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.
29th November – 16th December 2023
Claudio Vidal and Laurie Jackson
Single Room Supplement – £850
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.
Refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance. Covid tests and associated costs.
Minimum 6, maximum 12.
We will start our trip 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 Valley, 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 aweinspiring scenery, while noisy 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.
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 evening flight takes us from London 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. 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 species of Schizanthus, Chaetanthera, Montiopsis, Famatina and Tristagma.
Day 4 We drive around the eastern flank of Santiago, through the Andean foothills 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, 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.