The History of Amity Tours

Cristian Alejandro Amity Tours

The History of Amity Tours

By Cristian Levy, CEO & Founder

During all these years, many clients, guests, friends and colleagues have asked me the same question: “How did Amity begin?

The answer is a long story and I will share it with you in this blog.

The story goes way back to 1948. My grandfather, Hector Levy, was an adventurer and his greatest passion was exploring the mountains of Chile’s central valleys. Together, with a group of friends and the Grez Family, they organized trips to the mountains near Santiago.

Only people with a deep love for the mountain could go on these journeys, as they were not easy nor comfortable. They used adapted livestock trucks to get to the foothills of the Andes. From there, they continued by mule-back and finally hiked or skinned up the last snow-capped section until they arrived at the mountain refuge. One of these refuges was the famous Refugio Gaston Saavedra.

 

the andes mountain
Hector Levy (first on the left) and his family visiting the mountains circa 1948.

 

My grandfather was a travelling salesman. He traveled across the country in his Citroën 2CV, selling shoes made by his family’s shoe factory. In his free time, he would venture to the mountains or go on bike rides with his relatives.

 

Hector Levy and Brothers
Hector Levy (first on the left) and his brothers-in-law circa 1950.

1954

At a young age, my father Alejandro started to come on these trips to the mountains. For a little kid, the trip was even harder, but getting dizzy with the winding road was not a reason to miss out on the adventure. He became close friends with the Grez family, skiing all over the mountain in La Parva, El Colorado and Farellones.

 

Alejandro Levy Amity Tours
Alejandro Levy posing with his ski gear circa 1956.

 

1960

My father joined the Boy Scouts at the Jewish Center in Santiago. His exceptional athletic skills made him stand out among the other kids. Thus, he was offered to go to Israel and join a sports program, but his family objected to his going.

1968

At the age of 18, my father was a very talented football (soccer) player, playing during his childhood at school and on the streets with neighborhood kids. In his last year of high school, he was awarded goal scorer of the inter-school football tournament.

 

Alejandro Levy Amity
Alejandro Levy (on the right) at school circa 1968.

1970-75

My father studied engineering at the Universidad Tecnica de Santiago, where he met Paty, my mom. Here he once again stood out for his athleticism. While he was playing football on the university team, he was recruited to play on Chile’s National Football team (amateur division). For 5 years, he traveled in Chile and Argentina playing for the Chilean Football team and played at the qualifiers for the Olympic Games.

 

Chilean Football Team
Alejandro (first on the front left) at the Stadium circa 1974.

 

Football Player Alejandro Levy
Alejandro in football jersey at the Stadium circa 1974.

 

1978

This is the year I was born. My father’s love for the mountain continued as he volunteered as a skiing instructor at El Colorado Ski Resort. As soon as I could walk, he took me skiing in the mountains and taught me to love and respect Nature.

 

Cristian Levy Amity
Cristian in ski gear, Farellones circa 1983.

 

1982

My father Alejandro continued with his sports activities, joining the bicycle club of CDUC. Then in 1983, he biked from Santiago to Mendoza with the club, riding and climbing the Andes mountains from Chile to Argentina.

 

Cyclist Alejandro Levy
Alejandro in bicycle jersey crossing the Andes (Portillo Hotel, circa 1983)

 

1986

I followed in my father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and grew into a highly active boy, joining the swimming team at CDUC. This club became my second home during my childhood.

 

Cristian Levy Amity
Cristian in CDUC uniform boarding a plane for a swimming tournament (Iquique, circa 1988)

 

1990

My father continued teaching skiing at El Colorado Ski Resort, mostly to friends and colleagues. On the weekends, I joined him as much as I could.

This year, my grandfather Hector planted the seed of entrepreneurship within me by lending me twenty dollars for a little business. He didn’t tell me what to do, only that I had to return the money. Then, with that money I went to buy candy and started selling it at school. Within a week, I sold all the candy and returned the loan to my grandfather. I remember feeling so proud of paying back my grandfather, and so I continued with the side business until my commercial activity was banned at school.

This same year, I joined the Boy Scouts movement, where I remained actively involved for a decade. In this group. I learnt the values of friendship and teamwork, and my love for the nature deepened.

 

Cristian Levy Amity
Cristian in ski gear (El Colorado, circa 1990)

 

1995

I graduated from high school and almost immediately searched for a seasonal job at a local retail store (wrapping Christmas presents), so I could generate my own income and be more financially independent. My parents encouraged me to do that just as much as my grandfather did. With the money I made, I went on my first self-supported trip to Pucon. I took my brother, Jano, with me.

Later, my Boy Scouts friends joined us as they became aware of my travel plans. At the time, I never imagined that Pucon would become my home and the headquarters of my adventure travel company.

1997

I enrolled at the SEK University in Santiago to study Tourism Planning. I didn’t totally understand the exact reasons for my decision to study tourism, but felt that this had been part of my whole life. Actually, since I was a young boy, I had always wanted to be a doctor, but it was clear that life had chosen a different path for me.

 

Cristian Levy Amity
Cristian and friends exploring the Andes mountains (Cerro Provincia, circa 1998)

 

1998

My father Alejandro moved by himself to southern Chile for a job as an engineer at a mattress plant. There, my father discovered and fell in love with the landscapes of the Lake and Volcano District.

Meanwhile, the rest of the family stayed in Santiago. My mom’s love and support was key during this year. Reinforcing her teachings about how to be kind, self-sufficient and responsible.

 

The Levy Father and Sons
Alejandro with his children discovering their new home in La Araucania. Kutralkura Geopark, Quinquen.

 

In the summer of 1998, my grandfather once again encouraged me to continue gaining experience in the business world and lent me 300 dollars. With this money, I opened a beachfront kiosk called La Ruka (the house) in Guanaqueros, in Northern Chile. That summer, our kiosk was awarded the sales point with the highest ice-cream sales in the region. At the end of the summer season, I paid back the loan to my grandfather and with the profits and my mom’s help, traveled to Rapa Nui, Easter Island.

 

La Ruka Salespoint
Cristian and his brother Jano in the La Ruka kiosk. (Summer of 1998)

 

1999

My father finally felt settled in Temuco, and my mom and brothers went to live with him in southern Chile. I stayed in Santiago to finish college. This was a very hard decision for my family, but it turned out to be a great change of lifestyle.

The summer of 1999 I applied for an internship at the regional Tourism Board, SERNATUR Araucania, and just like my father did, fell in love with the nature and people of the region. I fondly remember my first visit to Conguillio National Park, where I was completely amazed by the Araucaria forest.

 

Alejandro and Cristian Levy
Alejandro and Cristian during his internship. (Summer of 1999)

 

2001

I graduated from University with honors and my Tourism Planning degree. Shortly thereafter, my classmate, German Pino, and I started to work as junior tourism consultants at EuroChile Foundation (German later joined Amity as partner in 2011).

This foundation specializes in promoting and consolidating economic, commercial and technological links between public and private institutions from Chile and the European Union. Tourism is one of their main pillars. Our mission there was to create and develop Chile’s first inbound ecotourism operator.

 

Cristian Levy Eurochile
Cristián working for Ecoaustral (Chile’s first ecotourism operator, circa 2003)

 

2002

The Asian economic crisis hit Chile hard and my father lost his job at the mattress plant. Despite many attempts to find a job in his field, he couldn’t find one. My mother became the family’s primary breadwinner, working as a financial advisor at a local bank in Temuco.

I couldn’t stop worrying about my father’s situation, so I mentioned this to my boss and friend Gerd Walther. He suggested we start a tour company with my father in southern Chile, but I didn’t take him seriously. However, I told my father about my boss’s idea and he only smiled quietly.

 

History Amity Tours
My boss and dear friend Gerd Walther (RIP)

 

2003

While working at EuroChile developing the inbound ecotourism operator, we received a particular request by email: a family of four from Brazil wanted a 12-day trip to Chile with skiing lessons included. They didn’t want to visit the classic ski resorts in central Chile. Instead, they wanted to explore the small and less known ski centers located around the southern volcanoes. I immediately told my boss about this request and he didn’t hesitate to put me in charge of the request and organize the whole trip. He told me to ask my father to work as a ski instructor during the tour and run it on behalf of the company.

The month of July arrived, and my father and I went to greet the Esteves Abreu Family from Rio de Janeiro. We delivered a 2-week guided skiing trip visiting the southern volcanoes: Llaima, Lonquimay and Villarrica. The tour ended up being a total success, with Eder, Mônica, Beatriz and Eduardo learning how to ski and promising that they will return the next year for more skiing lessons. This family became Alejandro’s first client, repeating their skiing trip to Chile for the next 10 consecutive years. To this date, the Levy and Abreu families remain great friends and continue seeing each other.

 

History Amity Tours
The Esteves Abreu family with their private guide and instructor Alejandro.

 

It was after this first trip that Alejandro realized that he could do what he loved most and earn a living at the same time. Here, my father made an important decision, selling the family’s house in Santiago and partnering with me to create our family-owned tour company in August of 2003.

By then, I was working in Santiago on a project with a travel book writer from the USA named Pete Nelson, with the goal of writing a new edition of a Chile travel guide. Pete was a senior marketing expert who had worked for important world-wide hotel chains such as Hilton and Intercontinental. It was here that I saw an opportunity to validate a list of potential names for our tour company.

But Pete didn’t pay attention to that list and instead gave me a great piece of advice: “if you want people to find you first pick a name that starts with the letter A, and make sure anyone can easily pronounce that name no matter which country they are from”. So, I took out my pocket Spanish/English dictionary and found the word “amity”, which means friendship, friendly, concord, good vibrations. And with this meaning as a central value, we began our tour company.

 

History Amity Tours
My father Alejandro, my brother Jano, and me with our first van and logo (September 2003)

 

Finally, as an established tour company, in September 2003 we received the first group of foreign travelers. The group consisted of seven guests from the UK coming with Phil Smith, an international all-mountain skiing instructor and director of the skiing company Snoworks.

Snoworks is one of the UK’s leading providers of all-mountain ski courses to destinations around the world. This group of British skiers represented Amity’s first business account, and remains one of the Levy family’s favorite and dear clients.

 

Ski Chile Amity Snoworks
Our first B2B group with Snoworks (Pucon, September 2003)

 

Ski Chile Amity Snoworks
My father Alejandro with Phil Smith

 

If you liked this story, please share it! Maybe someday my father will tell it to you in person as you go on a chairlift with him or while hiking on the trails of our beloved country, Chile.

Lonquimay Volcano Chile
Alejandro and Cristian summiting Lonquimay Volcano.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The active volcanoes of Southern Chile

villarrica volcano

Geographically, the Chilean territory is located in one of the greatest areas of volcanic & seismic activities in the whole world. The Pacific Ring of Fire, close to the Andes mountain range, carved by water, ice and volcanoes. With more than 2.000 volcanoes and 90 potentially active, Chile has one of the largest volcanic chains in the world. Indeed, great historical eruptions, such as the eruption of the Calbuco Volcano in 2015, have had regional and global consequences.

In this article, you will learn more about the most active volcanoes located in the beautiful Lake & Volcano District.

Southern Chile

 

araucaria trees chile
The endemic tree forests are the typical landscape of Chile’s Lake and Volcano District

 

From Santiago de Chile to Puerto Montt (the entrance to Patagonia), we find a wide variety of landscapes with lands covered with forests of araucarias and dotted with lagoons, rivers or lakes. Moreover, here and there, we can admire the active volcanoes of the Chilean Lake & Volcano District. They are the perfect spot for nature lovers to enjoy mountain activities, such as hiking, mountain biking & skiing.

Kütralkura Geopark – Lonquimay Volcano

 

lonquimay
Lonquimay Volcano

 

The Lonquimay volcano is located 130 kilometers north-east of Temuco city, in the Araucanía Region. It is part of Chile’s first Geopark. The UNESCO highlighted Kütralkura Global Geopark as one of the most active volcanisms in the world. Indeed, it is geologically located in the heart of the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Surrounded by the magical landscape of Southern Chile, the Lonquimay volcano becomes more attractive as it enters the Andes Mountain Range. In the horizon, we can admire the other volcanoes around like the Llaima, Villarrica, Quetrupillán, Lanín & Sierra Nevada.

 

ski Lonquimay
Summerskiing on the Lonquimay volcano

 

During autumn season, the snows slowly covers the volcano, which makes the area remarkably beautiful. In winter, it is fully covered by snow, in addition to the endemic araucaria tree forests that also get covered by white. This makes it possible to enjoy winter sports at the Corralco Ski Resort, on the slopes of the volcano. During spring and summer, the thaw radically changes the appearance and color of the volcano. Due to the solidified lava constitution, it takes a reddish color, leaving only the eternal ice on top.

Moreover, the attractive summit of the Lonquimay does not only allow us to the natural beauties around, such as the lagoons, rivers, volcanoes, etc. It also gives us the chance to see a tremendous crater, of more than 800-meters long (one of the largest of Chile’s southern volcanoes), completely covered by a glacier.

 

lonquimay winter
Skiing near the summit of the Lonquimay Volcano

 

Regarding its volcanic activity, the Lonquimay became particularly well known for the events that happened during Christmas in 1988. During an eruption that lasted approximately one year, it sculpted a small crater near the north slope. As a result, the “Christmas Crater” was born. Located in the lower part of the Lonquimay, it is possible to visit it with a specialist as it is active.

Conguillío National Park – Llaima Volcano

 

Conguillío National Park Llaima
Conguillío National Park – Llaima Volcano

 

From Temuco city, the Llaima volcano already makes itself noticeable with its three visible peaks. Located 80 kilometers from this city, it is part of the eastern landscape. Also, the Llaima occupies a large part of the Conguillío National Park where it stands out as the highest summit.

The presence of a ski resort located on its western flank makes it the perfect place to visit during winter. Thank to this, it helps in being the most visited volcano in southern Chile. Surrounded by araucarias forests and by beautiful mountain lakes, the Llaima and surroundings give us the opportunity to enjoy wonderful landscapes.

Historically, it is one of the most active volcanoes in South America, and one of the largest in the southern Andes. The western, south-western and eastern flanks possess more than 29 km2 of glaciers. Shape-wise, it is an almost-perfect cone, although it consists of two peaks and about 40 cones of adventitious slag. The northern summit exhibits an open crater of 350-meters wide, and more than 300 meters in depth. Since 1994, the crater presents an active fumarole with gas emission and water vapor. Lastly, the southern summit has remains of a small cone made of slag nested in a blocked crater of about 200 meters.

Regarding the volcanic activity of the Llaima, the historical record includes 48 eruption between 1640 and 2009. During these events, lava flows, lahar formation, pyroclastic projection and occasionally the generation of pyroclastic flows occurred. Finally, the last eruptive cycle began in May 2007, with a weak ash emission.  A moderate strombolian eruption followed with lahar generation in January 2008, culminating in April 2009 with a vigorous strombolian eruption.

 

Villarrica National Park – Villarrica Volcano

 

villarrica volcano
Pichillancahue Glacier located at the foothills of the Villarrica Volcano

 

The Villarrica volcano is an active volcano with the largest historical record of eruptions in Chile, and even South America. Geographically, it is located at the south of the Villarrica Lake, and at the north of the Calafquén Lake. It is a stratovolcano located on a volcanic chain aligning it with the Quetrupillán and Lanín volcanoes.

At the top, we find an open crater of 200 meters of diameter. Generally with continuous fumarole and a quasi-permanent lava lake, whose surface has variable height depending on the moon. Moreover, an important glacier covers the Villarrica, and extends for 30.3 kilometers square.

The volcanic activity of the Villarrica began about 650.000 years ago. Throughout the years, it has developed explosive and effusive eruptions, with the emission of magmatic material essentially. As product of the explosive post-glacial activity, voluminous pyroclastic flows and formation of boilers were generated mainly 13.900 and 3.900 years ago. Lastly, since 1558, there have been about 49 eruptions, mainly of an effusive nature.

The impressive last eruption happened in 2015

The last explosive eruption was recorded on March 3, 2015. It generated a lava source almost 2 km high above the crater. In addition, an almost 12-kilometers tall column of tefra remained held for almost 19 minutes.

 

Besides being the most active volcano, the Villarrica is undoubtedly the main natural attraction in Southern Chile. Indeed, the ski center located at the base of the volcano (1.400 meters) is the perfect spot for summer skiing and snowboarding. As a matter of fact, the resort is one of the most moderns in South America. The infrastructure is great, with 9 ski lifts and 20 ski slopes of different levels of difficulty.

In spring and summer, the base of the Villarrica volcano is perfect for hiking activities. Through the endemic araucaria and nothofagus tree forests, the hiking trails in the area are infinite. However, the most impressive hike to do is certainly the one that takes us to the open-crater. From there, the view is breath-taking and allows us to see the different volcanoes, lakes, lagoons around, and the unmissable Andes as landscape.

 

Villarrica volcano climb
Climbing the Villarrica volcano is a true once-in-a-lifetime experience

Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park – Osorno Volcano

 

osorno volcano
The Osorno volcano is our best companion when cycling around Puerto Varas

 

The Osorno volcano is located approximately 50 kilometers from the quaint city of Puerto Varas, between the Llanquihue & Todos Los Santos Lakes. It belongs to the Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park. It is in this area where volcanism has been, along with tectonic processes and glaciers, the main factors that shaped the Andes mountain range. In fact, the Osorno is a stratovolcano that belongs to the Southern Volcanic Zone of the Andes. It forms a transverse volcanic chain along with the La Picada, Puntiagudo & Cordón Cenizos volcanoes. Like the Villarrica volcano, the summit of the Osorno is covered by a glacier.

The volcanic activity of the Osorno began some 200.000 years ago, building itself as a stratovolcan immersed in the ice field dominating the landscape during the so-called Santa María glacial period. The post-glacial eruptive activity is characterized both by the occurrence of eruptions from the central crater, and by the activity of parasitic centers located on the flanks. Historically, the eruptive activity of the Osorno volcano has been characterized essentially by episodes of low explosivity. As of now, the faint fumarole since the beginning of the 20th century under the ice of the summit seems to have attenuated.

Last, but not least, the Osorno volcano is the highlight of our top bike tour in Chile’s Lake & Volcano District. Indeed, besides getting to cycle your way towards the Petrohue falls, you have the chance to challenge yourself and climb the Osorno volcano as it is South America’s steepest climb.

In Amity, we are blessed to operate our top travel experiences in the beautiful Lake and Volcano District. Together with our friendly team of expert guides, you can explore the best volcanic attractions of southern Chile. Either by hiking, skiing or cycling, the visit of the most active volcanoes in the Pacific Ring of Fire is a must-do when traveling to Chile.