Under the Stars in Chile
DURATION: 14 days / 13 nights
- Visit the Paranal Observatory - the most important astronomical investigation center in the country
- Explore Santiago de Chile, visiting the integral sightseeing including the presidential palace & the Plaza de Armas
- Visit Gemini Observatory, which consists of twin 8.1-meter diameter optical/infrared telescopes located on two of the best observing sites on the planet
- All day excursion to Elqui Valley, framed by the ochre, cactus-covered hillsides of its semi-desert surroundings, the green floor of this river-watered valley thrives
- Experience Salar de Atacama, a salt lake of huge proportions and a home to several flamingo species, including the Andean, Chilean and James flamingo, who feed on the micro organisms found in the saline lagoons.
Day 1: Fly to Santiago
Day 2: Arrive Santiago
Your guide will welcome you at the airport and take you to your hotel. Afterwards, you will explore Santiago de Chile during a city tour. In the historic centre, you will visit the presidential palace, once the national mint and hence named La Moneda. Additional sights are around the historic main square, the Plaza de Armas, with its cathedral and the beautiful old post office; the Palaciode la Real Audiencia, now home to the National History Museum; and the Casa Colonial, which was once the governor’s residence during the colonial era. Hotel Los Nogales - 1 night
Day 3: Santiago - La Serena
Transfer to the airport in Santiago and flight to La Serena. Begin exploring with the city centre, and the Plaza de Armas with its beautiful cathedral, the first visit is to the Archaeological Museum, where you gain useful insight into the pre-Columbian cultures that once existed in Chile. Afterwards, the tour continues to the attractive craft market at La Recova. Your tour also leads to the city’s emblem: the lighthouse by the sea, located on a beach promenade that is very popular during summer. Hotel Francisco de Aguirre - 1 night
Day 4: Excursion to Gemini South Observatory
Today this full day tour will take you to the southwestern part of La Serena will give you a deeper insight into the astronomy in Chile. You will visit the Gemini Observatory, which consists of twin 8.1-meter diameter optical/infrared telescopes located on two of the best observing sites on the planet. From their locations on mountains in Hawai‘i and Chile, Gemini Observatory’s telescopes can collectively access the entire sky. The Gemini South telescope is located at about 2,750 meters (8,900 feet) elevation on a mountain in the Chilean Andes called Cerro Pachón.
Gemini's instrument program keeps the observatory at the cutting edge of astronomical research. By incorporating technologies such as laser guide stars, Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics and multi-object spectroscopy, astronomers in the Gemini partnership have access to the latest toolsfor exploring the universe. Gemini was built and is operated by a partnership of 7 countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Chile, Australia, Brazil and Argentina.
Any astronomer in each partner country can apply for time on Gemini with is allocated in accordance with the amount of financial support provided by each country. The Gemini telescopes have been integrated with modern networking technologies to allow remote operations from control rooms at the base facilities in Hilo and La Serena Chile. With the flexibility of "Queue Scheduling" and remote participation, researchers anywhere in the Gemini partnership will be assured the best possible match between observation, instrument and observing conditions.In the evening you will visit the the El Pangue Observatory to observe the night sky with range of instruments from 12" to 25" (30cm-63cm) reflecting telescopes. Hosteria Vicuña - 1 night (BL)
Day 5: Excursion Valle del Elqui & La Silla Observatory
This full day excursion will introduce you to Elqui Valley, framed by the ochre, cactus-covered hillsides of its semi-desert surroundings, the green floor of this river-watered valley thrives with papaya, figs, chirimoya (custard fruit), apricots, peaches, and especially grapes.
After a short stop for coffee at one of the view points along the way, you’ll arrive at La Silla Observatory; with 14 optical telescopes will furnish an unforgettable view of the stars. Cerro La Silla is distinguished by presenting totally clear skies, at least 300 days a year! Late in the evening, you will make the drive back down the valley to your hotel in La Serena. Hotel Francisco de Aguirre - 1 night
Day 6: La Serena - San Pedro
Transfer to the airport and flight to Antofagasta. On arrival you will transfer to San Pedro de Atacama (approx 5 hours). The rest of the day will be at leisure. Hotel Casa Don Tomas - 1 night
Day 7: Valle De La Luna
In the morning you will have the option to takle a half day tour following in the footsteps of the ancient Atacameños and Incas, and your tour guide will show you two archaeological sites: Aldea de Tulor and Pukará de Quitor.The Aldea de Tulor is a ruined village dating from around 800 BC, where once up to 200 inhabitants lived.
In the afternoon you will visit to the Valle de la Luna to enjoy the sunset. With the Licancabur volcano providing the backdrop, strange salt and rock formations in the middle of the valley’s barren sandy landscape really do look like a moonscape. The excursion ends with a hike up a giant sand dune. From its highest point, a breath-taking view onto the valley and the Licancabur Volcano can be enjoyed. The return drive to San Pedro is after sunset. Hotel Casa Don Toma - 3 nights
Day 8: El Tatio Geyser
Today you will explore one of the highlights of San Pedro. 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 that shoot up to 10m/33ft high occur when the morning sun melts the nightly ice caps over the hot springs, located over 4300m/14,108ft.
After the spectacular show there, you have the choice of recovering from the morning chill and warming up in natural pools created by hotsprings. The return drive to San Pedro takes place around midday.
Day 9: Atacama Salt Flat & ALMA Construction Facility
Leave San Pedro with you tour guide and approach the 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 snow-white salt crystals, as far as the eye can see, 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 micro organisms found in the saline lagoons. These beautiful birds and other species can be observed in their natural habit at at the Salar de Atacama’s Chaxa Lagoon, which is part of the Reserva Nacional de los Flamencos.
During the afternoon, you will visit the ALMA Observatory (Site Erection Facility at 2,900 m), the largest astronomical project in existence. ALMA will be a single telescope of revolutionary design, composed initially of 66 high precision antennas located on the Chajnantor plateau at 5000m altitude in Northern Chile. (BL)
Day 10: San Pedro - Antofagasta
Transfer to Antofagasta, optional visit on route to Chuquicamata Copper Mine. Hotel Diego de Almagro - 3 nights
Day 11: City tour Antofagasta
The first stop on the tour is at “La Portada”, a natural rock formation in the ocean, in the shape of an arc or doorway. From there the tour continues along the coast, and returns to the city, making a second stop at the Fisch Terminal, where visitors can see a bustling market selling a large variety of fish and shell fish. From the market, visitors walk to the “Barrio Histórico”, which is the old original port area of the city, which contains interesting buildings from the Antofagasta Bolivia Railway Company with museum and old equipment from the salt peter era, these buildings have been declared National Monuments.
Nearby is the Regional Museum, where visitors can learn about the natural and cultural history of the region, with exhibits on geology, paleontology, ecology, archeology, pre-Hispanic and post-Hispanic growth, the Pacific War, and a very interesting and detailed section on the salt peter Industry and it’s effect on the city. From the museum, we continue our tour on foot to the Cathedral of San José, and the Plaza Colón, the social centre and meeting place of Antofagasta.
Our next stop is at Caleta Coloso, where a small fishing community lives along side the new Port built for the export of copper concentrate from the giant Escondida Mine. This is one of the most modern mines in the world, and is an important part of Antofagasta’s economy.
Day 12: Excursion to Paranal Observatory
Today you will visit the Paranal Observatory , the most important astronomical investigation center in the country, located at an altitude of 2600m above sea level and approximately 130 km south of Antofagasta, in one of the driest areas in the world. Paranal is site of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and is the flagship facility of European astronomy and scientific research.
Day 13: Antofagasta-Santiago
Transfer to airport and flight to Santiago. On arrival, transfer to the hotel. Hotel Los Nogales - 1 night
Day 14: Flight home
Transfer to the airport for your flight back to UK
PRICE FROM: £2999.00 per person excluding international flights
This tour offers the chance to combine several major astronomical observatories with some of the great sights of Northern Chile. Clients will also have time at a remote public observatory where they’ll be able to see stars and planets under a truly dark sky Passengers stay in locally run hotels and use local guides.
IMPORTANT: We endeavour to involve and educate the local guides in astronomy which will in turn help them to introduce other tourists and potentially become guides in this special interest field.