We arrived in Chile a bit exausted from our 3 days adventure in the Uyuni salt flats. Our first stop was in San Pedro de Atacama in the northen part of Chile, where most people end up after visiting the salt flats of Bolivia. San Pedro was a cute little town situated in the driest desert in the world and suprisingly, has a vibe completely different than what we had experienced previously in our trip through South America. We could already tell that our experience in Chile would be different and that we would enjoy this difference very much! We only spent a night in San Pedro de Atacama. We did not do much except relaxing at our hostel and strolling around the streets which were mostly filled with tourists.
We had planned ahead of time, before knowing much about the town, that we would take an overnight bus to the Elqui Valley in the center of the country the next day. So that's what we did and arrived in Vicuna in the early afternoon. Although we both felt sick (probably a bacteria from something we ate), we did not let it discourage us.
Over the few days we spent in the valley, we did a few different activities. We rented bikes at a local shop and went on a 15km long ride passing through the little towns around Vicuna. We visited a centenial pisco distillery ("Pisco" is a brandy-style alcool made from distilled wine) on the way called "Aba" and also visited a microbrewery called "Guayacan" where we tasted their different craft beers. At the end of the tasting session, a Chilean girl who was visiting the Elqui Valley just like us invited to join her for lunch and drinks. It was fun to chat with her and get a better sense of the local culture.
Also, one evening, we took part in an astronomy guided tour at the nearby Observatorio del Pangue. The Elqui valley is the perfect spot to do some star gazing since it has clear skies most of the year and is far enough away for the light pollution we can encounter in bigger cities. Through the telescope located at more than 2000 meters above sea level, we were able to see a supernova, galaxies located at 100 million years from the earth, a double star, a comet, a nebula, the Magellan Clouds, etc. We were able to check this from our "bucket list". What an amazing experience it was and we are thrilled to have been able to see that spectacular site during our round the world trip in Chile!
After seeing the Elqui Valley, it was time to head down to Santiago! We were excited to get to the capital of Chile because we had booked an apartment in the heart of the city in a neighborhood called Bellas Artes. After travelling quite quickly for almost 2 months now, we were in serious need to settle down a bit. During 2 weeks, we spent a lot of our time shopping around the nearby markets to gather the fruits and vegetables we would need to prepare our lunches and dinners. It was nice to have our own place and make our own meals for a while. But one evening, we had something special to celebrate. It was our 1 year anniversary as a couple. To make that day extra special, we went to a local restaurant called Boccanariz, which was recommended to us by a local girl, and we had a delicious romantic dinner.
Altough we spent a lot of our time in Santiago simply “living" and wandering around the different sites in the city (Santa Lucia's hill, Cerro San Cristobal, Museum of Human Rights, etc.), we also did a couple of day trips to nearby cities.
Our first daytrip was to the Casablanca valley, an area known for its wineries specialized in white wines like Sauvignon Blanc. We rented a car on a beautiful sunny day and spent it going around the region's best vineyards to try all sorts of wines. We found our favourite wines at Emiliana, which is producing organic wines.
Our second daytrip was to Valparaiso, a city located 2 hours away from Santiago on the coast. There is not that much to do in Valparaiso but we enjoyed very much simply walking around and taking pictures of the colourful houses perched on the hills of the city.
We could have spent a lot more time in Chile. But it was time for us to move on to our next adventure after spending 2 months in South America... New Zealand! Read on!