We stayed with a Chilean guy (and his flatmates), through couchsurfing, during our time in Santiago. Enrique really looked after us, even picking us up from the airport! We were invited to his friend’s BBQ which turned into a big party night on the town. South Americans do everything late so the BBQ didn’t even start till 9pm, the clubs don’t get going till 2am and we didn’t get home until 6am!
The next day Enrique came with us to meet our friend Steffi (from Munich who we met in Laos!) and then took us around town, including a good cheap lunch spot and up to the San Cristobal Hill for a fantastic view over the city.
At the BBQ, we met a guy called Gonzalo Pena who writes and produces his own music which he played for us – we loved it! You can check out the tunes here: https://soundcloud.com/sunflowerfeels/young
That was all we could fit into our action-packed weekend in the capital of Chili, until we come back in January!
After saying goodbye to Enrique, it was time to hit the road once again – this time with Steffi by our side who decided to travel north with us for a few days. After a two hour bus journey of Danielle and Steffi barely coming up for air from their catch-up, we arrived in Valparaiso. This is an old port town which is known for its vast display of street art, funky cafes, museums, historical buildings, cobbled streets and vertical hills!
Some of the Valparaiso street art:
Although Valparaiso felt dirty and edgy, it had a real charm to it. We spent a couple of days just wondering the streets, looking at the street art and we also did a guided tour. Unfortunately Danielle had a stomach bug which meant her having to take it easy for a while.
Steffi was unable to continue with us any further as it was time for her to head home, so we took a 7 hour bus ride heading north to La Serena. We just had one night here in a really nice newly renovated hostel, there wasn’t much going on in this little town so we just walked down to the blustery beach and had a look around the town square. We also booked our bus ticket for our next destination which we thought would take 4 hours. We thankfully realised just in time that the journey would in fact take 16 hours, overnight. There is a lot to be said for this language barrier business!!
San Pedro de Atacama
We arrived in San Pedro after a 16 hour overnight bus from La Serena – it didn’t help the bus was two hours late to turn up!
We knew the Atacama Desert was going to be amazing so we made sure we had plenty of time here. The Atacama Desert is around 2,500 metres above sea level and is wedged between the Andes Mountain range and the Chilean Coastal Range – both which block out the weather, resulting in it being the world’s driest desert!
We paid to do a couple of trips which were well worth it. The first was to ‘Valle de la Luna’ (‘Moon Valley’) where we climbed to the top of sand dunes/rocky outcrops, looked over Moon Valley, visited salt plains, crawled through caves and watched the sunset over the amazing barren terrain.
The second tour was a day trip out to the breathtaking ‘Lagunas Miscanti y Miniques’, a lagoon high up in the Andes at approximately 4,200m that had snow-capped volcanoes as its backdrop. The scenery was just breath-taking. We also saw a number of active volcanos, wild donkeys, lamas and some (near extinct) but not very pretty birds. We stopped in at a small village called Toconao which had 300 year old cactuses – apparently you can find cactuses dating over 1000 years old!! We also visited a huge isolated salt flat lagoon which is home to three different varieties of flamingos.
We loved the jaw dropping scenery around San Pedro and it resulted in more pics being added to the ‘best of’ gallery on the home page… have a look!
Arica was cool! A nice surprise, as we weren’t expecting much. The town is located right up at the top of Chile bordering Peru and Bolivia, its very dry and sits right on the coast. It’s also a famous surfing spot, but unfortunately whilst we were there, there was only about 2 foot of swell!
We loved the picturesque port which was busy with fisherman bringing in their days catch. We watched sea lions playing right at the waters edge and had a great seafood meal for lunch! We also climbed the El Morro de Arica Hill for great views of the town and coast.
See next: Bolivia