Santiago & San Pedro de Atacama

Chile is maybe not the first country you think about going to when travelling to South America… but it should be! Pablo Neruda’s country is full of amazing landscapes and peaceful places where you will forget about your daily grey buildings in no time. Let’s start with Santiago and San Pedro de Atacama.

2 days in Santiago

We flew from Brussels to Santiago via Madrid. Tickets had a reasonable price (740€). I must admit we were not amazed by this city. However, there is one landmark you shouldn’t miss to enjoy a panoramic view on Santiago: the cerro San Cristóbal. Don’t hesitate to climb up and down via the small paths and not the main road! Much more fun!

View from San Cristobal Hill

We also did – and recommend – the free tour of Santiago starting in front of the cathedral every day at 10am and 03pm (no booking needed). This tour is a very practical and interesting way to discover more about the history of the city (and its 500 000 stray dogs!). You will go from Plaza de Armas to San Cristobal Hill in a bit less than four hours; stopping in Palacio La Moneda, Santa Lucía Hill, Plaza Italia and many other places (short break included – time for another pisco!).

* Eating in Santiago: For lunch, taste the delicious Chilean seafood at the Mercado Central or enjoy a delicious mojito and a tasty tortilla on the balcony of the Ciudad Vieja. In the evening, take one chorillana for three at Galindo or empanadas in the trendy Patio Bellavista. And after the sunset, climb at the top of the Azotea Matilde for the best brownie you’ll ever eat: a brownie with dulce de leche inside.

* Sleeping in Santiago: The Bellavista Hostel is a nice and clean hostel located right in the middle of plenty of bars and restaurants. The usual staff was not very welcoming. However, the backpackers working there for a short period were very friendly!

2 days in San Pedro de Atacama

To go to Arrival in the desertSan Pedro from Santiago, we booked a return trip to Calama as it was cheaper (170€) than a single flight (340€) although we would only use one of the tickets.

The transfer by minivan from Calama airport was easy to arrange on the spot and quite cheap.

There are so many tours and activities that we could have spend our entire holidays in San Pedro but we had to choose… The excursion to the El Tatio Geysers with a pick up at your hostel at 5am was great (did you know that around 10% of all geysers in the world are located there?!) and if you have a guide as good as ours (big up Pedro!) he will take you to natural hot springs (not the one full of tourists) and to the cactus valley. Beware… the geysers are quite high up (4300+ m)and I did not feel so well after the boiling hot springs!

El Tatio geysers

El tatio

We then went on to discover the Valle de la Luna and its impressive caves and views over the Licancabur volcano, salt flats and dunes. It’s just a shame too many people go to see the sunset at the same spot!

Valle de la luna

Valel de la luna

Our last activity was a little sportier! We tried out sandboarding with Atacama Inca Tour. I was really excited to ride 8 months after the last time I went snowbarding. It was quite easy for me but… so slow! The sand slows down the board dramatically. However, this means it’s a very nice activity for noobs!

* Eating in San Pedro de Atacama: Order one pork chop and receive 3 at Las Delicias de Carmen and then go and sing your favourite song after a few piscolas at Lola. [Free wifi at La Plaza]

* Sleeping in San Pedro de Atacama: Atacama Tatai’s was not the cleanest and the safest (got my towel stolen… really who steals a towel?!) but it has a beautiful inner courtyard where you can discuss until very late with fellow travellers.

Time to say goodbye to Chile for a few days and to go on a four days adventure to the salt flats in Uyuni. To be continued!

Sandboarding

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