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Join us for this astronomical adventure in Chile with an expert astronomer tour leader. Throughout the tour, you will enjoy astronomy talks and seminars by expert lecturers, stargazing with telescopes, and visits to renowned observatories, including the National Astronomical Observatory of Chile, Paranal Observatory, which hosts one of the world’s high-powered telescopes, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory and the La Silla Observatory.
On tour, you will enjoy delicious local cuisine, shopping in local markets, beautiful small villages surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery, and of course, a tram ride to see the world-famous statue of the Virgin Mary on the top of Cerro San Cristóbal. You will visit many of mother nature’s wonders, including Salar de Atacama, a huge salt lake that is home to the Flamingos National Reserve, a boat tour to visit the Humboldt Penguins National Reserve, you will be in awe with spectacular views of the Licancabur Volcano, and have an opportunity to visit the El Tatio Geysers. And no visit to Chile is complete without a visit to the wine country. You will enjoy a couple of days in the Colchagua Valley and Santa Cruz for winery tours and tastings and enjoy some of the region’s cuisine.
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Morning arrival in Santiago and transfer to Hotel on your own. Rest until noontime. Next, let us introduce you to the classics of the city we know and love on this 4,5-hour tour exploring the city’s most popular sites along with some of our personal favorites. Chile’s rich cultural heritage comes to life as we visit the iconic symbols of the city, including La Plaza de Armas (the main square), La Moneda (the government palace), the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral, and the spectacular Cerro Santa Lucia, where the city was founded in 1541. We’ll also visit the Orient Sector, the most modern area of the city, with its impressive high-rise buildings and classy boulevards before we offer you a choice of the activities designed to enhance your Santiago experience.
Later we take a walking tour through the Mercado Central, Chile’s largest fresh seafood market where you can try some of the local cuisine on offer. On completion of the tour you’ll be returned to your hotel and have free time to further explore the city at your leisure. A short seminar on Astronomy before dinner. Overnight in Santiago.
After breakfast we will drive up to San Cristóbal Hill and surroundings. First, we’ll travel west toward the soaring Andes, past the Cerro San Cristóbal, an outpost of the mountains which towers over the city with a great white statue of the Virgin Mary crowning its summit. We will ride the cable car, located at the Pedro de Valdivia Norte entrance to reach the summit. This afternoon, we will pay a visit the National Astronomical Observatory at Cerro Calan of the Universidad de Chile and cradle of the Chilean Astronomy.
An old story claims that Bernardo O’Higgins, a leader who freed Chile from Spanish rule in the Chilean War of Independence, wrote on his deathbed a letter to Chilean president Manuel Bulnes requesting that his estate be sold to fund an astronomical observatory on Santa LucТa Hill in the center of Santiago. Gilliss went to Chile after establishing the U.S. Naval Observatory, the first in the States. After finishing the Santa Lucia Hill Observatory in 1852 Gilliss went back to the U.S., but left a staff behind to manage it. He later sold the site to the Chilean government, and it was renamed the National Astronomical Observatory of Chile. In 1929 the University of Chile took over management of the National Astronomical Observatory. A few decades later, in the 1960s, when the observatory was moved about 10 miles east to Cerro Calán, the Soviet Union sent astronomers and telescopes to help establish the new location. They withdrew after the 1973 coup, when the Soviets severed all diplomatic relations with Chile. The National Astronomical Observatory contains a number of exceptional telescopes including a 47-inch Millimeter-wave Telescope (identical to one located at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and an 18-inch Cassegrain reflector from the Japanese government. Though it’s generally thought to have been completed in 1962 when the observatory moved to Cerro Calán, it’s been in operation for over 160 years. In the evening a special cocktail will be held at Cerro Calan while observing through Cerro Calan telescopes. Overnight in Santiago.
Morning flight to Antofagasta and transfer to hotel. In the afternoon we will visit to Observatory Cerro Paranal one of the world‘ s high-powered telescopes. This unique observatory has a Very Large Telescope (VLT) with an array of four 8.2m telescopes considerd to be the most powerful optical array in the world, for a time at least. The Cerro Paranal Observatory is operated by the European Southern Observatory, and is constructed in such a futuristic way that many scenes of the James Bond flick Quantum of Solace were filmed here. There’s a hotel for scientists on-site, which looks like it is built underground. The observatory complex is situated on Cerro Paranal at 2664m above sea level, 120km south of Antofagasta. The drive from Antofagasta takes about two hours. Tonight is one of our Stargazing with telescopes session in the Atacama Desert. Overnight in Antofagasta.
This morning we fly from Antofagasta to Calama. Transfer to San Pedro (1 ½ hours drive) and a take a City tour in San Pedro. Set in an oasis inside the San Pedro de Atacama desert at 2440 m.a.s.l. and 1.670 kilometers away from Santiago de Chile, San Pedro de Atacama town is a very crowded village. It is full of tourists due its proximity to the Hito Cajones/Abaroa border crossing, gateway to the biggest salt flat in the world: the Uyuni Salt Flat in Bolivia.
San Pedro de Atacama town is also close to the Paso Jama border crossing with Argentina. The town of San Pedro the Atacama is small, with no buildings over two floors, no paved roads and offers varied tourist services. The town is surrounded by mountains and feature an eternal blue sky. Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama and tonight also Stargazing with telescopes in the desert.
Today we will head to Chaxa Lagune, Lunch in Socaire. We will have a tour of Salar de Atacama: A Salt Lake of huge proportions (3000 sq km/1,158 sq mi!), its surface is covered by a thick layer of light colored salt crystals, caused by the evaporation of the lake’s water. The world’s largest lithium deposits are found here, but the salt pan is also home to several flamingo species, including the Andean, Chilean and James flamingo, who feed on the microorganisms found in the saline lagoons. These beautiful birds and other species can be observed in their natural habitat at the Salar de Atacama’s Chaxa Lagoon, which is part of the Reserva Nacional de los Flamencos.
On the way to the salt flat, you will stop at the village of Tocoano to see its green square with large cacti, and also its white church with free-standing spire, and interesting constructions using cactus wood. Afterwards, return drive to San Pedro. Dinner and overnight at the hotel. Late in the afternoon we will drive to Valle de la Luna. Dinner and Astronomy Talk at Hotel. Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama.
Those who wish to experience the El Tatio Geysers have to get up early, to ensure a timely arrival at the geyser field at sunrise. The fountains located over 4300m/14,108ft, shoot up to 10m/33ft high. The sun’s first rays reflecting countless colors as they mingle with boiling jets coming from the geysers create a strong contrast with the rising steam and the surrounding summits. After the spectacular show there, you have the choice of recovering from the morning chill and warming up in natural pools created by hot springs.
The tour begins in the very early hours of the morning in San Pedro, to ensure a timely arrival at the geyser field at sunrise. The return drive to San Pedro takes place around midday. After lunch, we will continue to Moon Valley. One of the best-known destinations between Calama and San Pedro is the Valle de la Luna. This tour into the rugged beauty of the Atacama Desert begins at dusk. With the Licancabur volcano providing the backdrop, strange salt and rock formations in the middle of the valley’s
barren sandy landscape really does look like a moonscape. After a tour past the bizarre natural rock and salt shapes, you will ascend a lookout point on a giant sand dune where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the valley and the Licancabur volcano. Then, you pass by the bizarre rock formation “Tres Marías” and end the excursion at “Coyote´s rock” (“Piedra del Coyote”). From the top of this rock, you overlook the Kari-Canyon and wide parts of the desert, you can even catch a glimpse at the Salar de
Atacama. The setting sun bathes the landscape in a light that changes with every minute, providing a mesmerizing play of colors. The return drive to San Pedro is after sunset. Astronomical Observation of the Sky with telescopes. Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama.
Morning flight from Calama to La Serena. Transfer to Vicuña Town at Elqui Valley. Enjoy a full-day excursion to Elqui Valley. The Elqui Valley is a narrow, fertile strip of land winding eastward from the coast. Surrounded by the cactus-covered hillsides, this river-watered valley thrives with papaya, figs, chirimoya (custard fruit), apricots, peaches, and especially grapes. In the small town of Vicuña, birthplace of Nobel Prize-winner Gabriela Mistral, you will visit the Bauer Tower (the old city hall), the church, and the main square, before continuing to the Cochigua wine valley, where you will lunch in a typical restaurant.
In the afternoon, you will visit Gabriela Mistral’s tomb in the village of Montegrande, as well as the old school building, now transformed into a museum, where she spent her childhood. After the tour, return to our hotel. Astronomy Talk and Stargazing with telescopes after dinner. Overnight in Vicuna.
Morning Tour to Tololo Observatory Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), a program of the NSF’s OIR Lab, is a complex of astronomical telescopes and instruments located approximately 500km (310 miles) north of Santiago, and 80 km (50 miles) to the east of La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 2200 meters (7200 feet). This observatory operates the 4.0-meter Blanco telescope on Cerro Tololo which features the Dark Energy Camera (DECam), a high-performance, wide-field CCD imager built to carry out the Dark Energy Survey (DES) (a US Department of Energy Office of Science-led project). It also operates the 4.1-meter Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) Telescope on the adjacent Cerro Pachón (a partnership between Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia, Inovações e Comunicações Brazil, NSF’s OIR Lab, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Michigan State University). The Cerro Tololo 1.5-meter and 0.9-meter telescopes are being operated by the SMARTS Consortium with support from CTIO. Cerro Tololo also hosts 11 tenant observatories and research projects, operating more than 20 telescopes, providing a platform for access to the southern hemisphere for US and worldwide scientific research. Lunch at Sun Energy Kitchen and cooking.
After our visit to the Tololo Observatory we will continue our trip deep into Elqui Valley inland. Vineyard visit. Tour to Montegrande and Pisco Elqui typical towns. Stars Gazing at Elqui Valley amateur observatory with telescopes. Overnight in Vicuna.
Morning Transfer to Choros Bajos, Boat tour toIsla Damas. We’ll be able to see, from the road, a common dense glaze called “Camanchaca.” A phenomenon occurring just some months a year, is the “full of flowers dessert”. If we are lucky, we will appreciate it. After traveling 122 kilometers (76 ml), we arrive at Los Choros Fishermen´s wharf, a natural viewpoint to see Gaviota, Choro and Damas Islands. We will board a motor launch leading us to Humboldt Penguins National Reserve, which
is part of this area. On our way to the National Reserve we will see the “bottle-nose shaped” dolphins making jumps and pirouettes! We’ll disembark from the motor launch in Damas Islands to appreciate its white sand beaches. Return to the coast and enjoy lunch consisting of seafood in a typical restaurant.
Return to La Serena accompanied by a spectacular sunset in the background. Then return to Hotel in La Serena by the Avenida del Mar. Evening Dinner and Astronomy Talk at Hotel. Overnight in La Serena.
After breakfast at our hotel, we will visit La Silla Observatory. Half of our group will visit in the morning hours and the other half will visit in the afternoon (2 pm-5 pm) as they allow only a certain number of visitors at a time. You can relax at the hotel or explore La Serena on your own in your spare time. The observatory is 156 kilometers (97 mi) north of La Serena (2 hours driving time) at an altitude of 2440 meters above sea level, it belongs to the Southern European Observatory which is financed by 8 European countries. It has 15 telescopes and a radio telescope. After dinner Cocktail and wine tasting at local Astronomy Observatory with Stargazing. Overnight in La Serena.
Morning flight to Santiago. Transfer to Colchagua Typical Chilean Region. The Colchagua Valley area, a word that means “place of small lagoons”, has rich traditions and very interesting cultures to visit. Historically it was part of the Inca empire and later became the place chosen by important families in Chile to build large country houses, some of which are still standing. Tradition, wine and culture define Santa Cruz, a city located in the Colchagua Valley, 191 km(118 ml) from Santiago. Officially founded on
December 22, 1891. Its lands are irrigated by the waters of the Tinguiririca River, which crosses the north of the city and finally flows into the Rapel reservoir. It is thanks to this channel that in Santa Cruz there is a great agricultural development, based on the production of fruits, wheat and corn. In addition, it is the place where you can try one of the best Chilean products, wine, the main reason why this city has become famous.
Today it is a meeting point for anyone who wants to know the wine benefits offered by the region, whose vines will give a pleasant experience to the palate. Santa Cruz is home to the well-known Harvest Festival, an activity that takes place every year during the first days of March, in the city, and that attracts around one hundred thousand visitors. We will also visit the Colchagua Museum, which houses some of the most important collections in terms of national cultural heritage, soaking up a little more history of this attractive area and the country. Housing the impressive private collection of controversial entrepreneur Carlos Cardoen, this is the largest private museum in Chile. The exibits include pre-Columbian anthropomorphic ceramics from all over Latin America; weapons, religious artifacts and Mapuche silver; and a whole room of huasos (cowboy) gear.
It is particularly famous in Chile as the headlining exhibit here is El Gran Rescate (The Big Rescue), showing objects, photos and films related to the October 2010 rescue of the 33 miners trapped 700m underground near Copiapó City in north Chile. Perhaps as interesting as the museum is the story of its founder, Carlos Cardoen, who allegedly sold arms to Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s administration, and was instrumental to develop tourism to the Colchagua Valley by financing the creation of museums and other viticulture attractions. Dinner and Astronomy Talk. Overnight in Santa Cruz.
Today first we visit a Santa Cruz Vineyard to taste the local wines. Lunch at the vineyard Santa Cruz. In the afternoon see the most complete Automobile Museum and Wine Museum at the Santa Cruz vineyard. The automobile museum houses more than 80 cars from various eras and specialties such as the oldest car in America; an Everett of 1890 abandoned in the United States and which was completely restored with original pieces, a 1903 Dupressoir of French origin, a Ford Paige of 1913 the oldest and best preserved car in Chile, a Ford T of 1927 never restored and in perfect condition, luxury examples such as Rolls Royce, Pierce Arrow, Porsche, Bentley and Ferrari. It also has a pavilion with motorcycles from the collection of the Chilean comedian Coco Legrand, such as the Pamela Diaz, the Chechi Boloco, the Raquel Argandoña and other famous bikes unique to our dear friend. The original DeLorean used by Michael J. Fox in the first film Back to the Future or the car with which Chilean driver Eliseo Salazar raced in the Indy Car, the Austin Prince used by Queen Elizabeth of England when she visited Chile and so much more to discover.
Early evening visit to Visit Meteorite Museum and Planetary at vineyard. Viña Santa Cruz in the Valle de Colchagua Inaugurates the “Planetario en Cerro Chamán”. The cable car will take us to the Planetarium in Cerro Chaman, where more than 10 different talks about our universe, extraterrestrial life, landing on Mars and going back to the Moon -among others- will be waiting for you. Stargazing at the Santa Cruz Observatory Vineyard.
Morning: Transfer to Valparaiso Harbor World Heritage. The historic city of Valparaíso is Chile’s oldest port. It is also home to the country’s Senate and Chamber of Deputies, which moved here from the capital in 1989, when Chilean democratic governance was re-established. The city’s many hills are covered with a multi-colored panorama of painted houses crowding every nook and cranny, ensuring a spectacular backdrop to your visit. During your tour, you will see the historic city center, whose fine 19th Century architecture provides good reason for its inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Then, you will travel to a view-point overlooking the city via one of Valparaíso’s signature funicular elevators, two dozen of which were built at the turn of the 20th Century to connect the upper and lower sections of the city. You will also visit the parliamentary building and Plaza Sotomayor’s memorial to the heroes of the War of the Pacific. Continue to La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s house in Valparaíso, now open to the public as a museum. High up on Cerro Florida, it offers a marvelous view of the sea and an interesting insight into the life and work of this eccentric poet and diplomat. Pablo Neruda bought this place in order “to live and write in peace” and furnished every corner according to his taste and preferences. He sometimes celebrated New Year’s Eve here. Pablo Neruda called La Sebastiana “a house that seems to be floating in the air, but stands firmly on the ground”. Take a short orientation tour in the new part of renowned Valparaiso, namely Viña del Mar City and drive back to our hotel. Astronomy Dialogues and dinner. Overnight in Valparaiso.
Morning: Transfer to Santiago Airport.
Midday: Farewell Lunch at a Vineyard in the way to Airport.
Afternoon: Transfer to Santiago Airport. Flight to USA
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