Chile

March, 2015

Exhilarating & Adventurous

If we could describe Chile in only two words then we would choose Exhilarating & Adventurous! The theme of this trip for us was “To get out of our comfort zone, push our limits, and learn to live a little” . That is exactly what we did!

We spent 10 nights in this diversely beautiful nation and visited three main cities: Santiago, Pucón, and Valparaíso.

Budget: 

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People of Chile: 

Oh the people and their stories were fascinating in Chile. They were kind, honest, friendly, confident, and helpful. Best of all, they LOVE tourists and can’t wait to tell them about their country. They were also really funny, one of our tour guides for an activity said, “You two come from the lands of pyramids!”. Once we asked for wine recommendation and was given the name “Late Harvest”. She described it as, “Once you take your first sip, you will remember that moment forever”. From the many people we spoke to and observed, we realized just like us, they want to live in peace, be happy, and provide for their families. That ultimately they are exactly like us!

Santiago:

Is the capital city of Chile. As many capitals around the world, the city is crowded, full of life and pollution, and interestingly surrounded by the Andes mountains. On a clear day, we were able to see large mountain ranges behind the skyscrapers and high rises of the city. The landscape of Chile was extremely different and fascinating.

What we did?

  • Sightseeing of: Saint Cristobal, Saint Lucia, Barrio bellavista, downtown, Mercado central, Plaza de armas, among other areas.
  • Free walking tour of the city

St. Cristobal serves as the highest point in which one can view Santiago. There are two ways someone can visit this area. You may walk up the park to the very top for approximately one hour or you may take a funicular up the hill. Either way you will still need to go up several steps. The views from atop are breathtaking and quite remarkable. There’s also a statue of the Virgin Mary, where you can sit to reminisce on how amazingly lucky you are to be in such a place overlooking Chile’s capital!

St. Lucia is known for families during the day and for lovers at night 😉 Although, I must admit that I noticed the lovers couldn’t wait until the evening hours! Essentially, it’s a park with views of Santiago as well. I must admit we enjoyed St. Lucia more than St. Cristobal due to the beautiful gardens, fountains and overall calmness of the environment. Similar to St. Cristobal the views were breathtaking.

We recommend the free walking tour, which is provided in English by a local and operates on tips with a suggested donation of 5,000 Chilean Pesos per person, that’s equal to approximately $10.

Where we stayed?

  • We stayed at Guest House Mery for $30 a night. The place is family owned and serves delicious breakfast for $6 per person. The rooms aren’t extravagant or spacious but are comfortable for a few nights. The service was friendly and helpful.

What we ate?

  • Hum this was tough because we LOVE to eat, but I have to be honest with you. The food in Chile was rather gigantic, fried, and required a selective taste. I think this might be contributed to the vast availability of international cuisines and the Chilean people’s love for large fast food portions (as said by our tour guide!).
  • The most common Chilean plates are chorrillana, pastel de choclo and of course empanadas filled with everything imaginable.

Pucón:

By far Pucón was our favorite stop during this trip. It’s a small town near the central eastern part of the country. We loved that most of the tourism there was other Chileans and Brazilians! It’s home to 5 volcanos with Villarrica as the most well-known. Villarrica had just erupted 2 weeks before we arrived to Pucón and was smoking on our last day there. We had never seen a volcano in our lives let alone been so close to one that erupted and was active! Truly an exciting experience.

What we did?

  • Biking and sightseeing
  • Zip lining
  • Rafting
  • Hiked up the Quetrupillán Volcano
  • Thermal baths and spa

We stayed in Pucón for 4 very busy and adventurous days! We started out by exploring the town on bicycles and were able to cover it in 2 hours. The following day we zip lined for the first time ever and I must disclose that I am deathly afraid of heights let alone being attached to only a metal line from one tree to the other flying over a forest with rivers! Initially I thought it was only two lines, which is why I agreed to do it but once I began the activity I realized it was 11 LINES. I might have had a panic attack, the instructors had to come out to get me on the line (because I was stuck) and my nose bled but I proudly and terrifyingly finished the entire course! I call that PUSHING MY LIMITS!!!!!!!

On the same eventful day we rafted through 3, 4, and 5 level rapids, which was our first experience with rafting. It was a lot of fun but we definitely doubted the amount of physical strength needed for this activity. The scariest part for 2 non-swimmers came when we needed to jump off of a cliff into the rapids. The cliff was at least 20 feet high and the water very deep. I again, surprising myself and Juan horrifyingly jumped off the cliff and almost got swooped into the rapids but luckily I was saved by the boat. Yep that was the 3rd time my life was saved in one miraculous day!

IMG_0989After all of our slightly dangerous but extremely enjoyable 2 days, we decided to hike up the Quetrupillán Volcano with a tour guide of course! Before we even left the States we knew we wanted to hike up a volcano, I mean it’s a must in Pucón. We just had one small problem……We DON’T hike in fact the extend of our hiking career was when we hiked down a mountain for 20 minutes in Vis, Croatia to access a beach. But we courageously felt that we too can hike up a volcano because why not? So we booked a tour guide for the hike to Quetrupillán Volcano and no one righteously so, warned us about the physical endurance and experience needed for the activity.

The day came and we were picked up by the truck at 6am for the hour drive to the site for our “6 hour” hike. After we passed many bumpy roads and forests we arrived at the site of where our long journey began. First we needed to passed through a forest to arrive out to the Andes mountains which we needed to hike and then go up the steep volcano to arrive at an elevation of 7,743′ (2,360 m) to the volcano’s crater. So the forest should have taken 2 hours but it took us 3 1/2 hours because we could barely make it. Then we were relieved for the 30 minute lunch on the mountain followed by our continued hike for an additional 4 hours to get up to the volcano. An hour before we arrived at the top the tour guide said “are you guys okay? we are behind on time. Do you want to turn around and go back?” I said “how long do we have left?” she affirmed 45 minutes so I thought well we came all this way and although we are dying to give up we must endure and continue on. It was an additional hour and half before we actually got to the top. When we arrived we were shockingly alive but physically drained. We stayed for 45 minutes looking at 3 other volcanos and unimaginably, beautiful and peaceful views. Truly some of the most gorgeous scenery we ever saw!

Of course we had to go all the way back down, the entire hiking journey took ten and half hours!

Valparaíso:

What a great way to end our journey in a UNESCO world heritage site. Valparaíso means paradise valley. It’s full of lively colors, world renowned graffiti, and a bird filled coast. Here we took the free walking tour, took a boat ride, enjoyed some good seafood dishes, and visited Vina del mar where we laid on the beach!

While taking our walking tour we saw great works of art and murals painted on the side of buildings. Some of these painting where approved by the government while many others where illegally painted. Nonetheless, the murals are beautiful, full of color and some with profound meanings.

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Although we always recommend walking any new city, we highly encourage you to try put the ascensors and buses. In our case we explored Valparaíso’s funiculars (Ascensores), even having the opportunity to ride in the oldest one which has been in operation since 1883! There are 26 funiculars in Valparaíso of which we only covered 7, but all of them have their own unique facade and design.

Another favorite of ours was riding the Trolley bus which has been in operation since 1952! The bus was very cheap (equivalent to about $0.25 per person). It covers the majority of the harbor and gives you access to all the areas worth visiting while in this great city!

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After we explored Valparaíso we decided to rest by laying on the beach at a neighboring town called Vina del mar. Easy to access and definitely worth the 20 minute journey. As our host informed us, “Vina del mar y Valparaíso son como noche y dia” (Vina del mar and Valparaíso are like night and day) as she was exactly right. The contrast here is that Vina del mar has much tourism from Argentina and is occupied by upper class Chileans. Here you don’t see as much street art and as we walked along the pier we saw cleaning crews at work. They even had horse drawn carriages which we were eager to ride. Once we finished our ride we walked along the beach found a perfect spot to sit and people watch. Our fondest memory was sitting on the sand at the beach hearing the waves of the ocean crashing against the coast while the sun danced on our skin and the wind brushing against our checks.

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What we learned:

Of course no trip is complete without reflecting back on the lessons we learned! What we learned is embedded much deeper than any combination of words can ever describe. We learned that what doesn’t kill you, truly makes you a stronger and more capable person. That we must work hard to face our fears and the only thing stopping us from our true potential is ourselves. There is nothing in this world that is impossible, we must believe regardless of how tired we may be. Regardless of how much we want to quit, we must continue. Because when we accomplish our goals, we will feel as if we are on top of the world!

As always feel free to drop your questions or comments below!

We hope that you will visit Chile one day and tell us about your experience! 

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