Ros and her family experienced three extraordinary places in one awe-inspiring journey, that had every one of them falling in love with South America.
Putting together an itinerary that includes the delightfully artistic Chilean city of Valparaiso, the extraordinary landscapes of the Atacama Desert, the breath taking wilderness of Patagonia and a luxury cruise through Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, is no easy feat. Doing it for a family of five and bringing together art, nature, history, wilderness and soft adventure is no small feat, and that is exactly why they called on Caroline.
“I’ve known Caroline for 25 years, and we completely trust her as our travel advisor. It’s never about what she thinks makes a great holiday, but rather what she knows is a great holiday for us,” says Ros. “It’s easy for a travel agent to suggest similar things for a range of different people, but Caroline is all about tailoring unique experiences.”
The family flew to Santiago and drove up the coast to Valparaiso where they were dazzled by the street art, enjoyed local hospitality and indulged in delectable local fare before heading north to explore beaches and secluded port towns.
Then it was off to the ancient and mysterious Atacama Desert with the family based at the beautiful Alto Atacama Desert Lodge and Spa.
Each day was the start of a new outdoor adventure, accompanied by a private guide who was full of local knowledge without being intrusive. They traversed the pink and golden jagged folds of Death Valley, explored the mesmerising gorges and salt flats in the Valle De La Luna (Moon Valley), and marvelled at the daily display of sunrises and sunsets that were out of this world.
The Atacama Desert is the driest, non-polar desert on Earth, and unlike Bolivia where the salt flats are smooth, these are patterned and cracked with scatterings of extraordinary salt sculptures. “It was draw-dropping to watch a flock of flamingos settle on the salt flats at sunset,” says Ros, still in awe of the experience.
Then Patagonia stole their heart. “It’s so remote and vast,” says Ros. “Hiking in Torres del Paine National Park was something we’ll always remember, and the guides that Caroline organised supplied a wealth of information. They really made it a remarkable experience.”
“We paddled up a glacial river, savoured antipasto platters surrounded by snow-capped mountains and soaked up the most beautiful landscape any of us had ever seen” said Ros.
The Galapagos Islands was the final part of the adventure, and while on a cruise, they were entertained by the antics of the red and blue-footed boobies, and delighted to see the gigantic Galapagos land tortoise up-close. One day we walked across 10,000 year-old lava and bedded within it we saw first growth plant shoots — that was remarkable!” says Ros.
“We also discovered that the giant tortoises have an arch in their shells above their heads so that they can reach low-lying branches.” explains Ros. “That helps you to understand how we all adapt to survive. We gained a far deeper understanding of evolution and appreciation of this incredible world we inhabit. It was a truly extraordinary experience.”
Africa has the Big 5, but the Galapagos Islands take it up a notch — there are fifteen species that you need to tick off your checklist in this part of the world.