TAKE THE MOMENT
An absurd Alitalia total price of 380.00 euros for the direct Rome-Santiago de Chile, tell me that it was time to go to Chile.
No hesitation and instant booking.
25 days in South America to organize with my usual crazy rhythms for a difficult but successful travel.
My musical tastes are as restricted and limited as extreme and often unknown. Two hands are more than enough to count the concerts I’ve attended. One of these was the Chilean Inti Illimani in Cagliari.
If I met them thanks to the demonstrations in which I shouted their “el Pueblo unido jamás será vencido”, I more follow them when I know their bond with Sardinia. Here in fact they organized their first concerts after the 1974 chilean military coup, that forced them to a long exile of 15 years.
My trip to Chile was accompanied by their music.
4 x 4
My long travels have a common choice: not to see just one nation, but to visit more States.
The record made on this trip was defeated after 3 years, when I visited 6 Nations on 2019 in Oceania.
4 were the new flags added to the passport: Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.
And the 4×4 Toyota off-road vehicles allowed me to run on desert, sand, snow, ice and salt.
HOW TO GET
Santiago de Chile airport is certainly the main base for arriving by plane. There are many connections from Europe and from all over the American continent.
You can take advantage of excursions of a few days to arrive in Chile from neighboring countries: from Argentina (Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego), Bolivia (La Paz and Salar de Uyuni) and Peru (Lima).
HOW TO MOVE
Excluding the Chilean Antarctic Territory, Easter Island and other islands in the Pacific Ocean, Chile is a strip of land about 2,670 miles long and only 111 miles wide on average.
I used the plane for long distance (from Santiago de Chile to Calama and Punta Arenas), the bus to reach the Argentine city of Ushuaia and small vehicles for excursions around San Pedro de Atacama and to arrive in Bolivia.
WHERE TO GO
SANTIAGO DE CHILE
The first thing that struck me about Santiago de Chile were stray dogs.
Many, big, everywhere and often in groups. But also quiet and never aggressive.
Then I remember the landscape, the historic Andes that observe every movement.
History passes from the Moneda Palace, bombed on 11 September 1973 during the coup of General Augusto Pinochet which led to the suicide of Marxist president Salvador Allende.
His tomb is at the General Cemetery of Santiago de Chile.
In this regard, the Museum of Memory and Human Rights is very beautiful.
Photos and historical documents are the best way to know about the coup supported by the United States and the damage that the military dictatorship has created.
SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA
Two hours of flight separate Santiago de Chile to Calama, from which in about 90 minutes by bus you can reach San Pedro de Atacama.
This small town of about 4,000 inhabitants is the ideal base for some daily excursions in the area and then to continues the trip to Argentina (the border is 100 miles away) or Bolivia (40 miles away).
Its dusty roads immediately make realize that we are in the desert and if, like me, come from the Patagonian glaciers, the impact is immediately strong.
It is said that here rains once every 6/7 years.
I recommend spending a day walking around the town and choosing the various excursions after considering the best balance between price and duration in several agencies.
Often the proposed excursions are very similar, so choose also based on the feeling you find with the seller.
In the evening the town is populated by travelers who participated in the various excursions during the day. Listening to their impressions is always useful.
The Atacama Desert stretches for about 1,000 miles and is one of the driest deserts in the world.
The cold Humboldt ocean current that arrives from the west and the Andes located east of the desert create a climate characterized by the almost total absence of rain (max 0.1 inch per year) and by a strong temperature range (it goes from 41°F at night to 104°F during the day).
Its terrain is so similar to that on Mars that tests are carried out on instruments and vehicles that will then leave for the red planet.
The excursions to the Valley of the Moon start a few hours before sunset.
This is in fact the moment of the day when the panorama leaves you speechless.
The sun caresses huge sand dunes, reflecting on the white of the salt and the pink of the chalk, while the sky turns more red.
Hundreds of people come here from San Pedro every day, so try to find an ideal place for photos.
Another classic excursion is the one that usually starts around 04.00am (depending on the location of your accommodation and the number of participants in the tour you have chosen) to reach the El Tatio Geysers in time to see the sunrise.
Here you are at 14,300 ft above sea level and the temperature also drops to -4°F.
Geysers are violent jets of boiling water that condense into huge steam fumaroles that exceed 40 ft in height.
Here there are about 80 of them and they are delimited by stones which prevent them from approaching.
This is obviously for safety but it is a somewhat negative note for those who would like to go further. For this reason, the geysers in Bolivia have excited me more.
Usually all excursions to the Geysers of Tatio include a stop on the Putana river (where you can see vicins, llamas and Andean flamingos) and in the shepherd city of Machuca.
The altitude, the very low humidity, the clear sky for at least 90% of the year and the absence of light pollution, make the San Pedro de Atacama area the best place in the world for astronomical observation.
You only need to hear the word “Patagonia” to immediately imagine yourself in remote and wonderful lands.
It’s a trip to the end of the world and always leaves strong emotions.
Its territory, the southern of the american continent, includes both the Chilean and Argentine areas.
Portuguese navigator Fernão de Magalhães (whom we know as Ferdinand Magellan) was the first European to reach Patagonia.
On October 21, 1520 he discovered the strait which then took his name, arriving for the first time in what he called the Pacific Ocean.
Speaking only about the Chilean area, Punta Arenas airport is the best gateway to Patagonia.
Founded in 1848, it was the fundamental transit point between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, until the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914.
The city can be considered as a base for excursions in the Chilean area.
Torres del Paine National Park, about 100 km from the town of Puerto Natales, is one of the most important and visited parks in Chile.
Its glaciers and granite mountains are inhabited by pumas, andean condors, flamingos, foxes and guanacos.
Crossing the historic Strait of Magellan, you arrive in Porvenir.
The freezing wind prevented me from crying, but navigating those waters was a very strong emotion.
It really feels like the end of the world.
I chose an excursion to the Royal Penguin Park and here I really saw the effects of climate change for the first time: I imagined the penguins playing in the ice.
Instead, however bitter the cold, the ice was only an imagination.
Seeing the penguins in the grass made me feel ashamed.
About argentine Patagonia, continue in the dedicated section.