Recently, Santiago Tourist was invited to take a tour with Turistik, a local tour company. They’re best known for their red, double-decker red buses and innovative hop on – hop off touristic route of Santiago. They also offer different types of tours of Santiago and the surrounding areas, like excursions to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar and visits to various wineries. I took their half-day Andes Panoramic tour, offered from October – April.
We embarked on our journey on their trademark bright red Turistik bus to escape the busyness of Santiago and venture into one Chile’s beautiful landscapes – the Andes Mountain Range. Almost anywhere you go in Chile, you can see the Andes from a distance, but it’s nothing compared being immersed in their grandeur.
We began with a scenic 1.5 hour ride, and just a few kilometers from the city we encountered lush foothills divided by a smooth, emerald tributary to the Mapocho River rushing toward Santiago. Cascades, wild flowers, horses, flowering cacti, and colorful mountains dotted the winding roads leading to Valle Nevado.
As we ascended, our tour guide filled us in with bits and pieces of interesting information and called our attention to some of the details of our surroundings. We witnessed a beautiful and steady change – the landscape transformed from lush to dry and arid. From afar, the Andes look completely barren, but once you get close, you can see all the details that make it a majestic being filled with life, streams, and hundreds of encapsulated minerals giving each mountain tints of greens, blues, reds, and browns. With some luck, you might get to admire the condors spreading their 3 m. (9.8 ft.) wings and soaring through the air, perhaps even right above you.
Before arriving to our destination, we took a brief stop at 2,000 m. (6,562 ft.) to get a glimpse one of Chile’s natural monuments, El Plomo, the mountain of eternal snow sitting at 5,434 m. (17,783 ft). Our tour guide told us how this part of the Andes once formed the Inca Trail and resting stops were located along the mountain range eventually leading to Cuzco, Peru. At the top of El Plomo, a 500 year old Incan mummy, the first of its kind in Chile, was found. The almost perfectly preserved mummy is an 8 year old child is thought to have been buried alive as an offering to the Incan sun god, Inti, and it is currently exhibited at the Natural History Museum in Santiago.
This chilling tale gave us some insight into the history and gradual changes that these mountains have seen. We took a couple minutes to appreciate the only snow caped mountain in sight while condors flew above us. With a view of only a minuscule fraction of the diverse mountain range running across 7 countries at an average of 4,000 m. (13,123 ft.) high, it’s overwhelming to think it took 40 million years for the Andes Mountains to reach the heights that we see today.
Hopping back on the bus, we arrived at our destination, Valle Nevado, a popular ski center in Chile, where we had about 2.5 hours on our own to enjoy the scenery, take the ski lift to see a lagoon, bird watch, go on a short hike, get a bite at the center’s restaurant or participate in one of their summer activities listed below. Most of the ski center is closed in the summer season, save for the restaurant and the center’s store for souvenirs and outdoor gear.
Additional Activities at Valle Nevado and Costs Per Person
Ski Lift to the lagoon: CLP$17.000
Ski Lift and Lunch at Valle Nevado’s Bar Loung: CLP$32.000
Ski Lift, Hamburger and Drink: CLP$22.000
Lunch on the Mountain at Valle Nevado’s Bar Loung: CLP$22.000
Additional Services Available Upon Request at Valle Nevado
Horseback Ride (2 hours, min. 6 people): CLP$26.000
Guided Hiking (2 hours, min. 6 people): CLP$20.000
Biking (2 hours, min. 10 people, bike included): CLP$42.000
Snowshoe Tour (1 hr., availability subject to snow conditions): CLP$20.000
Get the Most out of Your Tour: Tips and Things to Keep in Mind
You will be 2,500 meters (7,500 ft.) high. If you’re used to being at sea level, take it slow and drink plenty of water.
What to Wear and Bring
Despite Santiago’s hot weather in the summer, it will be chilly but sunny in Valle Nevado. Be sure to take a light sweater or wear pants. Additionally the sun can be quite strong at higher altitudes so bring plenty of sunscreen and your sunglasses.
If you are susceptible to motion sickness take something about an hour before the trip leaves, the roads all the way to Valle Nevado are full of twists and turns so make sure you have an enjoyable drive!
Don’t forget your camera, you won’t want to miss taking pictures on your tour.
You will have about 2.5 hours at Valle Nevado to take the ski lift to the lagoon, walk around or have lunch (snacks and drinks are not included in the tour). If you plan on walking around or going for a short hike on your own, take the appropriate shoes – the mountain terrain is sandy with small pebbles, so try not to slip!
Plan to have lunch at Valle Nevado or take a snack since you will be there until 1:00 PM and won’t get back to the city until 2:30 PM. The main restaurant will be open where you can sit on their terrace enjoying the view of the Andes along with your meal. A typical drink to have there is their hot chocolate with cognac (CLP$5.100).
If you’re travelling on a budget, you can bring a packed lunch to have a picnic on the mountain; the area for bird watching is a perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely lunch and you might catch some condors flying overhead.
Depending on where you lodge, Turistik may pick you up from your hotel. If not, you can easily get to Parque Arauco Mall, their last pick-up stop, on public transportation using the metro, bus or taxi.
If you book the morning English tour and need to take public transportation (including taxis), keep in mind that you’ll be commuting during rush hour, so leave 15-20 min. of wiggle room to get to the mall. You will meet at the corner of Presidente Kennedy and Rosario Norte, in the parking lot in front of the department store Falabella. No need to check in at the Touristik booth at the mall, you can check in and pay at their meeting point in the parking lot.
Basic Information: The Andes Panoramic Tour with Turistik
October – April
**They also offer a full day version of this tour during the winter so you can enjoy the winter sports and activities like skiing.
9:00 AM – 2:30 PM (English/Spanish) and 2:30 PM – 8:00 PM (Spanish/Portuguese)
Visit turistik.com or call (+56) 2 2820 1000, they have English speaking phone operators.
Map: Meeting Point at Parque Arauco Mall and Route to Valle Nevado
Other Popular Tours by Turistik
Hop on and off as many times as you like along the circuit between 9:30 AM & 6:00PM
Hop on – Hop Off
This story was accurate when published. Please be sure to confirm all details directly with the sites in question before planning your trip.
Please note: Although I attended the tour free of charge, this post contains my unbiased thoughts and opinions of my experience.