A Travellerspoint blog

Chile! How cool!

San Pedro de Atacama, Santiago and Valparaiso

sunny 26 °C

The tiny town was like a film set for an old western movie and any moment we were convinced we’d bump in to a pair of duelling cowboys in spurs and chaps or have our path crossed off by a family of tumbleweeds. But alas San Pedro de Atacama had no cowboys, no tumbleweeds, just stacks of tourists from all over the world come to check out the world’s driest desert: the Atacama. Incredibly, the average rainfall here is just 15 millimetres, while some parts of the Atacama have never recorded a drop.

— This amazing adobe church dates back to 1577.

— Flag of Chile.

— San Pedro de Atacama reminded me of a theme park, especially Disneyland's Frontier land.

— School kids practice in the main square.

After three days of sensory overload touring Bolivia’s salt flat region, our first couple days were spent doing little else but eating Chile’s favourite snack: the empanada. Chilean empanadas are delicious with thick pastry wrapped around delicious fillings such as olives, cheese, vegetables and meat. Though eventually it came time to put the empanadas down and do some sightseeing. First stop, some very impressive salt caves.





Next it was time to feel like an astronaut at Moon Valley. We had seen so many incredible landscapes just a few days ago in Bolivia’s southwest, but 'Valle de la Luna' still wowed us. To complete our Atacama adventure we watched the sunset over the desert.

"Houston we have landed."

— Moon Valley, with a dusting of salt.

— Coyote and road runner country.

— Licancabur volcano.

— My attempt to get a break from Brayden. What?! You'd the same if you were with someone 24 hours a day!

— Bray gallantly saves me from the giant (not bad considering I just tried to push him off a cliff).


The plan was to stay in Chile just a few days before heading over the border to Argentina but Mother Nature intervened. Remember me telling you how the Atacama is the DRIEST desert in the world? Well during our visit the skies opened and water pelted down relentlessly for hours. The once parched red dusty streets were transformed into a river of mud as me and Bray made a getaway to the bus station. Once inside our Argentina bound bus the news was broken to us: we weren’t going anywhere. A fierce snowstorm had battered the Andes, closing the border. So instead we waited…

…and waited.

…and waited.

After three days hanging out at the bus station the snow never let up and the ‘all aboard’ never came. It was decided to make the 23-hour bus journey to Santiago, the capital of Chile.


We arrived in Santiago tired and cranky but thankful the journey wasn’t too painful. Twenty three hours was our longest ever bus journey but the roads were smooth and bus comfy making it quite the contrast from those in Bolivia, Ecuador and all of Central America. It was also a bonus to be in Santiago as it was crossed our itinerary months ago. Wasting no time, we signed up for a four-hour walking tour taking in the city’s most famous sights. We learnt all about the tumultuous reign of Dictator Pinocet, the country’s interesting indigenous and European heritage and even the rather strange custom of drinking coffee with legs (explanation below).

— New York street.

— This is where congress met up until 1973 when the Salvador Allende's socialist government was overthrown by military dictator Augusto Pinochet.

— Palacio de la Moneda which houses the presidential offices. It was bombed in 1973 during the coup led by Pinochet who subsequently ruled Chile until 1990 when democracy was restored. His government is blamed for the murder of more than 3000 people, the torturing of tens of thousands and wide scale corruption.

— These dodgy looking 'coffee with legs' outlets are all over Santiago. They're basically cafes where the waitresses wear almost no clothes. Apparently it started in the 1940s as a strategy to boost profits.

— Since colonisation Chile has seen massive migration especially from Spain, Italy and Germany. Here's Bray with a monument to the 30,000 Germans who arrived in the 19th century. As result, you'll find German food and beer throughout the city.

— Outside the house of poet and Chilean icon Pablo Neruda. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature and was also a politician.

— A very good drop indeed! Chile is the fifth largest exporter of wine in the world.

— Men play chess in Santiago's main square.

Considering we were so close it would have been a crime not to visit the famous city of Valparaiso just a couple of hours away. This port city is known for its street art and quirky vibe. It’s rough around the edges but very colourful with multicoloured houses perched on hills and graffiti. It’s also the location of the nation’s congress, which also makes it the location of many protests. The day we visited there was a particularly big demonstration causing police to fire tear gas that hung in the air all afternoon. Neither of us were very impressed when we were knocked down by a plume of gas causing us to cough and splutter our guts up for minutes.

— Many of Valpo's residents live in colourful houses with impressive views of the sea.

— The city is famous for its funiculars which are more than 100 years old.





From Valparaiso we caught the overnight bus to the Argentina. At last we had made it! While our detour had taken up time and money (Chile is expensive!) we were happy to have seen more of Chile. Our new route also means we can check out Argentina’s wine region too. And I just hate wine….Ha!

Stay posted.

Posted by elyshahickey 05:11 Archived in Chile Tagged desert nature landscape city chile

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Another great blog Lysh! Loving the photos too xx

by sara

Love the photos Lysh! Did you get a game of chess Brayden? I remember you were School champion back in the day.

Lots of Love

by Fiona Dunlop

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