Central Chile - alpine flowers and Araucaria forests

We visit in search of the spectacular alpine flora of the high Andes, including the beautiful rosette-forming Violas, the scenic Lake District and the magical Araucaria forests of Conguillio.
Download leaflet

Wildlife Travel leaflet Chile 2022


30 November – 17 December 2022


Claudio Vidal



Single Room Supplement – £725


Return flight London Heathrow to Santiago. Local transport as specified in itinerary including domestic flights. Fifteen nights accommodation (two nights extra on overnight flights), full board.

Not included

Refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance. Covid tests and associated costs.

Group size

Minimum 6, maximum 12.

We will start our journey in the high Andes, above Santiago, with our first introduction to the Alpine flowers, looking for bulbs and other interesting species, while Andean Condors soar overhead and the bizarre Diademed Sandpiper Plover probes in the mossy ’bofedales’.

We will travel through the ‘wine country’ of the Maipo Vally, no doubt sampling some of Chile’s finest along the way, and visit the Maule area. Here we will look for the bizarre rosette forming Violas amongst some truly awe inspiring Andean scenery, while noisy flocks of Burrowing Parrots fly past.

Continuing southwards, we will reach that most magical of habitats, the ‘monkey puzzle’ forests of Conguillio National Park. Here, amongst the magnificent trees, we will find orchids, Calceolaria lady’s slippers and anemones, while Magellanic Woodpecker and Slender-billed Parakeet will be amongst our feathered targets.

Our exploration of central Chile will finish in the Valdivian temperate rainforests, where endemic tapaculos haunt the dense stands of bamboo, and the bizarre ‘marsupial’ Darwin’s Frog can still be found amongst the undergrowth.

We will be spending our time in some of Chile’s most impressive volcanic landscapes, staying in comfortable lodges and hotels. Throughout our journey, we will be in the safe hands of Claudio Vidal, renowned tour leader, founder of Far South Expeditions and author of numerous books on the wildlife of Chile.

Day 1 An afternoon flight takes us to Amsterdam and then on to Santiago, arriving Day 2.

Day 2 We visit a nearby wetland for an introduction to the birdlife of Chile, including a variety of waterfowl. One of the highlights should be the stunning Many-coloured Rush Tyrant. We then head up to Farellones, in the Andes above Santiago, our base for the following two nights.

Day 3 We have the whole day to explore this scenic region of Chile’s central Andes, between the ski resorts of Farellones and Valle Nevado. We will scan the rocky outcrops for the delightful Mountain Viscacha, while Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard Eagle and Mountain Caracara may all be seen overhead. The high-altitude botanising here should deliver interesting species such as species of Schizanthus, Chaetanthera, Montiopsis, Famatina and Tristagma.

Day 4 We drive around the eastern flank of Santiago, through the Andean foothills in order to reach the Maipo valley, a delightful rural area also famous for the quality of its wines. We will have the time to study the specialised vegetation of this area, including the columnar Echinopsis cacti and the stunning Puya blossoms growing on the hillsides. Not far from the village of San Jose de Maipo is our cozy lodge, with stunning views of the river canyon.

Day 5 We have a full day to explore the surroundings of El Yeso reservoir in the Andean foothills, famous as the most accessible site for the extraordinary Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. Other Andean specialities could include Black-winged Ground Dove, Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, Mountain Parakeet and Andean Goose, along with the endemic Crag Chilia. The vegetation will be really interesting, including an array of flowering plants such as Rhodophiala, Solenomelus, Tropoaeolum and Arjone, and stands of the high altitude tree Kageneckia angustifolia.

Day 6 We visit Rio Clarillo Nature Reserve, a delightful area in the Maipo valley. The dry woodland is made up of trees such as Cryptocarya, Quillaja and Persea, amongst which we will look for a colourful array of Mediterranean flora, including flamboyant Bipinnula and Chloraea species. During the afternoon, we drive south. Our destination is located at the northern boundary of western Patagonia, the delightful temperate forests of the Maule region.

Day 7 Laguna del Maule forms the northern boundary of western Patagonia. We explore this scenic mountain region, watching noisy flocks of Burrowing Parrots and delightful Torrent Ducks. We will see stands of Austrocedrus cypress growing alongside stunning waterfalls up the valley, and there are chances of seeing southern cacti such as Eriosyce curvispina. Attractive rosettes belonging to Viola congesta and V. cotyledon will be of great interest while botanising in these Andean valleys.

Day 8 This morning we visit the temperate southern beech forests of Altos de Lircay to seek Patagonian woodland specialties, including several Nothofagus species such as N. dombeyi, N. alpina and N. glauca, among others. While exploring the trails we will look for several Mutisia, Tropaeolum, Mimulus and Sysirinchium species. The Nothofagus forests are the home for an interesting array of species, including the rare Rufous-tailed and White-throated Hawks. We will search the understory scrub and bamboo thickets for the Chestnut-throated Huet-huet and Magellanic Tapaculo.

Day 9 A travel day sees us heading south along the Panamerican highway down to Laja Falls, a gorgeous spot and the gateway to explore the unknown Laguna del Laja National Park.

Day 10 We drive east to explore Laguna del Laja, a National Park seldom visited by international nature enthusiasts. Its main feature is the omnipresent Antuco Volcano, with its vast lava fields. The forests here form part of the Valdivian temperate rainforests. The park also marks the northern range of the wonderful Monkey Puzzle Tree Araucaria araucana. We will also look for Maihuenia poeppigii, one of the southernmost cacti species.

Day 11 We continue southwards to Melipeuco, and onwards to Conguillio National Park. Among its splendid temperate forests, we start to familiarize ourselves with a wealth of woody species. In surrounding areas of the lodge, we look for various orchids in the genera Chloraea and Gavilea.

Day 12 Today will be one of the finest of our botanical journey. From tall trees to small herbs, Conguillio National Park will reveal its floristic treasures. We spend time amongst huge Monkey Puzzle Trees Araucaria araucana, Winter’s Bark Tree Drimys winteri and Coigues Nothofagus dombeyi, and enjoy the miniature herbs around our feet, such as Adenocaulon chilense, Anemone multifidi and Viola reichei. The backdrop for our day will be the striking volcanic landscapes of this incredible park.

Day 13 Another day spent amongst the atmospheric forests of Conguillio, where we have good chances of finding the imposing, red-headed Magellanic Woodpecker and noisy groups of the endemic Slender-billed Parakeet together with a variety of Patagonian songbirds such as Des Murs’s Wiretail, Fire-eyed Diucon, Patagonian Tyrant and Black-chinned Siskin. The soils of the forests and volcanic slopes support an attractive array of wild flowers including several species of ground orchids, anemones, geraniums and Calceolaria lady’s slippers.

Day 14 Continuing south to explore more of the lush Valdivian rainforests comprising several species of Nothofagus and myrtle trees. We explore the trails covered by dense bamboo stands, ferns, and Gunnera looking for the endangered Darwin’s Frog among other endemic amphibians. Amongst the birdlife, we will look for local specialities, including Chucao Tapaculo and Black-throated Huet-huet.

Day 15 We keep exploring the lush woodlands of Futangue Park as well as the hillsides of the stunning Mocho Choshuenco volcano. The views of the large basin formed by Ranco Lake from the heights are superb as well as the geological formations resulting from the various volcanic eruptions.

Day 16 We drive back to Puerto Montt in order to catch our flight back to Santiago for one last night at an airport hotel, before our morning flights the next day (Day 17) arriving in the UK 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. On the longer journeys we will be in a comfortable, air-conditioned coach and will make plenty of comfort stops and have time to stretch our legs a little and explore some of the places en route. The areas we pass though are fascinating and our journeys give us the chance to see much of the landscape and the local culture.

We will take a domestic flight between Puerto Montt and Santiago with Latam.

Group flights

Group flights are with KLM/Air France via Amsterdam.

30 November depart London Heathrow 17.50, arrive Amsterdam 20.10
30 November depart Amsterdam 21.20, arrive Santiago 10.10 (1 December)
16 December depart Santiago 11.40, arrive Amsterdam 09.40 (17 December)
17 December depart Amsterdam 11.40, arrive London Heathrow 12.05

It is also possible to fly from other regional airports, including Bristol and Manchester: ask us about options. There are direct flights to Santiago with British Airways, departing London 28 November, and returning 16 December.

We will take a domestic flight between Puerto Montt and Santiago with Latam.

Time zone

Chile is three hours behind the UK at this time of year.

Entry requirements

If you hold a British passport holder visiting Chile for less than 90 days, you do not need a visa. Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required. 

A range of weather is expected. December is the first month of the summer in Chile, and average temperatures in Santiago will be around 20° C. Up in the Andes, things will be cooler, around 10° to 15° although we can still expect it to be sunny and dry. It will be cooler at night.

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): you will sometimes need to walk on rough ground or up hill.

We will be visiting moderately high altitudes during our time in the Andes: Farellones, El Yeso and Vilches Alto are all between 2,200m and 2,500m asl. The highest we will go on our excursions will be around 3,100m. If you have any reason to believe that you will be adversely affected at these altitudes you must consult your doctor prior to booking.

General inoculations for travel are recommended.