South America is likely going to be the first leg of our around-the-world trip. Chile may make a good portion of this journey as we make our way down the coast from Peru. It has a wide variety of scenery from the glaciers in Patagonia, to the waterfalls near Cruicó, and a wide expanse of coastline to enjoy. Also there are many cities to explore like the capital city of Santiago with its culture, culinary delights, and beautiful mountains. The journey south will ultimately lead us to the city of Punta Arenas. From there we can take a short trip to Isla de Magdalena to see some penguins. So why do we want to go to Chile? Penguins!!! No really, there is so much more than that.
Why do we want to go?
Chile is a very long narrow country that makes for an incredible journey. From North to South there are so many places to see. Chile has both mountains and plenty of coastline to keep us busy exploring. The cities are rich with great food, wonderful people, and culture. We live by the mantra of no regrets. So let’s go!
What are some bucket list contenders?
Wine Tour in Santiago
We love wine and have even had wine made in Chile. We would like to check out Concha y Toro as it is the largest wine grower in Latin America. As it is also one of the oldest wineries, they offer tours and tastings. Located in the heart of Santiago, it will make for an excellent cultural experience. Being large does come with the price of being touristy, so we will try to go when it is less crowded.
The next winery on the list would be Cousiño Macul. This is on the outskirts of Santiago and has been run by the same family since the 19th century. You can tour the fields where wine has been made for more than 500 years. The landscape there is also very beautiful, and you can even tour the grounds by bicycle. Autumn is the best time to visit. Our timing may not work for peak season, but who wants that anyway?
Torres De Paine
This would be the grand finale of the South America trip as we go to the southern tip of the continent in Patagonia. Torres De Paine is a national park where you can find glaciers, lakes, mountains, and rivers at the edge of the world. The best time to go here would be either September, April or May for reasonable hotel prices and lower crowd sizes. As a photographer and videographer couple, we will be in heaven.
The Atacama Desert
As one of the driest places on Earth, the Atacama Desert has sections that have gone more than 10 years without a drop of rain. The desert has lagoons at higher elevations, some incredible rock formations in the Moon Valley, and even geysers in El Tatio. These things, along with beautiful volcanoes, make it very attractive for our trip. Not to mention the giant hand reaching out of the desert sands called La Mano del Desierto.
From here you can easily go to Uyuni on the Bolivia side. Here you will find a salt lake where you can get incredible reflections. You can walk on the clouds there, or at least reflections of them.
Easter Island is home to Moais, human statues which were carved 500-750 years ago. The island is covered with them, although you will find more than half in Rano Raraku National Park. This is the main attraction to the island, but there are a few more things to go see. Here are some of them:
- Ana Kakenga is a cave where you can see sunset as it opens towards the ocean.
- Tahai is also a great sunset spot with five Moai you can photograph as silhouettes.
- Terevaka is a mountain you can climb that provides a 360° view of the island.
Going to Easter Island may be cost prohibitive. However, if you go at the right time of year in the off-season, you can find deals on flights. The longer the stay, the better prices you will get for both flights and lodging. If you bring your own food you can save money as all food on Easter Island is imported from the mainland. Camping is possible, and bringing camping equipment will cut back on your lodging costs.
The best place to see penguins is on Isla Magdalena. This is near Punta Arenas, and it is a good place to see them nesting and waddling around. October and March are the best times to visit the island. Another place to check out is Parque Pingüino Rey. This is home to king penguins which are mostly found in Antarctica.
Chile is definitely in our top ten list for our world trip. It sounds much more than just a destination on a map, but an epic journey. We are really excited to learn more about Chile and the surrounding countries firsthand.
|COUNTRY | Chile|
|Best Season||November through March is peak season (Summer). We prefer to stay slightly out of peak season to get the best of lower crowds and good weather.|
|Average Temp / Weather Conditions||Averages are between 15°C (60°F) and 0°C (32°F) in Punta Arenas (Patagonia) and between 24°C (75°F) and 4°C (40°F) in Santiago. Rainfall is light in this country and is no more than 2 inches per month with the most in winter.|
|Key Attractions||Patagonia, Penguins, Glaciers, Wine Tasting, Volcanoes, Atcama Desert, Marble Caves, Valparaiso and Santiago.|
|Entry / Visa Requirements||One blank page for passport stamp. A free tourist visa issued at point of entry for 90 days (make sure you retain your record of entry to exit).|
|CURRENCY | Chile Peso (~$602 CLP = $1 USD)|
|Daily Budget||$30,000 – $42,000 CLP per day for a couple depending on lodging|
|Frugal Tips||Eat local meals, stay in dorm rooms or budget hotels, book activities in advance. Use Hola Hostel where members can get a 10% discount throughout South America. Pachamama can help you get around to some of the best locations in Chile on a bus for cheap. You can hop on and off buses as you wish over days or weeks.|
|THE STAY | Possible duration: Two weeks to a month|
|Lodging Types||Hostel dorm rooms, budget hotels, Airbnb for rooms and entire homes|
|Food||Chilean: Very meat-heavy, especially beef and chicken, rice, potatoes, fruits, occasional seafood. Stews, barbecue, pastries, and meat casseroles are common.|
|Transportation Options||Buses are the most common form of transportation. For taxis, no tipping is required. Hitchhiking is common here.|
|Driving Requirements||International driver permit is required along with your home country driver’s license. Driving is on the right side of the road.|
|Connectivity||Chile has good mobile internet availability but check your carrier for roaming or if you need any special SIM cards to access it. Wifi is available for free in many shops in cities.|
|CULTURE | Language: Spanish primarily, some speak German, French, and English.|
|Customs||The majority of Chileans are Roman Catholics. Food and wine are an important part of their culture. Both meat and wine are considered some of the best in the world. Dress conservatively. Do not wear shorts unless you are at the beach. Have some nice shoes that are not sneakers to walk around with unless you are doing hiking or some other activity where this does not make sense. You do not need to bargain for things at stores or street markets like you do in other South American countries.|
|Local Laws||Do not use illegal drugs or you will be imprisoned. The country is LGBT friendly despite how conservative it is.|
|Local Holidays/Festivals||Most common Catholic religious holidays are observed. Here are some non-religious holidays to celebrate:
Fiesta de la Tirana is the biggest, most colorful celebration. The town of La Tirana attracts visitors from Chile and neigboring countries for this festival celbrated on July 16th.
Independence Day (Fiestas Patrias) includes military and naval parades on September 18
|English Availability||In major cities and in tour groups, you can find English. Knowing basic Spanish will go a long way, but you may not be used to their accent.|
|Attitudes Toward Americans||Great as long as you don’t look down on them and you at least make an attempt to speak Spanish. Be a gracious guest.|
|Photography Concerns||Mostly in larger cities, be mindful of your surroundings and do not keep your expensive camera around your neck. Even iPhones are targets of theft. Keep your camera secure and only have it out when you are actively taking pictures. It is best to do a city-walk tour so that you are in a group of people when you are taking pictures. Outside of the inner city it is much easier but still keep a close eye on your gear and your surroundings.|
|General Safety||Chile is safer than most South American countries, especially for violent crime. However, crimes of opportunity are very common so keep your valuables secure at all times. Do not flash expensive jewlery or camera equipment in the inner cities and crowded areas.|
|Emergency Number||Police: 133 emergency, 139 for non-emergency. Ambulance: 131. Fire: 132.|
|Location of U.S. Embassy / Phone||Av. Andrés Bello 2800. Las Condes Santiago, Chile 7550006
Telephone: +(53-2) 2330-3000
Fax: +(56-2) 2330-3710
|Medical Facilities||Medical care is generally good in major cities but could be expensive. Easter Island does have limited care options and many serious cases are flown to the mainland for treatment.|
|Vaccinations Needed||Optional: Hepititis A, Typhoid, Tetanus, Measles. None are required.|
|Health Concerns||Hepititis B, Dengue fever (Easter Island) and Zika are possibilities. When there are volcanic eruptions the air quality can suffer greatly so you many need to take precautions. Altitude sickness is another concern so make sure you take time to acclimate and drink plenty of water when going to high altitude destinations.|
|Water Quality||Tap water is generally safe, but has high concentrations of minerals that could upset your stomach. Bottled water is good if you have a sensitive stomach or are in the northern part of Chile. You can use a Steripen or iodine pills to disinfect water, or boiling the water for 1-3 minutes.|
Have you been to Chile? What activities do we have to try out (besides PENGUINS!)? What other countries should we consider?