chile & argentina in 7 weeks
Argentina and Chile are two of South America’s most accessible countries to put on some music and drive down endless roads. ‘On the ruta’ includes over 5000 kilometers of asphalt, taking you through canyons, over 5000 meters high mountains, past rivers, oceans, deserts and vineyards. The 7 week travel itinerary below also includes varies domestic flights, (inter-)national boat trips, boutique hotels, B&B’s, restaurants, museums and design stores. Buenos Aires, Salta, Valparaiso, Santiago de Chile, Mendoza, and many, many more cities, towns and hamlets are included in ‘On the Ruta’ which is a treasure chest for travelers. Just make your pick and choose whatever gem you like.
Day 1–5 Buenos Aires
Accommodation: Palermo Viejo B&B – www.palermoviejobb.com/english.html
He must have one of the most beautiful names of Buenos Aires: Ariel Sonneschein, owner of the Palermo Viejo Bed & Breakfast in the swinging Buenos Aires borough of Palermo. The B&B is situated in Niceto Vega, one of the outer streets of Palermo Viejo, Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood. The former factory has been turned into a modern B&B with a small courtyard, a lounge area and tastefully designed rooms and suites. From Ariel you can easily dive into all Palermo has to offer by foot. In case you decide to get out of Palermo to see the rest of Buenos Aires, the subway is around the corner, as are some large supermarkets.
Palermo Viejo Bed & Breakfast
Niceto Vega 4629 – Buenos Aires
T: +54 11 4773-6012
Mo: +54 11 15-6594-2200
Just make your way from the airport to Buenos Aires and be sure to agree up front on the price with the cabdriver including Toll fees. Other than this, take it easy once you’re in the city, go get a drink, take a bite and get rid of your jetlag a.s.a.p.
All you have to do today is stroll around your new neighborhood. Palermo is truly the place to be in Buenos Aires for people who love contemporary (Latin American) design (go check out the Calma Chicha store on Honduras 4909 for instance or Sopa de Principe on Thames 1719 – www.sopadeprincipe.com.ar), food, fashion and fun.
History is sort of the middle name of Buenos Aires. It is in the houses, the streets, the faces of the elderly, in stories, graves and…underground. When you hop on subway line A (Plaza de Mayo to Carabobo) you’ll feel like stepping into a time machine made of wood, copper and chandeliers.
Before going underground though, check if you can visit the pink palace at Plaza de Mayo as well as look down on the square to see history at your feet. Don’t ride to far, it is a busy day. Next is San Telmo, the antique cobbled stoned neighborhood from where you walk into a totally opposite neighborhood, the old harbor Puerto Madero which has been transformed into a hip upscale hangout. Here you can choose to either rent and ride a bike in the close by Parque Natural Reserva Ecologica Costanera or rent and ride a bike towards some more – buried – history at the Cementerio de La Recoleta where you’ll stand eye to eye with skulls and bones, as well as the shiny tomb of Evita Perron.
After you leave the dead behind, go get some culture and visit the National Fine Art Museum (www.mnba.gob.ar) next to the amazing metal flower sculpture on Ave. Pte. Figueroa Alcorta and the nearby post modern architecture of the National Library (www.bn.gov.ar). Peddle on to the electrifying museum of modern art, the Malba (www.malba.org.ar) after which you park your bike at the Japanese garden, bring out your chopsticks and have lunch (if you are very fast) or dinner (if you have taken it easy) at one of the best Japanese restaurants in Buenos Aires: http://www.jardinjapones.org.ar/restaurante.
Back in Palermo you once again let the city embrace you before going to sleep.
Today is a day for making choices. Here are some options:
1. Enjoy the National Opera (Teatro Colon) now that is finally restored after what feels like decades: www.teatrocolon.org.ar/en/opera-en.
2. Visit the colorful neighborhood of Boca and see if you can catch a game at La Bombonera to wave at Maradona.
3. Be amazed by a peculiar amusement park dedicated to Christ Almighty: Tierra Santa.
4. Check the sports agenda and visit a game of women’s hockey, polo or horse action at the Hipodromo de Palermo.
Ad. 2: Boca Junior game
To see, feel and hear Argentina is attending a Boca Junior game in Estadio La Bombonera. In this mausoleum of memories you can look into the soul of the Argentinean. And it is all just one question away: ‘Can you arrange tickets to a Bocas game?’
Though the social and economical situation in Argentina seems to change by the day, visiting the magic Bocas kingdom is something to prepare for. The safest way is to arrange not only the tickets, but arrange transportation at the same time. ‘Soccer is war’ can be very true in Argentina. When you are lucky, the Hand of God is in the house, something you’ll notice soon enough. Cause when the crowd slowly starts chanting Maradona, Maradona, his highness is sitting in his skybox only to come out when the sound has evolved into a deafening roar: MARADONA, MARADONA!!!. That is the moment a hand goes up into the air. That is the moment you are waiving at The Hand of God.
La Bombonera Boca – Buenos Aires
Ad. 3: Tierra Santa theme park
God moves in mysterious ways, but those of human kind are a bit wackier. Right next to Jorge Newberry Aeropuerto’s tarmac, you see red hills, sand colored buildings and lots of people. It turns out to be God’s kingdom on earth: Tierra Santa. The Holy Land. A divine theme park in the middle of Buenos Aires.
For all who want to wander off the path of the righteous onto the ‘off the beaten track’; Tierra Santa is the place to be. Here you find a giant Jesus rising from a mountain accompanied by bombastic music. You can enter paradise and meet Adam and Eve amidst fog and laser beams. Real-life gladiator fights take you back 2000 years in time after which you climb Mount Golgotha, stand at a life-sized cross carrying Jesus’ burden and be amazed together with hundreds of enthusiastic Argentinean school kids…
Av. Rafael Obligado 5790 (Costanera Norte)
C1425DAA – Buenos Aires
About an hour from Buenos Aires by futuristic Buquebus fast ferry lies Uruguay. It is quite a contrast, leaving the buzz of Buenos Aires avenues for the cobble stoned alleys of Colonia del Sacramento.
After the quick, but due to the extreme exchange rate of the Argentinean Peso now very expensive Buquebus trip, you arrive in Uruguay. When you take the first ferry from Buenos Aires (leaving 8:45 from Puerto Madero), you have the streets of Colonia almost to yourself. Besides the residents and their unavoidable mate, the streets are dominated by another interesting phenomenon: old-timers. Everywhere you go, each corner you turn, you’ll be looking at the history of mobility.
The past is what you see and feel when you discover Colonia. Clocks have stopped running and time seems a different dimension here. Until it’s 13:00 and the 2010’s take over with the arrival of the sign of our time: mass tourism.
Avenida Antártida Argentina
Puerto Madero – Buenos Aires
T: +54 11 4316-6500
www.buquebus.com (and don’t forget your passport)
Day 6: flight Buenos Aires – Trelew by Aerolineas Argentinas
Day 6: rent a car in Trelew
Day 6-8 Peninsula Valdes
Accommodation: Las Restingas Hotel de Mar – www.lasrestingas.com
The hamlet of Puerto Piramides is a very popular hub for tourists visiting the world heritage Peninsula Valdes. Apart from the laid back atmosphere, the great thing about the place is that over 99% of the visitors leaves the village at the end of the day. This allows you to become friendly with the village butcher and small shopkeepers in a visit or two. One of the better places to stay while being a temporary Piramides (wo-)man is Las Restingas. Spectacular views through massive windows almost definitely guarantee you sights of whales from your bed between mid-May and early December.
Las Restingas Hotel de Mar
Puerto Pirámides – Península Valdés
Chubut – Argentina
T: +54 0280 4495 101
There is only one thing you need to do when you stay on Peninsula Valdes: watch wildlife. This and taking it easy with a book, a walk, a glass of wine is all that is expected of you. Wildlife is abundant here. It feels like paradise. On land you have – amongst others – penguins, armadillos, vicunas and ostriches. Between land and water you have sea elephants, sea lions and – when you are both patient and lucky – killer whales hunting for a m(s)eal.
From mid-May to early December it is whale watching time in and around the bay of Puerto Piramides when the massive Southern Right Whales gather to procreate and raise their calves. Make sure you get on board one of the tours that use small to medium Zodiacs. This will give you an intense sensation when seeing a whale and a potential wet suit when being hit by its fountain spray. Some good options for whale watching can be found here: www.puertopiramides.gov.ar/turismo/en/ecoturismo-recreativas.htm.
Day 9: return car in Trelew
Day 9: flight Trelew to Ushuaia by Aerolineas Argentinas
Day 9–11: Ushuaia
Accommodation: Finisterris Lodge Relax & Spa – www.finisterrislodge.com
When you have reached Tierra del Fuego (Fireland, you should treat yourself to a bit of luxury. And this is the place to do so. Don’t expect luxury to come cheap, but neither are the vistas, the private hot tub and the memories you are bound to create at this wooden wonder at the end of the world.
Monte Susana Ladera Este – Ruta 3
Km 3061.50 Ushuaia – Tierra del Fuego
T: +54 9 2901 61-6125
Ushuaia is the world’s most southern city, civilization at the end of the word. The old prison town has a pretty rough and edgy vibe. At night the local homeboys drive their muscle cars through the main street, volume sky high. The nature surrounding the city is what you expect at a place called Fireland (Tierra del Fuego). It is wild, it is pristine, it is beautiful. You spend you days here either hiking (into Chile for example) or on the Beagle channel.
Whatever you do, make sure you:
1. Get up before sunrise one morning to see a spectacular sunrise (you some clouds)
2. Have dinner at French restaurant Chez Manu, a place that makes you wonder why a chef so good literally ends up at the end of the world (www.chezmanu.com)
Day 12: flight Ushuaia to Calafate by Aerolineas Argentinas
Day 12-14: El Calafate
Accommodation: Posada Karut Josh – www.posadakarutjosh.com.ar
Previously a hamlet in the Argentinean outback, Calafate nowadays is booming. It’s charming main street makes you think of the American Wild West with wooden buildings and stores, bars and restaurants with porches. Very cliché but there it is: Karut Josh is your home away from home. The relaxed B&B is one of the more affordable places in this Wild West like boomtown where the forces of nature are overwhelming and coming home to Karut Josh after a day of battling ice and snow feels like taking a warm bath.
Posada Karut Josh
Calle 12 1882
El Calafate – Santa Cruz
T: +54 2902 49-6444
Day 13-14: Glacier time
Perito Moreno. One of few glaciers in our melting world that still ‘grows’. Growing that causes pain. At least, that is what you think when you listen to Perito sighing, moaning and screaming when moving forward with crumbling walls of ice. Perito Moreno is situated in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares in SW Patagonia (www.losglaciares.coml).
The park is both part of Chile and Argentina and is home to glaciers Upsala, Heim, Spegazzini, Mayo, Ameghino, Onelli, Agassiz and Perito Moreno. The frozen wall of Perito is constantly battered by the tremendous powers of water, temperature shifts, wind and moving ice. The result being a continuous crumbling of the front the glacier into the glacier lake. A spectacle of which both sound and sight are hypnotizing. Like a bunny in fast and furious headlight, you’re frozen on your feet. Unable to take away your eyes and ears from the brutal force of nature you are witness of. The easiest and most economic way to visit Perito Moreno and it’s brothers and sisters is by bus from El Calafate. The 80 kilometer trip to the park takes you through the beautiful and deserted land of Patagonia. A constantly changing scenery which takes your breath away. The park’s lake(s) and glaciers can be discovered by boat (www.solopatagonia.com) as well. High in the Andes, surrounded by icebergs in many shaped and colors, you feel like a character in a Tolkien novel, under a spell of magic ice.
Day 15: flight Calafate to Mendoza by Aerolineas Argentinas
Day 15: rent a car in Mendoza (arrange papers to take it into Chile)
Day 15-18: Mendoza
Accommodation: Posada Borravino – www.posadaborravino.com
Close to the wine capital of Argentina, surrounded by vineyards, you’ll find the intimate village of Chacras de Coria. It is a peaceful hamlet where tranquility is only disturbed by the dogs guarding the villas of Argentina’s upper class, being your neighbors at the boutique Posada Borravino. At Borravino, like in the whole of Chacras, wine, dine and design are all that count. The posada has only four rooms. Breakfast is either served next to the pool or in the tasting room, as is dinner (try (half) a steak, it will melt in your mouth). Staff and atmosphere in Borravino are as relaxed as in the rest of Chacras de Coria, making this the place to charge your batteries before heading north into desert and mountain.
Chacras de Coria (5505) – Mendoza
T: +54 261 496 4445
Chacras almost kisses the feet of the mighty Andes. The air is crisp, the skies usually clear and the soil is rich. Perfect conditions for grapes to enjoy themselves, grow, be harvested and be transformed into wine. Wining and dining is what the Mendoza district is all about. Most of Argentina’s large, medium and small wine houses can be found here. The village is an excellent place to discover the taste of all the different wines coming from the Mendoza area. You can either drop by a vineyard driving your car (mmmmm, maybe not such a good idea) or hop on a mountain bike and go for a tour that takes you to four or five vineyards and lasts about a day (try for instance www.baccusbiking.com.ar).
Visiting vineyards and hanging out at Posada Borravino should be enough to paint your days, but in case you are looking for some extra activities to color you stay, you can find them an hours drive away at the colonial city of Mendoza.
Day 19-21: Barreal
Accommodation: Posada San Eduardo – http://www.posada-saneduardo.com
It is quite a contrast, from the fast and the furious to plain, quiet and simple. But it is a change that fits former Formula 1 pilot Ricardo Zunino like a glove. Especially since he transformed his parent’s hacienda into a Posada where Argentina embraces you with all its beauty. The old adobe walls of the hacienda surround an old courtyard with thick vines adding to the charm. The rooms that all have their entrance at the courtyard have been minimalistically decorated with wooden furniture and farm equipment.
The minimalist style can also be found at the small restaurant where guests can enjoy the local cuisine and wine. Like a Formula 1 car, everything at San Eduardo seems to fit. History, culture, nature and hospitality, it all comes together here.
Posada San Eduardo
Los Enamorados y San Martin Barreal Calingasta
T: +54 026 48 441 046
www.argentinaturismo.com.ar/saneduardo Day 19
The ride from Chacras de Coria to Barreal is a wonderful experience. When you have GPS (you should), try to head for Ruta 32 after you have reached Uspallata. This is a very rocky back road that leads you past a section of the Andes where a large part of the movie Seven Years in Tibet was shot. When your GPS says ‘no way’ cause it does not agree with driving over dry river bed like roads, find it on you map (a must have in these parts of the world). After reaching the intersection with the 149 and RN153, you head further North over the 149 to Barreal.
Before getting to Barreal, the land has another surprise for you in store: la Pampa del Leoncito. This is a piece of desert, made up of petrified white sand. With some effort you can drive your car off road onto the sand and start shooting your own car commercial.
Barreal is a refreshing place to discover a beautiful part of Argentina thanks to the breathtaking Andes stretching its legs here. Wine, hiking, rafting, horseback riding, dinosaurs, petrified planes, it’s all just a stone’s throw or less away. At an altitude of almost 2000 meters, Barreal offers crisp and clear skies. Sometimes it makes you long for the dark. Cause when the lights on earth go out, the universe turns on billions of stars. Sitting with a glass of wine under a tree or near the pool with the milky way over your head, it is quite an experience.
Day 22-23: Valle de la Luna
Accommodation: Finca Puesta del Sol – www.fincapuestadelsol.com
In a dry, dry land it is something like a miracle: a pool. This and the feeling of freedom in a clean and tasteful environment, is one of the many benefits of staying at Finca Puesta del Sol. The other plusses of the place: the proximity to San Juan and Valle de la Luna, the farm style food and the animals giving this place a hacienda style vibe.
Finca Puesta del Sol
T: +54 264 155448004/61506
M: +54 2646 420058
Driving to Valle de la Luna via San Juan will present you with an answer to a question that might have arisen over the course of the hundreds of kilometers on Argentinean roads: ‘What are this little shrines with the statue of a woman, baby and countless plastic water bottles?’ Following Ruta 141 after San Juan you will reach Vallecito, a hamlet where you’ll find the answer. You know you have arrived at Vallecito when you (coming from San Juan over the RN141) pass an altar of piled-up old cars……
After this strange sight, you’ll be blinded by smoke coming from crucified sheep being BBQ-ed on dozens of asadas. You’re in the middle of nowhere at a place that looks like death but, according to the legend, is in fact the birthplace of an Argentinean Saint: Difunta Correa. Difunta Correa was a soldier’s wife who, in the 1st half of the 19th century, followed her husband’s unit together with their newborn baby. After days of walking through the desert, death finally caught up with Deolinda Correa (her mortal name) when she died of dehydration. About a day later, passers-by find her body and witness a miracle: the baby is still alive, drinking from her breast. In the 150 years that have passed since then, Difunta Correa has performed more miracles and made wishes come true. For Argentineans plenty enough reason to set up altars and offering water bottles so she won’t die of thirst again.
The mother of all Difunta shrines can be found at the presumed place of her death; Vallecito. It is a fascinating place. Totally extinct on weekdays, overcrowded during weekends. And it houses what must be one of the ugliest memorials in the world, a hard yellow and blue concrete fountain like thing that makes you want to cry. Other than that (and the BBQ-ed sheep) your eyes will be drawn to miniature houses, engine blocks, oceans of license plates, headlights, wheels, balls and other stuff that sort of paves the road to the exact spot Difunta died so many years ago. A spot that is almost covered in thousands of plastic bottles, left by pilgrims with a wish for a new house, a car, luck in love, a career at FC Barcelona or, perhaps, a top position at the Vatican.
Difunta Correa Shrine
Vallecito – San Juan Province
Visiting Ischigualasto Provincial Park – a must do – also known as Valle de la Luna (Calley of the Moon), is a matter of signing up at the park registration office and follow, in your own car, the park guide. You get out a designated places where you will admire the stone wonders of this park: ‘the bowling ball’, ‘the submarine’, ‘Mars’ and all sorts of other weird and colorful stone formations which have been shaped by erosion in this ancient, petrified land that once was the birth chamber of dinosaurs (now to be found in the charming dino museum at the parks entrance).
Day 24-25: Salta
Accommodation: Legado Mitico Salta – www.legadomitico.com
Downtown Salta boosts a lot of colonial history, including this former patrician home now turned into a comfortable boutique hotel. The interior of Legado aims to reflect the culture and history of this characteristic North Western Argentinean city. When it is comfort you seek, this is where you find it.
Legado Mitico Salta
Bartolomé Mitre 647
OMG, your alarm clock will terrorize you this morning going off at something like 5 o’clock. AM that is. Today you’ll meet South America’s Route 66: Ruta 40. This road is God’s gift to mankind and it’s all yours to unpack today and, when you want to take it easy, tomorrow as well, cutting it up into two days. Prepare yourself for tough road conditions, although civilization (and asphalt) has reached this corner of Argentina recently and the dust road is paved bit by bit making it loose a bit of its charm but saving you a lot of time.
From Valle de la Luna you first head for Ruta 76 before taking a right turn on number 40 just before Villa Union. You are now heading for Chilecito, a small town which houses a ruined Che Guevara statue. But before you’ll meet Che’s remains, you have driven through Argentina’s equivalent of the Grand Canyon: Cuesta de Miranda. WOW!
Next is Cafayate, then Cachi followed by Cuesta de Obispo. You’ll drive over a small (most likely still) dirt road meandering with rivers and mountains, through forests of trees and forests of cacti. Along the way you can stop in one of the tiny villages, enjoy a steak with the ‘surprised you’re there’ locals, give a lift to a hitchhiking farmer and enjoy some of his ultra fresh harvest before once again reaching civilization named Salta.
Salta, de largest city in Argentina’s deserted North West, is a city of strawberries, sun and colonial grandeur. After the harsh parks and roads of the San Juan and Rioja regions, Salta is a nice place to chill and exchange nature for culture. Definite must-sees are the Maam (www.maam.gob.ar), the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology and the 19th century pink Catedral de Salta with its Escher-like marble floor (www.catedralsalta.org).
Day 26-27: Purmamarca
Accommodation: Casa de Adobe – www.casadeadobe.com.ar
Purmamarca is a different kind of town. A town where the Andes meets Argentina, giving it the looks and feel of Peru and Bolivia. The hamlet in Argentina’s outback is famous for the spectacular Cerro de los Siete Colores as well as the great hiking opportunities.
A perfect base to discover all this attractions from is the Casa de Adobe on the edge of town. Within walking distance of Purmamarca’s tiny centre, Casa de Adobe offers the luxury and leisure you might yearn for after a day of working on a sweat following the beautiful trails that embrace Purmamarca. Sitting in your private jacuzzi with a local wine, soaking off the colorful dust in one of the cabins is definitely worth the (very affordable) price.
Casa de Adobe
Ruta 52 – Km 4 y ½
Purmamarca – Jujuy
T: +54 388 490-8003
Today you’ll ride with your head in the clouds. After 4 weeks you might think you have seen it all, but Argentina (and Chile) has far more in store for you, beginning right after leaving Purmamarca and its coca chewing population behind. The countless hairpin curves of Ruta 52 will take further and further up into the sky, finally delivering you at the Jama customs office where you will officially leave Argentina. What follows is thin and extremely dry air, burning sun, strong winds, occasionally freezing temperatures and non-stop up-‘hill’ road which takes a toll on your car’s engine as well as on your nerves.
But before you start worrying about the state of your engine (make sure to bring extra supplies, water and engine oil with you), you have already enjoyed bluer than blue skies and lakes, whiter than white salt plains and the tranquil solitude of the Andes. Before you know it, you have reached the 4200 meters high border between Argentina and Chile after which the mostly deserted Ruta 27 lifts you further up to 5000 meters to gradually take you down to 2500 meters to eventually drop you off at an enormous stack of paper: the infamous South American bureaucracy at the office of the Chile Customs.
The 160 kilometers of Paso de Jama are now conquered, vicunas and emerald green and azure blue mountain lakes have posed for your camera, your car has hopefully made it. Volcanoes and a lot of nothingness now lay between you and memories left in Argentina. New memories lay in front of you, waiting to be made in sizzling Chile.
Day 28-31: San Pedro de Atacama
Accommodation: Quinta Adela – www.quintaadela.wix.com/quinta-adela
There is more than plenty of posh to choose from in San Pedro de Atacama. But whomever wants to get in touch with Atacama life before the tourist tsunami, makes sure he/she get the big corner room at the front of this farm. San Pedro de Atacama can be a very chilly and harsh high-altitude place, but the owners of Quinta Adela will make sure this won’t affect you at all. Hospitality, honest food and very good rates will make you a very happy highlander.
San Pedro de Atacama – Antofagasta
T: +56 (55) 2851272
M: +56 71416758
Once a teeny tiny little village in the rain depleted Atacama desert, Atacama has grown into a serious tourist hotspot. But all is relative here in this isolated location in the Chile-Bolivia-Argentina triangle. With the Andes as its giant canvas, nature has really gone all the way here. Sizzling natural hot springs, high altitude geysers, strange animals, thousand year old cacti, sunsets that make you cry and so much more.
A to do list for San Pedro de Atacama?
1. Visit El Tatio geysers
2. Check out the alti plano salt lakes including flamingos
3. Take a private bath in one of the out of town hot springs
4. Walk amongst 12 meter high ancient cacti
5. Meet and greet the Vizcacha, a strange mix between a rabbit and kangaroo
6. See the sun set in the Valle the la Luna
7. Be amazed by 800 year old giant geoglyphs at Cerros Pintados
8. Visit the Chuquicamata copper mine and its monster trucks near Calama
9. Get on a star tour (www.spaceobs.com)
10. And so on…..
Ad. 1 Geyser time
It is about 6 in the morning, stone cold and sky high. At 4320 meters above sea level, an orchestra of geysers plays their music every morning. Their audience being the mighty peaks of the Andes. When at 7 am the sun starts peaking over the granite skyscrapers, shadows are born and crawl over the boiling and sizzling soil. They are attached to a handful of early birds. Diehards who got up at 3:30 to start making their way from San Pedro de Atacama to the border between Chile and Bolivia. At dawn the forces of nature start unpacking their stuff and all around miniature volcanoes and small to large geysers start to bubble and erupt. Not before long a curtain of steam comes down. Illuminated by the sun it gives the place a magical appearance. El Tatio Geyser Park Calama - Antofagasta Region www.eltatio.com
Day 32: Taltal
Accommodation: Hotel Mi Tampi – www.hotelmitampi.cl
Just checking, but of course you have brought your earplugs as seasoned travelers do. Anyway, despite the fact that they might come in handy, Mi Tampi is the perfect place to spend a night when heading South through this desolated but still very beautiful part of Chile. Mi Tampi features a nice courtyard, friendly staff and an old steam loc opposite the entrance. Close to the ocean and downtown Taltal – which is small but fairly attractive – Mi Tampi is all you can expect from a stopover and maybe a little bit more.
Hotel Mi Tampi
T: + 56 55 613605
From San Pedro de Atacama to Taltal is a journey through time. Old mines, ghost towns like ex-pueblo Pampa Union, spooky cemeteries, Chile’s past is always by your side here. But the past nowadays has become the future, since the world’s unstoppable hunger for raw materials has turned old and abandoned places into flourishing boomtowns.
You pass the old and the new on the long long road South. Sometimes accompanied by a long train (be aware at railroad crossings, the road might suddenly launch you into the air), most of the time alone with the desert in all its different colors and shapes. Driving here triggers many senses.
Day 33: Caldera
Accommodation: Ckamur Lodge – www.ckamur.cl
La Caldera is an old aboriginal village that grew into a fishing village and an important harbor for the endless stream of commodities being dug up in the Atacama desert. Ckamur is a very chill place, one you better reserve when you want to be sure you can spend the night, The single apartment and awesome terrace looking out over the ocean, combined with the excellent opportunities to eat fresh fish, enjoy Hawaiian like waters close by or get acquainted with the aboriginal history make Ckamur a memorable place to stay.
Camino Al Faro 1018
Mirador de Charito Caldera – Atacama
T: +56 9 9 2209544
Day 34-36: Pisco Elqui
Accommodation: Elqui Domos – www.elquidomos.cl
Clear skies and good drinks, these are the two ‘vices’ Pisco Elqui is famous for. Though Peruvians won’t agree, this is the home of Pisco Sour, a drink you might easily get hooked on. Something else you easily get hooked on, is the star spangled sky over the Elqui Valley. A good place to enjoy both of these attractions is Elqui Domos. From you bed you can gawk at billions of stars, staring through the open top of your dome or cabana. Cover by the white and twinkling blanket of the Milky Way, you fall asleep with you mouth wide open and the sweet and sour after taste of a Pisco Elqui nightcap.
Camino Público Pisco Elqui
Horcón Km 3.5
Sector Los Nichos s/n Paihuano
T: +56 9 7 7092879
A relatively short ride over coastal route 5 today towards Pisco Elqui, giving you a choice to either sleep in, visit Parque National Pan de Azacur or arrive early in Pisco Elqui to enjoy…..a glass of Pisco Sour.
Pisco Elqui in the Valle de Elqui is a very laid back place to catch your breath and recharge the batteries in a rural scenery before heading for Chile’s major cities: Valparaiso and Santiago de Chile. Surrounded by grapevines and rolling hills, all you need to do is eat, drink and get about some stargazing.
Day 37-40: Valparaiso
Accommodation: Voga – Exclusive Guesthouse – www.vogahotel.com/en-us
In an amazing city like Valparaiso you’ll find crumbling buildings standing next to well preserved palazzos. The Voga is one of these well preserved city palaces. A tastefully restored late 19th century house with a mix of historical details and state of the art modern design, the Voga is one of the best places to start getting to know this friendly city that’s built on 42 hills and dotted with funiculars and graffiti from.
Cerro Alegre – Valparaíso
T: + 56 974984871
Day 38-40: just stroll, stroll and let the vibe guide you
how absurd you are,
with your rumpled hair,
you had time,
taken you by surprise.
Pablo Neruda, deceased, poet, Noble price winner, citizen and centre of a brand new conspiracy theory, succeeded to catch Valparaiso in just 22 words. Far less than the number of colors the city wears these days.
Over 50 years after Neruda wrote his poem, Valparaiso still seems to be taking life as one big surprise. Victorian jewels and Jugendstil gems went up in flames, the economy fell hard, got to it’s feet and fell hard again. But after each fall, the city rose again to finally become Unesco World Heritage in 2003.
Valparaiso, about an hour and a half driving West from Santiago de Chile, could be the sister of San Francisco. Hills, artists, cabled means of transportation, coffee bars and many free spirits. Valparaiso, like San Francisco, has it all. Unfortunately, the city also has an unprecedented number of dogs which have made it their habit to bake mucho brown cupcakes, preferably in the middle of the pavement. Fortunately, Valparaiso has something entirely else to offer as well. A gift for the eye and a bender of the mind.
To start with, many houses are built in a beautiful Victorian style. But that is just half the story as becomes clear when taking a second look at the buildings: wooden doors and window frames, stained glass, stone ornaments, so far so good. But then, instead of the usual bricks, plaster, wood or concrete you discover street after street made of corrugated iron. And since almost every house is painted in another (bright) color, the city looks like a giant colored jawbreaker.
But the people of Valparaiso are not easily satisfied. Of course, it is nice to live in a city that stands with it’s feet in the Pacific. And they certainly do not complain about living right next to Chile’s famous vineyards. And enjoying Neruda’s poems at the end of another beautiful day, sitting on one of the city’s 42 hills with the sun dissolving into the ocean. Well, life is good but can be even better the Valparaisoneans thought. So they took to the streets with brushes, paint and artistic intentions and literally painted the town, using it as a giant canvas. The result is an explosion of colors, graffiti and murals.
Valparaiso, how absurd you are.
Day 41-44: Santiago de Chile
Accommodation: Casa Bonita – www.bbcasabonita.com
Run by Dutchman Dennis and his Chilean wife, Casa Bonita is a relatively new B&B in an historical downtown Santiago building. The B&B has thick wall, wooden floors and smoke stained windows. In the dark days of Pinochet, the building was owned by the Church and a refuge for dissidents. The darkness that hung over their heads has now been replaced by light rooms, luminescent hospitality and a very welcome atmosphere.
Pasaje República no 5
Santiago de Chile
T: + 56.2.672 7302
A piece of cake or rather, a glass of wine, the 120 kilometers that divide Chile’s administrative and country capital. Two hours when you’re in a hurry, six hours when you take it easy and decide to pay a visit to one of the vineyards of Chile’s number one wine district: Maipo Valley. Whether it is 2 or 6 hours later, pay attention when you enter Santiago de Chile by car. Why? Not only because traffic can be a bit hectic after weeks of being virtually alone on the road. No, there is a possibility that the traffic direction of the road you choose to take you into town changes all of a sudden during rush hour. So do not trust solely on you GPS and pay attention to traffic signs when making your way into Santiago de Chile.
Santiago de Chile has a nice vibe to it. A bit like Buenos Aires, but with a German touch instead of Buenos Aires’ Italian feel. The air is crisp thanks to the nearby Andes and the light scent of burned wood adds to the experience. When you are an early bird, head down to the Mercado Central, the center of the city’s fish trade. Men in white overcoats handle razor sharp knives, work, shout and sell their shiny merchandise which you straight away eat at one of the small bars opposite them.
Next is a bird’s view over the city. You head for the Bellavista entrance (Pío Nono 450, Barrio Bellavista – Baquedano) of the funicular (yes, they love them in Chile) and let it take you up to Cerro San Cristóbal. Here you can enjoy sweeping views of Santiago and get your work out walking down the hill, either back to Bellavista or to the Providencia neighborhood.
Dinner tonight is at one of the best restaurants in Santiago (and the whole of South America): Astrid y Gaston on Antonio Bellet 201 (www.astridygaston.cl). This is one of the satellite restaurants of the Lima original, letting you enjoy all the wonders of the Peruvian cuisine.
If you are into winter sports, Santiago is the place to be. Breakfast on a terrace in the morning, skiing downhill in Valle Nevado in the afternoon. Bockwurst mit sauerkraut and a large beer in the evening. No problem at all. Valle Nevado is about 60 kilometers from downtown Santiago, has 13 lifts and 27 slopes with an altitude range from 2860 to 3670 meters.
The end of your journey is near, so today is a day for culture and shopping. First, head for Centro Cultural Gam (www.gam.cl). Named after Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, the cultural center offers striking architecture, contemporary art, cafes, a wine bar and free tours.
After the Gam, you can treat yourself to some Chilean contemporary design in the countless boutique stores of Barrio Lastarria and Barrio Bellas Artes. These are two of Santiago’s finest neighborhood, crammed with stores, bars, restaurants and two more fantastic museums: Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (www.mac.uchile.cl) and the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts (www.mnba.cl).
Day 45: Mendoza
Only 5 hours and the mighty Andes separate Santiago from Mendoza. Five hours that save you a lot of money and even more time and paperwork by returning your car in Mendoza instead of making it a one-way. Soon after you leave the city vineyards will start giving way to the mountains and grapes are exchanged for (depending on the season) snowflakes. In case you are a real addict, you can stop halfway and conquer some ski slopes once more, otherwise you will soon drive into Argentina and find yourself back in Mendoza.
This is where you make and important decision:
1. Return your car and give it a long and passionate kiss goodbye after over 5000 kilometers on the road together – and fly home (via Buenos Aires or Santiago)
2. Treat yourself to a few more days of relaxation and agree with the owner of Posada Borravino (www.posadaborravino.com) in Chacras on a special price for a special finale of your Latin American journey.