Overall, the trip was exceptional and the travel company was very good.Working initially with my agent via email, we arranged a custom-made, month-long itinerary including roughly 10 days in Argentina, 10 days in Chile and then 5 days on Easter Island. The travel company impressed me throughout the process by offering various options appealing to our travel interests, including some experiences that other companies didn’t think of.Any trip of this size is bound to have some hiccups along the way. Most items were handled very well by this company, especially once we had their local operator, working on our behalf. There were some areas though where I thought the service could be improved:- The flight from Punta Arenas could not connect with the one to Calama. They are two different airlines, so we had to retrieve our bags from Sky Airlines in Santiago, exit the airport entirely, and then come back in through baggage check, security, etc. to connect to the next flight on Latam. Granted, this is a truly ridiculous system and entirely the fault of the Santiago airport. However, it is the responsibility of the Agency to know that going from Sky to Latam in Santiago will result in such a problem. The travel company should have noticed this in the booking (they arranged all the local flights) and chosen 2 Latam flights instead. Such flights did exist, as there were other tourists doing exactly the same route as us going Latam to Latam with no problem.- I was very clear with my agent when arranging the itinerary that I would be fine with small group tours, but I definitely did not want giant bus tours. Our day trip to Valparaiso was a giant bus, completely full. We did not follow the itinerary for some reason, and it was the weakest experience of the trip. I know that small tours of 4-8 people existed because we saw them, right alongside us! The local tour company was also terrible. They picked us up from our hotel, drove around for 30 minutes through Santiago in rush hour, only to return to our own hotel and pick up another couple! What a huge waste of time! Then our small van brought us to a centralized point where we all offloaded and stood in a parking lot for another 30 minutes in total chaos. Nobody was clear on what we were to do or where we should go. Other passengers were also confused. 3-4 buses sat there empty for the whole time period while the guides sorted it all out. No signs, no clear direction. Eventually, I began going bus-by-bus, going into each vehicle, and asking where it was going. Eventually I figured it out with zero help from any of the guides or drivers. By then, we were the last to board, and were actually made fun of by the guide! Unbelievable! We didn’t mention this one until now because once we realised it was a giant bus tour, it was already too late. There is nothing this company could have done to change it, so we made the best of our day. It simply should not have been booked to start.The local tour company and our travel company were helpful in working with our hotel to fix the incorrect charge for the “astronomy excursion”. They also helped us smooth out small problems in a few places throughout the trip, such as when the driver dropped us at the wrong hotel in Santiago, and small things like that.
The most enjoyable parts of the trip were many. I had high expectations for hiking on the glacier in El Calafate and for the penguin rookery in Ushuaia. Both days delivered and are now two of my fondest memories of the tripe. In both cases, the guides were excellent and I was extremely pleased to see the respect for nature from the government, the parks, the guides and their companies. They really take pride in their country and their work, and set a great standard for the rest of the world in ecotourism. These are great decisions taken by the travel company to offer us such excursions.Rapa Nui is the most memorable location overall, where every day was a new adventure. The entire stellar staff at the hotel are all to be commended. Some of the best meals of the trip were in this hotel. Some of the greatest adventures on this island. I never got tired of visiting Moai and other archeological sites, or simply marveling at the natural beauty of this island.Patagonia is the other most memorable location, and in particular, the Patagonia hotel. I wasn’t feeling well during those few days and still had a wonderful time. Again, some of the best food and drink of the vacation were had at this hotel. Their personal touch was really nice, from the Manager greeting us personally, and then showing up several times per day, asking us by name if we needed anything. He even arranged for the bartender to make me a medicinal drink to help my cold. Their guides were also world-class, and seemed to take pride in their country, the animals and the landscape. The little touches like offering beer, snacks and hot chocolate while out on the hikes was really cool. The hotel’s Tour Scheduling Agent was particularly skilled at her job, ensuring each guest has the right adventures for their skill level and expectations. She helped us book several excursions together and some separately since I needed to sleep for 2 mornings. Each day she would reconfirm that I was healthy enough to participate and offer to switch things around if I should feel better or worse. I definitely felt cared for by all the staff there.
The main thing I would change is the tour to Valparaiso. I would still want to go, just in a smaller group. The only other aspect which comes to mind is our own responsibility: We should have made decisions sooner so that our first choices in hotels were still available. All the hotels that this travel company chose for use were excellent (some even the best we’ve seen in the world), except for one brand. The one in San Pedro in particular was really weak, and even the one in Santiago had problems (although it was much better than San Pedro). We still enjoyed ourselves at these properties though, so this item is relatively minor and doesn’t change our positive opinion of the whole trip overall.
TRAVEL COMPANY COMMENTS
We are really happy to hear that you loved the hotels we chose for your trip, especially Patagonia hotel and also that you had an amazing time in Isla de Pascua.
We are really sorry about the experience you had in the Atacama hotel and if the Valparaiso tour didn't fulfill your expectations. It was an error from our side to book it in regular since normally we do this tour in private service. According to the flight connection to get to Calama, there were not flight connection with the same airline that's why we made a two airlines flight connection.
We will be glad to help you plan your next unforgettable trip to South America.
All the best from Buenos Aires
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