Vira Natura

Northern Chile - Atacama to Alstroemeria

3-18 November 2022
From $6,000.00 per person

Crazy cacti, flamboyant calceolarias and outrageous alstroemerias, all set amidst pastel coloured deserts and the incredible colours of the high Andes and its stunning high latitude salt lakes. Chile's northern lands are a fabulous treasure trove of extraordinary plants. 



Day I     To Santiago and Calama

On arrival in Calama we’ll transfer to San Pedro de Atacama

Day II    Los Flamencos

We’ll tour the various parts of the Parque Nacional Los Flamencos, not only for the spectacular landscapes and abundant flamingos, but also for populations of the towering and statuesque Echinopsis atacamensis. Overnight San Pedro de Atacama

Day III   To Antofagasta

More time will be spent exploring the highlands and salt lakes before travelling back down to Antofagasta for the night.

Day IV   Paposo

The cacti rich coastal mountains of Paposo harbour some superb cacti including Copiapoa hasseltoniana and C. solaris. If there has been spring rain then expect a colourful landscape. 

Day V    La Chimba and to Copiapo

The morning will be spent in the local La Chimba reserve and then we’ll head south to Copiapo to meet with the rest of the group. Overnight Copiapo.

Main Tour: 

Day 1    To Santiago and Copiapo

On arrival in Santiago we connect with a domestic flight to Copiapo.

Day 2    Pan de Azucar

The barren desert coast hugs the Pacific Ocean and the frequent fogs which sweep in nurture a surprising array of plants. There are superb populations of Copiapoa cinerascens and C. cinerea subsp. alba at Pan de Azucar and if we search carefully the pale yellow flowers of Eriosyce oederi may be poking out of the sand, the plants themselves almost growing underground. Overnight Copiapo.

Day 3    Laguna Santa Rosa

Inland the Andes quickly rise and the high valleys of the Atacama are both spectacular and surprisingly rich. Creamy spikes of Malesherbia lanceolata burst from bare slopes, domes of Cruckshanksia hymenodon pepper the rocks with yellow Argylia checoensis and on the screes are the delightful woolly rosettes of Chaetanthera lanata beset with white stars. Higher still around the stunning Laguna Santa Rosa are mats of golden Calceolaria pinifolia. Expect amazing landscapes all day long. Overnight Copiapo.

Day 4    Llanos de Challe

Even more impressive cacti displays await at Llanos de Challe with incredible multiheaded domes of Copiapoa dealbata. The sands are also coloured with bright yellow Rhodophiala bagnoldii, mats of Frankenia chilensis and the tall showy Cistanthe grandiflora. Roadside flowers include bushes of powder blue Nolana rostrata and showy Cistanthe longiscapa. If there has been rain this area has some of the best desert displays in the Atacama.

Day 5    Vallenar & Huasco

The dunes near Huasco are home to the slender and lovely Alstroemeria werdermanniana alongside neat domes of golden Cruckshanksia monttiana. And inland rocky slopes have its cousin A. schizanthoides growing with the soft pink of Centaurea floccosa. Overnight Vallenar.

Day 6    Chungungo Pass

The dry hinterland south of Vallenar has stands of Miquelopuntia miquelii, pretty Alstroemeria diluta and hidden in rock sheets is the diminutive Eriosyce heinrichiana. The fog shrouded Chungungo Pass has lichen encrusted Eulychnia breviflora on the beautiful Alstroemeria magnifica and its smaller relative A. crispata. Overnight Pisco Elqui.

Day 7     Paso Laguna Negra

One of the best flower valleys in the north beckons. A spectacular and colourful valley leads past a succession of exciting new plants including Calceolaria flavovirens, lovely Malesherbia liranaMenonvillea cuneataArgylia potentillifolia and as we gain height and enter the vividly coloured Valle Colorado, screes have Oreopolus macrantha and the beautiful rosettes of Chaetanthera flabellifolia. Overnight Pisco Elqui.

Day 8     Hurtado

Rocky hills separate us from the coast and we traverse them to see Alstroemeria leporinaMalesherbia linearifolia and some magnificent gold-spined barrels of Eriosyce aurata. Overnight Socos.

Day 9     Fray Jorge

This remarkable national park protects a fragment of laurel forest that survives because of the frequent coastal fogs. It is more typical of forest far to the south and hints at former wetter times. On the forest edge are Alstroemeria magnifica and Calceolaria georgina, whilst surrounding areas have plenty of Alstroemeria diluta and some fine Eriosyce aurata barrels. Overnight Socos.

Day 10   Cuesta El Espino




Day 11   Mina Talca & Pichidangui


Huge spiny plants of Puya chilensis dominate the coastal matorral and if the year is right we may see some spectacular yellow-green flower spikes. Around the puyas grow more Alstroemeria magnifica, Leucocoryne purpurea and Chloraea bletioides, whilst a remarkable population of coastal Echinopsis chiloensis subsp skottsbergiana are smothered in orange lichen. Moving south we reach another rich area with the sumptuously coloured Puya venusta, a localised endemic. The best comes last with the stunning pink Alstroemeria peregrine, thriving along the rocky coast with superb stands of Cistanthe grandiflora. Overnight Limache.


Day 12   La Campana

An important reserve for biodiversity in the region, it contains some of the few remaining stands of endemic Jubaea chilensis, the world’s largest palm. Growing among the stands are Alstroemeria ligtu var simsii, A. pulchra and Schizanthus tricolor. The surrounding hills have a rich array of plants including Mutisia latifolia, pretty Calceolaria purpurea, red Rhodophiala phycelloides, Eccremocarpus scaber and Alstroemeria angustiolia. Overnight Limache.


Day 13   Portillo


The high Andes are just getting going and the drive towards the heights passes big drifts of Alstroemeria angustifolia. Hidden slopes are coloured with Calceolaria corymbosa subsp mimuloides, Olsynium junceum and scarlet Tropaeolum tricolor. The latters cousin T. polyphyllum may have started blooming too. Afterwards we descend and drive on past Santiago to the pleasant Maipo Valley. Overnight San Alfonso.


Day 14   Rio Clarillo




Day 15   Departure flights



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