Our trip to Chile was amazing. Full of WOW m.
Oct 7 - Oct 28, 2022
Our trip to Chile was amazing. Full of WOW moments. Chile is a varied and beautiful country.
We started in Santiago, staying at the Cumbres Lastarria Hotel. Great location; terrific service from the staff. Highly recommend. Only drawback was that it was a holiday weekend (Columbus Day) and many restaurants and sights were closed on the Sunday and the Monday. Did a free walking tour with a very good guide - you tip what you would like at the end of the tour. Had a very good meal at Ambrosia.
We then took a drive to Valparaiso stopping at 3 vineyards along the way with tastings at the first 2 and lunch at the 3rd. I can recommend that. Valparaiso is visually very interesting - the way the houses are painted with art is great. Again took an informative free walking tour which was a little too long - 3 hours turned into 4. Again ran into trouble finding places to eat and a visit to Pablo Neruda house because of the holiday weekend.
Atacama was definitely a highlight of the trip. Spectacular! Stayed at the Cumbres Atacama which was a very nice hotel but the food was mediocre and repetitive night to night. First day went on excursions to Moon Valley and Cejar Lagoon. Moon Valley is spectacular and definitely feels like being on another planet. A lot of walking and some climbing. Cejar Lagoon is highly saline and you can swim/float there. Harriet did, I just waded in a little. Next day I had some difficulty because of the altitude so Harriet went without me to the Rainbow Valley which was also spectacular. In the afternoon we went to Chaxa Lagoon where there is a nice walk and wonderful experience with the flamingos who come back in the late afternoon to feed. We had wonderful guides for the two days, Sebastian and Rudolfo. We were supposed to go to the Geysers of el Tatio the next day which is located at 14,170 feet altitude. Because of my problem with breathing at altitude we opted out of that trip and went into San Pedro de Atacama.
From there a trip to Pucon whose primary attractions were being very close to the active Villarica Volcano and a trip to Conguillio National Park. We had a very helpful guide there, Daniella who went beyond the call of duty to help me deal with the local hospital and with an audiologist. The volcano was awesome to look at. Conguillio was a long drive but also beautiful scenery - lakes, waterfalls, a walk to a lagoon. The visit to the Termas Geometricas hot springs on our free day was also a nice experience, although again a long drive. Pucon itself was touristy. Food not very good. If you needed to shorten your trip, I would skip Pucon.
The next highlight was the trip to Rapa Nui. A never to forget experience. Our guide there, Martin Hey, was a major contributor to our enjoyment. He was very knowledgeable about the Rapa Nui history and customs, spoke excellent English (he had lived in the USA), and was just a pleasure to be with. We would recommend that you request him if you have an option. Note that it was necessary to have a Covid PCR test within 24 hours of going to Rapa Nui. This was well arranged by KimKim. No matter what you've read about the moai or the pictures you may have seen, seeing these huge sculptures in person is an amazing and perhaps spiritual experience. There was a fire the week before we went that damaged several of the moai at the quarry, Rana Raku, where most of them were created, but we saw no evidence of that when we visited that site. Perhaps our favorite site was Tangariki where there are 15 Moai representing important people from the different clans. We went back there on our own to commune with them on our own. We visited several other sites including Orongo, the site of the Bird Man culture and the beach at Anakena. Definitely worth spending 3 days on Rapa Nui.
Our last stop before returning to Santiago and home was in Patagonia, staying in Puerto Natales.
We spent a day in a group tour to the Torres del Paine National Park, stopping to see several lakes, flocks of guanacos, and a prehistoric cave. We stopped for a very nice lunch after which there was a scheduled walk, but because it was raining and we had met a couple on the tour we enjoyed being with, we stayed at the restaurant with them. We later took a nice walk to the cave. The next day we took the Glacier Navigation on a very comfortable catamaran boat to the Serrano glacier stopping to view waterfalls, condors, sea lions. To get to the glacier you had the choice of a 10 minute walk to view it from a distance or a one hour plus walk to get closer. In spite of the rain and the cold we opted for the long walk which was challenging but we were happy we did it. It was sad to hear that the glacier had receded 200 meters in the last decade. Afterwards we stopped for a good lunch of roast lamb and chicken. The hotel was basic but adequate. The food there was mediocre except for the steak which was good. We also ate in Puerto Natales.
We returned to Santiago for one night before flying home. We had a very good dinner that night at Bocanariz. Our last day before taking the flight home we spent with the cousins of a good friend in Savannah for a home-cooked lunch and the afternoon. Probably the best meal we had in Chile.
All in all, a trip to remember. The hotels were mostly quite good to excellent. The guides we had were excellent. We also met a number of people who were traveling in Chile from various countries that we became friendly with. I also want to compliment the service provided by Liane from CTS Turismo who answered all our questions and made some adjustments in the schedule in a timely manner. We would not go to Chile for a culinary experience as we found that outside of Santiago most of the restaurants we ate in were not very good.
Lastly, want to thank Paul for leading us through the many changes we made along the way dealing with the uncertainty of whether Rapa Nui would open up or not.
Howard Zabusky and Harriet Zabusky-Zand