I don't really have a given reason for Chile being the first stop on my tour of the South American continent. However, being the first means it is a destination that I've had the luxury of an accurate time frame to plan for – anything past 3 months into my 2 year trip is still mostly a mystery!
After poring over numerous guidebooks, websites, travel brochures and online forums, I have found that Chile has a lot to offer. In true featured post fashion, here are some of the stand-out places I want to see and things that I plan to do as I travel across the narrow stretching mainland.
1. Santiago de Chile
First stop on my list is the bustling capital city of Santiago. It is set in front of the picturesque Andes and just one and a half hours from the pacific coast and ports such as the Viña Del Mar. I plan to spend my first three or so weeks here getting to know the city and hopefully pick up some more essential Spanish. My Couchsurfing contacts have already offered me a number of places to stay, and recommended the best hostels. I can't wait to visit the famous Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino and explore pre-Hispanic Chile, explore the local markets and travel to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal for magnificent views of the Andes.
I have read about this historic port in many travel guide books and on various online forums. A short bus ride from Chile, the town offers accommodation from fellow Couchsurfers and hostels. I have been told that a few days can be spent here, walking the streets and talking in the views and history along the coastline. It was once the home of Latin America's oldest stock exchange p, and referred to as 'Little San Francisco'.
3. Puerto Natales
After taking a 32 hour bus ride from Puerto Montt, crossing into Argentina and then back into Chile, I will arrive in Puerto Natales. This Patagonian town is the gateway to the Torres Del Paine National park, and will hopefully mark the beginning of one of the most fascinating and breathtaking treks that I do in South America.
4. Torres Del Paine National Park
This protected national park is rich with glaciers, lakes and mountains suited to trekkers. The park is a two hour bus ride from the next closet town, Puerto Natales, and there are opportunities to hire equipment for yourself (expensive) or organise a tour with a travel company (more expensive). I haven't quite worked out how to budget for this one yet, I'm hoping I have a bit of luck upon arrival.
5. San Pedro de Atacama
As the Atacama desert is located in Chile's far north, 4340km from Puerto Natales, I plan to cross back into Chile from Bolivia later in my trip to get a chance at seeing this vast dry landscape. A Chilean guy that I met at the airport on the first day of my trip told me that this place is a must-see.
Of course, as I journey through these places I'll be sure to update you with in depth tales from my travels and plenty of photos from my new Nikon. Anyone who has visited Chile with any suggestions for sightseeing or travel tips is more than welcome to share their ideas below.
What do you think makes a place worth visiting? Leave your comments below.