Chile

San Pedro de Atacama

A small desert village, north of Chile, inhabited by 6000 people and 1000 dogs. That’s one dog for every six people which in our opinion is far too many people.

San Pedro was our first stop in Chile. It was noticeably warmer and more expensive. With few hostels to choose from, we found Backpackers San Pedro at £15 a night with a much needed swimming pool to cool down.

One of the main reasons to visit San Pedro is to take a trip the moon… we took a sunset trip to Valle de la Luna which involved crawling through the salt caves, a visit to the valley of the moon and trekking up sand dunes. The views were spectacular.

Thanks to a tip from a friend we visited Panaderia Franchutería bakery, a hidden gem with lovely fresh bread. We highly recommend the olive focaccia and the breakfast pastries. Try the dulce de leche croissant if you’re feeling naughty. You’ll probably sweat the calories out anyway.

Once we’d had enough of the dust and dry heat we continued our journey south.

La Serena

The bus journey to Santiago is 24 hours long so we decided to break it up with a visit to La Serena, a small beach town and very popular holiday destination for local Argentinians. We stayed in Hostel Cosmo Elqui Stage for two nights. A good spot if you want to slow down your pace for a few days. Visit Museum café around the corner for a great breakfast.

You can take a trip to Isla Damas if you enjoy getting soaked on a boat and viewing penguins and seals from afar. Maybe a sunny day could up the tempo.

Valparaiso

Our next stop was eight hours south and boasted colourful streets lined with graffiti, quirky cafes and micro breweries. Valparaiso reminded us a little bit of home with its Montpelier-esque feel.

If you’re keen for a cheap and relaxed beach day, take a trip to Vina Del Mar by flagging down a local bus on the main road. The journey is about fifteen minutes long and costs about 400pesos (50p).

Watch out for small crime in Valparaiso, unfortunately pick pocketing is very common. Our hostel staff caught a burglar in the early stages of his dirty work on the last day. Keep your eyes peeled!

Santiago

A short two-hour coach journey later and find yourself in the capital of Chile, surrounded by green parks, trendy cafes and curb side flea markets.

Thanks to our Colombian adventures, we were staying with some Chilean friends that we’d met in Santa Marta. Dorm to private double bed with a balcony view, overlooking Parque de Forestall. Situated in trendy Bellas Artes, it felt like luxury accommodation.

With our very own local tour guides, we were lucky enough to experience the best of Santiago over our five-day stay. This included walking to the top of St Lucia hill for a view of the city, trying local favourites like the sickly sweet peach drink, partying at the bottom of the city’s tallest building, visiting Virgin Mary, exploring markets and drinking a lot of Melvin. That’s a melon with vino blanco inside. Please do try it at home.

We discovered Sur Cafe in Bellas Artes on our last day, a small cafe on the corner with good coffee and delicious pastries for a good price. It was probably best that we stumbled across this on the last day.

Next stop Sydney and we say goodbye to our South American adventure!

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