luxury Chile tours travel

luxury Chile tours travel

Lee & Bonnie MacPherson Tour: 26 November - 15 December 2012

As reported and photographed by the guests


Guest sitting area, Awasi, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


Atacama Desert: One of the nicest places we have ever stayed -- anywhere!


Having a fabulous time -- this Awasi Hotel in San Pedro de Atacama is amazing. It has to be one of the nicest places we have ever stayed -- anywhere! (And that's saying a lot!) Food and service here have been 5-star. Just a gorgeous oasis in the middle of nowhere.



Vicuñas at El Tatio Geysers, Atacama Desert, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


The private excursions and our guide (Jorge) have been beyond description, and the scenery here is spectacular -- really interesting. We have also seen lots of animals, including llamas, vicuña, flamingos, a fox, a strange little rabbit-like/chinchilla thing, etc. Wait until you see the pictures!



Stargazing, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
Photo: Jorge Corante F.


Tonight we have a private star-gazing tour. We hate to leave -- but tomorrow we go to see the famous Valley of the Moon and then to the airport to go back to Santiago to continue the trip. If the remainder is like this part, we'll be very pleased, indeed...



Nineteenth century water mill, Museo Colonial Alemán, Frutillar, Lake District, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


Lake District: It was truly a memorable day out...


After Maria, our guide, met us at Puerto Montt, and before we got to the Petrohue Lodge, we mentioned we'd love to see Frutillar, if it wasn't too far out of the way. Well, she and Javier, the driver, thought it was a great idea and they gave us the most lovely day, driving around Lake Llanquehue and a walking tour of Frutillar with her interesting commentaries; visiting the German museum, etc., and then arranging for us to have a lovely lunch at the Guten Appetit restaurant overlooking the lake (delicious Chupa de Locas and Chupa de Jaibas).

Then on to the hotel in the Rosales National Park (Petrohue Lodge), which was in the most scenic, however, quite remote, area overlooking beautiful Lago Todos los Santos and the Osorno Volcano that was visible from our balcony (at least for a while). That is, until the fog and rains moved in to obscure the view...

The hotel and it's very accommodating staff was all one could ask for, if you were there strictly for outdoor recreation, i.e.; kayaking, canoeing, hiking, horseback riding, etc. The food was ample for breakfast and dinner...



View from Petrohue Lodge, Lake District, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


But, the ferry ride across the lake to Peulla was the highlight for us, and Maria, our guide, made the trip even more than we expected. She took us everywhere and I don't think we missed a thing in the park; from waterfalls, flora and fauna, to buying local honey in the little park shop for my son.

We did hike with her to several different spectacular vistas in the park and climbed down precipitous rocks so she could take our photo sitting at the water's edge; which is on my computer desktop, that I see everyday.

Now, here is the confession #1, that we had promised Maria we wouldn't tell, until much later after we were home. We didn't have lunch as scheduled at Hotel Natura, but in a private cottage down the road from the hotel. Maria was hesitant to veer from the plan, but we pleaded that we wanted to eat a homemade lunch that was offered along the walk, and we invited her to be OUR guest. We were all so pleased and were treated like "family," by the lady of the house and her son. There were three other ladies that were on the ferry crossing, as well, that joined us, and it was truly a memorable day out...

Not sure if I want to show you the picture of the cottage, as it looked a bit like a shack from the outside, but clean and most inviting once we saw the kitchen and the little dining room that only held 6-7 people. "An Adventure!"



Osorno Volcano, Lake Todos los Santos, Lake District, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


P.S. Oh, the confession #2, was not that scandalous... hee, hee... it was in Puerto Varas that Maria was so concerned about us walking back up the hill about 4 to 6 blocks after dark to the hotel from the restaurant. We wanted to walk along the lake and visit the Casino! Javier kept saying: "No, too dangerous for two ladies to be out after dark". Well, you could see the hotel from the street... and it's a lovely little town... so, we told Javier to go home to his wife and have a good evening. (He had no choice, I'm afraid!)

We had the best time... I won $156 and walked safely back to the hotel. The next morning, Maria confronted Javier: "What did you do with our ladies???" He said: "They MADE me leave them". Everyone had a good laugh and promised not to tell Frank.

We loved our time there in Puerto Varas, with the lovely Maria and the very sweet and caring Javier. So, now you know the real truth. Hee, hee... I told you: "No big deal!" (Maybe you can tell Frank, now... providing they don't get scolded.)



Rhea, with the Cuernos Mountains in the background, Torres del Paine, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


Torres del Paine: The glacier was breathtakingly beautiful...


Sorry so long getting back to you, but will continue trying to remember some things of interest about our stay at the Estancia Cerro Guido. I will send the attachments 3 at a time, so the file won't be so big and take so long to download.

The Estancia was quite remote and (I think an all-day drive from the Punta Arenas airport) surrounded by the most gorgeous view of the mountains and acres of pampas.

Our room was quite cozy, in a separate house, which was quite a ("shortcut") walk through the fields (or a bit longer) on wooden-slatted walkways to the main house for meals, etc. (that's where we would have our daily welcome "baaa" from Clotilda, the orphaned sheep).

Have to alert your guests that the electricity does go off at 11 p.m., and one night it was even a bit earlier. But, by that time, and after full days of activity, these night owls, that we usually are, were ready to call it a day.

Meals were more than sufficient, and very well prepared and presented...



Grey II departing the dock on Lago Grey for the cruise to Grey Glacier, Torres del Paine, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


The day of the outting to Grey Glacier was amazing! There was a very long walk over soft sand and a swinging bridge... to get to the wooden dock to board the Grey II for the "cruise" to the glacier.



Grey Glacier, Torres del Paine, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


It was a very choppy sailing, and although we never get sea-sick, some of the passengers were starting to get a little green and had to go out on the deck... which was a bit tricky to keep your footing, due to the choppy seas. But, it was all worth the effort... as the glacier was breathtakingly beautiful. It never ceases to amaze me the color of a glacier. The sail back was lots faster and easier, and although chilly and windy, it was a marvelous day! (Again and again!)



Lake Pehoe, upstream from the Salto Grande waterfall, and the Cuernos Mountains, Torres del Paine, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


A tour of the Estancia was included, and Pedro was elected on our day to do the tour and commentary. We visited the sheep shearing buildings, the school (talking to the teachers and some little students) and also visiting the dining room and quarters for the workers. What a huge working sheep ranch and complex!

Our guide, Pedro Moita, was so kind and considerate, insisting to come back to the hotel in the late afternoon to give us some time to wander the shops in Puerto Natales... He then escorted us to the restaurant for dinner, and we thoroughly enjoyed his company when he said he'd stay and dine with us.



Salto Grande waterfall, Torres del Paine, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


As you can well determine by now, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Chile, and we would go back one day and pick out several places to stay longer (Puerto Varas, for one).

Take care, Martin, and please let me know if this is much more than one needs to know.

Stay in touch with your comments, suggestions and questions.



Donde Augusto restaurant, Mercado Central, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


Santiago & Valparaiso: We have never had such wonderful and personal service

But, first... would you believe I found in my notes of what we ordered at Astrid & Gaston? Bonnie had a mixed stir-fry seafood and I had sea bass and my note says: "lovely shrimp over sweet potatoes." That's the extent of my entry. So, sounds as if we were very pleased with the meal...

The sightseeing program was most comprehensive, and I don't think your program or Gustavo's improvising to suit time allotted or our preferences could have been anymore fulfilling or improved upon.

He walked us all over the heart of the city; the beautiful old colonial section of Londres/Paris streets, (now, hotels and office bldgs.), but maintaining the beautiful facades of the 1800s. We were able to visit the interior of the huge Cathedral Metropolitana and the National Bank on the main square, as well as walking directly past the Presidential Palace and the Old Town. Plaza de Armas is fascinating, from local artists exhibiting their talents to beautiful jacaranda trees and informative statues of the history of the city everywhere.

Pablo Neruda's home, "La Chascona," is not to be missed; and although no inside photos are permitted, the tour is quite thorough, showing lots of unusual architecture, exhibits from his mutual friends and artists, and an inside view of Neruda's peculiar lifestyle.

Our lunch, as you already know, was Gustavo's special surprise today, at the Mercado Central and couldn't have been more to our liking. I do hope other guests would like the same treat; getting away from the usual more formal restaurants, and having a real feel of where many of the local folks dine.

The visits to both parks and the Santa Lucia Hill were definitely not to be missed. The panoramic view of the city from the hill was breathtaking and the walks through the tree-lined paths on Castle Hill, serene and calming after the hub-bub of the lively city.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to see the Palacio Cousiño, but I had read that it was closed for a long time for renovations, so that may have been why.

So, you see we were completely pleased with your choice of itinerary for the program in Santiago and Gustavo's added unscheduled choices.

We certainly have not or will ever forget our most memorable Chilean experiences (or your expert suggestions in planning the trip for us.)



Funicular, Valparaíso, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


The Zero Hotel in Valpairiso is lovely, and the staff most accomodating. In fact when we arrived very late at night, the proprietor offered us a hot coffee, served in our room, at no extra charge. However, it does not have a lift, which may make it difficult for some folks. (We were not hindered, as the staff took care of the luggage... lugging it up and down the steep staircase.)

The hotel, is located on steep streets in the outlying area, but our guide and driver took care of our getting around without any difficulties. In fact, our driver stayed with the car and our luggage (after checking out of the hotel) while continuing the sightseeing and even while we had a marvelous lunch at a seaside restaurant -- Bote Salvavidas.



A street in Valparaíso, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


The following link to the hotel is wonderful, and shows our exact room overlooking the sea and harbor. The location is quite far and way up high in the hills from downtown, but if one has Gustavo as your guide, you won't miss anything. Be sure to click on all the links within this site, to see the walks, and other amenities of the hotel and surroundings.

The one thing that may be of importance to your guests, is that there is NO lift in the hotel and a very steep staircase. We had no problem, and the staff is so helpful with the luggage, etc. In fact, when we arrived, it was very late at night from the airport, as you remember, and the proprietor brought a hot coffee to our room at no charge. (unless Gustavo paid extra for us??) But, a very nice gesture, to say the least.

We had a lovely lunch at the restaurant Bota Salvavidos, right overlooking the harbor, and Gustavo especially picked that restaurant to accomodate my mentioning that I liked fried shrimp. He phoned several places to request this, even after I told him that wasn't really necessary. (What a great guide and gentleman!) Our driver stayed with the car (missing lunch) because we had our luggage in the car, after checking out of the hotel that morning, and he was so conscientious about not parking it unattended.

Valparaíso is a fantastic and beautiful seaside resort that we would have loved to have stayed there longer (maybe even visiting that beautiful casino! ;-) One full day is not nearly enough time; although Gustavo sure did his best to see that we saw the highlights, not only a drive to the environs but a very inclusive walking tour; even letting us take time to visit the museum of fine arts in a gorgeous yellow mansion.



Zerohotel (center), Valparaíso, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


Gustavo was a fantastic and most accommodating escort/guide as well as such a perfect gentleman, seeing to our every need each time we'd return to Santiago... He definitely proved his worth ten-fold... showing us more than expected, both in Santiago and Valparaíso... (José, the driver, as well, was absolutely perfect... meeting us at weird hours upon our return to SCL).

Our comments will continue as time permits...

Please... thank Frank again, too, for phoning us upon departure at the airport, to inquire about our welfare. We have never had such wonderful and personal service on any of the trips we have taken... which, as you know have been many.

We had introduced Gustavo with a gooey and yummy ice cream/whipped cream coffee (that worried him because that was all we wanted for "dinner.") and were sitting there drinking it when Frank phoned. We had been taken to a lovely waterfront restaurant for a huge lunch in Valparaiso, and just weren't hungry at that time... so, Gustavo "tattled" on us to Frank (on the phone at the SCL airport) that we just wouldn't eat enough. Hee, hee... so, you see, he became a really good and caring guide/friend/Papa, looking after his "charges."



Relaxing at the Cabañas Mahia, Easter Island, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


If you want the real taste of the Rapa Nui people, then the Cabañas Mahia is the place to stay. I was just pointing out that some of your clients, who may expect 4- to 5-star service and elegance, would be disappointed when arriving at a very "almost camping" atmosphere.

No way would we have wanted to stay elsewhere, as where else would you get a real feel of the native people and their culture first hand? We are really adaptable to whatever surroundings we're involved (of course pending cleanliness and acceptable necessary services) The Rapa Nui people are genuine in their hospitality, and it's not just an act they put on for the guests.



View of Ahu Tongariki from Rano Raraku, Easter Island, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


This kind of hospitality more than covered the lack of amenities. Rafael is in the process, (albeit, may be a long and expensive one, as all the materials must be brought in by ship) putting a second story on the main building over his kitchen. This will be a bar and more dining space and the location on the Pacific road is to be unsurpassed with sunsets and the pounding surf across the road.



Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


It's a pretty good hike into town, which was just fine for us, and afforded a time on our own shopping/browsing day. One day, after our lengthy car trip with Vanessa, our guide, she dropped us off in town to "do our thing" and then we walked back. I think that was the night we ate dinner (on our own) on the other side of the marina in a fantastic little restaurant, the Tataku Vave, and Bonnie has pictures of that meal and the most beautiful sunset ever witnessed.



Horseback ride to the Terevaka volcano, Easter Island, Chile.
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


Couldn't have been happier with the guides and drivers; who became like friends...


Arrived home yesterday; exhausted, but extremely happy (HPPTGO) and satisfied with everything (and more) that you and Frank planned for us.

When I get my photos uploaded and the house, mail and laundry sorted, I'll send more details of the trip and our adventures along the way...

Couldn't have been happier with the guides and drivers; who became like friends within a very short time. So, thank you both for all your efforts in making this one of our most memorable vacations.

A very Happy Holiday to you and yours... More later.

With Best Wishes,

Lee and Bonnie



Picnic lunch in the Atacama Desert, Chile (left: guide Jorge Corante, center: Bonnie, right: Lee).
Photo: Bonnie MacPherson


Most Memorable Meals...


Mom has been writing some pretty good reviews, and I agree with them all. I just want to say that (IMO) some of our most memorable meals were:

San Pedro de Atacama – ALL meals at the Awasi. What a fabulous place! We knew they were going to set a very high bar for the rest of the trip to meet (and we were right). Our picnic “box lunch” (Hah! It was 5-star!) was amazing. (See enclosed picture.)

Frutillar – Lunch at the “Guten Appetit” (which wasn’t even scheduled – we just threw that in as we drove around Lake Llanquihue from Puerto Montt to Puerto Varas) – I had delicious Chupa de Locas - an abalone casserole with lots of cheese. YUM! It wasn’t a particularly fancy restaurant at all, but both the view and food were great. I tried the Chupa de Locas at several other places, and none were as good (IMO) as at this restaurant.

Santiago – Dinner our first night at The Aubrey hotel – we had the Wagyu beef (which was really delicious). The food, service, and ambiance at the Aubrey was First Rate – the room, was rather small and disappointing.

Santiago – Lunch at Donde Augusto at the Central Market. We really enjoyed that adventure of the busy market.

Puerto Varas – “Mediterraneo” – really excellent food and service, with a lovely view of the lake. Our food looked so good, that the people who sat at the table told their waiter, “We’ll have whatever it is they are having!” We had a sampling tray of lots of different things, and every single one of them was delicious.

Note: We really wish we had had another day in Puerto Varas – looked like a lovely town, and we didn’t get to shop or explore it at all. We only had one night there.

Easter Island – our traditional “curanto” meal, cooked in a pit.

Thanks again for putting together such a wonderful trip for us.

-- Bonnie