Chile – Chiloé, Juan Fernández and Easter Islands
This exciting itinerary takes us from the temperate rainforests of Chiloé to endemic-rich Juan Fernández and Easter Island with its famous ‘moai’.
After a day spent in the high Andes, our visit starts on the Juan Fernández islands, whose ancient volcanic origins are evident in their rugged hills and towering oceanic cliffs. Here we explore the wildlife-rich forests – enjoying fantastic views over the dramatic landscape, and having an opportunity to experience the rich marine life with a pelagic boat trip.
Next we visit Chiloé Island, with its outstanding natural and cultural heritage. We have plenty of time to explore the Valdivian Temperate Rainforest looking for forest animals including rare mammals, frogs, lizards, and many colourful birds. Our time on Chiloé will include a visit by boat to see a breeding colony of Humboldt and Magellanic Penguins as well as an opportunity to visit some of the fantastic 18th century wooden churches.
A tour of the islands of Chile would not be complete without crossing the Pacific Ocean to the shores of the remote, volcanic Easter Island. Here we have time to learn about the fascinating cultural history of the island – visiting some of its most dramatic archaeological sites, as well as several of its islets by boat, to search for seabirds.
Chiloé is a land of myths, legends and history, with countless and outstanding natural and cultural riches. It’s still a well-kept secret located across a channel south of Puerto Montt, in Chile’s Lake District, in the north-western corner of Chilean Patagonia. This green island is filled with picturesque countryside and maritime landscapes, colourful stilt houses, fishermen’s boats and wooden churches in scattered villages and small towns nestled among the fields and rolling hills; everything framed in beautiful and dramatic natural settings, a place where people still build houses, churches and boats using the materials and ancient techniques passed from one generation to the next.
Juan Fernandez is a fascinating archipelago of volcanic origin, situated about 400 miles off Valparaiso, central Chile. Robinson Crusoe, the main island of the group, is accessible after a two-hour flight from Santiago, Chile. Its rich history dates back to its discovery by Portuguese explorer Juan Fernandez in 1574, but its fame relates to the prolonged residence of the Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk who was marooned there between 1704 and 1709. His epic survival story served as an inspiration source for Daniel Defoe’s famous novel. The critically endangered temperate sub-tropical woodlands of the island, the Fernandezian forests, holds a large, diverse and rich array of flora represented by more than 130 endemic species, most of them regarded as Critically Endangered. During this trip, we shall explore these forests searching for its endemic landbirds – the remarkable Juan Fernandez Firecrown and the Juan Fernandez Tit-tyrant. We will also have the opportunity to explore the rugged coastline by boat, where we will look for its rare seabirds, including the petrels and shearwaters that nest in burrows in the secluded forests.
Easter Island, more correctly known as Rapa Nui, is one of the most remote inhabited locations in the world, with a world-famous unique archaeological heritage. This small triangle of volcanic rock, located in Polynesia, right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, has always been subject of curiosity, study and speculation. Many explorers, researchers and travellers have attempted to unveil its secrets, but still important missing pieces remain to be discovered. What are the origins of the islanders? How did they transport their massive moai stone heads from the quarry locations to the their platforms? Why is Rongo Rongo the only written language in Oceania? Our guides will show us the best locations and provide all the known scientific background and interpretation.
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Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.
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Return flights from the UK. Local transport as specified, including domestic flights and ferries. Thirteen nights’ accommodation, full board.
Refreshments. Entrance fees for optional sightseeing. Gratuities. Travel insurance.
Chile has been one of our favourite destinations since we first visited in 2004.
Day 1 An evening flight takes us to Santiago via Amsterdam – arriving Day 2
Day 2 We will head up into the Andean foothills and the El Yeso Valley, famous as one of the easiest places to find the bizarre Diademed Sandpiper-plover and other mountain birds, including the endemic Crag Chilia.
Day 3 We fly to Robinson Crusoe (two hours), the only inhabited island of the Juan Fernández archipelago. A boat ride (90 minutes) will then take us towards Cumberland Bay with plenty of time to get settled in to our hotel and explore the local area.
Day 4 Today we explore Juan Fernández National Park an area of high floristic diversity. We will look for the endemic birds of the island – Juan Fernández Firecrown and Juan Fernández Tit-tyrant, as we head to a coastal lookout to enjoy breath-taking views.
Day 5 We take a boat trip from Cumberland Bay hoping to encounter the endemic Juan Fernández Fur Seal along with some of the world’s rarest petrels and shearwaters.
Day 6 Our return from Juan Fernández, we will head to El Padre Bay by boat before our return flight to Santiago.
Day 7 This morning we fly to Chiloé Island, driving south to the magnificent Tepuhueico reserve for the rest of the day looking for mammals, frogs and reptiles that live in these woods.
Days 8 – 9 We have the unique opportunity to spend two days exploring the pristine Tepuhueico woodlands, part of the Valdivian Temperate Rainforest. We hope to encounter rare mammals including the critically endangered endemic Darwin’s Fox, and endemic birds including Black-throated Huet-huet, Chucao, Patagonian Tyrant and Green-bakced Firecrown.
Day 10 We visit the maritime temperate rainforest within Chiloé National Park, an area which opens to the vast Pacific and was visited by Charles Darwin in 1835.
Day 11 Today we visit the wild west coast of the island – taking a short boat trip to see one of the few mixed breeding colonies of Humboldt and Magellanic Penguins. Following lunch we will visit the picturesque towns on the eastern coast.
Day 12 Before our flight back to Santiago we visit the mudflats of Caulin Bay, which has important populations of Hudsonian Godwit along with many other shorebirds.
Day 13 This morning we fly 3,500 kilometres over the Pacific Ocean to Easter Island. Upon our arrival, we will explore the village of Hanga Roa and experience our first encounter with the iconic ‘moai’ stone statues of Rap Nui.
Day 14 Our day will include visits to some of the most dramatic and distinctive sites of Rapa Nui, as we head towards the volcanic crater of Rano Raraku. We will see the largest Moai ever built and Ahu Tongariki the largest ceremonial site on the Island.
Day 15 Undoubtedly a highlight of our visit to Easter Island, today we visit the ceremonial site of Orongo, set in the huge caldera of the extinct Rano Kau volcano. In the afternoon we take a boat trip towards the three volcanic islets off the southwestern tip of the island, where we should see a number of seabirds.
Day 16 We have time this morning to visit the local craft market and antrhropological museum before returning to Santiago for one final night before our return to the UK (arriving Day 18).
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.
Accommodation will be at good lodges and hotels all with en-suite accommodation.
Meals provided during the stay will be a mixture of local and International dishes. Requests for special diets can be accommodated.
We will ensure that our travelling is as comfortable as possible, using small coach/mini-bus.
We will take local flights between Santiago and the islands (with Latam to Chiloe and Rapa Nui, with Lassa airlines to Juan Fernandez -the latter in an 8-10 seater plane with a 10kg luggage limit but some can be left secure in Santiago).
The group flights are with KLM from London Heathrow.
Chile is four hours behind UK time.
It is also possible to fly from other airports, including Manchester. Ask us about the options.
You must have a valid passport for this trip (valid for at least six months after the end of the holiday). Temporary tourist visas are issued on arrival in Chile for holders of UK/EU passports. For holders of other passports please check with the relevant embassy.
A range of weather is expected. In Santiago it is likely to be sunny and warm: it will be cooler as we travel higher up into the Andes. Chiloe is home to temperate rain forests, and is likely to be cool (10-15 degrees) and damp. It can be windy and cold at times, and we might expect some rain. Temperatures on Easter Is-land and Juan Fernandez should be relatively mild (15-20 degrees). It will feel considerably colder during boat trips.
No strenuous walking is involved but you need to have a reasonable level of general fitness. Most of the walks are not long (perhaps a couple of hours), but we will sometimes walk on rough ground. There are a few occasions when we walk uphill but this is not excessive.
We will be visiting high altitudes near Santiago (optional trip to El Yeso Valley at c 3,000m). If you have any reason to believe that you will be adversely affected at these altitudes you must consult your doctor prior to booking.
This trip involves several boat trips, in a variety of sized vessels: you should be happy getting in and out of smaller boats, and may want to talk to your doctor about sea sickness medication.
General inoculations for travel are recommended. We do not visit malaria/yellow fever areas.