Travel - Chile

  • I've made my way across the border to Chile.

    I'll update this OP with my album once I actually start uploading photos. It's taking longer as I've changed the format (still learning) and I didn't have my laptop or really internet for a few days.

    Edit: Photos are up -

  • Puerto Natales

    I got the bus from El Calafate to Puerto Natales for 560 Argentinian Peso. It's both the cheapest and earliest bus you can get to there. Leaves at 5:30 and you get picked up at your accommodation and it takes roughly 5 hours to get to Natales.

    So I actually don't have a huge amount to say about the place as it's really just been a good place to set up before doing the W Trek at Torres Del Paine. It's a small town really full of rental places for hiking gear. It's a nice place just to do a quick walk around the pier and there is a Milodon cave here (haven't gone yet).

    I've stayed at Wild Hostel here, it's 10000 Chilean Peso. Nice little place, very central, does a good breakfast and they give some information on doing the trek although I'd definitely recommend getting as much information as possible. (Erratic Rock do a good talk daily at 3pm I hear). Only issue at the hostel is it doesn't have a kitchen to cook your own food.

    So I booked the W Trek with 2 others. I'm going to try and explain it so people can get the best value as it's pretty expensive to do it if you get with the programmes. We were initially going to pay $505 for 4 nights and all transport (includes a ferry) but we were actually able to bring that down to $349 by just booking 2 of the nights with the actual owners of those shelters! So I'm sure we could have done a lot better if we had more time.

    So you can book all these things separately or even just get it sorted on the day. So here are my understanding of all the prices.

    • Ferry - 18000
    • Bus to Torres Del Paine - 12000
    • Park Entrance fee - 11000
    • Shuttle to Torres Shelter - 3000
    • Vertice Refugio Shelters (Central and Grey) - 15000 each (2 nights, 30000)

    So that's roughly $93 and the only other things you have to pay for is the fantastico sur shelters. I actually don't know if they charge extra if you just show up but according to the site.

    • Cuernos Shelter - Bed + sleeping bag - $66
    • Torres Central - Made up Bed - $86

    So honestly I'd recommend to go during off season (as high season sounds extremely busy which puts me off) and probably just try and sort out as much yourself unless money isn't an issue. You can get full board meals and lunches too if you don't really want to carry anything.

    Of course you can camp too. There are a few free camping sites and the majority of Refugio campsites are between 5000 -10000 peso I believe. Don't camp at Cuernos though as you have to book the meal if you camp there which is crazy expensive. Personally I would have liked to have done some camping but the others weren't as interested.

    Might actually move that info to the Torres Del Paine post but I'll see.

    Not much else to say about Puerto Natales. There isn't too many places to go at night. Baguales is a cool spot, that's where a bunch of us met up after the trek to celebrate. We couldn't really find anywhere else to head afterwards that was open though. Think our only options were a casino and a strip club I think so that was the night done with really. Good night though!

  • Torres Del Paine - W Trek

    So as I previously mentioned, we went for 5 days and 4 nights and stayed in shelters each night. We bought most of our stuff as opposed to renting it. So things like gas, pots, cutlery etc. Food wise I won't go into too much as I'm very inexperienced at this but we brought plenty of pasta, soups, bread, oats, salami... that kind of thing. I know a bit more now regarding weight and stuff so I'd probably change that up a nice bit next time I try and properly camp.

    We went from east to west. The bus left for 7:30 and we arrived at the Torres Base Shelter for roughly 11:30 I think. On the first day you'll head up to the towers themselves and back so we were able to leave the majority of our gear in the shelter and bring a backpack. First day was about 18km return trip. The cool thing is there is a campsite an hour away from the top, so most people will camp there and get up for the sunrise which is supposed to be incredible. It took us roughly 3 1/2 hours to get up which included a lunch break. The weather was pretty cool I thought as it snowed a small bit and was misty most of the way up and even on top of the Towers when we were there but it was still clear enough and got a lot clearer. The whole area at the top is very nice, towers look great and there is an awesome icy laguna right in front of it.

    The second day was only a 11km trek but we had to carry all our gear which honestly made these kind of days the worse. Just constantly going up and down with a bag full of food, clothes and gear is a pain. Still though, there were plenty of great views of the lake and the mountain scenery. I think it took us about 3:30-4 hours. We made it to Cuernos shelter which was easily the worst shelter. Staff weren't as nice and the general place was pretty cold around the dorms. That said there was a hot tub, more of a warm tub, that we sneaked into (only for cabin users) which was nice to soak into after the trekking.

    Day 3 is probably the best day for me. In total it's between 25-30km, depending how far you make it up the French Valley. Even though it’s a very long day (looking at 9-12 hours) it’s a really enjoyable one. You make your way to the Italiano campsite which takes about 2-3 hours I believe. From here you can leave the majority of gear at the ranger station and make your way up the very centre of the trek towards Mirador Frances and Britanica if weather allows it. The first viewpoint is a wonderful place to just look out at the snow covered mountains in front of you and wait to see an avalanche come crashing down. It’s really impressive. As you make your way towards the other viewpoint, you’ll probably notice the wind really pick up. Basically, once you see all the bare trees, be prepared to put on the windbreakers and cover up. After a decent ascent you’ll get a fantastic 360 view of the back of the towers and the lake. Again it’s a lovely spot to have lunch and just take it all in. Definitely take your time at both spots, with the former probably being more impressive.

    The way back can be a little difficult as you’ll be coming back through a rocky area that isn’t as well signposted. We accidentally made our way down closer to the river but there was still somewhat of a path there that led us back to the main track. Once we picked up our gear again, we made our way to the Grande shelter. It’s a pretty nice and easy trek considering you’re carrying a lot and you get some lovely views of the mountains, dead forests and the wind shifting the water in the lakes. The Grande Shelter is pretty nice and has a great area for cooking. I forgot to mention that if you are cooking, you need to go to the camping area. This one was in a huge shed so it was really cosy while we spent our first night cooking outside and were absolutely freezing, although that was our fault. You get a blanket with the bed but it’s probably worth using your sleeping bag here.

    Day 4 took us to Glacier Grey. We were staying the night at Grey Shelter so again, we had to carry everything although it was getting lighter by the day. It’s only a 3-4 hour trek so it isn’t a particularly long day unless you make it long. You can go past the viewpoint after the shelter, make your way to a suspension bridge which is right over the glacier. To be honest, I’d already done enough with glaciers recently that I was okay with the first viewpoint. Just on the trek itself, it’s not really easy or hard either way, both directions have ascents and descents. The shelter is lovely. Easily the nicest, only downside is no wifi but that’s really not a big deal. I was shocked there was wifi at all on the mountain anyway. You can also go kayaking by the glacier (which most did and loved) but it’s a little expensive at 60000 peso. I really just chilled for most of the day, went out to the mirador and soaked it all in. There’s some cool points you can climb around and get some really nice views of grey so take your time unless you do want to hit that second point which I think is about a 2 hour trek return.

    Day 5 was just the way back to Grande and getting the ferry across the lake. The ferry trip is only 30 minutes long and it’s really pretty. You can get excellent pictures of the mountains reflecting off the lake which is an extremely clear blue. It’s great.

    Other little things:

    • The water is drinkable and is fantastic. You’ll find a stream to grab water from pretty often.

    • There is a lot of wildlife out here, birds, foxes, hares and even pumas. I wasn’t lucky enough to see a puma but you’ll definitely see a lot of wildlife and be able to get pretty close. Obviously be a bit more cautious if you see a puma, in particular if it’s very close.

    • Be sociable, even if you’re in a group, you’ll meet the same people every day who’re in camps or shelters and it makes the whole trek so much more fun bumping into each other. As I mentioned in the previous post, we all met up after for some drinks and it was great.

    So TL:DR, I loved the experience, met some really cool people, saw some fantastic things and truly spectacular scenery. If you’ve got the time, absolutely go for it!

  • Wow some of those pictures are really cool! I'm a geologist and love seeing large scale evidence of glaciation like that. Was there any talk of how far they had retreated in the last few years (or decades)? Bringing up a map of Chile and I didn't realize how much of it was national parks. Is off season crazy cold? Is it kid friendly? You're making me want to plan a trip to South America

  • @RockDoctor Ya it's insane how much of the place is National Park. As we were on our own, we didn't get any real information on the decline of the glaciers.

    It's not that cold here. For the W trek the main thing you have to worry about is the wind which can be insane at times but as long as you have a good windbreaker jacket, you should be all good.

    The place seems kid friendly to me. I've had really good experiences everywhere I've been. I have been told that there are some dodgy places in Valparaiso at night (haven't been yet) but I think that goes for any city in the world really.

    If you like trekking, the whole Patagonia region between Argentina and Chile is awesome and full of amazing sites and glaciers. So I'd definitely say go for it. If you are bringing kids, I'm sure you'll have a good idea yourself what they are capable of walking wise as some of the treks are pretty long and parts can be tough.

    Let me know if you've any other questions.

  • Okay here are a few quickfire ones (I hope)

    Punta Arenas

    Only spent the night here to catch my flight to Puerto Montt and get a bus to Castro so I don't have a whole pile to say. I went for a walk around the town, pretty nice. There was some kind of rally event on as there was a bunch of rally cars driving through.

    I did go into the town to go to a popular fast food place there called Kioska Roco I think. I actually didn't get anything from there as it was pretty intimidating as everyone was just shouting basically and by the time I sat down, they weren't serving food anymore. They only really sell Choizo sandwiches and banana milk but apparently it's amazing.

    Other thing I'll mention is you can catch a wonderful sunrise anywhere by the seaside so it's worth getting up for. Plus unlike most other places, the sun doesn't rise till about 7-7:30 so you don't even have to get up that early.

    Chiloe - Castro

    So I got my flight to Puerto Montt, got a shuttle to the bus station and a 4 hour bus to Castro. Castro is a pretty nice place. I was there during low season so it wasn't the busiest tourist wise and there didn't seem to be that many speaking english (just so you're aware). Some cool things I liked in the town was the market place which is basically at the back, down the hill. You can get some pretty decent food down here and if you go around the back and the tide is high, you'll probably see a bunch of sea loins and birds congregating, waiting patiently for people to throw fish scrapes in. So it's a pretty cool place to hang out.

    A few things worth getting food wise are the Empandas de Manzana (apples), cerviche (fish cooked in lemon acid I think), cazurela (Pretty sure this kind of a brought, I got one with chicken but I think it's specifically fish). All really nice meals.

    The main things I did in Chiloe was day trips to Cucao and Ancud. In Cucao, you can get a bus directly to the pier on the weekends (Called something like Pas de las Almas) and then you can get a bus to the national park after or head to Cole Cole beach. Ancud is a small town in another island. You'll have to go through Dalcahue first which a lot of people stop off at for the market and food there. At Ancud, if you're lucky you can get a great view of the Andes. I went even further to Chequian but unfortunately it wasn't the best day so I just walked around the beach really and got the bus back after.

    Also, I stayed in Palafito Waiwen. Nice place, good wifi and decent breakfast.

    Puerto Varas

    I got the bus from Castro for 6200 Peso. I stayed 2 nights in Compass del sur. It was a decent place, very good wifi. Wasn't a huge fan of the breakfast as it was very sweet. You could pay for other things I believe.

    The main things I did here was a tour out to Osorno Volcano and walks around the town really. I wanted to head out to Ensenada myself (which I highly recommend you do) and trek around the park and in particular to Saltos del Petrohue but the day I was going to go was miserable enough and I'd stuff to plan so I left it.

    The tour to the Volcano was nice but a bit unnecessary really. For what it is, it's expensive and you have to pay more again to get the ski lift up higher. I just did a trek around the area. If you went by public transport yourself, I believe there is a trek you can take that will end at the the park and near Saltos del Petrohue which is why I was saying you're better off going and doing it yourself.

    The town itself is really nice. You can go for some lovely walks by the lake and get great views of the two volcanos. There are also one or two really nice hill spots overlooking the town so that's worth checking out too.

    Food wise, by the lake there is a small food market which is where I ate. I got a really nice cerviche one night and burger the following so can't complain. Also got this caramel and nut cake which was really good.

  • @tokeeffe9 Hey i live in Chile, but as you may know, it is very large, So I only made it to Chiloe, not further than that, amazing picture that make me proud of "Chilito" if you need any tips from Santiago, drop me a message to my twitter ;) have a great trip! the weather is awesome this time of the year, spring is the best time to be here imo.

    Good luck in your travels!!

    Regards niko

  • @Niko_tagle Thanks Niko. I've actually just spent a few days in Santiago. Really enjoyed it and I'm heading off to Valpariso later on.

    Bit behind on this blog.. so I'll try and sort it out when I've more time.

  • Santiago

    Firstly it took me 19 hours to get here on a semi cama bus (basically a really nice seat). I’m not great with buses so I struggled to fall asleep but that really depends on the person. There are a few different bus stations all relatively near each other for domestic and international travelling. I decided to walk all the way to my Hostel, Providencia, as I’d been on that bus so long but if you want to get into the centre easily, get a Bip! card, charge it up and take the metro. It’s not that difficult to understand. I believe you need the card for the Bus as they don’t accept tickets. Disclaimer: I did not take the bus.

    I’d highly recommend the hostel I stayed in. It’s a great location and has a very good buffet breakfast which includes boiled eggs (honestly, if a hostel has eggs I’m already sold as breakfast in South America so far are insanely sugary) and eggs you can cook yourself. The metro station is really near by, walk away from some nice attractions and food/drink options.

    So I’d heard mostly average to negative stuff about Santiago before I went however I’ve got to say I really liked it. The city is a bit polluted which you’ll notice immediately once you get to a higher vantage point but it’s full of nice architecture and parks so I ended up really enjoying my time there. I did meet some pretty cool people here and bumped into the odd person who I’d already met so that helped too. Also on my first night in Santiago I did meet up with a few Easy Allies fans for food and drinks which was great! Hopefully I’ll get to do more of that along the way.

    So on my first proper day exploring, I joined my Columbian roommate to do the tours4tips. However it turned out we were an hour off on our schedule so we changed up the day and went to Pablo Neuber’s house for a tour and then made our way up to Cerro san Cristobal which was a pretty tiring trek as there’s a lot of uphill and it was very hot. Doing the tour is up to you really, I liked it and it gave me a lot more background on Chile and Pablo but it’s not essential. Making the trek uphill to Cerro san Cristobal gives you a great view of the city and depending on the time of year and day kind of dictates how clear it’ll be (back to my pollution point).

    The next day, a group of 5 of us from the same room decided to do the walking tour, at the correct time! It was one of those tours for tips and went on for roughly 3 hours, going through the city history, the markets and ending at the cemetery. It’s a really good tour and the guides are really knowledgable so you get an excellent overview on history and things to try and do now. We even joined our guide back at the fish market for a meal which was delicious. Now I’m sure it was still a more touristy place but the food was fantastic. Afterwards we went to the Museum of Memory & Human Rights which goes through the overthrowing of democracy and dictatorship that occurred in Chile. I have to admit we were all extremely tired here so I had to rush through bits since I really wanted to go home but it’s great. You’ll need to get an audio tour as most of it is in Spanish but there are some videos you can watch too that are insane really, hearing the eye witness reports etc.. I went in expecting the War Museum from Ho Chi Minh so it wasn’t as graphic as that but it’s worth visiting for sure.

    The next day was mostly spent chilling out and making our way to Valpariso (joined up with Millie, Alex and Gina who were in my room) I spent most of the nights in Valpariso drinking at the hostel as opposed to going out properly but I head it was good and Tuesdays are a good night to go out. I’m generally a lot happy just having a few drinks and chatting with people as opposed to going to a nightclub. Another thing about the hostel, it’s really near a park which has some outdoor gym equipment if you plan on keeping in shape.

    Food related, I mentioned I ate in the fish markets which was fantastic. I also ate in a two places nearby that I’d recommend. (Currently no wifi, so I’m forgetting some names but remind me if you want the info exactly) I went to a chilean fast food place which was called something like Fuentes Almadu. Turn right outside the hostel, follow to the end of the street, cross over to the left and it’s after KFC I think. They made some really great Churrasco sandwiches. I went to the clinic bar with the EZA fans which was pretty good and reasonable. Finally I went to a place in the Bella Vista area, I only remember the last word being chocolate for it and it is more expensive than all the other places I went but it was a delicious meal do I’d highly recommend if you wanted to splash out. Oh.. and I got some ice cream after in that square which was great. They give a load of it so just be wary if you go for a double scoop!

    I did actually come back to Santiago for another night as it seemed like the best way for me to make my way to Cordoba from Valpariso. This was when I bumped into the Fiona again who I did the W trek with. So it was pretty nice to meet up with her again since it was very unexpected. I was only there for the night though and it was my last one with the other guys I met as they were heading to San Pedro so we just went out for dinner and had an early sleep.

  • Valparaiso

    Valparaiso had been recommended by a lot of people I met during my travels and I can see why. The area itself is relatively small, it’s got a bunch of really nice viewpoints, there is a lot of great street art and you can feel the culture around the place. It just feels very cosy while somewhere like Santiago can feel a bit more isolated I guess.

    We stayed at Angel hostel where I bumped into Henrik, a swede who I’d met in Buenos Aires over a month ago so that was already a shock. We were pretty lucky as the 2 nights we stayed, everyone had a great time socialising in the common room. That just happens sometimes really where everything just clicks and it makes for a fun time. The hostel was pretty nice but it did have only one shower so as you can imagine, it can get busy.

    The first day we arrived we just soaked in the very nearby area. Sat down at a place for drinks, went down by the port area and bought some drink to bring back to the hostel. I got a massive Churrasco from basically a hole in the wall food place. This thing was insanely big and only 3900 peso, I had was just picking at it by the final slice. Anyway we were up late that night just drinking and socialising. A few people decided to head out at about 2am and the rest of us went to bed.

    The following day we grouped up a bit more. A German girl joined us and after the tips for tours walk in Valparaiso, as American girl joined us too. As I mentioned, we did another walking tour at 10 which took us around most of the east and central areas of Valpo. We got to see a load of the awesome street art and were able to decide where to head off to after. You also take one of the old buses and electric buses during the tour. The standard bus is an experience in itself as the the drivers are insane! Speeding around one hard corner to another. Hold on tight.

    So once we had some lunch in us, we made our way up the hills and towards another house by Pablo Neuber. This way we got a to see a lot of nice viewpoints, open sky museum. It was also kind of funny as this stray dog followed us all around the town. We were sad to see him go in the end. :) The last thing we did was make our way all the way over east to where we thought there was a graffiti tunnel but it just turned out to be a tunnel which was extremely cool. It was actually beautiful because it was so hot outside. The tunnel does lead to an elevator and another viewpoint but it wasn’t as impressive. We did walk down and see more cool graffiti over the tunnel so maybe the information we got was a bit off. Oh, there was also a market we walked through too which was basically your standard market.

    That night, we got ourselves a Churracallo in a place that was recommended to us. This is the mean with chorizo, french fries, fried eggs and beef (I think) all on top of each other. It was a solid messy meal, what more could you expect! Like the previous night, we stayed up socialising. A few of us actually planned to head out that night but some people had already left the hostel and others had to get early buses so no one was as interested. Didn’t bother me too much anyway.

    That was our time with Valpo really. You could get some boat rides around the place and make your way outside the place to beaches I believe but they were further off. I probably could have stayed longer but I was happy with the time we got too. We were constantly advised to be careful by the hostel owners and tour guides to be careful and don’t go to certain areas later etc but I didn’t feel threatened at all while I was there. So I’d highly recommend taking at least a day tour out here if you’ve got the time.

  • San Pedro de Atacama

    So this was my final stop in Chile. I made my way here from Salta in Argentina. The bus journey over was bloody long and I have to be honest, I felt the altitude a bit when I got out and starting walking. I got a bit of pins and needles but I was okay after a while. I didn’t arrive until 6pm on the first day so I made my way to the hostel (La Ruca, was fine, would recommend), settled in and made my way to the main tourist street which had all the agencies for the tours around the Atacama desert.

    I booked all my tours with Desert Adventure and got a small discount by doing so. I did the Moon Valley, Altiplanic lagoons and the geyser tour. All together they cost 82000 peso but they gave it to me for 65000 so I’ll take it. This doesn’t include entrance fees. The other thing to know about this area is a lot of the tours are early. You’ll be getting up at 6am for the lagoons and 4am for the geyser tour. There is a bunch of other stuff to do here too like Astrology (which I booked later on but had to cancel as it was too cloudy), sandboarding and other sightseeing tours.

    I really enjoyed all the tours. Funnily enough I had the same tour guide for every tour! He was pretty knowledgeable. First tour was Moon Valley which is a half day and pretty close by. I won’t waste my time explaining it as I’ll probably make it sound very boring but it’s really cool to see the different types of landscapes around the desert. Sand Dunes, mountains, Volcanos and you finish off the tour with the sunset which is awesome as the colour of the mountains around you change from red to purple to blue. It’s really beautiful.

    The second day, I went out to the Altiplanic Lagoons. This is a full day and you hit an altitude of 4200m so it’s best to climates a bit first. It was another really good day too. You’ll learn a lot about the area. I’d no idea a part of the inca trail was in Atacama! It’s also nice as you get to see a lot of wildlife in some really cool areas. Llama’s, flamingoes, various other birds, foxes etc. It’s really nice. Spending time outside having breakfast and going to a traditional chilean restaurant for food is all part of the experience.

    Final day, I had to get up at 4am for the geysers. It’s absolutely freezing out there, we’re talking -8 to -10 degrees so cover up! Again, it great to spend the morning out by the geysers having breakfast. Sure it’s freezing, but it adds to it.The guide will eventually walk the group around to a bunch of them and give information on them. Afterwards you’re given about forty minutes to explore yourself. Here is where you’re able to go into the thermal baths. Now they say they are 33-35 degrees but honestly there is no way they are that hot but every so often you will feel a burst of heat. I say go for it and brave the outside cold anyway, at least thats what I did. Afterwards we went to this tiny village where they sold goats cheese empanadas and llama skewers. The latter was particularly good.

    And that pretty much sums up my time in San Pedro. The place is extremely touristy which isn’t a major surprise and there are things to check out around the city but I didn’t. Also there is a pretty good pizza place right by Miteca Atacama which is where I booked my trip to the Salt Flats in Bolivia.

    So that was all my time in Chile. I really loved it here, in particular (and similar to Argentina), the Patagonia region. If anyone has questions, just fire away and I’ll answer as best as I can.