Travel notebook: Chile, from top to bottom

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Travel notebook: Chile, from top to bottom

Chile, an immense strip of land between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, reveals its secrets: from Santiago to the Atacama desert, and all the way down to the southern tip of the world.

Desert-like to the north, freezing to the south, lined by the Andes to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east, Chile is full of surprises. Start your journey in beautiful Santiago, lively and full of history. Then warm up in the arid Atacama desert north of the country, before finishing with a breath of (very) fresh air down south, close to Antarctica, as you discover the lakes and glaciers of Patagonia.

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Travel notebook: Chile, from top to bottom

Days 1 and 2: Stunning lay-over in Santiago

After enjoying a few empanadas as you exit the airport, take Santiago by storm and learn from its history.

Searching for Pablo Neruda's soul
In Santiago, follow in the footsteps of Pablo Neruda, famous Chilean poet. La Chascona is a beautiful blue house perched on a hill, which was built for Matilde Urrutia, Nerudas's secret love. It looks like a boat, perhaps a reference to Winnipeg, which Neruda chartered to transport Spanish refugees to Chile in 1939. The dwelling, full of objects of all kinds, looks out onto a garden that Matilde would lovingly care for. Neruda fans will also want to go to Valparaíso, an hour and a half by car, and visit La Sebastiana, a magnificent house overlooking the ocean.

La Chascona
Fernando Márquez de La Plata 0192
Providencia
Santiago
Región Metropolitana
+56 2 2777 8741
fundacionneruda.org/en

Rising up on San Cristóbal hill
A must see in Santiago, Cerro San Cristóbal culminates at 2,800 feet above sea level, providing a breath taking view of Santiago. You could not dream of a better perch from which to admire the sea of buildings the city holds. Just beyond lay the Andes, wrapped in their beautiful white coat of snow, only the deep blue sky hovering over.
Once there, make sure to stop before the impressive Virgin Mary statue. There are two ways to get there: cable car, for those who are not afraid of heights, or by foot, for the more athletic.

Where to eat?
At El Huerto restaurant, vegetarians will be thrilled, and others will discover exquisite dishes. El Huerto deserves its place among the best tables of Latin America. You'll want to dive in to taste the colourful plates right away. But take your time as these delicious servings should be rightfully savoured. The dishes are inspired by recipes from around the world: Tuscany, Mexico and Asia all meet in this restaurant. The rustic decor adds to the finishing touches of this charming restaurant which also hosts art exhibitions and yoga classes.

El Huerto
Calle Orrego Luco 54
Providencia
Santiago
Región Metropolitana
+56 2 233 2690
www.elhuerto.cl

Where to sleep?
The Singular provides a nice quiet break in buzzing Santiago. Sixty rooms, modern yet authentic, all dressed in cream and purple tones. In the evening, climb to the top of the hotel and cool off in the pool, or with a cocktail. The rooftop offers a beautiful view of San Cristóbal Hill.

The Singular Santiago Lastarria Hotel
Merced 294
Santiago
Región Metropolitana
+56 2 2306 8820
www.thesingular.com

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Travel notebook: Chile, from top to bottom

Days 3 and 4: roaming wild in northern Chile

Go feel the heat in the Atacama region, the most arid desert in the world. It is said that some areas have never received a single drop of water.

Bahía Inglesa, and the ocean as far as the eye can see
Bahia Inglesa is a jewel on the Pacific coast. It sits 546 miles north of Santiago – about an hour by plane. To the north, a small bay surrounded by rocks forms the "beach pool", with calm waters perfectly suitable for children. Further south, Virgen Beach is considered to be the most beautiful in the country, and you'll understand why: crystal clear waters and pearly white sands are waiting for you. This spot is ideal for water sports, such as kite surfing: the weather is just right.

Bahia Inglesa
Región de Copiapó

San Pedro de Atacama, oasis in the desert
480 miles further north, San Pedro de Atacama is a pearl of the desert. From there, you can visit the Valle de la Luna ("Valley of the Moon"). Climb the Duna Mayor and admire the lunar landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see. Early birds will travel the 50 miles of desert that separate San Pedro from the geysers of El Tatio, a stunning site from which 80 steam columns rise up, about twenty feet high. Watch your step, the ground is unstable with shifting sand, and it is therefore recommended to be accompanied by a local guide.

San Pedro de Atacama
Región de Antofagasta

Where to eat?
Right in the centre of San Pedro de Atacama, Agua Loca is an oasis in the oasis. This restaurant is perfect for regaining your strength after crossing the desert under the scorching sun. From breakfast to dinner, stop by any time of day to enjoy mouth-watering cuisine. From salmon carpaccio to beef filet, everything is fresh and prepared on the spot.

Caracoles 130
San Pedro de Atacama
Región de Antofagasta
+56 55 285 1138
www.agualoca.cl

Where to sleep?
The Geiser del Tatio is perfect to relax and rest your tired feet after a day of hiking. And you‘ll still be able to enjoy stunning views of the Andes and Licancabur volcano. The rooms are simple, yet very comfortable, built with materials reminiscent of nature. The pool will feel like ultimate luxury in the middle of the Atacama desert.

Hotel Geiser del Tatio
Calle Caracoles con pasaje Pacsa 107
San Pedro de Atacama
Región de Antofagasta
+56 55 298 0537
www.eltatio.com

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Travel notebook: Chile, from top to bottom

Day 5: colourful getaway in Valparaíso

The road to the south is long, so plan a break midway. Valparaíso looks like the perfect place to stop.

Valparaíso, “Paradise Valley”
Ninety minutes from Santiago, Valparaíso is on the way to southern Chile. Spend a day and discover the Valle Paraiso (the "valley of Paradise"). Located on the Pacific coast, Valparaíso is surrounded by 42 hills, with 16 funiculars to shuttle you. The centre of the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003 and offers many surprises to the curious eye. Viewpoints provide unobstructed vistas of the whole city: ports and churches, art galleries or museums that will tell you the history of Valparaíso... Enjoy this authentic immersion and discover the wine region, including the not-to-be-missed Casablanca valley, a forty minutes drive from Valparaiso, or about an hour from Santiago de Chile.

Valparaíso
Región de Valparaíso

Where to eat?
Head to the Color Cafe for a drink and enjoy a few dishes at lunch. The walls are overloaded, but they lend the place its charm: every nook is used to hang a poster, frame or small word. Very often, artists with various talents offer short performances for your entertainment.

Color Cafe
Calle Papudo 526
Valparaíso
Región de Valparaíso
+56 32 222 6687

Where to sleep?
Before heading to southern Chile, spend the night at Hotel Sutherland, on the Alegre hill in Valparaíso. This 1870s villa offers nine comfortable rooms with magnificent views of the bay and hills.

Sutherland House
Avenida Alemania 4966
Cerro Alegre
Valparaíso
Región de Valparaíso
+56 32 319 6798
www.sutherlandhouse.cl

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Travel notebook: Chile, from top to bottom

Days 6 and 7: heading south to Patagonia

Villa O'Higgins, storm the glacier
On the Argentinean border, the town of Villa O'Higgins is located at the end of the Carretera Austral, the road that crosses all of southern Chile and stretches along the shores of Lake O'Higgins. The lake is the deepest in America and sits both in Chile and Argentina. Take a boat for a day and explore the lake. You will get to admire the O'Higgins glacier, one of the four largest in Patagonia. You will feel very small before this ice giant as you get up close in your boat.

Villa O'Higgins
Región Aisén

Where to eat?
When you travel to Patagonia, we suggest you plan your meals in advance, because there are only two restaurants in Villa O'Higgins: Donde Aquiles and San Gabriel, both of which serve typical Chilean cuisine: indulge in delicious empanadas de pino, a delicate mixture of beef, olives, egg and onions.

Donde Aquiles
21 de Mayo 549
La Estrella

Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins
Villa O'Higgins

Región Aisén
+56 96 839 1163

San Gabriel
Calle Lago O'higgins
Villa O'Higgins
Región Aisén
+56 67 243 1821

Where to sleep?
At Hotel El Mosco you will feel right at home. A welcome feeling after a tiring day of exploring. Relax in the spa or Jacuzzi, admire the mountains and glaciers in a Zen and cosy atmosphere. It will leave you with a pleasant taste for the last part of your trip before heading back to Santiago.

El Mosco Hotel and hostel
Carretera Austral km 1240
Villa O'Higgins
Región Aisén
+56 67 243 1819
www.elmosco.cl