"We were undoubtedly very privileged citizens of the world for two weeks!"

Johan V.

Photo trip through Patagonia

Johan V. heeft met een gezelschap van veertien personen een fotoreis door Patagonïe gemaakt. De reis startte in Santiago, vervolgens gingen ze naar San Pedro de Altacama, Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, El Calafate en Ushuaia.


After a long and smooth flight to Santiago de Chile

is our base to the Atacama desert hotel Alto Atacama

in San Pedro de Atacama.

An excellent choice from our tour operator Untamed Travelling, as this hotel is beautifully integrated into the rocky surroundings and located in a cul-de-sac just outside the town, so very quiet and without any noise. Moreover, the kitchen (à la carte, twice a day!) is very well-groomed and very tasty. More important, however, is the fact that it is located on the edge of the Atacama Desert. Already the first evening we can enjoy a magical sunset after a short car ride in which the color of valleys and mountains changes by the minute to golden yellow, pink, red, purple, turquoise, brown and ochre shades.

The first day we opt for an excursion from one snowy volcanic summit to another. Suddenly we arrive in a sandy valley with whimsical scattered very peculiar and towering rock formations, the Pacana Monks. It is scorching hot and also the height (4,750 m) everyone plays a part. However, the vast majority of the 14-strong group enjoys the neatly prepared ice-cooled and very tasty lunch in the afternoon with avocados, smoked salmon, lots of vegetables and a nice cool wine or beer in the shade of a huge boulder, which used to be 'spewed out' during a huge volcanic eruption.

The following afternoon we drive on, often many kilometers 'off road' on gravel without road markings until we get to another valley of up to 20 km in diameter, where between snow-capped volcanic peaks lies a beautiful salt valley with a central deep blue water feature in which many flamingos feast on myriad tiny crustaceans. A little further we can also photograph some other wildlife, such as a nursing vicuña, crested ducks, forest riders and Andean geese.

Deposits of sulphur sediments have formed some mineral towers over the millennia from which the hot sulphur fumes rise, providing some 'flou artistique'

The next morning, part of the group decides to get up at 5:00 a.m. for a trip to' El Tatio', at an altitude of 4,300 meters. It is a curious natural phenomenon; all over the valley, smoking sulphur fumes rise from the ground over a distance of up to a few kilometres. Deposits of sulphur sediments have formed a few mineral towers over the millennia from which the hot sulphur fumes rise, providing some 'flou artistique'. We also witness the regular high-water spraying of some geysers. Further on we visit a small church in a small village, where there is an atmosphere of devotion to Mary and the local saints. A little further we can take a walk along a marshland where giant meerkotes, black sierragor, Andesgans and punataling are captured on the sensitive plate.
In the afternoon we take a shuttle taxi to the town of San Pedro de Atacama where we stroll between colourful tourist offices, on the picturesque village square, in ditto church and in the local covered market. You can get almost anything (e.g. an alpaca wool scarf costs 16 US dollars and a very practical sun-resistant cap you buy for 6 US dollars) to even a bag of coca leaves available for 'a prick'.
That evening we still enjoy the many phenomenal landscapes such as the imposing volcanoes and the beautiful sunset in Death Valley. A blind sheep herder with her brood makes for some couleur locale when we return tired but very satisfied to our hotel, where we still enjoy many a beer and'pisco saur'.
We make a very nice trip to the Valle de la Luna where in the searing sun we take beautiful walks on high volcanic dune ridges with numerous breathtaking lunar landscape images, unreal beautiful clair-obscur images of rocky valleys between volcanoes dotted with jagged salt yolks, and with sometimes views of deeply notched rocks.


A domestic flight takes us to Santiago de Chile where we sleep in hotel The Singular,right in the middle of the city. After a nice breakfast at this somewhat corny-looking Victorian-looking hotel, we explore - on foot- the city centre. We visit some churches that are showered with signs of deep popular devotion, with sometimes people crawling to their knees, on their way to and out thanks for 'their' sacred ... There appear to be two types of confessionals; the 'ordinary', of the ordinary priests and a 'silver', of the Dean of the Church.


At Punta Arenas we stay at the quiet neat hotel Cabo de Hornos. After breakfast we leave for a full-day excursion to some islands including the Marta and Magdalena islands where we can disembark for a visit to the magellanic penguin colony. We can photograph both the bigua cormorant and red-footed cormorants, the grey-headed gull, as well as the giant stormbird on the open sea and many large hunters hunting above Penguin Island, as well as many South American fish thieves (above the sea). After this unforgettable experience we eat at La Luna in Punta Arenas.
We make a 12 km long trip through the Forest National Parkon foot. In the forest we enjoy long wisps of ornate wire mosses on the tree branches that sometimes mimic whimsical and sometimes menacing figures, in our imagination a bit like in our western gnome forests. Mushrooms shoot out of the ground everywhere, sometimes in real covens. Two Chamanca falcons are approached by photographers in the somewhat dark forest.


The journey continues to Puerto Natales,where we will spend three nights in the other exclusive and beautiful The Singular,which is situated on glacier water with a view of imposing volcanoes behind which the sun sets. The first sight of this "best hotel in South America", with a corrugated iron roof on an old mutton processing plant, does not in any way suggest what we will find inside in terms of comfort, with beautifully renovated oak trusses, neatly polished and magically lit old factory machines (of English manufacture), with a very attentive and particularly friendly staff, with an incredibly tasty kitchen (very tasty king crab stew , fresh king crab, cold dish dishes and Guanaco steak).

What makes this hotel so unique is undoubtedly its very wide range of sensationally beautiful excursions, for example to the Torres del Paine N.P.,a spectacular nature reserve! The huge nature reserve is dotted with pointy – sometimes more than 3,000 meters high – mountain peaks, with huge amphitheatre volcanoes between which lie deep valleys with many glacial lakes. The viewpoints show breathtaking views time and time again.

We picnic in the full afternoon sun at a camp site after first being able to photograph a circular armadillo, as well as some bird species such as the fire-eyed yucon, red collar gors, spiky head troop and the Chilean smient.

Early in the morning we leave by speedboat to a beautiful glacier, which flows into a photogenic glacial lake full of crumbled ice blocks. The last part of this glacier tour we have to do on foot over a narrow but very picturesque mountain path. An unforgettable trip... On the way back we still enjoy an adult condor who found his nesting spot somewhere halfway up a perpendicular fjord wall - at least 80 meters above the water level. And from a whisky-on-the-rocks on the boat, where the special thing about this experience is not so much the whisky but the rocks in the whisky. Indeed, the ice blocks in our glass of whisky have been extracted from the glacial ice, which apparently melts much slower than ordinary ice because glacial ice has a much denser structure due to compression by the many tons of ice masses on top.

We make a beautiful but difficult walking tour with a 450 meter high climb, to the top of a condor hill. Here the condors use the thermals to take off. We look some patchy and short but fortunately one can 'beanie' in flight. Halfway through this walk we can capture some other birds on the memory map such as the rayadito and a Chile eagle as well as a swarm of Magellanic Parakeets. At sunset, a very fairytale image of radiair falling rays of the sun unfolds at the top of the condor hill, falling on to some gleaming and brightly glowing glacial lakes.

The roads are sometimes gravel roads. The landscape is very desolate. There are no people living there, tens of kilometres away from nowhere... Fortunately, the necessary stamps at the two customs posts do not take too much time, about as much as the time that photographers take to 'hat' a photogenic and benevolent fox and a few nandoes. We arrive in El Calafate, in the - on an idyllically beautiful lake- Xelena hotel. The lake apparently attracts many waterfowl, such as some Chilean flamingos, many black-necked swans, some quacks, beautiful futen with chestnut red necks, Chilean talingen and crested ducks. A little further on the edge of the built-up area of El Calafate is a beautiful lagoon, Laguna Nimez, a small nature reserve where the beautiful pink flamingos attract attention.

From the Xelena hotel we travel by private bus to the nature reserve that is created around the mighty Perito Moreno glacier. From miles away, between the trees adorned with beautiful yellow, brown and green autumn colours on the mountain flanks, the huge ice mass of the glacier can be seen; it is about 30 kilometres long, two to three kilometres wide and the ice wall on the water edge is 80 metres high. Two metres of fast ice-laden clouds from the ocean that descend on the high mountain flanks every day also crumble two metres each day in the glacial lake. Today, the glacier bathes in the scorching sun, which regularly cracks the ice mass, more than on dark rainy days. Sometimes the crackle turns into a deafening thunder at the moment when an ice piece (sometimes as high as a skyscraper) suddenly crumbles and then pops down into the ice water causing a 'mini tsunami'. Spectacular to hear and see!


Our hotel Los Cauquenes is located somewhat on the outskirts of the city of Ushuaia, in a neater neighbourhood, right along the water of the Beagle Canal. Many rooms have a view of the water and the beautiful rising sun behind the mountains, which colour both the sky and the water surface deep red for half an hour in the morning (around 7 am). But beauty is fleeting. Photographers have to be there early.

In leisure time, some enjoy the spa (or better yet a margarita in the glass or in a bath), others prefer a walking tour in the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Our helpful guide quickly manages to hire a few taxis to take us there. We enjoy very beautiful landscapes on the water's edge with colourful hills and picturesque forests with frizzy tree stumps and idyllic mountain lakes above which grey eagle buzzers show their mating dance, while beavers sit in their underwater castles waiting to emerge...


A limited group of nature and hiking enthusiasts of our company decides to take a taxi to the Glacier Martial on the outskirts of Ushuaia. We climb picturesque ridges up to a mirador del ciudad. Some go even higher, right through moranes. Unexpectedly, a loud thunder ensues in that mountain side along with a cloud of moraines dust and gravel, not far from our highest climbers... Fortunately, they can still recount all this ...

By speedboat we leave - accompanied by a group of playing sea lions - to the private penguin island where we are fortunate to land in very little wind, in the middle of a mass of cormorants, seagulls and terns. Amazingly beautiful! Two species of penguins other than the previously seen humboldt penguin, breed there; the magellanic penguin (with black beak) and the donkey penguin (with red beak). Like the puffins in Scotland and Iceland, these penguins also breed in subterranean burrows that they excavate themselves in the soft ground. We enjoy the enthusiastic 'declarations of love' of the men to the women (penguins) after which, when the 'click' between them, the 'migratory basin' and 'fleas' of each other's heads are quickly passed... The foreplay of what's to come (and sometimes came).

Once off the boat we are gassed for coffee or tea in a local café and we get a very interesting tour in the neatly set up local museum of skeletons, of dolphins, whales, sea lions, leopard seals etcetera.


An unforgettable journey, not only through the top hotels with very good food and drink but above all through the unforgettable landscapes where we sometimes imagined ourselves on another planet as well as by the unique wildlife!

The whole of the experience was given an extra dimension by the particularly pleasant company. We were undoubtedly very privileged citizens of the world for two weeks!