(Billings, MT, Aug. 24, 2011) "“ Award-winning tour operator Austin-Lehman Adventures, the active travel company settingÂ adventure vacation standards in The Americas, Europe, Africa and beyond, announces three new itineraries for 2012 embracing the diversity, culture, cuisine and natural wonders of both sides of the Andes in Argentina, Chile and south to Patagonia.
Wine aficionados will appreciateÂ Argentina & Chile – Wine Country, a 9-day multi-sport (trekking, horseback riding, cycling) program at $5,098 per person, double, that begins in Mendoza and ends in Santiago. The 2012 tour dates are Feb. 13-21, Mar. 5-13 and Dec.24-Jan. 1.
This itinerary encompasses the Uco Valley of Argentina and MendozaÂ´s wine regions (Malbecs and TorrontÃ©s) in a dry desert at the foothills of the Andes as well as Chile's vines (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Carmenere) that grow in theColchaguaÂ Valley, a lusher colonial-flavored landscape near the Pacific. The scenic drive across the Andes takes guests along the base of Mt. Aconcagua (22,841 foot elevation), theÂ highest peak of the Americas and anywhere outside of the Himalayas.
Dan Austin, ALA's founder and owner said that the enjoyment of these trips is enhanced by "engaging guests on bike, horseback and on foot in the living cultural experiences available in these two extraordinary countries."
"We completely avoid the "factory" winery tour," says Austin. "At one winery we will blend our own wine; at another there's a superb culinary experience." One stop is for a five-course lunch planned around Argentina wines at Chef Lucas Bustos' restaurant at Rica Malen Winery. Another is an overnight stop at a Colchagua Valley (Chile) vineyard.
"Our choices for lodging are boutique hotels at the vineyards, haciendas and estancias (authentic working cattle ranches) that become true highlights of the trip," he says.
Two other new trips for 2012 that span both Argentina and Chile:
Argentina & Chile – PatagoniaÂ is a 10-day, moderately paced mountaineering adventure with hiking trips and horseback tours priced at $5,498 per person, double, that begins and ends in El Calafate (South Patagonia) for transfers to Buenos Aires and covers much of the territory of Bruce Chatwin'sÂ In Patagonia. The 2011-2012 tour dates are Dec. 19-28, Feb. 20-29, Mar. 12-21 and Dec. 31-Jan. 9.
Highlights include (in Argentina) trekking to the bestÂ views of the Southern Face of CerroÂ Torre,Â its lake and hanging glaciers, and theÂ Egger and Standhard spires plus views of the Fitz Roy massif, Mt. Saint Exupery, and Poincenot peaks. There's also a glaciologist-led ice hike over the Perito Moreno Glacier to observe its surreal formations of ice peaks and blue crevasses.
Crossing into Chile participants take in Torres del Paine National Park including Lago Grey Beach for iceberg viewing, Grey Glacier (a 3.75-mile-wide wall of ice), and Lago Pehoe where Andean Condors are regularly seen soaring above.
A third new tour isÂ Argentina & Chile "“ Salta to AtacamaÂ a 10-day cycling, horseback and hiking adventure priced at $5,298 per person, double, that begins in the northwest Argentine city of Salta and ends at the Atacama town of Calama with air transfers to Santiago, Chile. The 2012 departures are offered year-round.
Highlights include cycling Los Cardones National Park, wine tasting at local bodegas, museum visits, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Humahuaca Canyon and three full days exploring Chile's Atacama,Â the driest desert in the world.