Vira Natura

Chile - Shadow of the Condor - Andes Alpines for NTC Japan

6-14 January 2025
From $1.00 per person

The magnificent Andes rise steeply from capital Santiago, soon reaching slopes rich in alpines and spectacular summer bulbs. This richness continue farther south with more fine passes and superb mountains. The colour is concentrated in these cooler uplands at this season and this tour takes us up to be among some dazzling and vibrant wild gardens. An active trip it is designed for those that love to combine flowers, mountains and walking.

A 9-day tour of the Andes with Chris Gardner

A tour exclusively for NTC Japan. Please book through them.


Day 1      Arrival in Santiago (6 January)

Upon our morning arrival at Santiago International Airport (SCL) we will transfer to our hotel in Guayacan, check in and then drive up to Lagunillas for the afternoon where stony slopes coloured with big sprawling mats of ochre to plum-purple Argylia adscendens, Perezia carthamoides, stands of Schizanthus hookeri and ever-increasing numbers of rich pink Rhodophiala rhodolirion and variable Alstroemeria pallida. Ridgetop screes have reddish Pachylaenia atriplicifolia, Cistanthe picta and pretty Cruckshanksia hymenodon (pink form). Overnight Guayacan. 

Day 2     Altos de Lircay

After breakfast we'll drive south to our next hotel, nestled in the forested foothills of Volcan Descabezado. In the afternoon we’ll take a walk into the Altos de Lircay national park to see the abundant pink Alstroemeria presliana and scarlet Rhodophiala splendens. Bushes of Fuchsia magellanica arc gracefully over streams laden with pendant flowers and the climbing stems of Mutisia decurrens hang with big tangerine flowers. Overnight Vilches Alto.

Day 3     Laguna de Maule

An excellent plant area inland from Vilches Alto, we’ll drive up to the pass to the stunning blue lake that is surrounded by dramatic volcanic landscapes. The many streams are lined with dazzling displays of coppery-orange Mimulus cupreus and Calceolaria filicaulis in a fiery duet. Open slopes have more subtle pink Oxalis adenophylla, and tufts of scarlet Loasa lateritia one of the loveliest alpines to be seen at this season. Elsewhere are cascades of Tropaeolum incisum, sulphurous Euphrasia andicola and much more the bristly snaking stems of Nassauvia. And everything with the irresistible backdrop of the lake. Parts of the surrounding landscape are equally dramatic with contorted and eroded ash towers; impressive lava flows of densely packed hexagonal columns. Overnight Vilches Alto. 

Day 4    To Tolhuaca

The drive onto Curacautin will take us south to the more humid forests of the Chilean lake district. We’ll spend the afternoon along one of the trails at Tolhuaca, where a we see Tropaeolum speciosum and plentiful Mitraria coccinea leads to a spectacular waterfall lookout. Tolhuaca was Chile's first national park and is a superb area of Araucaria and Nothofagus forests with a rich shrub and bamboo understorey with stately Blechnum magellanicum. We’ll hopefully find the white-flowered orchid Chloraea longipetala and Mutisia araucana too. Overnight Curacautin.  

Day 5     Las Nalcas

A truly spectacular volcanic landscape that is home to one of the holy grails of Andean alpines; Chaetanthera villosa. But before we reach here we will wander among some magnificent Araucaria araucana forests, including a venerable thousand-year-old specimen. With luck there will still be some Chloraea magellanica in flower too. The slopes of Volcan Lonquimay rise up beyond it is in these seemingly lifeless tracts that we will find pretty Loasa nana, Oxalis adenophylla and of course the incomparable Chaetanthera villosa. After lunch on a lava flow, we'll drive through other impressive areas of monkey puzzles before continuing north to overnight at Antucalhue. 

Day 6     Laguna de Laja

More sensational flower displays carpet parts of Volcan Antuco's austere black ash slopes. Greener slopes are illuminated with stands of golden Alstroemeria aurea and where humus has accumulated are natural gardens of pink Mutisia oligodon in tumbling masses mixed with orange-yellow Quinchimalium chilense. The landscapes are wild and spectacular from the blue Laguna de Laja to the rugged, multicoloured volcanic slopes and glacier clad peaks. a hidden waterfall has Rhodophiala araucana and is the perfect place for a picnic. Nearby shrubberies have plentiful Alstroemeria presliana, A. aurea and Mutisia decurrens. In the shade of lava flows the cliffs are peppered with beautiful mats of Ourisia microphylla. Overnight Antucalhue. 

Day 7     To Farellones (near Santiago)

A transfer day that takes us to the mountains above the capital. Alstroemeria revoluta will be flowering on the lower slopes as we climb to our hotel at 2500 metres, where we'll arrive in time to explore some of the ski slopes around Valle Nevado for Alstroemeria umbellata. Our hotel is beautifully positioned above the hills. Overnight Farellones. 

Day 8     La Parva

We will spend the day walking into the slopes where various ski roads take us fairly easily uphill to where there are lots of Rhodophiala rhodolirion (white form), Loasa sigmoidea, Viola philippii, Perezia carthamoides, trailing stems of golden Tropaeolum polyphyllum and spectacular displays of Cajophora coronata each massive plants sporting many inflated white flowers. Another of the classic and outrageous summer alpine plants. We might ultimately reach nearly 3600 metres where we'll find some fascinating high-altitude species such as Nototriche compacta, Loasa caespitosa, Viola atropurpurea, Nastanthus agglomeratus, Tropaeolum nubigena and the remarkable Nassauvia pinigera. Overnight Farellones. 

Day 9    To Santiago for flights (14 January)

The airport is only an hour and half away for our return flights.


6-14 January 2024 (in Chile)


As per NTC website.


  • Accommodation
  • All food
  • Ground transport
  • Guide services
Not included:
  • International Flights
  • Visas if needed
  • Travel/Medical Insurance
  • Alcoholic and soft drinks
  • Personal expenses


*Minimum number of participants 4, maximum 10.  






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