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UNDER THE ATACAMA SKIES
(15 days / 14 nights )

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SANTIAGO – LOS ANDES – ESO’S EL PARANAL OBSERVATORY – ATACAMA DESERT – SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA – ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATIONS – ALMA – THE ALTIPLANO – CHUQUICAMATA MINE – LA SILLA OBSERVATORY – HUMBOLDT PENGUIN – NATURAL RESERVE – THE VALLE DEL ELQUI – ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATIONS – LA SERENA – VALPARAISO



The program detailed below is the tour we have been carrying out with astronomy enthusiasts that are members of a number of associations and clubs in France and Belgium. If you would prefer making changes, add-ons, cuts, etc. please feel free in contacting us; flexibility is one of our features.

When choosing a date for your trip, consider that viewing conditions would be ideal if the fifth day of the itinerary coincides with the new moon. Caution: in January and February a number of nights can be cloudy in the Atacama region.


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Day 1: (Wednesday) International flight to Chile

Considering that the ESO observatories at La Silla and Paranal can be visited only on Saturdays, we suggest you arrive in Chile on a Thursday to ensure we can complete the program properly. When choosing a date for your trip, also consider the lunar calendar at an initial phase from day 5 on. Caution: in January and February a number of nights can be cloudy in the Atacama region.

Day 2: Santiago

Vicente, the guide who will accompany you on the trip, will welcome you at the airport in Santiago, taking you to your hotel. Time to rest. A tour though the administrative and historic core of the city of Santiago, the Plaza de Armas (the main plaza) and the city’s origins, it’s cathedral, town hall, main post office, etc., up to the central market to enjoy a welcome lunch with fresh fish and shellfish.

Then we’ll visit the Pre-Columbian art museum (1 hour), the most interesting and beautiful in the country, and La Moneda, the presidential palace. Then we take a bus to visit the neighborhood that belonged to the aristocrats at the beginning of the 20th century, a walk through the Barrio Brazil neighborhood. We climb the San Cristobal hill for a panoramic view of the capital. At the foot of the hill, amidst the bohemian Barrio Bellavista neighborhood, we have the Peumayen, one of the best places to discover Chile’s typical cuisine. Dinner, returning to the hotel at about 10 PM.

(Lunch is included in half-board)
http://www.peumayenchile.cl/es/index.html
Hotel Fundador 4* (or equivalent)
www.fundador.cl/en-us/

Day 3: Andes Mountain Range – Colina Thermal Baths – Roan Jasé Observatory

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In the Andes Mountain Range, some 50 km from Santiago, is the Cajón del Maipo, a valley shaped by glaciers and full of attractions. At 9 AM we start a first tour of the Andes up to the Colina Baths. Localized at 2,900 m above sea level, in a dreamlike environment between the snow-capped peaks and the Colina river, seven natural pools stand out with their 20 to 60 ºC mineral waters. There we’ll have a picnic lunch and time to bathe in the mineral waters.

About 5:30 PM, on our way back to Santiago, we’ll visit the Roan Jasé private observatory. Manuela, joint owner, will introduce us to the cosmovision of the Mapuche (pre-hispanic indigenous people from the center and south of Chile, currently 7% of the population), and later, with her husband, she’ll give us a homemade dinner. First (and brief) observation of the southern skies using Dobson roof-top refracting telescopes. We arrive back in Santiago around eleven thirty.

Distance travelled: 200 Km
(Picnic and dinner included in half-board)
www.termasvalledecolina.com
http://www.observatorioroanjase.cl/index.html

Day 4: El Paranal observatory of ESO – The port town Antofagasta

Breakfast at 6:15 AM, departing to the Santiago airport at 6:40 AM. Check in for the 8:15 flight to the city of Antofagasta (1,360 km away). Arriving at 10:20 AM we go directly into the Atacama Desert arriving at the ESO’s El Paranal observatory at 1 PM where we will have a picnic while waiting for the tour to commence.


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At 2,600 m above sea level, in the most arid part of the Atacama Desert, El Paranal enjoys exceptional conditions for astronomical observation. In our two and a half hour tour, we will be taken to the top of the mountain where we will be able to see the up to 8.2 m diameter telescopes. We will also visit the control room where the astronomers work, because both the operation of the telescopes as well as all communications with them are performed with the use of computers.

http://www.eso.org/public/chile/about-eso/visitors/paranal/

Back to Antofagasta at 7 PM; check in and rest in our hotel. A walk downtown and dinner (free choice / included in an option)

Distance travelled: 260 km
(Picnic included in half-board)

Day 5 : San Pedro de Atacama – Astronomical observation 2 in exclusive tour

Breakfast at 8:30 AM, leaving at 9 AM to San Pedro de Atacama through the Atacama Desert; after 85 km of highway we stop at the old Baquedano railway junction to visit the abandoned railway station museum, a half hour surprise exploration of local history from the end of the 19th century until World War 2. Then we will continue our journey for two and a half hours arriving at San Pedro around 1:30 PM.


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Just on the Tropic of Capricorn, in the middle of the Atacama Desert, San Pedro de Atacama is an enchanting oasis village, living at a slow pace, out of time and beyond the country. Primevally inhabited by the Atacameños (in the village’s archaeological museum one could see a 2,500 year old mummy found in the region), it was later invaded by the Incas and by the Spaniards. Currently San Pedro is inhabited by their descendants and by visitors from all over the world who come to discover the most extraordinary places and landscapes of the region; the Salar de Atacama (a natural salt pan), its pink flamingoes, the El Tatio geysers, the Valle de la Luna (or valley of the moon), the Cordillera de la Sal mountain range, the lakes of the Altiplano…

Lunch at the hotel’s restaurant (or free choice, according to options) and time to rest.
We will stay at a hotel 15 minutes away on foot from the center of the village, so we will be able to watch the sky at night without the shine of city lights and without having to move elsewhere.

Some 10 km from San Pedro is the cordillera de la sal and its Valle de la Luna. We leave the hotel at 4:45 PM to visit some dunes and impressive geological formations, viewing colors, lights and shadows that have transformed this valley into a must-see. On our way back, we will walk into the village discovering its back-streets, the plaza, the church and shops. Dinner at a good restaurant with local specialties (or free choice, according to options).

At night, the Atacama sky becomes a gift; we can watch with our naked eye the Magellanic Clouds, the shaping of a llama-like constellation over the Andes, the center of the Galaxy crossing the Zenith…

At 10 PM, a bus will take us to the outskirts of the village to start an exclusive astronomical tour in an observatory that holds the best telescopes in the continent (private observatory open to public). We get back to the hotel at about half past twelve.


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http://www.spaceobs.com/es/Servicios/Tour-Astronomico
Distance travelled: 335 km
(Lunch is included in half-board)
Hotel Altiplánico 4* (or equivalent) http://www.altiplanico.cl/altiplanico-san-pedro-de-atacama/

Day 6 : San Pedro de Atacama – ALMA – Lakes of the Altiplano – Astronomical Observation 3

Important: The ALMA Operations Center is open to the public only on Saturdays and Sundays for those people who have sent their individual applications, have found availability and received approval. For amateur groups, we make a specific application when travel has been confirmed. In case ALMA cannot be available, we reserve the right to replace this tour with other excursions.

Breakfast around 8 AM, leaving at 8:30 towards the ALMA Operations Support Center, located 40 km from San Pedro, 2,900 m above sea level and 28 km from the array of antennas.
Together with its international partners, the ESO operates the 66 antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), distributed over distances up to 16 kilometers, and designed to study the radiation of the coldest objects in the Universe. This collaboration, as a whole, is the biggest project in astronomy at this time.

www.eso.org/public/france/teles-instr/alma/


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At 11:30 AM we’ll take the route to the border crossing Paso de Sico (into Argentina) heading south, escorted by the countless Andean volcanoes and skirting the vastness of the Salar de Atacama with its 320,000 hectares of cracked salt. After 50 km we’ll stop at the pre-hispanic village of Socaire, at an altitude of 3,500 m, where we’ll find terraced fields for farming built by the Incas, as well as a typical meal based on local products at the indigenous community’s restaurant. After another 35 km we’ll leave the main highway to climb a winding track among volcanic rocks till we reach 4,200 m, where we’ll suddenly discover an image difficult to forget; at the feet of the nearest volcanoes, the Miscanti and Miñiques, two emerald lakes surrounded by white collars will welcome us.


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We walk along the bank observing the local plant and animal life; vicuñas (a South American camelid related to the llama, guanaco and alpaca), ducks, mountain gulls and other birds.
We get back to San Pedro at around 6:30 PM, time to rest at the hotel.

At about 8 PM, we’ll take a short stroll through the village’s streets and shops.
Dinner (free choice or included according to options).

When we get back to the hotel we’ll invite you to observe the sky with the naked eye or with your equipment, in the hotel’s grounds, away from light pollution.

Distance travelled: 275 km
(Lunch is included in half-board)

Day 7 : The Altiplano – Salar de Tara – Astronomical Observation 4

Late breakfast, leaving at 10 AM for the most spectacular excursion of the trip. We climb to 4,400 m following the route to the border crossing Paso de Jama (to Argentina) skirting volcanoes and passing through plateaus and mountain ranges in the Altiplano.


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We’ll first stop at the lookouts and Andean highland peat bogs to observe the animal life, and later we’ll stop at the Monjes de la Pakana (or guardians of the desert), enormous stone pillars formed by the wind’s erosion, which rise high and alone in the sand of the desert at the entrance to the Aguas Calientes area in the Reserva Nacional Los Flamengos (Flamingoes Natural Reserve). We will leave the international highway and for about an hour we’ll follow off-road tracks arriving at the remote Salar de Tara or “God’s workshop”, where he created the painter’s palette he would later use to paint the rest of the world, according to local mythology.


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Picnic lunch at the edge of the salt pan where we can watch flamingoes, Andean geese, Andean avocets, puna plovers, brown pintails and others. On one side we can see the Catedrales (Cathedrals), colossal sculptures of eroded stone and volcanic ash, and in the background the Zapaleri volcano located where the border lines of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile merge, and where the river, with that same name, spreads its path towards the lake of the salt pan, also a source of subsistence for llamas, vicuñas, foxes, viscachas, Andean mountain cavy (cuy), tawny tuco-tuco (chululo), Andean ostrich-like rhea (suris) and puna tinamou (kiulas).

Back to San Pedro at 6 PM. We have a rest and dinner in the village.
We’ll observe the sky at night in the hotel’s grounds, away from light pollution.
Distance travelled: 255 km
(Cold lunch included in half-board)

Day 8 : El Tatio geysers – Machuca – Puritama thermal baths – San Pedro – Astronomical Observation 5

We’ll leave the hotel at 4:30 AM (we can get some sleep while travelling, 2 hours) climbing a 90 km mountain road up to 4,200 m altitude, arriving just at dawn at the impressive El Tatio geysers. While our guide prepares a substantial breakfast near the springs, we can take a stroll admiring the show, with the first rays of sun backlighting the vapor fumaroles and boiling water.


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On our way back through the ruta de las vicuñas, we will stop at Machuca, a small village worthwhile visiting, inhabited by ancestral herdsmen and their llamas, and where we can taste llama meat on skewers and goat cheese empanadas.

Following our way back, we will enjoy a luxurious rest in the thermal baths of Puritama; a geothermal river, which flows concealed along the bottom of a canyon, heating a number of natural pools, at 3,450 m above sea level. Picnic.


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youtube.com/watch?v=D8N5FL-qx8U

We arrive at the hotel around 4:30 PM. We’ll have the rest of the day off, so we can stroll relaxed at our own pace along the streets of the village, discover its colonial church, traditional handcraft market, the plaza, the surprising archaeology museum (if open after its refurbishment), shops, post office, teller machine…

Dinner in the village
We’ll observe the sky at night in the hotel’s grounds, away from light pollution.
Distance travelled: 215 km
(Cold lunch included in half-board)

Day 9 : Lakes of the Salar de Atacama, Cejar, Ojos del Salar and Tebiquinche – Astronomical Observation 6

At 9:30 AM we’ll drive some 30 km into the Salar de Atacama until we arrive at Cejar and Piedra, two lakes fed by underground aquifers that flow from the Andes, laden with salts and other minerals, which settle in middle of the third largest salt pan in the world.

If the turquoise colored water, the white collars surrounding its banks and the warm sun entices a desire to take a swim, we recommend you just jump in; we will float challenging Archimedes’ principle as if we were in the Dead Sea.


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Later we’ll travel another 5 km into the salt pan and, on our way to the lake Tebiquinche, we will stop to watch an enigma of the desert: the Ojos del Salar, two circular freshwater lakes. In Tebiquinche we will have the chance to walk around part of the lake and its curious saline formations. Reflected on the water surface, the Andes mountain range looks magnificent.

We get back to the hotel (or the village) around 1:30 PM
Lunch in San Pedro
Afternoon off. Free strolling about San Pedro
Dinner in the village
We’ll observe the sky at night in the hotel’s grounds, away from light pollution.
Distance travelled: 89 km
(Lunch and dinner not included in half-board)

Day 10 : Chuquicamata Mine – La Serena

Breakfast at 7:30 AM, we leave San Pedro at 7:50.
We’ll travel 94 kilometers (1 hour) to the city of Calama, our starting point into the largest open-pit copper mine in the world. Guided tour on board an authorized bus. We will go through the main streets of the old miner’s camp, which now resembles a ghost town (about 15,000 people were transferred to the city of Calama in 2007). We will visit some facilities where we’ll learn about the copper extraction process. From a lookout we will see the enormous open-pit mine in full operation, observing the enormous machines and trucks working in it.


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At midday we’ll go to Calama for lunch. Transfer to Calama’s airport, check-in for the 3:20 PM flight to La Serena. After a short stopover in Santiago’s airport, we arrive in La Serena at 7:15 PM.

Transfer to our hotel, time to rest and dinner in the hotel.
Dinner in the village (included or free choice according to options)
Distance travelled: 140 km
(Lunch is included in half-board)

Day 11 : ESO’s La Silla observatory – Punta de Choros – Astronomical Observation 7

We leave the hotel at 10:30 AM towards the La Silla observatory (156 km – two and a half hours). Picnic on arrival. Visit takes place between 2 and 4:30 PM


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www.eso.org/public/france/teles-instr/lasilla/ www.eso.org/public/about-eso/visitors/lasilla/

Located at the border of the Atacama desert, 600 km north from Santiago and at 2,400 m above sea level, the La Silla observatory enjoys the darkest night skies on earth. La Silla has been an emblem for ESO since the 60’s. In this place, ESO operates two of the most productive four meter optical telescopes in the world.

http://www.eso.org/public/chile/teles-instr/lasilla/

At 5 PM, we will travel for 2 hours to the fishermen’s hamlet Punta de Choros where the Humboldt Penguin natural reserve is located. Punta de Choros has beautiful beaches, small inlets and islands, offering extraordinary views of biodiversity, including the Humboldt Penguin, dolphins, sea otters, and a variety of other species.

www.turismopuntadechoros.cl
We will arrive at our cabins facing the beach at around 7 PM.
We have a rest and dinner in a local restaurant.

At night, thanks to the scarce light pollution, if it is not cloudy we will be able to observe the skies with the naked eye or with your equipment.

http://www.memoruz.cl
Distance travelled: 89 km
(Picnic included in half-board)

Day 12 : Reserva Nacional Pingüino de Humboldt – Valle del Elqui – Astronomical Observation 8


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We have breakfast at 8:30 AM and then take a walk to the pier where we’ll board a boat on an exclusive tour of 2 hours around the natural reserve, through Isla Choros, Isla Gaviotas and Isla Damas, observing the surprising and abundant marine animals and plants. We will visit Isla Damas walking along its paths and white sand beaches.

At 11 AM we will leave for the Valle del Elqui. While going through La Serena we will stop to lunch at the Mar Adentro, where we’ll celebrate Doña Raquel’s great cuisine.

Some 500 km north of Santiago, the Valle del Elqui is an appealing and beautiful valley cut into the Andes by the river that gave it its name. It enjoys 300 days of sun per year, an ideal climate for its muscatel vineyards that produce the famous Pisco, the Chilean appetizer par excellence, and for many astronomical observatories like Cerro Tololo, Gemini and other smaller ones, which allow observations by night.


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At about 5 PM, and after 55 km, we will arrive at the village of Vicuña, the place of birth of Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (1945). Time off to rest in the hotel, take a walk to the plaza or village center, two blocks away from the hotel, and visit the Gabriela Mistral museum. For dinner, we will have the chance to taste the typical asado chileno (Chilean barbecue) in the hotel’s patio. At around 10 PM we will travel 17 km to the Del Pangue observatory for a private astronomical tour. We will observe the skies through their telescopes.

http://odp-f.blogspot.cl
We return to the hotel at around 00:30 AM
Distance travelled: 190 km
(Lunch and dinner included in half-board)
Hotel Hostería Vicuña (3*) http://www.hosteriavicuna.cl

Day 13 : Valparaiso, “The Pearl of the Pacific”

If you come to Chile, it would be a real pity if you don’t visit its main port, so this tour will be the topping off of your travels. We will start at 9 AM, first visiting the colonial quarter in the center of La Serena, the second oldest city in Chile, and at midday we will go to the airport to take our flight to Santiago (55 minutes). We will continue our trip to Valparaiso by land (100 km), stopping for lunch on the way.

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On arriving at Valparaiso, we will first visit the urban development in the hills Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción, touring the promenades Atkinson, Gervasoni and Yugoslavo; to the west, a map of the city and the coast line; to the east, alleyways, stairways, lookouts, the funicular stations, the imprint of German and English immigrants in their 19th century homes, the art-nouveau style of the Baburizza palace, boutique hotels, cafes and art galleries, which help us understand why seamen named this port the “Perla del Pacífico” (Pearl of the Pacific).


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Check in and dinner at the hotel Cap Ducal, one of the best cuisines in town.
Distance travelled: 180 km
Hotel Cap Ducal (3*) https://www.facebook.com/Cap-Ducal-193089114066136/
(Lunch is included in half-board)

Day 14 : Valparaiso – Santiago’s Airport – International flight

At 9 AM we’ll start saying goodbye to the port going for a walk through the port’s historic district, chosen by UNESCO as part of the World’s Heritage.

We’ll climb to the lookout on the Cerro Artillería using its funicular, one of the oldest among the thirty distributed throughout the 45 hills in Valparaiso – you can’t boast having been to Valparaiso without travelling in at least one! From the lookout on the street 21 de Mayo we can enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of the port, the city and the whole bay.

And to complete the feast, we move to the top of the Cerro Bellavista to visit the museum home of Pablo Neruda, La Sebastiana, where the poet lived from 1961 on. It is the only one of his three homes, including La Chascona (in Santiago) and the one in Isla Negra (south of Valparaiso), which can be visited independently (not with a guided tour). We will be able to examine the many objects in the poet’s collections, read his texts distributed wisely throughout the house, enjoy the decoration, and also, admire the privileged view.

At midday we return to the airport in Santiago. Luggage check in and a farewell snack with our guide in Chile.

Distance travelled: 100 km
(Snack included in half-board)

Day 15 : You arrive back home



FEES & CONDITIONS

If you would like to see a quote for smaller groups, or with a different program, please fell free to contact us.


TARIFAS EN FINAL

Included:

An accompanying guide throughout the trip, driver and exclusive transport in a fully equipped bus, travel assistance insurance in Chile (Europ Assistance/Travel Security), domestic flights Santiago/Antofagasta – Calama/La Serena and La Serena/Santiago, 4* hotel: 2 nights in Santiago (+ early check in) and 5 nights in San Pedro de Atacama; 3* hotel: 1 night in Antofagasta, La Serena, Punta de Choros, Vicuña and Valparaíso. Breakfast, lunch – 2 cold and 3 picnic type, dinner (salad, main dish, dessert, 1 bottle of wine per 4 people and one appetizer per day), snack at the airport, 2 private astronomical tours, visits to observatories (ALMA-with the exception mentioned), excursions mentioned in the descriptions, paid tickets, exclusive boat tour, funicular, “La Sebastiana” museum, transfers, mineral water, hot water, coffee, tea, mate infusion, fruit, oxygen tanks & First Aid kit, tips.

Not included:

International flights, provisions not mentioned in the description, personal expenses (medications, phone calls, spa, etc.), mandatory assistance and accident insurance, cancellation insurance (although optional, it is recommended).

Payment Method:

A first advanced payment of 30% should be transferred at final booking, at the latest 90 days before arrival.

A second advanced payment of 30% should be transferred, at the latest 60 days before arrival.
The final balance of 40% should be transferred 30 days before arrival.

If you decide to CANCELL, we will refund according to the following schedule:

Refund for cancellation                        Penalty:
Over 75 days before arrival to Chile                         None
Between 36 and 74 days before arrival to Chile         10% of total
Between 23 and 35 days before arrival to Chile         15% of total
Between 15 and 22 days before arrival to Chile         25% of total
Between 7 and 14 days before arrival to Chile           35% of total
Less than 7 days before arrival to Chile                    55% of total

ORGANIZERS DISCLAIMER

Planeta Chile as organizing party or intermediator cannot be made responsible for delays or changes to travel programs caused by circumstances that may preclude appropriate progress of the trip, as can be (this list of circumstances beyond our control is not exhaustive so does not establish the limits to our disclaimer):

-Natural disasters: floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, landslides, bad weather conditions, etc.

-Decisions issued by transport companies, local or international authorities, strikes, delays or loss of baggage in international airline transport to Chile, etc.

-Political disruptions (wars, revolutions, states of emergency, coups d’état, etc.)

-A passenger’s accident or illness, etc.

-The ALMA Operations Support Center is open to public on Saturdays and Sundays for those people who have sent their individual applications and received appropriate approval. For groups we process a specific application when travel has been confirmed. In case ALMA cannot be available, we reserve the right to change this program suggesting alternatives.

That said, the heading of our programs and particular stages might be changed by the organizer and/or accompanying guide. Appropriate alternatives and, if possible, for free, may be offered due to organization requirements and/or to avoid one or more of the issues mentioned above, or simply to satisfy the wishes agreed unanimously by the passengers, as long as its allowed by the organizations requirements and budget.

Changes, delays or cancellations in air or land transport, which may lengthen or restrict the trip, will not give rise to any refund from us. As these are beyond our control and will, they cannot generate any compensation, even in those cases when they create an additional cost to the passenger, who will have to bear the cost on his own.

As well, Planeta Chile cannot be made responsible for mistakes in transferring program information like departure date or others, in as much those mistakes come from the producer, salesman, or booking agent, who must bare responsibility for the inconveniences produced on his own. However, the organizer and/or (when it has been considered) the accompanying guide will deliver their best efforts to protect the interests of the travelers.

If, during the trip, a significant part of the services offered cannot be delivered, the organizer will take all necessary measures: if there is a difference between the offered services and those delivered, the traveler will be compensated according to the difference.

GENERAL CONDITIONS

-The services offered by Planeta Chile are those described in the program. Any service not detailed in the program and/or established as “not included” in our services will be billed to the traveler.

-Exceptionally – due to flight schedules and operational topics – some meals might be bartered or interchanged (i.e. takeout lunch/picnic instead of a restaurant). The purpose of this is to favor streamlined use of time in visits and exploration of the different sites.

-The hotels mentioned are only representative. If there are no vacancies, we will suggest equivalent options (Price and quality). As well, the kind of room (double bed or two single beds) will depend on availability in the hotel.

-The passengers are responsible of ensuring their passports haven’t expired, determining if they require a visa for Chile and verifing the weight allowed for their baggage by the airlines (overweight costs).

— Purchasing assistance and accident insurance is mandatory. Furthermore, we recommend our clients to purchase travel cancellation insurance to avoid any financial loss in case of difficulties.

Warmly,

Vicente Sota et l’équipe de Planeta Chile
vsota@planetachile.com
info@planetachile.com
+56 9 88892252
+56 2 27240100
www.planetachile.com

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