Chile, this long and narrow country stuck between Argentina and the Pacific Ocean. Here, we talk of North/ South but not of East/ West. The country is to narrow for that. I crossed the country from the North to the South for more than one month. Chile owns cultural wealth, landscapes and is full of beautiful surprises. I was surprised to discover a country with such diversities. Yet, we don’t know and heard much about it even if this country deserves more to be known! Ready to discover it with me?
Step 1: San Pedro de Atacama
My adventures in the Salar De Uyuni brought my until Uyuni, in Bolivia. Crossing the border from this place leads me at San Pedro de Atacama. This village is located in the driest desert on earth! It is so dry and lunar that the Nasa tests its robot prototypes before sending it on the moon.
I stayed only 3 days in San Pedro de Atacama. Indeed, the landscape was too similar to the 4 days I spent in the Salar de Uyuni and the South Lipèz (according to me). I still enjoyed the place to try sandboard. I also wished to watch the stars because San Pedro de Atacama is one of the best places to observe the stars. Unfortunately, I was there during the full moon, so it’s almost impossible to watch them.
If you visit only Chili and not Bolivia, I advise you to stay at least one week in the village. There are lots of tours and the landscapes are beautiful.
The accommodation is really expensive compared to the size of the village. I choose the hostel Sol Atacama. It offers female dormitory, but the breakfast is not included and you are not allowed to wash your clothes (great after 4 days in the Salar). However, I still recommend it.
Step 2: Valparaiso
Valparaiso (Valpo for intimates) is Santiago’s competitor. This city is famous for the paintings on the buildings and the colorful houses. Some buildings are real works of art. If like me, you love street art, Valpo is a must see in Chile.
The paintings on the building are very respected in Valparaiso. It’s forbidden to make a graffiti on a painting. If you do so, there will be a revenge for sure. Sometimes, it also happens that for a shop or a house, the owner asks for a professional to paint the facade. Thereby, the building is more attractive and/or looks cleaner.
The best way to see these paintings is to walk around and get lost in Alegre and Conception neighborhood. You will also see the colorful houses and the Belvedere to have a view on Valpo.
Valparaiso is next to the sea but it’s impossible to swim or lay down on the beach there. If you wish to tan on a sandy beach or to swim, you have to go to Vina del Mar. This city is located 20min by tram from Valparaiso Harbor (in other words the city center). From there, you have kilometers to enjoy the beach, the sand, and the sea. During the weekends, the Chileans come and enjoy it too.
For Valparaiso, I recommend you the Hostal Po. It’s located between Alegre and conception neighborhoods, 10 mins from the tram stop “Puerto”. The hostel is perfect: nice staff, very good breakfast, a really cool rooftop with a view on Valpo. To sum up, don’t hesitate!
Step 3: Santiago
Santiago is only 1h30 by bus from Valparaiso, however, the cites have nothing in common. Santiago is the capital and you feel it. The city is much bigger, has a subway with several lines, people are in a hurry, etc. Yet, the city is nice. The neighborhood like Bellavista are places where it’s nice to get lost. The parks like Santa Maria, Parque Forestal are the lungs of Santiago and many Chileans come there to relax.
Among all the must-sees in Santiago, the most famous is San Cristobal Hill. From the top of the hill, next to the statue of the Virgin Marie, you have a 360° view on the capital. To go to the top (860m), you have two solutions: the cable car or by foot. For those who decide to walk, it took me a bit less than one hour until the statue.
While you’re going down, don’t forget to visit Bellavista neighborhood, and above all Pio Nono street. This street is full of restaurants and bars. You can also look for hidden places. They are full of other restaurants and bars but souvenir shops too.
As usual in South America, the main square of Santiago is called Plaza de Armas. It is a big one with trees and flowers but the most important is the Metropolitan Cathedral. From the outside, it’s not really impressive, but once you’re inside you realize how big it is and especially how hight it is.
Now you know it, I love the markets. In Santiago, there are two markets side by side: the vegetable market and the meat market. Even if you don’t buy meat, I advise you to enter the market and to lift your head. The framework is entirely metallic and some people will tell you that Gustave Eiffel built it! It is true? I don’t know, but it’s true there are some similarities.
For my 5 days in Santiago, I choose the Ecohostel. It’s close to the city center, has a female dormitory and offers tours. The breakfast is included even if it’s strict: 2 slices of bread per person, 1 fruit per person, etc. and be careful if you cheat…! However I advise you this hostel, the staff is nice and always ready to help you.
Step 4: Easter Island
I spent 2 weeks on Easter Island. I really loved this island and I lived many unforgettable experiences there. For the first time, I was a volunteer, I lived with inhabitants who made me discover the culture, the language, the traditions and the history of Easter Island. Tell you everything is too long, that’s why I decided to write an article just about it.
Step 5: Chiloe Island
Chiloe Island is famous for its wooden churches. They are registered at the UNESCO World Heritage. The easiest way to visit the island is to stay at Castro or Ancud. These are the “big” cities of the island and most of the bus arrive/leave from there. The cheapest solution is also to visit the island with the local buses. The departures are frequent and you can go all around the island.
For me, there are 4 churches to see: Castro, Ancud, Chonchi, and Achao. Personally, I loved Castro’s church on the Plaza de Armas. If you want to see the churches before going to the cities, you can go to the tourism info of Castro. This office exposes a small wooden replica of each church from each city. You can choose the one you want to see in real.
After my experience on Easter Island, I didn’t want to go to a hostel. So I chose the AirBnB solution. I was hosted by Maria, Miguel and their child Luis at Ancud. They were very nice and warm people. I thank them for their hospitality and the pieces of advice they gave to visit easily the island.
Step 6: Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine
My last Chilean step is in Puerto Natales. The main attraction of this small city is that it’s the entrance for the W trek at Torres del Paine. This trek may be the most famous trek in Patagonia. It would be too long to detail everything in this article about this trek. That’s why I wrote an article only about the W trek.
To be in the W trek atmosphere, I choose the Refugio Hoshken at Puerto Natales. Don’t worry, it’s a classic hostel. It’s located near the city center and has all the needed facilities. The staff is friendly and it’s possible to leave your backpacks at the hostel during the trek for free.
And now, do you want to visit Chile too? Or is it already done?
Personally, I loved this country with all the landscapes and cultural contrasts. My next step is Argentina with Patagonia, Buenos Aires, Iguazu waterfalls, etc.