Dear Deal Detective:
Can you suggest any packages that include the explora Lodge in Patagonia or any agency that might book a lot in that part of the world?
Yours was one of several questions I've received recently about travel to South America. Another reader going by the name lovetotravel wrote, "We would like to visit Chile and Peru. We can go for two weeks this summer. When is it the cheapest time to travel and how can we get both in? Also are there other places in South America that you would suggest we go?" I'll use these two questions as a starting point and offer suggestions for the rest of you bargain hunters out there as well.On the topic of when to go, our North American summer is actually a very affordable time to visit South America because it corresponds with the southern hemisphere's winter season. On my last "summer" visit to Chile's Atacama region, I ended up buying a handmade (and very stylish, I might add) alpaca sweater just to keep warm. Of course, I'd saved a fortune by traveling off-peak in the first place, so I didn't mind laying down a few pesos for an extra layer of warmth. Long story made short: Whenever you're looking to save in South America, look to the months of June, July, and August. For shoulder season deals, try May and September.
Susan asked about the explora lodge in Patagonia. Explora operates three remotely located eco-friendly lodges—one each in Patagonia, Chile's Atacama desert, and a newly opened one on Easter Island that was recently featured in our Green Travel Special Report. The explora philosophy puts equal weight on exploration and elegance. I've visited both the Atacama and Easter Island properties and seen them firsthand, but unfortunately I haven't yet had the opportunity to stay in Patagonia. The clientele for these lodges is generally an upscale one, so you're not likely to find a "deal" by the usual budget-travel standards. That said, there are ways to save—and save big.
Right now, explora is offering a "Honeymoon in the Remote" package valid for travel through September 30. The deal: Five nights for the price of four, two 30-minute massages, and a chilled bottle of Champagne, in addition to always-included elements such as airport transfers, daily excursions, bilingual guides, all meals, and the all-important open bar. (Though billed as a honeymoon package, I've confirmed with explora that it's available to any two people traveling together.) Prices start at $4,340 for two people, and the offer is valid at all three explora locations. By my calculations, this package could save a couple staying together on Easter Island about $1,500 off the normal price of a five-night stay. To book, call 1-866-750-6699 from the U.S., or go to explora.com.
Suppose the explora price tag is too high for you, though. For a more budget-friendly option, consider one of LANVacations' offerings. For example, the Santiago and Patagonia package includes round-trip airfare to all destinations on the itinerary, airport transfers, hotel accommodations in Santiago, Puerto Natales, and Torres del Paine national park, some meals, and some tours. If you book by May 8, an early June trip would go for as little as $3,019 per person. (Don't worry, prices usually stay the same even after the "deadline" expires.) This is a steal when you factor in the cost of booking all of these elements, especially the airfare, separately. It's also worth mentioning that while the highlight of this vacation is clearly the time in Patagonia, Santiago de Chile is a wonderfully vibrant and cosmopolitan capital city in and of itself. It's one of my personal favorites in all of South America.
If you're looking for something more active, take a look at Adventure Center's current crop of special offers. The one that jumps out at me is the nine-day Bolivian Adventure departing at the end of the month. You can save 20 percent off the original $675 price, bringing the base cost down to just $540.
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