The Best of Chile: Patagonia & The Atacama

We all have our dream destinations. Those places that we say, “one day” about. Since I was in high school, Patagonia was this weird and mysterious destination I had the greatest desire to explore. The distance from Antartica intrigued me combined with the bluest of lakes and snow caped peaks. When I realized that a trip to Chile wasn’t just a far fetched dream, but actually realistic, I jumped on it right away!

Here is to the most unorganized blog post I’ll probably ever write- but I just want to put it out there, everything πŸ™‚

How We Flew To Chile-

We are points users to our core. We have status with American Airlines and save up those points to the best of our ability. We had enough for BOTH my husband and I to fly roundtrip from Miami direct into Santiago, so we took advantage of those points!

Once you’re in Chile, the in country flights are very cheap. We even hopped over to Argentina to go to wine country in Mendoza.

The Atacama Desert

I had seen pictures of the Atacama before and I didn’t think it was real. I thought Iceland was the most “Mars like” place I had been to, but I was wrong- it’s the Atacama! Atacama is in northern Chile (about an hour and a half plane ride from Santiago). If you’re looking for flights there, you want to fly into Calama.Β I recommend renting your own car. The tours can get pricey and you can do everything on your own without having to pay somebody to take you.

Travel tip: The car rentals in Chile make you put a very big hold on your credit card when renting a car, we saw some holds go up to $13,000 USD- just something to be aware of!

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Where We Stayed-

There are MANY accomdations options in the Atacama. This area fits the budget backpacker, comfy and affordable, or luxury travelers. We stayed at the Hotel Pueblo de Tierra. This place included a great breakfast and had an adorable rooftop and pool! Their daily happy hours with pisco sours weren’t too bad either. πŸ™‚

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Atacama Highlights-

There are endless things to do in Atacama. From sandboarding the dunes, hiking through Β Valle de la Luna, and exploring the countless lagunas, there is nothing quite like the Atacama. All locations are within a few hours away by car and the views make the drive totally worth it! Make sure to bring some cash with you for entrance fees.

Must Do’s: Laguna Chaxa, Valle de la Luna, sandboarding the dunes (only $15 for the whole day if you rent a board in the main town), Death Valley, Lagunas Altiplanicas

One of my personal favorite spots after days of exploring the desert, is the Puritama hot springs.Β These are all natural and so beautiful! I recommend bringing your own towel from the hotel and going in the morning before the tour buses come.

Packing tip: Bring layers in the Atacama, the winds are high and it gets chilly in the evenings. We were there in early December, which is their summer and it still gets chilly!

Atacama Desert, Chile vacations, things to do in the desert

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Atacama Desert, Chile vacations, things to do in the desert

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Chilean Patagonia: Torres Del Paine

When it comes to making your way down to Patagonia, you have a lot of options. There is a Chilean side and an Argentinian side. Depending on how much time you have, you may have to chose- as did we! We chose the Chilean side strictly because of Torres Del Paine National Park. This place spoke to me the most as far as accommodations and hiking. I knew I needed to do the big Torres hike before I die.

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How To Get There-

I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, it’s a hike down to Patagonia. After our 8 hour flight from Miami to Santiago, it is then another 3.5 hour flight down to the airport of Punta Arenas (this is the closest airport if you want to go to Torres Del Paine). After those flights, it is roughly another 3 hour drive to get to the national park. BUT- it is worth it.

Upon arriving to Torres Del Paine, you’ll be greeted with the most stunning mountains and lakes. You won’t even need the signs, you’ll know you’re there! (But also, there are signs)

Where We Stayed

When looking into accommodations for Torres Del Paine, I had some trouble. If you’re not doing the “W Trek” which we were not, the options I found were either out of our budget or far from the entrance to the park. That was until I found Rio Serrano. Now, this place wasn’t cheap. But it was worth it to us to spend a little extra money for a few reasons.

  1. Location! This hotel is located just a few minutes from the entrance into Torres Del Paine National Park.
  2. The breakfast: The included breakfast was an incredible buffet. There are also all inclusive options as well.
  3. The luxury: The stunning view of the mountains from our room and the incredible spa were worth the price. We got to come back each day to a stunning indoor pool with jets, saunas, and comfy robes. You have a wide selection of spa treatments you can choose from for an up charge if you wish.
  4. The food: As there aren’t really restaurants or a town in Torres Del Paine, you eat at the hotel or at other hotels. We ate dinner each night at our hotel and found the food to be wonderful!

Hotel Rio Serrano has many options for guided hikes and offered a lot of information that was helpful as to how to plan out our days. They can also provide a boxed lunch for purchase upon request for the long hiking days.

Our 4 nights/5 days at Hotel Rio Serrano was wonderful and we couldn’t get enough of the views from the hotel!

Travel tip: Really budget and do your research before going. Patagonia isn’t cheap. Hotels, food, gas, you name it. But yet again, worth it! πŸ™‚

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The Torres Hike

I could write an entire article just about the amount of lakes and glaciers and activities you could do in Torres Del Paine, and I will do that a different time! For now, I want to talk about a hike, THE hike- The Towers (Torres) hike.

This full day hike was a challenge. Not only because of the elevation and the consistent uphill climb (just think hours and hours of stair master) but the length of time it took. We Β started off early in the am and brought a packed lunch. We made it back to our hotel about 7:30pm. Soreness and tired feet woke us up the next day but the views and the accomplishment was everything to me.

The hike is VERY well marked- there is no need to pay for a guided tour. The one thing I really recommend is renting or brining hiking sticks. We were probably the only people we saw without them. You’ll pass over bridges, gorgeous mountain ranges, go through the woods and climb up rocks for hours until you finally meet the glacier lake and the perfect view of the towers.

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Patagonia camping, chile trip

The endless lakes in Torres Del Paine are worth exploring. Pehoe lake was my personal favorite and the little red house on the lake is actually a hostel/restaurant. We stopped one day on a drive and walked across the bridge to get some drinks, eat some empanadas, and play some cards. You can’t beat the views!

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From rock climbing, kayaking, glacier trekking, or the countless hikes in the area. You don’t have to do the “W trek” to explore all that Torres Del Paine has to offer.

Torres Del Paine Travel Must Know’s:

  • There is no gas in the national park. The closest place to fill up is in Puerto Natales.
  • Bring hiking sticks and comfy hiking shoes! I swear by my Colombia ones.
  • Bring Advil or Tylenol. I wish we had some with us the day after the Torres hike for our sore muscles!
  • Bring layers, no matter what season it is. It is windy and the temperatures changes dramatically depending on elevation.
  • Give yourself an extra day. Between soreness, or sickness, and especially weather- it’s a good idea to give yourself an extra day to explore due to these things.
  • Put your camera down! You’ll want to take thousands of photos as you should, just remember to enjoy the moment and look up at where you are- one of the southern most points of the world!

There is so much I could say about Patagonia, and I can guarantee I will be writing more about it. For any questions on our trip, don’t hesitate to reach out! πŸ™‚

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