Most Inspirational Moment
It is impossible to choose a single highlight as there were so many. The colourful houses and street art of Valparaiso; the Atacama desert with its rock formations, lagoons, wildlife and the most amazing night sky; the boat trip on Lago Todos los Santos, gazing up at the snow-topped Orsorno volcano; the breathtakingly beautiful Torres del Paine and Last Hope Sound; watching the mesmerising waves of the Pacific Ocean break on the rocky shores around Rapa Nui and visits to places such as Rano Kau and Ahu Tongariki.
Thoughts on Group Leader
Nacho was calm, caring and a real gentleman. He enjoyed telling us tales of his life as a flight attendant and introducing us, with a mix of enthusiasm and humour, to his wonderful country. He always had a variety of restaurant suggestions for dinner to cater for people's different preferences. I was the only one in the group who had chosen the Easter Island extension. Nacho took me to the airport for the flight, met me upon my return a few days later and took me back again the next day for the journey home to the UK. He waited while I checked in and then, deciding that the queue to go through customs was too long, took me to another part of the airport where the queue was much shorter.
Advice for Potential Travellers
I took advice from a previous review and took Chilean pesos with me (which meant I could gauge exchange rates and determine when to purchase them). As a result I managed with cash throughout the trip but others in the group used their credit or debit cards without difficulty in most places. Chile is notably expensive. Just one main course and some water for dinner could cost £12-£15 and, in Easter Island, it was even pricier (for example, a fish and rice dish with a natural fruit juice in a café away from the harbour cost over £25). This was a more sedate trip than I had anticipated so don't choose it if you prefer or expect some proper walks or long hikes. It is a busy schedule with some long days. There isn't much time to do handwashing and get clothes dry before heading off to the next location so you may wish to factor that into your packing. The hotel in San Pedro also has notices in the rooms asking people not to wash clothes. I ended up wishing I'd packed more long-sleeved shirts as I found myself wearing them for sun protection in the desert as well as protection against both the sun and dengue fever-carrying mosquitoes in Easter Island. If you like a bath, bring a universal bath plug as many of the hotels don't provide one.
I investigated several companies who offered pretty much identical trips. I particularly liked the fact that Exodus included most of the activities (eg the visit to Valparaiso) in the upfront price, avoiding the need to budget for additional expenditure/take extra cash. Many in the group would have preferred to have saved time by having lunch in Valparaiso rather than Vina del Mar and therefore been able to include a trip to a winery on the journey back to Santiago. While I enjoyed the stay in Puerto Varas, I'd happily dispense with the walk in the Orsorno lava fields and the few hours in Puerto Montt seemed to be just a filler while we waited for the flight to Punta Arenas. I'd also have loved more time and a chance to do some walks (e.g. for 1-2 hours) while in Torres del Paine. I had visited the area previously on a similar tour several years before and know that there are some walks that could have been worked into the itinerary without turning it into a different type of trip. I appreciate that the main 'Discover Chile' itinerary has been designed to be accomplished in 2 weeks. However, for somewhere like Chile with the sheer distances involved, it would have been lovely if it could have been extended by a further few days, giving more time in Torres and perhaps including a boat trip amongst the fjords.