After beginnings that let me some mixed feelings, Chile was finally a country that seduced me little by little and revealed me its treasures, especially regarding the landscapes. Unique for its geography, this vast territory is bursting with incredible places, all very different from each other.
I went to Chile both at the best and worst moment. The best for its summer climate, the worst for its number of tourists, as January / February are the months of the Chilean long holidays. Everything was more expensive and full of tourists, not to say that it was oppressing at some points (I’m thinking about Pucón, where I had to be cunning to be alone in some places).
I was not convinced when I arrived in Chile as the people were cold, the language barrier terrible (I was told about the difficulty of the Chilean accent but it’s not a myth!) and from the first cities that I visited, I was not feeling enchanted nor at ease. It’s only when I arrived in Puerto Varas that I got charmed, a small city where I immediately felt well, with its exceptional environment.
Just like these contrasted beginnings, my volunteering at the Finca Prema Mandal was not an experience up to my expectations, although I managed to learn interesting lessons out of it.
I finished in Chile on a very positive note with my cycling explorations of the so beautiful Valley of Elqui and then the incredible landscapes of the Atacama desert.
I arrived in the South of Chile, starting in Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas, where I didn’t stay for long, especially for the weather. I then went up North to Puerto Montt (30h of bus, crossing through Argentina), spent a few days in Puerto Varas and then directly went close to Concepción to do my volunteering.
I didn’t explore the Pacific coast, only saw a little part of Patagonia, didn’t go to the North.. .once again, I’m far from having seen of the country, but this is something I have to accept for all my trip 😉
(This itinerary also shows my time spent in Argentina, where I was before and after Chile).
The tops & flops
Puerto Varas and its region
A small touristic town but not perverted by this activity, with a quiet and pleasant life. Bordered by the lake Llanquihue, it has a wonderful view over the volcanoes Osorno and Calbuco; and half an hour away, the lake Todos los Santos is considered as one of the most beautiful of the country. I will never forget my first rafting session on the Rio Petrohué, with its turquoise colour and amazing view on the volcanoes all around… an incredible experience!
Horse-riding close to Pucón
Going to Pucón during the most touristic week of the year was not my best idea! But my day on horseback in the Valley of Cañi definitely saved my stay there. Far from the tourists and with a very warm welcome from the owners of the ranch, who definitely contributed to improve my opinion about the Chileans.
ofThe Valley Elqui
This region is famous for its very positive energy and its and I can definitely confirm! I felt well as soon as I arrived there and could have stayed much longer. Between the vineyards, the cactus, the stars observation, the perfect climate, the delicious fruits… all the ingredients were gathered to feel good.
San Pedro de Atacama by bike
I was really looking forward to discovering the desert lands of the Atacama and wasn’t disappointed. I explored this fantastic region for three days by bike, which enabled me to fully embrace the desert experience, its silence and immensity, all of this without ruining me. El Valle de Marte, el Valle de la Luna, the different lagunas… places I will never forget.
Puerto Natales and Puntas Arenas
Two cold, wet and expensive cities, starting point to go to Torres del Paine for the first one, to see the penguins for the second. A bit of an impression to be at the end of the world but not really a crush for me. And no regret not to have been to Torres del Paine after enjoying so much El Chaltén.
A city that isn’t really interesting nor beautiful, and with a bad feeling of insecurity. It’s worth a visit for it’s national parcs all around but it’s better to directly go to Puerto Varas. (which is only 20 minutes away)
Once again a city that wasn’t really appealing, with nothing really interesting to do. I wasn’t lucky as I visited it on a Monday, as its main park was closed. Maybe I would have had a better opinion of the city?
The Chilean accent
This is not a myth, the Chileans talk very fast and and have their own words, that aren’t used in the other countries, so it’s normal to feel lost when you only learnt Spanish one month before in Argentina! Many Chileans told me that once I would understand their accent, I would understand Spanish in all the other countries of South America. I needed at least three weeks before getting used to it and have nice conversations with the Chileans.
Chile is one of the most expensive countries of the South-American continent and even more during the summer, which is high season. I still managed to respect my budget by watching carefully at each of my expenses but it would have been difficult to stay any longer. Buses tend to be less expensive than in Argentina but the accommodation and food were more expensive. Only one exception with the mote con huesillo, my favourite local beverage, nice and cheap reward after cycling in the desert 😉 (less than 1€ per cup).