updated 12/8/2008 11:03:15 AM ET 2008-12-08T16:03:15

The Real Deal: Three nights' accommodations, airport-hotel transfers, breakfast daily, the services of an English-speaking guide, and sightseeing tours for $463 per person—including all taxes and fees.

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When: Departs daily year-round.

The fine print: Includes all taxes and fees. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $57. Does not include airfare. U.S. citizens need a valid passport for travel; a visa is not required. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.

Book by: No deadline; based on availability.

Contact: Santiago Adventures, 802/904-6798, santiagoadventures.com.

Why it's a deal: A three-night stay at the Takha Takha Hotel costs about $99 per person before hotel taxes. For $364 more, Santiago Adventures covers the three-night stay and taxes as well as the airport transfers, sightseeing tours and entrance fees, and the valuable services of an English-speaking guide. The package price breaks down to about $154 per person per night, including all taxes and fees.

Trip details: To begin the tour, a Santiago Adventures representative will pick you up in Calama and transfer you by private van to the town of San Pedro de Atacama, a one-hour trip.

You'll check in to the Takha Takha Hotel for a three-night stay. The modest 13-room hotel has adobe, wood, and stone accents and twin, double, and triple rooms with private or shared bathrooms; you'll stay in a double with a private bathroom.

The hotel is within walking distance of town, so you can easily fit in some exploring on your own (perhaps the La Paige Archaeological Museum) before your first guided tour: a sunset excursion to Valle de la Luna, or the Valley of the Moon.

The next day, you'll depart on a full-day sightseeing bus tour of the Atacama Desert and surroundings. One highlight is Lake Chaxas, where you could spot some Chilean flamingos. You'll hit the mountain town of Socaire before arriving at an altitude of 12,800 feet for fabulous views of the Andes and surrounding lakes. You'll also stop in Toconao, a town known for its architecture. An included box lunch will help tide you over.

After a free day to explore on your own, you'll check out of the hotel very early and travel to see the El Tatio Geysers. There are about 80 active geysers, with large plumes of steam erupting from the earth. It's a classic "wish you were here!" photo op for your scrapbook.

Want a little more time among the otherworldly landscapes of northern Chile? Book the four-night version of this package for only $40 more per person.

There are several hotel upgrade options available: the Casa de Don Tomas from $55 more per person, the Hosteria San Pedro from $88 more per person, the Hotel Kimal from $114 more per person, and the Altipla¡nico hotel from $183 more per person.

For more information, see the official tourism site of Chile or the U.S. State Department's travel fact sheet on the country.

Getting there: Airfare is not included. The closest airport to San Pedro de Atacama is in Calama, where the trip begins and ends. You can book a round-trip flight between Santiago (the main entry point into Chile) and Calama through Santiago Adventures for about $200 to $300 per person. The Lan Chile flight will be two hours. Of course, you could book airfare or other transportation independently; it's worth doing some comparison pricing for your departure city and dates. At press time, round-trip flights on Lan Airlines between Santiago and Calama on Kayak were $649 in early January—that's significantly higher than what Santiago Adventures quotes. As for airfare between the U.S. and Santiago, here are some sample round-trip fares found on Kayak for early January: $943 from Chicago (United), $973 from New York City (United), $1,024 from L.A. (Copa Panama), $1,114 from Boston (American), $1,143 from Atlanta, and $1,175 from Seattle (AeroMexico).

Copyright © 2012 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.


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