All your questions answered
Helping you find the right holiday for you is important to us, so here's a few common questions about this trip to help. If there's anything you'd like to know that's not covered here, send us over a message or you can also give us a call on +44 1273 676 712 and we'd be only too pleased to help.
When is the best time to go?
Any time between October and April is the time to catch Patagonia as it moves from late spring through summer and into autumn.
What will the weather be like?
Santiago should be warm and sunny whereas in Patagonia, the weather will be whatever it will be.
On paper, the weather here will be better in January than in October or April. In practice, the best weather we've ever had was in early October and very late April so don't sweat the weather in Patagonia, bring the right clothing and embrace it.
For the bulk of your time, you are to the east of the Andes - the only place in Chile where this is possible, a country defined by being the land to the west of the Andes. Because the dominant weather comes in from the Pacific Ocean, being in what is effectively the shadow of the mountains means that Aysen, more than any other part of Patagonia, tends to have more stable weather.
Saying that, this trip encompasses a variety of different ecosystems, from temperate rainforest to dry steppe to ocean glaciers. You will likely experience everything from rain to snow, wind to hot sunshine during this trip.
When is peak season?
January into February is when South Americans (notably Chileans and Argentinians) are on their long summer holidays so is really the only time when there are people on the Carretera Austral in anything like significant numbers. Even then, this is a region with lots of space and very few people.
How far ahead should I book?
This somewhat depends on when you want to travel but relatively small hotels and lodges in popular destinations mean that 12 months is sensible, assuming you want to travel on specific dates. We also space out our departures to avoid your overlapping, in any significant way, with other clients.
Out of season, we have managed to put trips together with a month's notice but it's not our first choice! It's always worth asking us about space as we know which places represent the 'pinch points' so we can quickly tell if the holiday is going to be deliverable.
How much carbon is produced on this trip and how is it mitigated?
Total carbon generated on this trip: 4,277kg per person
Carbon mitigated by us: 6,843kg per person
As Yvon Chouinard, of Patagonia, Inc. rightly declared: “To do good, you actually have to do something.”
Therefore, for every kilometre travelled by road, air and sea on your Pura Aventura holiday, we carbon balance it by a mile - i.e. by 160% of your trip's carbon, from your front door and back again, irrespective of whether we book your international travel or not.
This is one of the travel industry's most ambitious and innovative schemes and has recently been praised by Wanderlust, Condé Nast Traveller and The Independent.
Is this trip suitable for solo travellers?
As a private trip, you are not joining a group. As such, this isn't the most obvious choice for a solo traveller. The fixed costs of the vehicle rental are high. Saying that, if you were happy with the extra investment, the experience would work well for a solo traveller who enjoys being on their own.
Is it suitable for families or friends?
For two couples or a family unit, the trip is perfect as it is, using one vehicle. The per person price naturally reduces.
For groups over five people, we would look at two vehicles but otherwise should be able to keep things very much the same: our Tortel boat sleeps up to eight and in Cerro Castillo we can accommodate seven. For groups larger than that, or groups of more than five requiring private facilities, we would have to make some tweaks, but it is all doable.
How active is this trip?
As a tailor made holiday we can adjust things to suit you prior to your departure. There is also much of this trip where it is up to you to set the pace. There is plenty of opportunity to get out walking on this holiday but equally, if all you wanted to do is sit and stare at the landscapes, it would remain a great trip.
At various stages in the journey, you have private guides who adjust activities to suit. The walk in Patagonia Park can be set to suit you. If you are able to manage the 21km of the Lagunas Altas route then we would highly recommend that you do this. However, there are other shorter routes available which your guide can discuss with you once there. The same applies in Cerro Castillo National Park of course.
There is nothing particularly high impact on the cruise, with most walks being relatively short and easy, though wind can sometimes make things trickier. It is an expedition cruise by nature, so the idea is to approach it with this spirit of adventure. All activities are optional.
Will altitude be a problem?
Not in Patagonia, no, you are at or around sea level. The steppe around Coyhaique, the highest part of your trip, is under 1,000m above sea level.
How comfortable will I be?
This holiday is comfortable throughout. You can see the hotels and lodges we use for this trip by asking for full details.
The hotels and lodges in Aysén (Patagonia) have reached a great moment whereby we have a wonderful selection of very high quality small hotels for you to stay in. These are not luxury properties but rather very clean and comfortable owner run places where the welcome is as warm as you’ll find anywhere in the world.
You should expect 3-4* standard, but given how remote all of these places are, that generally feels very comfortable indeed.
For Cape Horn you cruise on board a small expedition ship built for 210 passengers, launched in early 2018 she is very comfortable indeed.
Will I meet the locals?
Absolutely. You may find that communicating takes a little patience on both sides as English isn't widely spoken outside of the hotels you stay in. Your guides speak good English.
When eating out in restaurants you will likely have to rely on whatever Spanish you have, or on a translation app but it is rarely an issue if you happy with a bit of sign language too.
When driving, you need to be careful because cows quite often wander into the road. Gauchos ride their horses along the road, usually with their dog behind. Hitchhiking is common here, locals getting from one village to another will wait patiently for a bus to pass but if you stop, they’ll be delighted. They may offer you money, that’s normal etiquette – you don’t have to take it!
All in all, this is Patagonia. It is unvarnished but for those of us who like our travels to ignite the exploring spirit in us – there can be few better places in the world.
What is the driving like?
The Carretera Austral is paved only in certain sections, within each day of the itinerary above we set out how much of any given drive is paved versus unpaved.
For most of your time, you will be driving on unpaved road but it is surfaced. That is to say that the surface of the road is loose gravel on a flattened/scraped bed of dirt. Along most of its length there is plenty of room for two way traffic - the road being approximately three car widths from side to side.
It is effectively impossible to get lost on the Carretera Austral, it is essentially one road going north-south. We provide you with the best available map, on which distances, road surfaces and petrol stations are all clearly marked. In addition, we provide our own written instructions. We do not believe you need anything else.
Similarly, the latter section around Torres del Paine and Fitz Roy is also very easy and low stress. All of the roads you are likely to encounter are paved, other than those crossing inside Torres del Paine. All are in a reasonable state of repair with little traffic.
All in all, Patagonia is a place where to rush is to waste time. We suggest an average speed of just 40kmph, which gives you plenty of opportunity to stop and enjoy the views along the way.
What kind of vehicle can I expect?
We always include a 4x4 vehicle with high clearance. The four wheel drive is rarely necessary but it does make for a more sure-footed driving experience. High clearance is really the most important thing. Engines tend to be of a generous size, no whirring and whining along.
We only use reputable, well maintained vehicles in order to minimise the chances of any mechanical failures.
What might I not have thought of?
The colours! You will have days which are cloudy and rainy but that can make the waters of Lago Carrera, or the Baker River, seem even more of a crazy shade of turquoise. The ice at Jorge Montt glows. In autumn, the southern beech trees turn yellow, red and orange in great stripes across the flanks of the mountains. In spring, the flowers are everywhere.
Can I make changes to this trip?
Absolutely. We can tailor your holiday in any number of ways, and will often have to play with the running order to find space for you, or to avoid your overlapping too much with other clients.
The desert north of Chile's Atacama, the forests and volcanoes of the Lake District, the ancient history of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) or the comforts of the winelands are all easily connected to this trip.
Flying to another country and the continent opens up, from the Iguacu Falls to the Galapagos Islands or Peru's Machu Picchu, we can do wonderful things. Just drop us a line to start the conversation.
What is the payment process and is my money completely safe?
We take a 15% deposit to secure your holiday, with the remainder due eight weeks before your departure.
Your money is 100% protected through our ATOL licence if your trip includes a flight booked through us, or through our ABTOT bond if it does not. Either way, this protection provides a cast-iron financial guarantee and helps you book with complete peace of mind. Because the contract between us exists here in the UK, you get this protection regardless of where you live.
As always, our covid-19 policies ensure you have complete flexibility, just in case. Throughout the pandemic we have frequently been praised by Which? as a tour operator to trust, so you're in good hands. Your safety is always our top priority and we want you to be able to fully look forward to and enjoy your holiday with peace of mind.
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