Today we’re travelling to the beautiful and amazing Chile, a land of deserts, mountains, glaciers and beaches. A land that has it all. We are about to embark on a journey of discovery, during which we’ll briefly visit the main cities of Iquique, Antofagasta and Santiago de Chile. But don’t think we’ll stay there long… We’ll use these three cities as starting points for other unique adventures in the countries wilderness and some of the most inhospitable areas.
Are you ready?
Iquique is a city that rests on the coast of northern Chile. It was founded in the 16th century, linked to small indigenous fishing communities, and evidence has suggested that the Chango people lived here as early as 7,000BC.
Its location between an enormous sand dune and the Pacific make this one of the world’s finest spots for paragliding. But if you’re not up to the challenge, there are still plenty of things for you to do and see! The city serves as an opening to incredible places, like the UNESCO World Heritage Sites towns of Humberstone and Santa Laura, the Isluga Volcano National Park or the hot-springs of Pica and Matilla.
1. Humberstone and Santa Laura
These two abandoned mining towns are located in the arid Atacama Desert and have gained a well-deserved spot in the world’s most ghostly places list! In spite of being uninhabited, both towns are being well preserved and the visitor will have the chance to visit the remains of the old industrial installations that were used in the towns’ more glorious times and learn all about saltpetre processing.
Our tip? We wouldn’t recommend a night visit, as it is rumoured that the dead of the local cemetery rises at night and pace the town!
2. Isluga Volcano National Park
Although 190 km separate Iquique from the spectacular Isluga Volcano National park, it is definitely worth the visit. A popular choice for travellers in this area is to hire one of the special tours offered in the park and spend the day admiring and learning about the park’s endemic inhabitants… like the guanaco or vizcacha.
Curious? Or, if you prefer to discover the park on your own, there are several short and easy routes you can follow: the Isluga Trek and the Laguna Arabilla trek.
Our tip? Don’t miss out on the chance to appreciate volcano Isluga and to take in the fantastic panoramic views.
3. Hot Springs of Pica and Mamiña
Another popular day trip from Iquique, both for local and tourists, are the hot Springs of Pica and Mamiña. If you ever wanted to visit an oasis in the middle of the desert, this is your chance!
Pica and Mamiña appear before your eyes after kilometres and kilometres of dry land, an incredible paradise where you’ll be able to relax in peaceful hot springs and savour delicious tropical fruits; mango, guava, grapefruit…
Our tip? Head to the gorgeous hot-spring of Cocha Resbaladero, in Pica.
Antofagasta is the second large city in our route. Also known as “The Pearl of the North”, it is a port city located in the north of Chile, often overlooked by travellers visiting the country. We think the city is a great starting point for some amazing day trips to nearby areas, like the Atacama Desert. Here are some ideas to tease your travelling soul!
1. The Atacama Desert
Located between the Pacific and the Andes, the incredible Desert of Atacama is a 131 km drive away from Antofagasta. Without a doubt, a MUST visit during any visit to Chile, the desert offers a unique landscape where rust-colored ravines, salt flats, geysers, rocks and active volcanoes welcome the visitor to the driest place on Earth.
The desert extends covers over 100.000 square Kilometres of savage beauty but we’ve highlighted some of the top attractions that will ensure an unforgettable experience:
● The Moon Valley, one of our favourites! After a 45 walk, you’ll be rewarded with stunning scenery and fantastic sunsets. Our tip? Make sure to bring lots of water and some warm clothes, it gets chilly at dusk!
● Salar de Atacama, a healing oasis. Isolated and beautiful, it’s the world’s third biggest salar (salt lake), just behind Uyuni’s. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting your camera, as you will see landscapes you never imagined, lagoons mirroring the cloudless sky and beautiful flamingos flying in the horizon.
Our tip? A night visit will grant you a memorable stargazing experience.
● Tatio Geysers, a show of nature’s power for the early birds among you, as 6 am is the best time to see the geysers in full action. One thing to keep in mind is that the geysers are one of the major attractions in the Atacama Desert, you’ll most likely find yourself enjoying the show with hundreds of people!
A curious fact about the Tatio Geysers: at 4.320 meters above sea level, it is one of the world’s highest elevations geysers.
2. Huanchaca Ruins
The gorgeous Huanchaca ruins are the remains of an old silver smelter that operated in Antofagasta from 1982 to 1902, co-owned by Bolivia, Chile and Britain.
We recommend wandering around the ruins while enjoying the views of the sea, you’ll realise that the place actually looks a bit like a medieval castle! Afterwards, enter The Museum and learn about the natural, archaeological and historical heritage of the area.
SANTIAGO DE CHILE
From the northern city Antofagasta, we move down to the more cosmopolitan Santiago, the capital of Chile. However, after discovering the city’s unique flavours and personality, we invite you to discover some of the surrounding points of interest, such as Valparaiso or Cajón del Maipo.
As Chile’s second largest city, Valparaiso is the total opposite of Santiago de Chile. Here, the visitor will discover bright coloured buildings, vibrant street art and a bohemian atmosphere.
And did you know that Valparaiso is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site? You’ll appreciate an incredible mix of cultures, as immigrants from Italy, Spain, Germany and Yugoslavia have left their mark on local traditions throughout history.
Our favourite thing about Valparaiso? Its authenticity and people’s kindness.
2. Cajon del Maipo
Just an hour south of Santiago, Cajon del Maipo is a natural paradise of wineries, Incan history, beautiful waterfalls, picturesque little towns that spread through the wilderness and a wide range of sports activities perfect for adrenaline seekers.
Our tip? Don’t miss the stunning Cascada de las Animas, a beautiful and relaxed setting.
These are just some of the beautiful treasures that can be found in Chile. Next month we’ll be taking you to another of our South American destinations: ECUADOR.