Discovery trip to Chile from Patagonia to the Atacama Desert and Santiago
SEIZE 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.
4were the new flags added to the passport: Chile,Argentina, Bolivia e 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 4,300 km long and only 180 km wide on average.
I used the plane for the long distances (from Santiago de Chile to Calama and Punta Arenas), the bus to reach the Argentinian Ushuaia and small means of transport for excursions around San Pedro de Atacama and as far as 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 Palacio de la Moneda, 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
A two-hour flight separates Santiago del Chile from Calama, from where it takes about 90 minutes by bus to reach San Pedro de Atacama.
This small town of around 4,000 inhabitants is the ideal base for a few day trips in the area and then on to Argentina (border is 170 km away) or Bolivia (60 km away).
Its dusty roads immediately make us realise that we are in the desert and if, like me, you come from the glaciers of Patagonia, the impact is immediately strong.
Here rains once every 6/7 years.
I recommend spending a day wandering around the town and choose your excursions after having considered in several agencies the best balance between price and duration.
Often the excursions offered are very similar, so you also choose according to the feeling you get with the seller.
In the evening, the town is populated by travellers who have participated in the various excursions during the day. Listening to their impressions is always useful.
The Atacama Desert stretches for about 1,600 km and is one of the driest deserts in the world.
The cold oceanic Humboldt Current coming in from the west and the Cordillera de los Andes, which lies to the east of the desert, create a climate characterised by an almost total absence of rain (0.6 to 2 mm per year) and a wide temperature range (from 5°C at night to 40°C during the day).
Its soil is so similar to that on Mars that tests are carried out here on instruments and vehicles that will later leave for the red planet.
Excursion to Valle de la Luna start a few hours before sunset.
This is the time of day when the panorama leaves one speechless.
The sun caresses huge sand dunes, reflecting on the white of the salt and the pink of the chalk, while the sky turns increasingly red.
Hundreds of people arrive here every day from San Pedro, so try to quickly find an ideal spot for photos.
Another classic excursion is one that usually leaves around 04.00 in the morning (depending on the location of your accommodation and the number of participants in your chosen tour) to reach the Geyser del Tatio in time to see the sunrise.
Here you are at an altitude of 4,300 metres and the temperature drops as low as -20°C.
Geysers are violent jets of boiling water that condense into huge steam fumaroles that are more than 10 metres high.
There are about 80 of them here and they are bordered by stones that prevent people from getting close to them.
This is, of course, very good for safety but is a bit of a negative note for those who would like to go further. That’s why geysers in Bolivia excited me more.
Usually all excursions to the Geysers del Tatio include stops on the Putana River (where you can see vicugnae, llamas and Andean flamingos) and in the shepherd town of Machuca.
The altitude, very low humidity, clear skies 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 name Patagonia to immediately imagine yourself in remote and wonderful lands.
This is a trip to the end of the world and always leaves strong emotions.
Its territory, the southernmost tip of the American continent, encompasses both the Chilean and Argentinian areas.
The Portuguese navigator Fernão de Magalhães (whom we know as Ferdinand Magellan) fwas the first European to reach Patagonia.
On 28 November 1520 he crossed the strait that later took his name, arriving for the first time in what he named the Pacific Ocean.
Talking about the Chilean area Punta Arenas is the best gateway to Patagonia
Founded in 1848, it was the crucial transit point between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans until the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914.
The city can be considered as a base for excursions in the Chilean area.
The Torres del Paine Narional Park, about 100 km from the town of Puerto Natales, is one of the most important and visited narional parks in Chile.
Its granite mountains and glaciers are inhabited by pumas, condors, flamingos, foxes and guanacos.
About the Argentinean Patagonia, follow this link.