Just back from Chile...happy to answer questions!

Oct 18th, 2002, 12:42 PM
  #1  
jhm
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Just back from Chile...happy to answer questions!

Spent 2 weeks in Chile in Santiago, the wine country, the Lake District, Chiloe and Chilean Patagonia...it was an amazing trip and I am happy to answer any questions anyone may have!
 
Oct 18th, 2002, 01:24 PM
  #2  
leslie
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If you visited Pueto Aranas,Punta Natales or Torres Del Paine, please describe where you stayed, the types of transportation available and "not to be missed sights." We are planning an independent trip and want to know if it is easily doable. Thank you
 
Oct 19th, 2002, 03:36 PM
  #3  
jhm
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Visited all three, although spent most of my time in Torres del Paine. You could rent a car and drive from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales and/or Torres del Paine (bearing in mind that it will take 5 hours or so to do so). There are buses that can be arranged to take you out there from the airport.
I stayed at the Explora Lodge in Patagonia -- a very nice, very special place -- check out www.explora.com and let me know if you have any questions.
 
Oct 20th, 2002, 02:08 PM
  #4  
tutu
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We visited Chilean Patagonia about 3 years back - spectacular journey. Took a bus from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales. Stayed at the Hotel Australis in Puerto Natales facing the bay. Found a local travel agent called Milly whom I would highly recommend for road trips to Torres de la Paine and boat trips for the glaciers.
 
Oct 20th, 2002, 05:07 PM
  #5  
M&M
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Hi JHM,

We will be arriving in Santiago on Fri, Nov 22nd, and leaving on Dec 2nd, giving us nine full days to explore Chile. We hear we should spend no more than two days in Santiago, but are considering what to do beyond that, and are trying to develop an itinerary. We?ve bought the usual books and see several obvious destinations as Valparaiso/Vina Del Mar, the Central Valley (we love wine!), Chiloe and the Lake District.

Can you offer some further suggestions beyond this that might help ? things you would and would not do if you were to do it again ? as well as places you?d recommend our visiting?

Also, we are very interested in booking a three-day, two-night kayaking trip in the Lake District, but only seem to be finding lengthy, week-long tours. As well, we ? of course ? don?t know about the quality of the various vendors, and where specifically in the Lake District we should do this. Any ideas here?

I know this is a lot, but we are feeling a little overwhelmed...so any contribution you can make is greatly appreciated.

Regards, M&M
 
Oct 21st, 2002, 09:44 AM
  #6  
jhm
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My trip was the following: Santiago, the wine country, Valaparaiso/Vina del Mar, the Lake District (Puerto Montt/Puerto Varas), Chiloe, and Punta Arenas/Torres del Paine, over the course of 2 weeks.

If I had it to do all over again, I would have skipped the Lake District and have started in Atacama (the northern desert), then gone to Santiago and the Central Valley, then Valaparaiso/Vina del Mar, then Patagonia.

This is partially weather contingent (while we were there, it poured in the Lake District the whole time - it rains there 200 days a year), and partially because of a horrendous experience we had with an inexperienced guide getting us lost and nearly killed on Volcan Osorno. While the Lake District is an interesting area (very Germanic architecturally, etc), the weather really ruined it for us - no penguins/dolphins on Chiloe, and aforementioned terrible hiking experience.

I have only the best things to say about the Explora Patagonia property, and have heard fantastic things about Atacama as well. I realize it is pretty pricey, but feel that you get what you pay for. All the guides were extremely friendly, knowledgeable and skilled - I felt that I was in good hands and trusted them implicitly (in contrast to aforementioned Lake District -- which was NOT an Explora guide -- experience).

I would spend more time in the wine country as well - it is possible to stay at certain vineyards, which are lovely (we particularly liked Vina Santa Rita), and the food and wine are excellent.
 
Oct 21st, 2002, 10:06 AM
  #7  
mary
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Glad you had such a great trip. My husband and I leave Friday for 9 days in Chile as well. Skipping Santiago and going directly to Torres del Paine and then to Puerta Varas (very bummed to hear about the weather in Puerta Varas!). Anyway, could you give us some information about temperatures in those two areas - the Park and the Lake Region?

Thanks.
 
Oct 21st, 2002, 10:26 AM
  #8  
Rocco
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JHM,
Thanks for the reports so far! I am leaving for Chile the day after Thanksgiving and will spend time in Vina Del Mar (2 Nights at O'Higgins Hotel), Atacama (4 Nights at Tulor Hotel), Santiago (3 Nights at Plaza San Francisco), Torres Del Paine (4 Nights at Las Torres) and Punta Arenas (1 Night at Jose Nogueira Hotel).
I would have liked to have stayed at Explora Patagonia but unless I was staying for an entire week, I couldn't justify the rates. The rates are about $100 per night more for stays of less than 7 nights. It does, however, look like an incredible place.
This should be an incredible trip for me as I am starting out by running the Vina Del Mar Marathon on December 01st, followed by all the rest of the aforementioned trip.
I will have three full days of excursions in Torres Del Paine. What were the highlights (3 days worth anyway) in Torres Del Paine??? I will be at the Hosteria Las Torres, which looked like a distant second place to Explora but still head and shoulders above the remaining places.
In Santiago, I will have one half day and two full days, one of which is already spoken for to do an all day winelands tour (Cousino Macul and Concha Y Toro Wineries). On my one free full day, I would like to hit the nicest shopping area so my wife my have some not-so-cheap thrills, as this vacation is really for me as she gets little excitement out of volcanoes and glaciers, unfortunately. Any other suggestions for Santiago???
My wife is fluent in Spanish and I could get by if my life depended on it, so we are not hesitant to go places where English is not prevalent, or a guide unavailable.
Just curious, did you get a discount at Explora for going off-season??? Also, was the lodge full??? How was the food and were your drinks included???
I definitely would like to experience Explora at a future time but after hitting South Africa earlier this year I am really in no position to do so at this time. Thanks for any feedback you may offer.
 
Oct 21st, 2002, 10:49 AM
  #9  
jhm
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Mary - don't be bummed. You have a much better chance at better weather, as you are going later in the spring. When we were there, the temperatures in the Lake District were in the low 50s, and Patagonia was in the mid 50s. The Patagonia weather, though, is extremely changeable - winds blow the clouds so fast that it looks like time-lapse photography. Definitely dress in layers, and bring a hat which stays on your head in the wind! Also, break in hiking boots before going.

Rocco: You will have a wonderful time. We loved Santiago. El Mundo del Vino is a terrific wine store which has a wonderful Chilean selection and ships anywhere in the world = we got our bottles as soon as we arrived home, all in perfect condition. The neighborhoods of Providencia and Las Condes are particularly nice. We also thought that the restaurants were very good as a general rule.

You should not feel bad about Explora - it was great, but you have the same views at Hosteria Las Torres. I would say that the three "not to be missed" items are a) hiking up to the towers b) hiking to the glacier where it hits the lake and taking a boat ride so as to see the massive towers of ice c) going to the beach at Lago Grey, with the huge chunks of broken off icebergs floating by the black sand. If you are a serious hiker, you can easily do an approximation of the "W route" (ask the guides there what I mean) in the time you have.

And yes, food and drink (alcohol included) are all included at Explora. We got a lower rate going through a tour operator, but it was still not a bargain. I do feel that we got what we paid for, though, and that it was worth it. But the main attraction in Patagonia are the Torres and the surrounding lands themselves.

A note to all: when we came back to the US via Miami, out of concern for foot and mouth disease, customs officials asked us for our hiking boots and washed them down with disinfectant. You should probably keep those boots in an easily accessible place in your luggage, just in case.
 
Oct 21st, 2002, 10:51 AM
  #10  
jhm
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and good luck on the marathon!!
 
Oct 21st, 2002, 11:35 AM
  #11  
Rocco
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JHM,
Thanks for the reply and good luck wishes on my marathon. Will you please expand a little on your misfortune or scare during your volcano hike??? I will be near my share of volcanoes in Atacama and don't want to end up some lava's dinner!
Is that hike something that you will appreciate over time or was it just so bad that not even time will allow you to appreciate the situation??? I just ask because while I was in Zimbabwe earlier this year I was miserable during a stay at a place called Matetsi Lodge, which is actually a member of the Small Luxury Hotels (Of The World) chain but came nowhere near to the lodge I stayed at in South Africa, Singita Private Game Reserve. However, a few weeks later, I realized how exhausted I was by the time I was in Zimbabwe, as I had just run the L.A. Marathon (this last March), a couple days later hopped on a 20+ hour flight to Johannesburg, only had a single night before boarding a six seat plane to the bush, had three nights at Singita of being awoken at 6AM every morning and then having two separate 3.5 hour game drives, eating and drinking until after 10PM every night and then afterward about five straight days of tours in Cape Town. Later though, I realized how beautiful Matetsi was, despite the political situation in Zimbabwe which made us afraid to go into town. It was right on the banks of the Zambezi river, about 35 miles before it became Victoria Falls. Now, I treasure every moment that I was there and would probably return in the future.
Where is that you stayed in the Lake District??? How were the actual accomodations??? Thanks.
 
Oct 21st, 2002, 12:39 PM
  #12  
Sans
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jhm:
We will be visiting Chilli in Nov. The only part of the trip that is extremely confusing is the travel from Punta Arenas to Torres del paine and what to do inside Torres? Do you know if there are travel agents we can contact in Punta Arenas to take us to Torres and around. Also, what is the mode of transportation inside Torres. Thanks

Sans
 
Oct 26th, 2002, 07:35 AM
  #13  
wendy
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We are arriving in Santiago on Nov 1 and want to stay a day or two in city, then have three days. We will be going to Vina/ Valp...later in our trip so want to spend time in Central Valley for these three days. Is Cajon de Maipo nice? Do you know about staying there? Anything you'd recommend in Santiago? Thanks wendy
 
Oct 26th, 2002, 09:49 AM
  #14  
Donovan
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My wife and I will be traveling for 2 weeks in Chile next month. Plan to skip Santiago and head down to the Lakes, Barlioche, Austral Way, then Torres del Paine.

1.) Where did you stay in the Lakes District? We are looking at Pucon, but Hotel Antumalal is booked. The other expensive hotels look a little touristy...We want authentic luxury, a view, and a little style..Not a Casino, or Family Style hotel...Any advice? We definately want Rustic acommodation at some points, just not in Pucon.

2.) Could you let us know what hotels you stayed in while you were there? Which ones were outstanding and which ones were dull?

Thank you very much for the help.

-Mike
 
Oct 28th, 2002, 06:51 PM
  #15  
jhm
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--I do not know about the options for transportation from Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine, but would imagine Lonely Planet will go into them in some detail.

-- In Santiago, as stated earlier, I particularly liked the neighborhoods of Providencia and Las Condes. I found the subways very interesting, modern and safe, and used them to get to dinner in the evenings.

--Hotels we stayed in: Plaza de San Francisco in Santiago (unremarkable, good service, location near U. de Chile); Cabanas del Lago in Puerto Varas (affiliated with Best Western; good hotel, nice views, again, unremarkable); Explora Salto Chico in Patagonia (truly remarkable).

Happy to answer any more questions.
(oh - and the hike story is not just a "we hiked a long time and I was tired" story, but rather is a whole saga of hiking up a volcano in torrential rain and emergency conditions with an unqualified guide who got us lost.)
 
Oct 30th, 2002, 08:53 AM
  #16  
jen
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are there any beaches with warm enough water to swim? any nice resort areas?
 
Oct 31st, 2002, 07:04 AM
  #17  
jhm
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Depends on the time of year. Vina del Mar is a resort town which is very reminiscent of the Riviera, and is great swimming, but not when we were there (October - spring). Probably December - February.
 
Nov 1st, 2002, 01:32 PM
  #18  
DJ
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Hi jhm,

Glad you had such a great time on your trip. We did a similar jaunt a few years back and just had a great time. Thought the park in Patagonia was spectacular and the Explora top notch in all respects. Was wondering if you know anything about their lodge in the Atacama desert or heard much from other people. Am presently trying to decide on either a trip to the Atacama or possibly a safari in South Africa. If you have any info on the Atacama & the Explora it would be appreciated. Many Thanks, DJ
 
Nov 3rd, 2002, 07:49 AM
  #19  
jhm
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We did not go to the Atacama explora (or to the Atacama, for that matter), but had such a great experience at Explora Patagonia that we are thinking of going back to Chile in order to go to Atacama and Easter Island.

In the meantime...we met people at Explora Patagonia who had been to Explora Atacama. They said that Atacama was, strangely enough, near empty (Patagonia was booked to capacity), and that the crowd was younger (most people at ExP were in their 50s, but they said Atacama"ns" were in their 30s/40s. They said it was fantastic, but that the hikes as a general rule were a little harder than the ones at Patagonia.
 
Nov 9th, 2002, 05:49 PM
  #20  
Ed
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Hi JHM,
What can you recommend for first time vistors to Santiago? Where to stay? What is the ideal city tour packages? Places for meals? What part of the city is for good for walking and meeting the people? Taxi or bus from airport to hotel? What about visas? I am planning a four day trip to Santiago in middle of Dec.
Thank You,
Ed
 

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