race!

Also, remember that the cool weather is your friend! Running in chilly weather is actually better because it allows your body to warm up naturally whilst exercising, so it’s better to dress slightly warmer at the beginning of the race and you can then shed clothes as the race goes on to maintain the perfect body temperature. But at the same time, don’t dress too warmly! Then you run the risk of being overdressed and too warm, which will affect your performance. Check out this “What to Wear” personalization tool from Runnersworld.com to pinpoint what works best for you!

http://www.runnersworld.com/what-to-wear

3. Train in advance!

We’re not going to try to tell you how to prepare – many runners attending the marathon will be seasoned pros who, after years of running for sport and fun, will have developed their own practice route that works for them! But here’s a few pointers we think may be helpful for prepping, especially if you’ve never run in a climate and terrain like Patagonia:

  • The terrain for the race will be on alternating gravel and asphalt surfaces, on twisty, curving low-mountain roads with changing slopes. So we recommend training on a variation of gravel and asphalt surfaces, and either find low hill running routes in your area or crank up the height and resistance on your treadmill!
  • Be patient with yourself. Don’t push yourself too hard or to go too far. Traveling to new places can throw even the most experienced athletes, so if you’re slightly off your game or aren’t hitting your stride, don’t stress or let it throw you off.
  • If you can, go for a test run a day or two before the marathon. This will help you adjust to the current temperature, the climate, and the landscape, and will take some of the unpredictability out of race day.

4. Stay hydrated and well fed

Chilean Patagonia is relatively isolated, and any favorite snacks you may like to indulge in pre, during, or post race may not be available in the town of Puerto Natales! So if you have any must-have snack bars or other foods, be sure to pack some and take them from home (but be sure to declare them with Chilean customs when you enter the country).

There will be aid stations along the route (the number varies depending on the marathon length you choose to run) so there will be chances to refill water bottles and catch a quick breath.

5. Learn more about the area

You’ve traveled all this way to Patagonia, it’d be a shame not to have some background about this beautiful landscape and the diverse species of flora and fauna that call it home!

It’s important to stay focused on the race while running, but at the same time, be sure to be aware of your surroundings as you will probably see some of the area’s wildlife! Torres del Paine National Park boasts of an amazing natural selection of animals. While running and exploring the park, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for: guanacos, Andean condors, the Huemul deer, the Magellanic woodpecker, and other species!

Torres del Paine and its surrounding consist of a variety of shrubland, forests, mountains, lakes, and pampas (grassy plains). The race route will roughly follow the shoreline of Lago Torre, so you’re sure to be in for some phenomenal views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

If you’re participating in the EcoCamp Runner’s Stay after the marathon, you’ll have the chance to see some of Torres del Paine’s most famous views closer up on day trips, such as the famous Torres granite tours, Cerro Paine, Laguna Azul, and the Salto Grande waterfall. Our guides are highly knowledgeable about the area’s flora and fauna, history, geography and geology, and more, and are ready to answer your questions!

6. Have fun!

At the end of the day, this may be the most important rule of all! You’ve ventured all the way to Chilean Patagonia to run surrounded by some of the Mother Nature’s best creations – relish the experience! Let the chilly air fill your lungs, find your rhythm, and just go for it!

Do you have any essential marathon preparation tips? Let us know in the comments!

Learn more about the EcoCamp Runner’s Stay here: https://www.cascada.travel/en/Tour/Patagonia-Intl-Marathon-Runners-EcoCamp-Stay?sku=PATIMP

For more information about the Patagonian International Marathon, please click here:http://www.patagonianinternationalmarathon.com/

Featured

Pure Patagonia Photo Adventure – Highly Anticipated Premiere

We’re launching a brand new exclusive wildlife discovery program in Torres del Paine! Pure Patagonia Premium Photo Adventure is a one-of-a-kind nature program led by wildlife and photography professional Diego Araya in Torres del Paine National Park. Pure Patagonia focuses on the park’s unique wildlife with intimate observations of flora & fauna, allowing you to get close to rare and endangered species under the responsible guidance of Diego and his tracking team. 
 
Days are varied and flexible depending on animal sightings, light conditions and climate. In general mornings are spent photographing the sunrise near EcoCamp Patagonia, located at the foot of Torres del Paine with a magnificent view of the granite towers, and discovering the wildlife in the park’s eastern sector. The middle of the day gives you a chance to rest and have lunch before heading out again to observe more animal activity and flora. Diego will teach you about the park’s unique ecosystems and their inhabitants as well as leading you to the best spots for photography in the park. Under his careful guidance you will learn how to approach wildlife and take exceptional photos while respecting the park’s geological formations and flora & fauna. 
Torres del Paine Puma brothers playing
Watching a couple of young Pumas playing in Torres del Paine National Park.
 
Over the 6 day trip you will visit the park’s landmarks and will have ample opportunity to photograph the Paine massif and surrounding forests, glaciers, rivers, lakes and wildlife. Fauna will hopefully include the endangered huemul and enigmatic puma rarely sighted except by specialist puma trackers, who will form part of Diego’s team. 
 
Nights are spent in EcoCamp’s Suite Domes following a group dinner in EcoCamp’s Community Domes with optional evening bar activities. This trip is limited edition and has the following departures in 2014:
 
  • 8-13 January 2014,
  • 21-26 February 2014,
  • 16-21 March 2014.
     

To reserve your spot on this Pure Patagonia Photo Adventure and discover Patagonia’s wildlife with celebrated professional wildlife photographer and Torres del Paine connoisseur Diego, contact our sales experts today.

 
Featured

EcoCamp Patagonia Wildlife Safari

 

Experience the magic of Torres del Paine like never before – with an EcoCamp twist.

Torres del Paine National Park’s magnificent and unrivaled flora, fauna, and stunning vistas are at your fingertips with this customized adventure package, allowing you to handpick daily activities such as cycling, hikes, and nature walks, returning home to EcoCamp at the end of each day for cozy accommodations and sublime meals. Best of all, the Wildlife Safari offers you the best flexibility to see and explore the park and its inhabitants with shorter or longer stay options, ranging from 4 days to 7 days so that you can get the most out of your stay at EcoCamp Patagonia!

Highlights

  • Departs and finishes any day
  • Stay in the world’s first fully sustainable geodesic dome hotel
  • Make like-minded friends for life at EcoCamp
  • Learn all the local secrets from our knowledgeable guides
  • Choose between nature walks, treks, and bike excursions
  • Explore unique Fauna and Flora
  • Daily Yoga stretching group class
  • Start in Calafate, Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales (transfer included)
  • Ask to start in Santiago de Chile or Buenos Aires  (not included)

Brief Itinerary

During your trip, you can choose between nature walks, treks, and bike excursions!

To make the most out of your stay we recommend a 6-day Safari program.

Itinerary Example:

  • Day 1 (Sun): Travel from Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales or Calafate to Torres del Paine NP
  • Day 2 (Mon): Cycling to Laguna Azul
  • Day 3 (Tue): Drive & Walk Western Lakes + Navigation Glacier Grey 
  • Day 4 (Wed): Navigation Pehoe Lake and hike French Valley
  • Day 5 (Thu): Trek Tower Base
  • Day 6 (Fri): Leave Torres del Paine NP

IMPORTANT:  All excursions are subject to availability & weather conditions

EcoCamp Patagonia 

Take a look at this short video to learn more about the EcoCamp experience

 

DESIGN YOUR TRIP 

We can custom design this itinerary and all Chilean and Argentina destinations. You choose your preferred standard of accommodations, travel dates and the amount of time to spend at the various sites along the way. With advance planning, we can match a specific guide to your group’s interests. 

Send us an email to reservations@cascada.travel and our Cascada Travel Expert team will get back to you within two business days!

Itinerary

With EcoCamp’s Wildlife Safari, you choose the activities! Nature walks, treks, bike excursions, and more are yours to pick from – it all depends on your mood, weather conditions, and travel companions’ preferences! Plus, our private excursion option gives you the freedom every day to choose any excursion that matches your special interests and wishes (ask our travel expert for more details).

IMPORTANT NOTES:

– All excursions are subject to availability & weather conditions

– There are no excursions on the first and last days of a program, as these days are used for transfers to pick-ups and drop-offs at the beginning/end of a program. This is due to the long distances between towns in Patagonia, and the time it takes to drive from Torres del Paine to nearby towns.

 

  • Nature Walks & Bike Excursions
  • Hike and Treks
Image Banner:

Rates 

Rates are valid from September 6th, 2019 to May 3rd, 2020

**What’s CLP? Your booking is based on Chilean pesos (CLP), but you pay in US$ (USD), using the exchange rate valid on the day of payment which will be shown in your order. This exchange rate may vary between the date you pay your deposit and the date you pay your outstanding balance, but rest assured this is the best way to keep our prices competitive and ensure the best rate for you!

EcoCamp Patagonia Seasons 

  • Low Season 

    • September 6th to October 15th, 2019
    • April 18th to May 3rd, 2020

  • Shoulder Season 

    • October 16th to 31st, 2019
    • April 1st to 17th, 2020

  • High Season

    • November 1st to December 14th, 2019
    • January 21st to March 31st, 2020

  • Peak Season 

    • December 15th, 2019 to January 20th, 2020

Departures

Regular. Every day from September 6th, 2019 until May 3rd, 2020

Starting / Finishing Point 

The trip starts every morning with pick ups and drop offs in Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales or El Calafate.

Physical Demands

The Easy excursion options do not demand extensive physical activity, other than walking a maximum of two consecutive hours over the fairly flat terrain. We stop as many times as necessary depending on the rhythm of the group.

Travelers doing the active excursions will find them more energetic and to enjoy these more active treks it is essential to be in shape before arriving. All trails visited in the programs are under 1,000m / 3,000ft high so passengers don’t need to worry about altitude.

Included

  • Accommodation at EcoCamp’s Suite, Standard or Superior Domes.
  • Regular bus tickets Calafate<>Natales if starting/finishing in Calafate
  • All ground transport as indicated in the itinerary.
  • English speaking guide. Guide ratio 1:6. Max group size: 16 people.
  • Torres del Paine National Park entrance fee.
  • Boat ticket for crossing Grey Lake* and/or Pehoe Lake. *please check the itinerary
  • House wine during dinner
  • Meals:

    • Day 1: Lunch / Box Lunch & Dinner
    • Days in between: Breakfast; Box Lunch & Dinner
    • Last day: Breakfast & Box Lunch

Not Included

  • Flight tickets.
  • Insurance (it is mandatory you purchase appropriate insurance for this trip).
  • Voluntary tipping of guides and staff.
  • Soft drinks or snacks not served with the meals included at the EcoCamp.
  • Bringing US$ in cash for buying extra drinks/snacks or souvenirs in Torres del Paine NP is suggested.
  • Items of personal nature.

Children Policy 

  • Minimum age 6 to participate in the program.
  • Children aged 6 to 9 are welcome to participate in nature walks.
  • Children aged 10 to 12 may participate in trekking excursions but the family must hire a private assistant guide.
  • Children aged 12 and up are welcome to participate in all activities and are treated as adults. 
  • Check our Children discount policy for more details.

Transport

In Torres del Paine and throughout Patagonia transport is in minivans that normally seat from 8 to 14 people. Pick-up / Drop-off times will be confirmed locally by our operations team. An exclusive toll-free emergency number will be available for anyone needing additional support while they are in Chile.

Check our Weekly Transfer Board details for more information about pick-up and drop-off times to/from EcoCamp

Weather

The Patagonian Andes is very exposed to winds that circle the Antarctic landmass. In addition, the strong marine influence and the effect of the Southern Patagonia Icefield make the weather hard to predict. In spring or early summer, fine weather may deteriorate almost without warning, bringing rain and even snow. Even in summer (December to March), you should come prepared to find strong cold winds (up to 130km/hr) and rainfall. The summer’s average temperature is 11ºC/52ºF (24ºCmax, 2ºC min). However, just as quickly as the weather turns nasty, it can become lovely and sunny. So come prepared for all types of weather!

Read more about the weather in Patagonia here

What you need to bring

Passengers need to be prepared for summer and winter all at once. Essential equipment includes:

  • One day backpack (10liters – to carry a camera, glasses, raincoat, etc)
  • Trekking or hiking boots
  • Extra shoes for evenings or in case others get wet
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Two pairs of woolen socks
  • Fleece jacket or sweater
  • Shorts or comfortable loose pants
  • Sun protection (glasses, hat, lip balm, and sunscreen)
  • Optional Capilene underwear for the upper and lower body
  • US$ in cash for buying extra drinks/snacks or souvenirs in Torres del Paine NP

Find more information about what to bring to Patagonia here

Itinerary Modifications

The weather in Patagonia can be difficult to deal with at times. We reserve the right to change the order of the days in any itinerary at the discretion of the trip guide and based on operational considerations.

Also during Shoulder and Low season (October and April), some excursions are subject to the weather conditions and might be canceled or modified for reasons of security, for example, the Navigation on Grey Lake, the excursion to the French Valley and to the Tower base trek. In any case, we will either modify the original itinerary or offer you a good alternative of excursion within the park.

EcoCamp Patagonia

Ecocamp Patagonia is located in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, with views of the majestic granite towers. The region’s first sustainable lodge south of the Amazon and the first of its kind in the Patagonian wilderness, EcoCamp offers upscale camping in domes inspired by the region’s ancient nomadic inhabitants. 

Children from 6 to 12 years receive a 50% discount if staying with their parents in the same dome (advisable 6 years minimum age). Discount will be applied after the online inquiry. Check out the kids’ guide to EcoCamp!

 
 

EcoCamp Patagonia Suite Dome 

(Heating & Private bathroom, 28m²/300ft²)

Suite domes were designed to further our goal of providing comfort in a natural setting with minimal environmental impact, and also maintain the hotel’s familiar and cozy vibe. The domes have comfortable double or twin beds, a wood stove and a private bathroom with a state-of-the-art composting toilet. 

 
 

EcoCamp’s Suite Dome Lofts

(2 floors, Heating & Private bathroom, 37m²/398ft²)

Suite dome lofts are two-storey domes which fit up to four people and have comfortable double or twin beds both up and downstairs. These domes, ideal for families or groups of friends, come with a wood stove, a private terrace and a private bathroom with a state-of-the-art composting toilet.

 
 
 

EcoCamp Patagonia Superior Dome

(Heating & Private bathroom, 23m²/250ft²)

Spacious, comfortable and equipped with private bathrooms, Superior Domes are the optimum choice for trekkers wanting that bit more space and comfort at the end of a long day’s walk. Each Superior Dome has comfortable queen-size or twin beds, a propane heater, skylight windows and a private bathroom with a sophisticated composting toilet

 
EcoCamp Patagonia Standard Dome

(Shared bathroom, 10m²/108ft²)

EcoCamp Standard domes were the world’s first lodge accommodation in geodesic shape. They are resistant to the strong Patagonian winds, and come equipped with two single beds (doubles on request), cozy fleece blankets and feather quilts. There are windows in the ceiling for stargazing. Standard domes include shared bathrooms which are large, comfortable and gender divided.

Featured

Patagonia Torres del Paine 7 Day W Trek

 

Tackle the incomparable W Trek, EcoCamp-style!

The visually stunning W Trek – highlighting the best of Torres del Paine such as Grey Glacier, French Valley, and the base of the Towers – is a once-in-a-lifetime experience…so you should do it right the first time! Team up with our highly experienced and knowledgeable guides to head off on one of the most famous treks in the world, ending each day with spectacular sights, delicious meals, and comfortable nighttime accommodations. During your nights at EcoCamp Patagonia, you’ll be treated to delicious meals made from local ingredients, fun conversation over drinks in the Bar dome with your fellow guests, yoga to stretch your muscles, nights spent in our unique domes, and more!​

September special offer

Planning a trip for September? Check out our special discount! Bring a friend or family member to EcoCamp and we will take 20% off the second passenger’s program. Click here for more details.

Highlights

  • Trek Valle Frances
  • The Challenging ‘W’ Trek
  • Base of the Towers
  • Views of Los Cuernos
  • Boat ride to Grey Glacier
  • Stay at award-winning EcoCamp Patagonia
  • Start in Calafate (Argentina) or Punta Arenas/Puerto Natales (Chile)
  • Cycling excursion (Optional)

Brief Itinerary

Day 1 (Mon): Travel from Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales or Calafate to Torres del Paine NP
Day 2 (Tue): Trek Paso Los Cuernos trail
Day 3 (Wed): Trek Valle del Frances trail
Day 4 (Thu): Trek Pehoe – Grey trail 
Day 5 (Fri): Trek to the Towers
Day 6 (Sat): Eastern Lakes
Day 7 (Sun): Drive to Punta Arenas
 

Watch Inside Patagonia | A Poem to the World’s End

Note: This video was filmed in April 2018 during Patagonian autumn 

» Are you an experienced hiker looking for a challenge? Extend your trek and hike the full Torres del Paine O Circuit in 9 days
EcoCamp Patagonia Trek 

DESIGN YOUR TRIP

We can custom design this itinerary and all Chilean and Argentina destinations. You choose your preferred standard of accommodations, travel dates and the amount of time to spend at the various sites along the way. With advance planning, we can match a specific guide to your group’s interests. 

Fill out this form or send us an email to reservations@cascada.travel and our Cascada Travel Expert team will get back to you within two business days!

 

Day 1 (Monday): The Patagonian Adventure Starts

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

The trip begins with you being picked up from your hotel in Punta Arenas or Punta Arenas airport in the morning and driven to EcoCamp Patagonia, located in the world-famous Torres del Paine National Park. Alternatively, you can start your trip in Calafate (see our weekly transfer board for EcoCamp’s pick up & drop off schedule). En route we make a stop in Puerto Natales, a small, lively town on the shores of “Seno de Ultima Esperanza”, where we enjoy a hearty local lunch. The journey is scenic and highly atmospheric, featuring many wild birds and wonderful Patagonian landscapes. The day ends with our arrival and overnight stay at EcoCamp Patagonia, nestled in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park and with a prime view of the majestic Torres. Sunset is usually around 11 pm during the summer months, meaning that there will still be enough daylight for you to admire the Patagonian steppe with its guanacos and snow-peaked mountain horizon once you arrive. 
  • Meals: lunch & dinner
  • Accommodation: EcoCamp Patagonia
 

Day 2 (Tuesday): Los Cuernos Trek

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
 
We begin our Patagonian adventure with a pleasant walk through the sinuous Cuernos Trail which leads us alongside the beautiful Lake Nordenskjold. During this warm-up walk we will have the opportunity to admire the park’s exquisite flora and fauna, as we enjoy the magnificent views of the park’s central lakes and the Paine’s Horns, majestic black horn-like peaks of slate atop gray granite which crown the center of the Massif. The trek ends at Refugio Los Cuernos, a small and cozy mountain refuge located on the shores of Lake Nordenskjold. Alternatively, the trek ends at Domo el Francés, located between Cuernos and Italiano camping sites, with an amazing view of Nordenskjöld lake. The evening is free for relaxing and enjoying dinner. 
  • Meals: breakfast, box lunch & dinner
  • Accommodation:  Refugio or camping area at Cuernos or Domo El Francés (depending on availability)

Day 3 (Wednesday): The Paine Massif’s Heart: Valle Frances

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

After breakfast at Refugio Los Cuernos, we will begin the challenging trek to Valle Frances (French Valley), along a steep trail that leads to the very heart of the Paine Massif. How far in we go depends on our group’s trekking rhythm. A swifter walk will lead us to the hanging bridge over the French River, located at the foot of the south-east face of the Massif, where we will be treated to fantastic views of the valley. We will then continue to ascend towards the upper section of the valley where we will be able to marvel at the extensive mass of the valley’s geological formations: Hoja (Blade), Máscara (Mask), Espada (Sword), Catedral (Cathedral), Aleta de Tiburón (Shark’s Fin) and the magnificent Fortaleza (Fortress). After our upward trek, we will pause for a picnic and relax a while. This day’s trek will end as we descend through an undulating terrain of mixed grassland and light forest which will take us to Refugio Paine Grande.

N.B. An optional trek to Mirador Britanico is also available.
  • Meals: breakfast, box lunch & dinner
  • Accommodation: Refugio or Camping at Paine Grande
 

Day 4 (Thursday): Glacier Grey

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

This day will see us hike from Paine Grande Refugio along the shores of Lake Grey to the northern side of the glacially beautiful Lake Grey. We will feast on a picnic lunch before boarding the boat that sails right to the huge, crystalline facade of Glacier Grey, where we will have plenty of time to marvel at the calving glacier.  From the southern end of Glacier Grey, we will transfer to EcoCamp.
Due to the temperamental weather of the region, boat trips across the lake may occasionally be canceled if the required minimum of 15 passengers is not reached. If either is the case, we will trek up to the sightseeing point and profit from wonderful, panoramic views of the Glacier instead. Then we will return on foot to Paine Grande and take a catamaran to Pudeto’s dock, where we will be picked up and driven to EcoCamp.
  • Meals: breakfast. box lunch & dinner
  • Accommodation: EcoCamp Patagonia
 

Day 5 (Friday): The big challenge, Trek to the Towers Base

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

The goal of our fifth day of our 7-day Trek will be to complete the most famous trekking trail in Torres del Paine National Park! We will walk from the campsite towards Hostería Las Torres before ascending to Ascencio Valley on the Tower’s eastern face. Mountain ridges, beech forests and small rivers line the scenic walk towards the valley. Our big challenge comes in the form of the steep moraine, a huge mass of boulders which will lead us to that iconic base-view of the Towers – Three gigantic granite monoliths, the remains of a great cirque sheared away by the forces of glacial ice. After a tough uphill climb, the Towers eventually come into full view, rising majestically before us, with the glacial lake visible below. Is there any better place in the world to have lunch? After feasting on the view and our picnic, we backtrack along the same trail through Ascencio Valley and return to EcoCamp for a well-deserved dinner.
  • Meals: breakfast, box lunch & dinner
  • Accommodation: EcoCamp Patagonia
 

Day 6 (Saturday): Eastern Lakes*

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
 
The sixth day will consist of a less strenuous trail in order to counter the exhausting efforts of the previous day. After breakfast, we will take a leisurely car journey towards Laguna Azul,  passing Cañadón Macho, home to many wild guanacos and ñandúes, en route. We will pause occasionally to admire the views of the Patagonian steppe and the towers from a different perspective. At Laguna Azul, we will hike to the lookout point where we will be treated to a gorgeous view of both the lagoon and granite towers. After lunch, we will drive to the northern shore of Sarmiento Lake where the Fauna Trail begins. As we hike northbound, we will spot an impressive range of Patagonian fauna on the vast plains, including guanacos, ostrich-like ñandús and maybe the occasional puma print! We will pass the charming Goic lagoon and after approximately 5km of relaxed walking, we will reach the Laguna Amarga ranger station where we will be picked up and driven back to Ecocamp to celebrate over our farewell dinner.
*Please note that if there are more than 6 travelers in the group there’s an option to split into two groups, with one group (or the whole group if everybody’s in the mood!) cycling to Laguna Azul!
  • Meals: breakfast, box lunch & dinner
  • Accommodation: EcoCamp Patagonia
 

Day 7 (Sunday): Adios Torres del Paine!

Punta Arenas, Chile
We will board an early morning vehicle, sit back, relax, and enjoy a scenic ride back to Punta Arenas in time to catch the evening flight to Santiago. Or, alternatively, we board an early morning vehicle to the border to continue our journey to El Calafate. 
 
  • Meals: breakfast & box lunch
 

Patagonia Torres del Paine 7 Day W Trek – Trekking Chart

 

Data / Day Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7
Trail Name arrive
in
Torres
del
Paine
NP
Los Cuernos Trail Valle Frances Trail Grey Glacier Trail Las Torres Trail Eastern Lakes leave
Torres
del
Paine
NP
Starting Point EcoCamp Patagonia Refugio Cuernos Refugio Paine Grande EcoCamp Patagonia

EcoCamp
Patagonia

Finishing Point Refugio Cuernos
(or Domo El Francés)
Refugio Paine Grande EcoCamp 
Patagonia
(Trekking ends at
Grey Viewpoint)
EcoCamp Patagonia EcoCamp
Patagonia
appx. Walking Time 4.5 hrs
(or 5.5 hrs)
10 hrs 4 hrs 9 hrs
3 hr
Distance 12 km / 7.5 mi
(14 km / 8.7 mi)
26 km / 16 mi 11 km / 7 mi 22 km / 14 mi
6km / 4mi
max Altitude Point 244 m / 800 feet 686 m / 2250 feet 244m / 800 feet 914 m / 3000 feet 180 m / 590ft
Image Banner:

Rates

Rates are valid from September 30th, 2019 to April 2020

*What’s CLP? Your booking is based on Chilean pesos (CLP), but you pay in US$ (USD), using the exchange rate valid on the day of payment which will be shown in your order. This exchange rate may vary between the date you pay your deposit and the date you pay your outstanding balance, but rest assured this is the best way to keep our prices competitive and ensure the best rate for you!

EcoCamp Patagonia Seasons

  • Low Season

    • September 30th, 2019 to October 15th, 2019 (Spring)
    • April 18th to 27th, 2020 (Autumn)  – last departure on April 27th, 2020

  • Shoulder Season

    • October 16th to 31st, 2019 (Spring)
    • April 1st to 17th, 2020 (Autumn)

  • High Season 

    • November 1st to December 14th, 2019
    • January 21st to March 31st, 2020 (Summer

  • Peak Season

    • December 15th, 2019 to January 20th, 2020 (Summer

Departures 

Every Monday from October 2019 to April 2020**

>> Do you want a private departure for this trip? We can do it, please send us an e-mail   

Special Itinerary – 6 Day W trek in September

We have 3 special departures coming up for the W Trek in September. The itinerary for these September dates differ slightly from the original program due to changes in weather conditions, daylight hours and third party services.
Departures:
• September 6th, 2019 
• September 13th, 2019
• September 20th, 2019
 

Note: different prices will apply for this departure. Prices based on 2+ people group.

Starting / Finishing Points

The trip starts on Monday and finishes on Sunday with pickups and drop-offs in Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales or El Calafate. Please visit our Weekly Transfer Board for details of EcoCamp pick up and drop off times from both Chile and Argentina.

Physical Demands

This is the right trip for energetic people who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. To enjoy this trek it is essential to be in shape before you arrive. It is not wise to regard this trek as a means of getting into shape or losing excess weight. Start a program of conditioning well before departure.

Included

  • All ground transport – private and domestic – as indicated in the itinerary
  • Regular bus tickets Calafate <> Natales if starting/finishing in Calafate.
  • Boat crossing on Grey Lake (1) please check day 4 of the itinerary
  • 4 nights accommodation in EcoCamp (3)
  • 1 night accommodation at Refugio Paine Grande (depending on availability) (2)
  • 1 night in Refugio Los Cuernos or Domo El Francés (depending on availability) (2) (4)
  • Park fees for Torres del Paine National Park
  • One expert English speaking trekking guide
  • Sleeping bag for refugios if needed
  • Transportation for your luggage within the Park: while trekking you will carry just your daypack
  • Meals (B: breakfast, BL: box lunch, L: Lunch, D: dinner):

  • day 1: Lunch, Dinner
  • day 2: Breakfast, Box Lunch, Dinner
  • day 3: Breakfast, Box Lunch, Dinner
  • day 4: Breakfast, Box Lunch, Dinner
  • day 5: Breakfast, Box Lunch, Dinner
  • day 6: Breakfast, Box Lunch, Dinner
  • day 7: Breakfast, Box Lunch.

Important notes:

  1. During Low & Shoulder Season (October and April) the boat trip to Glacier Grey may be canceled, if this is the case we will offer you a good alternative of excursion within the park.
  2. If refugios are unavailable, alternative accommodation will be provided in tents or domes with prior notice.
  3. If you choose a standard dome and you are traveling alone, you can share the dome with another person of the same gender and pay the double base price. If you want the dome to yourself, you need to pay a Single Supplement
  4. Accommodation at the Refugio will be provided either in dormitories or in comfortable tents or domes, including mat, sleeping bag and a polar fleece liner; our team will set up and dismantle all this. The campsite provides satisfactory bathroom facilities. Meals will be served inside the Refugio.

N.B. During Shoulder and Low Season (October and April), the Towers Trek excursion might be canceled because of weather conditions and safety considerations.

Not Included 

  • Flight tickets
  • Insurance (it is mandatory you purchase appropriate insurance for this trip)
  • Voluntary tipping of guides and staff
  • Soft drinks or snacks not served with the meals included at the EcoCamp. Bringing US$ in cash for buying extra drinks/snacks or souvenirs in Torres del Paine NP is recommended
  • Items of a personal nature

Group Size & Guiding Staff

9 travelers is the most typical group size, plus guiding staff.

  • Maximum 12 clients.
  • Guide to passenger ratio: 1:6

Children Policy

  • Youngsters who are 13 years of age or older are welcome and are considered adults.
  • Children between 10 and 12 might be accepted in this program if their legal guardian sends a formal letter stating that the child is prepared for such an intense trekking trip and authorizes us to hire a private guide in case the child cannot perform well during the trek.
  • Children under 10 years of age cannot participate in this trip.
  • This trip doesn’t offer a special discount for children.

Transport

In Torres del Paine and throughout Patagonia transport is in minivans that normally seat from 8 to 14 people. Pick up / Drop off times will be confirmed locally by our operations team. An exclusive toll-free emergency number will be available for anyone needing additional support while they are in Chile.

Weather

The Patagonian Andes is very exposed to winds that circle the Antarctic landmass. In addition, the strong marine influence and the effect of the Southern Patagonia Icefield make the weather hard to predict. In spring or early summer, fine weather may deteriorate almost without warning, bringing rain and even snow. Even in summer (December to March), you should come prepared to find strong cold winds (up to 130 km/hr) and rainfall. The summer’s average temperature is 11ºC/52ºF (24ºC max, 2ºC min). However, just as quickly as the weather turns nasty, it can become lovely and sunny. So come prepared for all types of weather!

What you need to bring

Passengers need to be prepared for summer and winter all at once. Essential equipment includes:

  • One day backpack (30 liters – to carry a camera, glasses, raincoat, etc)
  • Trekking or hiking boots
  • Extra shoes for evenings or in case others get wet
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Two pairs of woolen socks
  • Fleece jacket or sweater
  • Shorts or comfortable loose pants
  • Sun protection (glasses, hat, lip balm, and screen) and
  • Optional Capilene underwear for the upper and lower body
  • US$ in cash for buying extra drinks/snacks or souvenirs in Torres del Paine NP.

Itinerary Modifications

The weather in Patagonia can be difficult to deal with at times. We reserve the right to change the order of the days in any itinerary at the discretion of the trip guide and based on operational considerations. The trip guide can modify, change or eliminate part of the itinerary based on safety/weather considerations.

 

 

EcoCamp Patagonia (Nights 1,4,5,6)

Ecocamp Patagonia is located in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, with views of the majestic granite towers. The region’s first sustainable lodge south of the Amazon and the first of its kind in the Patagonian wilderness, EcoCamp offers upscale camping in domes inspired by the region’s ancient nomadic inhabitants. W Trek advisable minimum age form Children is 12 years.

 

EcoCamp Patagonia Standard Dome

(Shared bathroom, 10m²/108ft²)

EcoCamp Standard domes were the world’s first lodge accommodation in geodesic shape. They are resistant to the strong Patagonian winds, and come equipped with two single beds (doubles on request), cozy fleece blankets and feather quilts. There are windows in the ceiling for stargazing. Standard domes include shared bathrooms which are large, comfortable and gender divided.

 

EcoCamp Patagonia Suite Dome 

(Heating & Private bathroom, 28m²/300ft²)

Suite domes were designed to further our goal of providing comfort in a natural setting with minimal environmental impact, and also maintain the hotel’s familiar and cozy vibe. The domes have comfortable double or twin beds, a wood stove and a private bathroom with a state-of-the-art composting toilet.

 

 

 

EcoCamp’s Suite Dome Lofts

(2 floors, Heating & Private bathroom, 37m²/398ft²)

Suite dome lofts are two-storey domes which fit up to four people and have comfortable double or twin beds both up and downstairs. These domes, ideal for families or groups of friends, come with a wood stove, a private terrace and a private bathroom with a state-of-the-art composting toilet. 

 

EcoCamp Patagonia Superior Dome

(Heating & Private bathroom, 23m²/250ft²)

Spacious, comfortable and equipped with private bathrooms, Superior Domes are the optimum choice for trekkers wanting that bit more space and comfort at the end of a long day’s walk. Each Superior Dome has comfortable queen-size or twin beds, a propane heater, skylight windows and a private bathroom with a sophisticated composting toilet.

 

Refugio Patagonia tourMountain huts / Refugios (Nights 2,3)

Typical mountain huts, open to the public visiting Torres del Paine. They have rooms for 4-6 people. The beds are single bunks and we will provide you with a sleeping bag and a polar fleece liner (you don’t need to bring a sleeping bag!). The bathrooms are also shared and they have hot water. The refugios are heated and have a very comfortable dining area where plentiful meals are served. If refugios are unavailable, alternative accommodation will be provided in tents with prior notice.

 

Domes El Francés (Night 2 / Alternative to Refugio)

Geodesic domes, open to the public visiting Torres del Paine. The domes have an amazing view of Nordenskjöld lake, Cuernos del Paine and Paine Grande Mountains and come with a private bathroom for 8 people each (shared bathroom and dome). Accommodation are single bed or bunk beds and we will provide you with a sleeping bag and a polar fleece liner (you don’t need to bring a sleeping bag!).

Featured

Patagonia Torres del Paine 5 Day Short-W Trek

 

Watch as Torres del Paine puts its best foot forward on this unforgettable five-day voyage

Be amazed by the skyrocketing mountains, deep blue glaciers, and hauntingly beautiful forests of Torres del Paine National Park on this shorter version of the world-renowned W Trek, all completed with EcoCamp’s unique blend of adventure and comfort. Check out the 7-day version of the W Trek.  ​ 

September special offer

Planning a trip for September? Check out our special discount! Bring a friend or family member to EcoCamp and we will take 20% off the second passenger’s program. Click here for more details.

 

Highlights

  • Famous W trek in Torres del Paine National Park
  • Stay in the world’s first fully sustainable geodesic dome hotel, EcoCamp Patagonia
  • Make like-minded friends for life at EcoCamp
  • Learn all the local secrets from our knowledgeable guides
  • Unique Fauna and Flora
  • The base of the Towers
  • French Valley Trek 
  • Glacier Grey

Brief Itinerary

Day 1 (Sun): Travel from Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales or Calafate to Torres del Paine NP
Day 2 (Mon): Trek Valle del Frances trail
Day 3 (Tue): Trek Pehoe – Grey trail
Day 4 (Wed): Trek to the Towers
Day 5 (Thu): Drive to Punta Arenas
 

Hiking the W Trek in One Minute – Watch the video

» Extend your trek and hike the full Torres del Paine W Trek in 7 days.
EcoCamp Patagonia Trek 

Design your Trip

We can custom design this itinerary and all Chilean and Argentina destinations. You choose your preferred standard of accommodations, travel dates and the amount of time to spend at the various sites along the way. With advance planning, we can match a specific guide to your group’s interests. 

Fill out this form or send us an email to reservations@cascada.travel and our Cascada Travel Expert team will get back to you within two business days!

 

 

Day 1: The Patagonian Adventure Starts

Torres del Paine NP, Chile

The trip begins with you being picked up from your hotel in Punta Arenas or Punta Arenas airport in the morning and driven to EcoCamp Patagonia, located in the world-famous Torres del Paine National Park. Alternatively, you can start your trip in Calafate (see our weekly transfer board for EcoCamp’s pick up & drop off schedule). En route we make a stop in Puerto Natales, a small, lively town on the shores of “Seno de Ultima Esperanza”, where we enjoy a hearty local lunch. The journey is scenic and highly atmospheric, featuring many wild birds and wonderful Patagonian landscapes. The day ends with our arrival and overnight stay at EcoCamp Patagonia, with a prime view of the majestic Torres. Sunset is usually around 11 pm during the summer months, meaning that there will still be enough daylight for you to admire the Patagonian steppe with its guanacos and snow-peaked mountain horizon once you arrive.

For more details about trek distance and walking time, click here to check out our Trekking Chart.

Overnight at EcoCamp Patagonia

Day 2: The Paine Massif’s Heart: French Valley

Torres del Paine NP, Chile

After breakfast we drive toward Pudeto dock where we board the catamaran to Pehoe, from here we will begin the challenging trek to Valle Frances (French Valley), along a steep trail that leads to the very heart of the Paine Massif. How far in we go depends on our group’s trekking rhythm. A swifter walk will lead us to the hanging bridge over the French River, located at the foot of the south east face of the Massif, where we will be treated to fantastic views of the valley. We continue to ascend towards the upper section of the valley where we will be able to marvel at the extensive mass of the valley’s geological formations. After our upward trek, we will pause for a picnic and relax a while. This day’s trek will end as we descend through an undulating terrain of mixed grassland and light forest which will take us to Refugio Paine Grande, located on the peaceful shores of Lake Pehoe.

*An optional trek to Mirador Británico is also available.

N.B.The excursion to French Valley varies throughout the season depending on the catamaran connecting Pudeto and Refugio Pehoe:

  • From October 1st to 31st and from April 1st to 30th the navigation operates only once a day, therefore the hike will be limited and only reach Italian campsite depending on the passengers walking pace. (From November 1th to March 30th the excursion operates on a regular basis)

Overnight in Refugio or Camping at Paine Grande

Day 3: Grey Glacier Trek & Boat Ride

Torres del Paine NP, Chile

This day will see us hike from Paine Grande Refugio along the shores of Lake Pehoe to the northern side of the glacially beautiful Lake Grey. We will feast on a picnic lunch before boarding the boat that sails right to the huge, crystalline facade of Glacier Grey, where we will have plenty of time to marvel at the calving glacier.  From the southern end of Glacier Grey, we will transfer to EcoCamp.

Be aware that boat trips can be canceled if the required minimum of 10 passengers is not reached. If either is the case, we will trek up to the sightseeing point and profit from wonderful, panoramic views of the Glacier instead. Then we will return on foot to Paine Grande and take a catamaran to Pudeto’s dock, where we will be picked up and driven to EcoCamp.

Overnight at EcoCamp Patagonia

Day 4: The Big Challenge: Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine NP, Chile

The goal of the penultimate day of our 5-day trek will be to complete the most famous trekking trail in Torres del Paine National Park! We will walk from EcoCamp towards Hostería Las Torres before ascending to Ascencio Valley on the Tower’s eastern face. Mountain ridges, beech forests and small rivers line the scenic walk towards the valley. Our big challenge comes in the form of the steep moraine, a huge mass of boulders which will lead us to that iconic base-view of the Towers – Three gigantic granite monoliths, the remains of a great cirque sheared away by the forces of glacial ice. After a tough uphill climb, the Towers eventually come into full view, rising majestically before us, with the glacial lake visible below. Is there any better place in the world to have lunch? After feasting on the view and our picnic, we backtrack along the same trail through Ascencio Valley and return to EcoCamp for a well-deserved dinner.

Overnight at EcoCamp Patagonia

Day 5: Adios Torres del Paine!

Punta Arenas, Patagonia, Chile

We will board an early morning vehicle, sit back, relax, and enjoy a scenic ride back to Punta Arenas in time to catch the evening flight.

 

Patagonia Torres del Paine 5 Day W Trek – Trekking Chart

Data / Day Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5
Trail

Name

arrive

in

Torres

del

Paine

NP

French Valley Trail Grey Trail The Tower’s Trail leave

Torres

del

Paine

NP

Start EcoCamp Patagonia Paine Grande Refugio EcoCamp Patagonia
Finish Paine Grande Refugio EcoCamp Patagonia

(Trekking ends at Grey viewpoint)

EcoCamp Patagonia
appx.

Walking

Time

8hr 4hr / 40min Lake Navigation 9hr
Distance 25km / 15mi 14km / 9mi 22km / 14mi
max

Altitude

Point

686 m / 2250 feet 244m / 800 feet 914 m / 3000 feet

 

Image Banner:

Rates

Rates are valid from October 2019 to April 2020

*What’s CLP? Your booking is based on Chilean pesos (CLP), but you pay in US$ (USD), using the exchange rate valid on the day of payment which will be shown in your order. This exchange rate may vary between the date you pay your deposit and the date you pay your outstanding balance, but rest assured this is the best way to keep our prices competitive and ensure the best rate for you!

EcoCamp Patagonia Seasons

  • Low Season

    • October 6th to 15th, 2019 (Spring)
    • April 18th to 26th, 2020 (Autumn)  – last departure on April 26th, 2020

  • Shoulder Season

    • October 16th to 31st, 2019 (Spring)
    • April 1st to 17th, 2020 (Autumn)

  • High Season 

    • November 1st to December 14th, 2019
    • January 21st to March 31st, 2020 (Summer) 

  • Peak Season

    • December 15th, 2019 to January 20th, 2020 (Summer) 

Departures

Regular Departures. Every Sunday from October 2019 to April 2020

>> Do you want a private departure for this trip? We can do it, please send us an e-mail 

Special Itinerary – 6 Day W trek in September

We have 3 special departures coming up for the W Trek in September. The itinerary for these September dates differ slightly from the original program due to changes in weather conditions, daylight hours and third party services.

Departures:

• September 6th, 2019 

• September 13th, 2019

• September 20th, 2019

Note: different prices will apply for this departure. Prices based on 2+ people group.

Starting / Finishing Points

The trip starts on Sunday and finishes on Thursday with pick-ups and drop-offs in Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales or El Calafate. Please visit our Weekly Transfer Board for details of EcoCamp pick up and drop off times from both Chile and Argentina. 

Physical Demands

This is the right trip for energetic people who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. To enjoy this trek it is essential to be in shape before you arrive. It is not wise to regard this trek as a means of getting into shape or losing excess weight. Start a program of conditioning well before departure.

Included

  • All ground transport as indicated in the itinerary
  • Regular bus tickets Calafate<>Natales if starting/finishing in Calafate 
  • One expert English/Spanish speaking trekking guide
  • Torres del Paine National Park fee
  • 3 nights accommodation at EcoCamp (dome of your choice)
  • 1-night accommodation at Refugio Paine Grande (1) (shared basis)
  • Boat crossing over Pehoe Lake and Grey Lake (2)
  • Sleeping bag for the mountain hut if needed
  • Luggage transport: while trekking you will carry just your daypack
  • Meals:

    • day 1: Lunch, Dinner
    • day 2: Breakfast, Box Lunch, Dinner
    • day 3: Breakfast, Box Lunch, Dinner
    • day 4: Breakfast, Box Lunch, Dinner
    • day 5: Breakfast, Box Lunch
    • B: breakfast, BL: box lunch, L: lunch, D: dinner.

Important Notes: 

  1. Either in refugio or refugio’s camping area
  2. During Shoulder and low season (October and April), some excursions are subject to the weather conditions and might be canceled or modified for reasons of security, for example, the Navigation on Grey Lake, the excursion to the French Valley and to the Tower base trek. In any case, we will either modify the original itinerary or offer you a good alternative of excursion within the park.

Excluded

  • Flight tickets
  • Insurance (it is mandatory you purchase appropriate insurance for this trip)
  • Voluntary tipping of guides and staff
  • Soft drinks or snacks not served with the meals included at the EcoCamp. Bringing US$ in cash for buying extra drinks/snacks or souvenirs in Torres del Paine NP is recommended
  • Items of a personal nature

Group Size & Guiding Staff

9 travelers is the most typical group size, plus guiding staff.

  • Maximum 12 clients.
  • Guide to passenger ratio: 1:6

Children

  • Youngsters who are 13 years of age or older are welcome and are considered adults.
  • Children between 10 and 12 might be accepted in this program if their legal guardian sends a formal letter stating that the child is prepared for such an intense trekking trip and authorizes us to hire a private guide in case the child cannot perform well during the trek.
  • Children under 10 years of age cannot participate in this trip.
  • This trip doesn’t offer a special discount for children.

Transport

In Torres del Paine and throughout Patagonia transport is in minivans that normally seat from 8 to 14 people. Pick up / Drop off times shown in the Weekly Transfer Board are approximate and will be confirmed locally by our operations team. An exclusive toll-free emergency number will be available for anyone needing additional support while they are in Chile.

Weather

The vast unbroken stretch of ocean to the west and south of the South American continent leaves the Patagonian Andes very exposed to winds that circle the Antarctic landmass. In addition, the strong marine influence and the effect of the Southern Patagonia Icefield make the weather hard to predict. In spring or early summer, fine weather may deteriorate almost without warning, bringing rain and even snow. Even in summer (December to March), you should come prepared to find strong cold winds (up to 130 km/hr) and rainfall. The summer’s average temperature is 11ºC/52ºF (24ºCmax, 2ºC min). However, just as quickly as the weather turns nasty, it can become lovely and sunny. So come prepared for all types of weather!

What you need to bring

Passengers need to be prepared for summer and winter all at once. Essential equipment includes:

  • One day backpack (30 liters – to carry camera, glasses, raincoat, etc)
  • Trekking or hiking boots
  • Extra shoes for evenings or in case others get wet
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Two pairs of woolen socks
  •  Fleece jacket or sweater
  • Shorts or comfortable loose pants
  • Sun protection (glasses, hat, lip balm and screen)
  • Optional Capilene underwear for the upper and lower body
  • US$ in cash for buying extra drinks/snacks or souvenirs in Torres del Paine NP.

Itinerary Modifications

The weather in Patagonia can be difficult to deal with at times. We reserve the right to change the order of the days in any itinerary at the discretion of the trip guide and based on operational considerations. The trip guide can modify, change or eliminate part of the itinerary based on safety/weather considerations.

 

EcoCamp Patagonia (Nights 1,3,4)

Ecocamp Patagonia is located in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, with views of the majestic granite towers. The region’s first sustainable lodge south of the Amazon and the first of its kind in the Patagonian wilderness, EcoCamp offers upscale camping in domes inspired by the region’s ancient nomadic inhabitants. Advisable minimum age for children: 12 years.

 

EcoCamp Patagonia Standard Dome

(Shared bathroom, 10m²/108ft²)

EcoCamp Standard domes were the world’s first lodge accommodation in geodesic shape. They are resistant to the strong Patagonian winds, and come equipped with two single beds (doubles on request), cozy fleece blankets and feather quilts. There are windows in the ceiling for stargazing. Standard domes include shared bathrooms which are large, comfortable and gender divided.

Please consider: Standard domes have NO heating or electricity and bathrooms are shared (gender divided) 

 

 

EcoCamp Patagonia Suite Dome 

(Heating & Private bathroom, 28m²/300ft²)

Suite domes were designed to further our goal of providing comfort in a natural setting with minimal environmental impact, and also maintain the hotel’s familiar and cozy vibe. The domes have comfortable double or twin beds, a wood stove and a private bathroom with a state-of-the-art composting toilet. Stargaze through the ceiling windows while falling asleep, after enjoying a spectacular sunset from your private terrace.

 

EcoCamp’s Suite Dome Lofts

(2 floors, Heating & Private bathroom, 37m²/398ft²)

Suite dome lofts are two-storey domes which fit up to four people and have comfortable double or twin beds both up and downstairs. These domes, ideal for families or groups of friends, come with a wood stove, a private terrace and a private bathroom with a state-of-the-art composting toilet. Stargaze through the ceiling windows while falling asleep, after enjoying a spectacular sunset from your private terrace.

 

EcoCamp Patagonia Superior Dome

(Heating & Private bathroom, 23m²/250ft²)

Spacious, comfortable and equipped with private bathrooms, Superior Domes are the optimum choice for trekkers wanting that bit more space and comfort at the end of a long day’s walk. Each Superior Dome has comfortable queen-size or twin beds, a propane heater, skylight windows and a private bathroom with a sophisticated composting toilet.

 

Refugio Patagonia tourRefugios (Night 2)

These are typical mountain huts, open to the public visiting Torres del Paine. They have rooms for 4-6 people. The beds are single bunks and we will provide you with a sleeping bag and a polar fleece liner (you don’t need to bring a sleeping bag!). The bathrooms are also shared and they have hot water. The refugios are heated and have a very comfortable dining area where plentiful meals are served. If refugios are unavailable, alternative accommodation will be provided in tents with prior notice.

 

From Penguins to Palafitos: Everything You Should Do on Chiloé

Deep in the midst of Chile’s rainy Lake Region is a foggy, mystical land called Chiloé. It’s a dreamy archipelago situated just off the mainland in the Pacific Ocean. Not only does the main island of Chiloé serve as home to at least 150,000 “Chilotes” (Chiloé natives), but it is also a cozy, little getaway for travelers. With its whimsical vibe, Chiloé is able to offer some of the country’s most unique historical, cultural and nature-packed activities.

 

The Abundance of Wildlife

Chiloé is home to numerous animals, many of which can be seen in the national parks or surrounding waters.

Which animals should you look for? A popular bird that can be spotted during the warmer months is the penguin. They can be found in Ancud on the northside of the main island, oftentimes swimming or waddling along the small islets. This colony is made up of both Humboldt and Magellanic penguins, which is an extremely rare occurrence. In fact, Chiloé is currently the only spot on the planet where the two species live together. 

While looking for penguins, you may also be able to spot other sea creatures nearby. In Chioé’s waters it is possible to find whales, dolphins and sea lions. Soaring up above are a variety of seabirds, such as the Peruvian Pelican or Kelp Goose.

Looking inwards towards Chiloé’s green areas, look for some the many furry mammals wandering through the bushes. For example, there are foxes, armadillos, skunks and many other unique creatures lurking around. If you are lucky, you may be able to spot some of Chile’s rarest species — the pudú or kodkod. The pudú is the world’s smallest deer and the kodkod is the smallest wild cat in North and South America.

 

Wooden Churches

In addition to the diverse wildlife, there are also a significant number of old, pastel-colored churches on Chiloé. Some of these churches date back to the 17th century and 16 of them are classified as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The churches were built by Spanish Jesuits who first arrived in Chile in 1608. When they started making churches on Chiloé, they drew inspiration from both indigenous and Spanish architecture styles. This architectural hybrid, along with the use of native timber gives each church a unique look and feel. Nowadays the churches on Chiloé serve as a popular attraction for visitors.

While there are many churches to visit, the most famous one is San Francisco Church. It can be recognized by its electric yellow and purple colors. Other interesting ones include the Quinchao Church, Santa Maria de Loreto Church, Nercón Church and more.

 

Colorful Houses on Stilts

It’s like a hazy dream — candy-colored houses stacked tightly together above the water. Each building crookedly sits on wooden stilts, creating a picturesque array of buildings known as “palafitos.” The palafitos are one of the most well-known tourist attractions on the island, which can be found in the city of Castro.

With the island’s rising and falling tides, palafitos work well in keeping Castro’s old buildings protected. Travelers often admire them from one of the city’s viewpoints or up close on a kayak or boat trip. Some of the palafitos are even hotels or restaurants, making it possible for travelers to go inside.

 

Lush Nature Trails

Nature-lovers love taking a hike on Chiloé’s various trails, offering rich views and an opportunity to admire the region’s flora and fauna. Due to the area’s heavy rainfall, the vegetation is very green and lush.

There are several great places to trek on the island, such as Chiloé National Park on the westside or Tantauco Park in the south. Additionally, Punta Pirulil has a special trail that leads to a windy spot on the cliffs called “Muelle de las Almas.” Named after one of Chiloé’s many legends, this spot translates to “Dock of the Souls.” The dock offers a remarkable viewpoint of the ocean — the perfect ending to a hike that explores rich greenery, rolling hills and thick forests.

 

Traditional Chilote Dishes

One of the best ways to know a culture is to taste its food. This stands true for Chiloé! The island makes up just a tiny portion of Chile, but their special cuisine differs from the rest of the country. Here are some dishes you will find on the island of Chiloé:

  • Curanto: Come hungry for this dish — because it is huge and very filling! Curanto is probably the most well known Chilote dish, consisting of a hearty mix of shellfish, potatoes, meat and occasionally fish. It is prepared by collecting all the ingredients together and cooking it in a hole in the ground. The result? Totally scrumptious.
  • Apple Empanada: Forget Chile’s typical savory empanadas. This chilote pastry is the perfect sweet treat! It’s basically Chiloé’s take on the apple pie, but baked into empanada crust.
  • Milcao: A milcao is a savory snack that is made out of both cooked mashed and raw grated potato. Think hash brown — but Chilote style! A warm, homey milcao really does the trick during a cold, rainy Chiloé day.
  • Chochoca: This snack is often served during special events, like a fair or party. It is basically a dough that is made from potatoes and flour. The dough is wrapped, rolled and cooked in the fire, then stuffed with pork rind. Yum!

Food, culture, wildlife and nature — Chiloé has it all! Ready to experience its magic? Check out Cascada’s 3-day Heritage Tour! It’s the perfect chance to see the best of Chiloé with help from our expert guides. Get in touch with our travel specialists to learn more.

5 of Cascada’s Favorite Adventure Stories

Here at Cascada, we eat, sleep and breathe “adventure.” Climbing to the tippy top of a snow-capped mountain, biking through the dusty desert plains, rafting down a river with white water rapids — it’s what we’re all about! We pride ourselves on being experts at planning adventures and of course — at participating in them. On our days off, you can catch us trekking a new route, traveling to an unknown destination and always returning with a story to tell.

Today, we want to share some of our favorite adventure stories from the team at Cascada, all of which made a meaningful mark on our lives: 

 

Story #1: A New Connection at Mount Fitz Roy

“On a trip, you don’t only see new places, people and cultures, you also learn about yourself and come back differently,” said Cascada’s graphic designer Javiera, as she spoke about the experience that she shared with her younger brother in Argentine Patagonia.

It was to Javiera’s surprise when her younger brother Pablo asked to join her on a challenging trek to the base of Mount Fitz Roy during a family trip to El Chaltén. The two siblings are very different. Javiera –an outgoing designer, who loves the outdoors. Pablo — a shy 14-year old, who loves video games. Javiera didn’t think her brother would have interest in a demanding Patagonian trek but was happy that they embarked on the excursion together.

It wasn’t easy — especially due to the rough weather conditions in the area. Snow, rain and strong wind are typical in Patagonia! But by the end of the trek, Javiera was really proud of her brother and what he accomplished. She noticed a big change in him that day and for the first time, they had something in common. “Pablo realized when he reached the base of Fitz Roy that he wasn’t just getting to the end of the path, he was also changing his life forever,” said Javiera. 

Story #2: Passing Down a Love for the River

For Patricio, Cascada’s IT Support, his sense of adventure roots from his love for the river. He grew up in the town of San Alfonso, close to the Maipo River and spent his early days working as a white water rafting guide. From this experience, he picked up kayaking and quickly found a passion for this sport and for the river. Many of his favorite memories come from his time spent paddling up and down the raging waters.

“The river marks my life with joys, sorrows and professional development,” said Patricio. “I am where I am because I was born on the banks of the river and I hope to have the opportunity to actively return to it.”

Patricio now lives in Santiago, Chile’s capital city, with his wife and four young children. But he still has a deep love for the outdoors! His new adventure is now passing on his passion for kayaking to his children. So far, he has shared the sport with his oldest daughter Sabina and plans to include his other kids when they are old enough. 

 

Story #3: Trekking for a Cause

Adventures can be life-changing, but even more so when they are for a meaningful cause. This is true for Paula, Cascada’s Key Account Manager for Group Travel Services. She found adventure in a trekking expedition for a blood donation campaign in Peru.

Paula, along with 20 other young donors, climbed to the top of Nevado Ishinca mountain. It was a challenging trek consisting of 30 km up the steep hill at roughly 5,530 meters above sea level. In addition to the high altitude, there was a lot of snow that sometimes went as high as their knees!

But despite the rough conditions, Paula loved the challenge and admired the enthusiasm and commitment from the entire team of trekkers. 

 

Story #4: Discovering Easter Island’s Caves in the Rain

One of the most unique places in Chile is the mysterious Easter Island, located smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This tropical island has a special atmosphere and culture that is unlike anywhere else, easily serving as one of Chile’s top adventure spots. Cascada’s Reservation Manager, Camilia, experienced the beauty of the island back in 2016 during a trip with her boyfriend.

One of her favorite memories from the vacation is an excursion to the northwest part of the island to explore some ancient caves, such as Ana Te Pora y Ana Kakenga. These caves are both a unique formation and a fascinating piece of history, once being used as refuges for islanders.

During their excursion, a tropical rainstorm began and they finished their day dripping head-to-toe in rainwater. “We ended the day trip completely soaked!” said Camila, “But it was certainly worth it to see these places where the island’s original inhabitants took shelter during times of war and environmental degradation.”

Story #5: Swinging Over the Amazon

Lastly, for me, Cascada’s content creator, thinking back to my favorite adventure story brings a lot of amazing experiences to mind. I remember my 3-day trekking trip in Myanmar, where I was mesmerized by the maze of endless rice fields imprinted on the golden-green hills. Then there was the time I encountered a wild puma in Torres del Paine National Park or stood amongst the world’s tallest palm trees in Colombia.

But between the rice fields, palm trees and Patagonian pumas, one of my absolute favorite adventures was actually an experience I shared with my mom back in 2017. We had just had an incredible day exploring the outskirts of the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador. After kayaking, wildlife watching and a tasty lunch with the locals, we were ending our jungle tour with a beautiful sunset on a grassy hilltop that overlooked the whole area.

Not far from where we were sitting was an old crooked swing set that swung out over the ledge of the cliff, high above the green foliage and the winding river. It didn’t look stable whatsoever but definitely sparked my curiosity. The group we were with wandered over to it, one by one swinging over the jungle treetops.

When it came to my mom, she was very hesitant to go. “I’m way too old for this,” she exclaimed, with a concerned look on her face. But with a little convincing, she finally took off over the ledge and it’s an experience she still talks about to this day. I like to think this proves that no matter who you are or how you feel, it is always possible to have an adventure.

Ready to discover your next adventure? Cascada is here to help! Check out our various programs in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia.

You can…

Trek the W in Torres del Paine

Explore the Moon Valley in the Atacama Desert

Discover Bolivian culture in the Altiplano

Come face-to-face with Perito Moreno in Argentine Patagonia

And more!

Where To Go When Visiting Torres del Paine

Today we are sharing an inspiring piece orginally published by our friends at Chile Today, a publication dedicated to sharing newsworthy content in English about Latin America and Chile.

 

Torres del Paine National Park – it’s one of Patagonia’s most precious gems. This special oasis is tucked away at the end of the world, stamped by indigenous roots and packed with diverse wildlife and immense natural wonders. The beauty can be overwhelming, so here are a few highlights to choose from when you’re short on time.

The park was created 60 years ago, but its vast landscapes have been attracting travelers since the late 1800s. In the words of Lady Florence Dixie, British aristocrat and the first official tourist of the Torres del Paine area: “…nowhere else are you so completely alone. Nowhere else is there an area of 10,000 square miles which you may gallop over, and where…you are safe from the persecutions of fevers, friends…telegrams, letters and every other nuisance you are elsewhere liable to be exposed to.”

Years later her words retain meaning, as Torres del Paine continues to serve as an opportunity to unplug from society and connect with Mother Earth’s most magical creations.  

But more with an area made up of more than 1,800 square kilometers, it’s difficult to see all of Torres del Paine in a single trip. Narrowing it down to a few key experiences and attractions is the best way to enjoy the park and take in its immensity.

 

Top Attractions & Activities  

Travelers typically come to Torres del Paine to marvel at its vast, beautiful landscapes and participate in active, outdoor activities. There are inclusive adventures for all types of travelers and exciting activities that vary based on the interests and abilities of each person. 

The most popular experiences include the following: 

  • Trek to the Base of the Towers: The Base Torres trail is part of the famous multi-day W Trek and also can be completed in a challenging one-day excursion. The route takes trekkers into the hills, through colorful forests, up rocky boulders and to the famous viewpoint at the base of the Paine Towers. On a clear day, visitors will get a picture-perfect view of the park’s unique mountain formation, a landmass that gave the park its name.  
  • Sail to Grey Glacier: This giant, bold glacier stretches over 270 square kilometers. It has retreated over the years, but still maintains a size that is overwhelming to the eye. The park offers a great day trip on Grey Lake, bringing passengers to the various faces of the glacier by boat. For families with children, this is a great option to view an incredible landmass in a relaxing, stress-free way. 
  • Bike Alongside Laguna Azul: A peaceful way to take in beautiful Torres del Paine is on a trip to Laguna Azul (Blue Lagoon). It’s a gorgeous body of deep blue water, surrounded by tall grasses and an incredible backdrop of the granite Towers. A great way to explore the area is to take a bike ride around the lagoon. With luck, you may spot some guanacos, which are animals that look similar to a llama.
  • Explore the French Valley: Right off the shores of Pehoe Lake is the French Valley, a trekking route that is also part of the W Trek. The one-day trek is rated at an intermediate level of difficulty and is a perfect opportunity to check out the region’s unique geological formations.

 

Favorite Trekking Routes 

Torres del Paine has an abundance of trekking routes that vary in length and difficulty, providing opportunities for a wide range of travelers. Single-day trails, such as Lazo Weber, Fauna Trail or Cerro Paine, are great options for those who want to go on shorter hikes. 

For more adventurous travelers, there are multi-day hikes available. The two most popular routes are the W Trek and Paine Circuit, also known as the “O.”

  • The W Trek: The W is definitely the most popular trekking trip in Torres del Paine, hitting all of the park’s major highlights. There are few versions of this trek and it typically consists of three to five full days of walking. 
  • The Paine Circuit: In addition to the ground covered on the W, the Circuit takes trekkers to a more remote area of the Torres del Paine with epic views of lesser-seen glaciers and viewpoints. On average, it takes roughly seven full days of trekking to complete the entire route. Its lengthy distance and unpredictable weather conditions mean trekkers should come prepared — both mentally and physically.   

It’s possible to go on these hikes alone, however it is more advisable to travel with an expert guide due to Patagonia’s intense weather and challenging conditions. Local tour operators, such as Cascada Expediciones, offer trekking excursions that are led by experienced and passionate guides. It’s an easy way to trek in Torres del Paine with professional assistance and logistics organized.  

 

The Park’s Hidden Secrets 

In addition to the park’s popular highlights, there are numerous lesser-known experiences that are equally as beautiful and entertaining. It’s a chance for travelers to see Torres del Paine from a new, unique perspective.

  • Track Pumas: Among the park’s wide range of plant and wildlife, are the Patagonian pumas. There are many pumas in Torres del Paine, but they are difficult to spot due to their elusive behavior and fur that camouflages with the surroundings. For wildlife lovers, there is an opportunity to find pumas with the help of professional puma trackers. These trackers have years of experience and extensive knowledge about the cat’s behaviors and tendencies, making it significantly easier for travelers to find pumas in the wild.   
  • Climb the Towers: True adventurers and adrenaline-junkies love the idea of trekking the famous Paine Towers. It’s definitely not an excursion for the faint-hearted due to the mountain’s intense demands and conditions. But with proper equipment, the help of expert guides and a good attitude, experienced climbers can conquer the Towers. 
  • Run through Patagonia: To start the spring travel season, Torres del Paine offers trail runners the chance to participate in an Ultra Trail event this September. There are a variety of race lengths, ranging between 14 and 80k. Additionally, the Patagonian International Marathon is scheduled during the same month. Athletes can book package hotel deals during the marathon and ultra trail, which offer accommodation, transportation to the event, food, activities and support.     
  • Kayak with Glaciers: There is no better way to view the Patagonian ice fields than from a kayak. This remarkable experience offers travelers the chance to closely examine Grey Glacier and chunks of floating glacier ice, as well as appreciate its massive size.

No matter how you choose to explore Torres del Paine, it will be magical. There is something about the park that is unlike anywhere else. Maybe it’s the granite giants peeking through the clouds or the quiet pumas lurking in the bushes. Or it could be that indescribable feeling you get after accomplishing a trek or that astonishing moment of awe when you come face-to-face with a Patagonian glacier. It’s a journey worth taking and an incredible opportunity to experience life at the end of the world. 

 

Get in touch today and book your adventure! 

 

 

 

 

 

The Taste of Beer at the End of the World 

I smiled with content, taking my first sip of cold, delicious Patagonian beer. A frothy treat and the perfect ending to my long, adventurous week here in Southern Patagonia.

After a full week of trekking through winding trails and marveling at unbeatable scenery, I was thrilled to spend my last night exploring the beer scene in Puerto Natales — a lively town near Torres del Paine National Park. The region is small with just 2 million inhabitants in all of Patagonia. Yet brewing businesses are on the rise, proving that Patagonia’s flavors are as rich as its landscapes. 

In Puerto Natales, I had my fair share of spots to choose from, ranging from the cozy Cerveceria Natales Brewhouse to the up-and-coming Beer Gallery Patagonia, known for a nice selection of tasty craft beers. But with just a single night to explore the town, I decided to focus my attention on one of the most popular breweries and bars around: Baguales

It was just half past eight when I arrived, but the place was already packed! All around me, locals and tourists alike, were sipping on pints of beer and munching on snacks from the menu’s long list of choices, like the spicy wings, burgers or fudge brownie desserts. 

I made my way to an open table and eagerly sat down with Daniel Darrigrandi, one of the three proud founders of Baguales. But before we really got to chatting, we started off with a tasting menu of the brewery’s finest artisanal beers: Pale Draft, Dark Draft, Mate 101 and Azabache, which is an Imperial Stout. Each beer had its own special taste, but I was particularly intrigued by the Mate 101. It represents the flavors of the region and served as a tribute to the 101st anniversary of Puerto Natales, infused with a popular Patagonian herb “yerba mate.” 

With such powerful flavors, it wasn’t surprising when I learned that the beer at Baguales is award-winning. Out of 500 beers, Baguales Pale Draft took home third place in the Copa Cervezas de America competition in 2011. The Baguales team says, “…[Pale Draft] recalls aromas of fresh fruits, citrus and a touch of a vineyard’s peach; with a lot of creaminess, good structure and prolonging bitterness at the end.” 

But more than its fruity tang, it could be the beer makers’ passion that really shines through. It all started back when Darrigrandi and his wife met a guy named Chad during a rock climbing excursion in California. The group grew close, soon discovering they not only shared a love for climbing, but also for beer. A few years later, Chad came to Patagonia for a visit and was disappointed with the selection of beer. In a moment of spontaneity, the trio decided to start making their own. With this Baguales was born and the three passionate friends put their heart and soul into making Patagonia’s next best thing. The brewery officially opened in 2006 and later the bar in 2010. 

In a way, Baguales combines two styles in one glass. The unfiltered and unpasteurized ales are brewed with Chilean malted barley and hops from the Pacific northwest, creating a unique “north meets south” vibe that keeps the customers coming back for more.

Baguales officially became the region’s first brewery, with several other passionate beer makers following behind. Since the launch of the business, Baguales has seen a lot of growth, while still maintaining its original homey feel. The owners want everyone to feel welcomed and aim to create a comfortable environment for the staff and customers. According to Darrigrandi, to keep employees passionate and motivated, everyone in the company gets a chance to help out in the brewery. With this experience, the entire team can feel proud of the beer that they made together and can pass on this knowledge to the customers. 

When it comes to the future, the company plans to launch their first IPA. “Most IPAs add too much hop, so it’s not a balanced beer.” said Darrigrandi. “So the challenge is to make a balanced beer, a balanced IPA.” To find that perfect mix, the Baguales team has been experimenting with recipes and Darrigrandi hopes to officially release the new beer in August.

I gulped the last drop of my Mate 101 (I had to order another), wrapping up my little Patagonian beer tour. But before leaving the bar, I asked Darrigrandi something I had been wondering all night: Why “Baguales?” In Spanish, this word means “wild horses” and I was curious why they chose it as the name. Darrigrandi grinned and responded with confidence, “Because it’s like us — something hard to find.”

 

To learn more about activities in Puerto Natales or Torres del Paine, check out our blog or sign up for our newsletter today!

All Photo Credit: Baguales Management, TripAdvisor

15 Fast Facts About Andean Condors

Watching an Andean condor soar through the wind is a truly spectacular sight. Large in size, yet effortlessly graceful — these beautiful giants serve as one of the Chile’s favorite creatures. It’s easy to see why. The condor has many unique qualities and characteristics that sets it apart from other birds. Curious to learn more? Test your wildlife knowledge with 15 fast facts about Andean condors:

1. Condors are one of the largest flying birds in the world. They can actually weigh up to 15 kg or 33 lbs. 

2. They have a wingspan of up 3.2 meters! That’s equivalent to 10.5 feet or roughly two times the height of an average female.  

3. The Andean condor is Chile’s national bird and is part of the country’s coat of arms.

4. Due to their weight and size, condors prefer to fly in windy areas. This way, they can glide along with the breeze.

5. One way to distinguish between male and female condors is to look at their eyes! Females have red eyes, while males have brown.

6. The condor is part of the Inca trilogy, along with the snake and puma. Incas believed the condor was a sacred bird and represented the idea of heaven.

7. Condors have a lot of endurance! In a single day, they can fly as far a 300 km (180 miles) in  search of food. 

8. The Andean condor is featured in one of Chile’s most popular comics. This famous cartoon character is called Condorito and he’s entertaining kids and adults alike since 1949. 

9. Instead of making a nest, condors lay their eggs on the edge of a cliff. 

10. Condors are scavengers, typically feeding off of animals that have already died.

11. They live a very long life! Wild condors can live up to 50 years and in captivity they can live longer. The oldest condor that we know of lived to be 80 years old. 

12. The condor has a bald head. It’s believed that this characteristic developed due to their feeding habits, as a way to maintain hygiene. 

13. Sadly, the condor population has decreased due to poaching and poisoning efforts from ranchers and hunters. Their conservation status is “near threatened.” 

14. These birds only reproduce once every two or three years.

15. Andean condors serve as an important symbol in Patagonia, meaning power, liberty and health.    

Want to see an Andean condor for yourself? Click to learn more about EcoCamp’s Wildlife Safari, offering day trips to Salto Grande and El Condor lookout in Torres del Paine National Park.   

Viaja a EcoCamp en Septiembre

Este septiembre, viaja a Torres del Paine y disfruta de exclusivos precios!

En el mes de la patria, tenemos precios especiales para que disfrutes de los mejores paisajes de Chile con EcoCamp Patagonia, el primer hotel geodésico sustentable de Chile.  

En EcoCamp hemos asumido la tarea de proteger el ecosistema del Parque Nacional Torres del Paine a través de nuestras prácticas sustentables en la operación de nuestro hotel utilizando energías limpias, con manejo de control de desechos, utilización de materiales biodegradables, impulsando el desarrollo de la comunidad local y colaborando con distintas organizaciones como el Legacy Fund para la reforestación del parque. 

¿Por qué la experiencia EcoCamp es única?

  • Increíble ubicación en el corazón del Parque Nacional Torres del Paine 
  • Ecocamp es el primer hotel geodésico sustentable del mundo 
  • Conexión con la naturaleza  
  • Genera lazos únicos con otros viajeros
  • Viaja con un mínimo impacto ambiental
  • Disfruta el parque en temporada baja. 

Queremos invitarte a vivir la experiencia EcoCamp.  ​

Contáctanos indicando cuál de las dos opciones mencionadas abajo te interesa más, en qué fecha te gustaría viajar y cuántas personas y nosotros te enviaremos toda la información!

Tenemos dos opciones de estadía

Fly & Drive

Precio desde CLP 193.000 por domo por noche (IVA incl.)

Tarifas de alojamiento con pensión completa. Opción perfecta para quienes quieres explorar el parque por cuenta propia, con mayor flexibilidad. La pensión completa incluye desayuno tipo buffet, almuerzo para llevar que incluye opciones de sandwich, barras de cereal, frutos secos, chocolate y cena de 3 tiempos con vino de la casa incluido.

All Inclusive – Wildlife Safari 

Precio desde CLP 223,400 por persona por noche (mínimo 3 noches)

Tarifas para estadías de 3 o 4 noches que incluye translados in/out aeropuerto, pensión completa, excursiones guiadas y alojamiento en domo suite. 

Esta opción es perfecta para quienes quieren vivir la experiencia EcoCamp completa y no quieren preocuparse de planificar nada, incluye transporte desde / hacia el aeropuerto, todas las comidas, 3 opciones de excursiones diarias de distintos niveles de dificultad que puedes elegir cada día para compartir con el resto de los pasajeros, guías bilingues (inglés / español) especialistas en naturaleza y clases de yoga diaria.

 

 

 

Términos y condiciones del especial de septiembre 

  • Programa Fly & Drive (pensión completa): aplica para Domo Standard y Suite
  • Programa All Inclusive: Solo Domo Suite
  • Aplica para viajes en Septiembre 2019
  • Aplica solo para chilenos o residentes
  • Tarifas incluyen IVA
  • No acumulable con otras promociones o beneficios
  • Pagar precio completo al momento de la reserva
  • Solo para reservas entre el 10 de julio y el 31 de agosto
  • Estas promociones son exclusivas para pasajeros chilenos o residentes
  • Válidas para viajar entre el 6 al 30 de septiembre 2019 

EcoCamp September Special Offer

Take a trip for two during the month of September, and you or your friend will receive 20% off your stay.

On September 6th, EcoCamp will reopen for the 2019-20 season! To kick off the start of another fantastic season, we have a great deal just for you.

Book now and travel with a friend to EcoCamp during September 2019 and we will offer you, your partner, friend or fellow traveler a 20 % discount.

Here are some of the unique highlights of EcoCamp:

  • Explore the beautiful and vast Torres del Paine National Park 
  • Stay in the world’s first fully sustainable geodesic dome hotel
  • Immerse yourself in nature 
  • Disconnect from the stresses of the modern day life
  • Meet like-minded people and make friendships that can last a lifetime
  • Learn local secrets from our knowledgeable guides 
  • Enjoy a peaceful and quiet environment during low season

*This discount is only valid when two people are sharing the same dome

You can book the following programs with this discount

  • Special 6-Day W Trek
  • EcoCamp Wildlife Safari
  • Epic Patagonia Multi-Sport Adventure

Let us know your preferred EcoCamp program and we’ll be in touch to confirm availability!

 

 

Terms & Conditions of the Offer 

  • You must pay the full amount upon reservation
  • Valid for all Domes
  • Only valid for trips during September 2019
  • The 20% discount is valid for the second passenger sharing the same Dome
  • Offer is only applicable to a maximum of 1 person per dome
  • This offer cannot be combined with other discounts or promotions
  • Only valid when booking between July 02nd and August 31st, 2019
  • Only valid for the Wildlife Safari, Epic Multi-Sport, and the September W Trek