Lagunas Altiplánicas and Piedras Rojas: a must-see in the Atacama Desert

In the Atacama Desert there are so many tour options and each place is more beautiful than the other. Therefore, it is difficult to choose as not everyone has the time nor the money to do them all. However, in my opinion, Lagunas Altiplánicas (Altiplanic Lagoons) and Piedras Rojas (Red Stones) are a must-see, which include some of the most beautiful landscapes we have seen in the desert and even in whole Chile.

Salar de Talar
Salar de Talar


We did the tour as an invitation of Ayllu Atacama * and I will share my experiences with you and also give you some tips so that you can make the most of this incredible tour.

* The tour of Lagunas Altiplánicas and Piedras Rojas was a courtesy of Ayllu in Share Journeys, with the commitment that all the opinion expressed in the text was true and authentic, as in all the posts we wrote.


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The tour

The tour of Lagunas Altiplánicas and Piedras Rojas is scheduled in the morning by the agencies and starts very early. At 5 am in the morning, the vans begin to get the participants from their accommodation (this day, we left a little late, which was to be expected as a Brazilian tour! ^^). At dawn and in the morning, it is sooooo cold in the Atacama Desert, so leave with some layers of clothes, regardless of the season. Later on, I will give some tips about what you should take with you.

Old church in Socaire
Old church in Socaire

From San Pedro de Atacama we drove for 86 km to the first stop, the village of Socaire. On the way, we saw the sun rising over the mountains and volcanoes in the desert. It is worth it to stay awake this part of the way, as the landscape is even more beautiful in the colors of the dawn.

Socaire is the last small town on Route CH-23, before Argentina. As we arrived very early, it seemed that the small village was still sleeping. And the main attraction of the town is the old church, with the typical architecture of the Atacama Desert, built with mud bricks and a straw roof. The church was closed so we just stopped for an outside photo and to go to the bathroom (which on that day had to be outdoors! hehe But usually they stop at one of the establishments on the way. However, take the chance whenever you can because in Atacama there aren’t a lot of possibilities to go to the bathroom outdoors and the next toilet stop will take a while).

After the quick stop in Socaire, we continued to Salar de Talar. Don’t confuse it with Salar de Tara, which is another tour. Still try to stay awake, because on the way, you can see some animals, such as vicuñas and guanacos, which are camelid like animals, as well as llamas and alpacas, but are exclusively wild. Pay attention because they camouflage very well in the Atacama vegetation. Drink a lot of water so you don’t get problems with the altitude.

Laguna Tuyacto
Laguna Tuyacto

Salar de Talar is at an altitude of 3,950 meters and spreads over an area of ​​46 square kilometers. It is in this Salar that you will find the famous Piedras Rojas and Laguna Tuyacto, which was our first stop.

The water of Tuyacto has a milky tone due to the salt. At some days of the year, it has a high salt concentration around it and becomes even more beautiful. When we were there, there wasn’t a lot. On the other hand, the water mirror was perfect, reflecting the surrounding mountains.

Laguna Tuyacto is a few kilometers from Piedras Rojas where we went next. During the tour, our guide Dani, explained to us the geological formation of this region and the reason for the intense red color of the stones, which is due to the great concentration of iron, coming from volcanic lava. By the way, Dani is an excellent guide. Super fun and with very good explanations. Moreover, he is always helping to get great photos! =)

As Ayllu specializes in giving tours for Brazilians and the group was almost all Brazilian (except for Julie, who is German but speaks Portuguese), the explanation was all in Portunhol (portuguese +spanish). But they also speak English and have tourists from other nacionalities as well.  Dani understands Portuguese very well, so we talked all in Portuguese. All the explanation is made on the way in the car so that you can spend more time outside, enjoying the scenery and taking photos. And also that you don’t freeze too much!

I repeat again, be prepared for the cold, which ranges from below zero to 10 degrees and the wind is very strong in Piedras Rojas. We did the tour in late May and the temperature was below freezing. Also avoid to take off your gloves to take pictures, so that you don’t get frostbites on your hands, which happened to me.

When we got to Piedras Rojas, we were nearly alone only together with one other group from Ayllu, which was very good to take good photos. Ayllu groups are a maximum of 10 people per car, which is great because we can get to know people better (our group was really fun) and the guide can explain everything without being interrupted.

Red Stones, Salar de Talar
Red Stones, Salar de Talar

While we took photos and admire the stunning landscape (which is best described by the pictures than by words), Ayllu team prepared the breakfast, overlooking one of the most beautiful lagoons in Piedras Rojas. The offered breakfast is very good with everything you could need: fruits, bread, biscuits, tea, coffee, nutella … everyone will be satisfied. I think this was the most beautiful place I’ve ever had breakfast in my whole life! But we ate quickly as the cold was hard to bear.

After breakfast, we went to Lagunas Altiplánicas, and in case you think that the landscape cannot be as beautiful as the one of Piedras Rojas, you are surprised by the beauty of these lagoons.

We visited just two of the Lagunas Altiplanic: Miskanti and Miñiques are inside Los Flamencos National Reserve. The entrance fee of $ 3,000 CLP per person (May 2017) is paid extra.

Laguna Miskanti
Laguna Miskanti

The first lagoon, Miskanti, is the largest and in my opinion the most beautiful one. With a very blue and calm water, surrounded by the volcano with the same name and other mountains, that had a very beautiful contrast between the white of the snow and the dark color of the rock formations, next to the greenish-yellow of the Atacama vegetation, at the end of May. The pond is shaped like a heart, which can be seen best by looking at the map: https://goo.gl/maps/hSzifaTzUvz .

At this lagoon you can go to the bathroom (puhh!) and also do a trail in case you want to walk around the lagoon, respecting the boundaries marked by stones. There are flamingos (that we just saw from far away) and vicuñas.

Vicuña in Lagunas Altiplánicas
Vicuña in Lagunas Altiplánicas

By car, we went to Miñiques lagoon, which is next to Miskanti, but too far to go on foot. The two lagoons were separated by petrified lava from an eruption of the Miñiques volcano. Yes, as you would expect in Atacama, next to the lagoon Miñiques there is another volcano.

Laguna Miñiques
Laguna Miñiques

Miñiques is much smaller than Miskanti and the volcano was not as snowy as the other one, so I think the first one is more beautiful. However, the two are stunning!

On the way back from Lagunas Altiplánicas, we saw even more animals like vicuñas and guanacos (difficult to differentiate one from the other) and also a fox (Culpeo fox), a typical species in South American countries.

Fox in the Atacama Desert
Fox in the Atacama Desert

Along the way, the sun begins to heat up the air, and the altitude decreases, as well as the wind. So, you can enjoy the scenery a lot more and for longer.
 [Vicuña on the road and the usual question in Atacama: is it snow or salt?]
The last stop before lunch is at the Tropic of Capricorn, parallel to the South of the Equator. A sign on Route CH-23 marks the place where the imaginary line passes.

With Fred and Julie at the Tropic of Capricorn
With Fred and Julie at the Tropic of Capricorn

We returned to San Pedro de Atacama around 2pm, for lunch at Ayllu’s restaurant. The lunch was a free buffet, full of great choices (we even had feijoada!), with enough option for vegetarians as well. To accompany it with a drink of juice, soda, white and red wine.

Lunch at Ayllu's restaurant
Lunch at Ayllu’s restaurant

A perfect tour from start to finish! <3

Landscape along the road
Landscape along the road

As it is a half-day tour, some people take two tours a day. But I believe it is very tiring, since you get up at about 4:30 in the morning. If you want to do two tours try to find a second which leaves as late as possible in the afternoon. Considering as well extra time for an eventual delay of the first tour.

 

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What to bring
As I have mentioned several times, it is very cold on this tour. So, make sure that you wear enough layers of clothes as several trousers and jackets (preferably wind-jackets) and that they are warm as well, a hat, gloves, closed shoes (preferably boots, because usually wind enters into the sneakers), a scarf and very warm socks. I used several layers of each of these things and still, I almost froze to death! Hehe

Wear several layers. Like this you can take some off during the tour
Wear several layers. Like this you can take some off during the tour


But, don’t forget, even when it’s cold, the sun is usually very strong in Atacama, so don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses. Take your water bottle too.

 

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Ayllu
There are thousands of agencies in San Pedro de Atacama, so we have to choose wisely that the “cheap” ones don’t get expensive in the end. Ayllu is an agency with 15 years of experience in Atacama and has focused on Brazilian tourists and also on the luxury concept.

Ayllu Vans and our breakfast in Piedras Rojas
Ayllu Vans and our breakfast in Piedras Rojas


Therefore, the guides speak good Portunhol (Portuguese + spanish) and the service team is Brazilian.

The agency offers the main tours through Atacama always for small groups of a maximum of 10 people to make the experience more intimate and exclusive. Moreover, a curiosity that I always had, Ayllu means “community” or “family group”, in Kunza dialect.

In addition to the tour of Lagunas Altiplánicas and Piedras Rojas, we did the Lagunas Escondidas (Hidden Lagoons) tour with Ayullu. I will tell how that went in one of the next posts.

 

Ayllu Atacama
Calle Toconao # 479, San Pedro de Atacama
Http://www.aylluatacama.com.br/
Contact@ayllu.cl
+56 94021-2535 (Whatsapp)

This could be interesting for you as well:

http://sharejourneys.net/2017/06/26/20-day-itinerary-in-chile-santiago-pucon-andean-lakes-lagos-andinos-chiloe-island-and-atacama/

Written in Portuguese by Karla Larissa

Translation by Juliane Boll

Leia este post em português:

Lagunas Altiplânicas e Piedras Rojas: passeio imperdível no Deserto do Atacama


Tips, useful information and a 4- to 6-day-itinerary for Santiago de Chile

Santiago de Chile is our readers favorite city. Finally, we had the time to find out the reasons why. The Chilean capital was our starting point for our 20-day tour around Chile. We agreed with everything we had heard about this city. Right from the beginning already out of the plane Santiago is breathtaking when you can see the beautiful mountains of the Andes which warmly welcome the visitors. Santiago is exciting for every tourist: it is a beautiful city, modern, organized, safe and full of attractions. Also in its surroundings, there are famous Chilean tourist destinations, which you can visit as a day-trip. We did a 6-day-itinerary in Santiago and its surrounding areas, which I am sharing with you here. But the suggestions are also helpful for those who have less time, for example just 4 days.

Andes Mountain tops, during arrival in Santiago
Andes Mountain tops, during arrival in Santiago

The truth is that Santiago was a fascinating destination for us. In the sense that every time we planned to go there (since our honeymoon 7 years ago), it didn’t work out in the end. But finally, everything went well and it was worth insisting on getting to know the city, which became one of my favorites in South America (if it wouldn’t be that cold, I would live there easily!).

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Useful information

Before starting with the detailed itinerary, let’s begin with some useful information:

– For those who have a frequent flying program, there are many promotions to go to Santiago. We got the stretch from Natal, Brasil for 12,000 miles.

– There isn’t a preferable side on the plane for the best view to see the mountains Andes on arrival in Santiago, but check-in early to get a seat at the window (if you have to choose maybe it’s best to get the left side window if you are coming in from the North).

– When you are arriving at the airport, there are several options to get to the city center. The most economical way is by bus, which gets you to Santiago’s center, a bus terminal or to one of the main subway stations. We paid 1,700 pesos per person and got off at Pajaritos station and from there we took a subway to our metro station.

The companies that offer this service are Turbus and Centropuerto.

– The most popular accommodation options are usually in the Center (Centro). But if you you’re your time searching, you might find good hostels for a cheap price in better suburbs like Providencia and Bella Vista. The most important thing is to be close to a metro station as you will be able to get to know the whole city from there.

Book your accommodation in Santiago with Booking.com

We stayed for 6 days in a private room in an apartment in Providencia. It was very well located between the metro stations Salvador and Baquedano, close to the district Bellavista. That made it a lot easier to get to know the city during the day and enjoy the evening with ease. The room had a balcony with a beautiful view of Balmaceda Park, Cerro San Cristobal, the Andes and you could also see Costanera Center. In the apartment, we could use the kitchen, the living room and even the washing machine.

Our room in the apartment in Providencia
Our room in the apartment in Providencia
Our room in the apartment in Providencia
Our room in the apartment in Providencia

On the way back from our Chilean car trip to the South, we spent another night in Santiago at Aji Hostel, in a private room as well. The hostel is also very well located in Providencia. Our private room was very spacious and comfortable, within the standards of a hostel. However, Julie was in a dorm room with 5 other people and had her worst experience about a tiny stinky old bathroom, she ever had during her 8 months traveling.

Sunset view from the window in our apartment in Providencia
Sunset view from the window in our apartment in Providencia

– The best way to get around Santiago is by metro and on foot. The subway fares vary according to the time of the day: low ($ 610, bajo), medium ($ 660, valle) and high ($ 740, punta). You can buy a card for $ 1,550 (you don’t get the money back) or buy single tickets, on which we decided on.

The metro’s opening hours depend on the season, but it usually runs from Monday to Friday until 11:00 p.m., Saturdays until 11:30 p.m., and Sundays and holidays until 10:30 p.m.

http://www.metrosantiago.cl/

– Officially, Uber isn’t allowed in the city, but it is working there and is usually safer than a taxi.

– Santiago is pretty expensive. Don’t make a mistake as € 1 is worth more than $ 750 CLP. However, the city offers many free attractions.

– Chile doesn’t have a free health system and medical care can be very expensive there. So, it is necessary to have your own health insurance before entering the country.

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If you didn’t arrive the night before, you probably won’t have a full first day in the city. For example, our flight arrived at 1:30 p.m. and until we got to the apartment and settled in, we only started the tour at around 3:30 p.m.
As we lived in Providencia, very close to the district Bellavista, we started in this famous neighborhood and I believe this is a great way to get to know Santiago.

District Bellavista
District Bellavista

Bellavista is a district with a very cultural atmosphere, with colorful big houses, graffiti, handicrafts markets, many restaurants and bars with tables on the sidewalks. It is great to stroll around in the late afternoon and enjoy the evening. Santiago has a different division than the one we are used to. There exist districts and communes. Bellavista is a district which is in parts in the commune of Providencia and, another one in the Center. So for example, don’t be surprised when some places that are in Bellavista, have an address “Providencia”.
In the streets Constitución and Dardignac are a lot of good bars and restaurants, including one of the favorite ones of the Brazilians: “Like Water for Chocolate”. Also in this block, you can find Pátio Bellavista, an open-air mall with many restaurants, bars and some small shops.

Patio Bellavista
Patio Bellavista

The Patio is very beautiful and has options for all kind of tastes, in addition to housing large franchises such as Starbucks, 100 Montaditos, Domino’s Pizza, etc.
We ate at 100 Montaditos, which is a Spanish franchise that I love. Afterwards we had wine at La Casa in El Aire. But I have the feeling that everything inside the Courtyard is much more expensive than in the restaurants located outside on the same street.

Patio Bellavista
Sunday to Tuesday, from 10 am to 02 am
Wednesday from 10 am to 3 pm
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and holidays, from 10 am to 04 am
http://patiobellavista.cl/


In Bellavista is also the home of the writer and Nobel Prize winner, Pablo Neruda. La Chascona is nearly at the bottom of Cerro San Cristóbal and runs as a museum house now.

La Chascona, the house of Pablo Neruda in Santiago
La Chascona, the house of Pablo Neruda in Santiago

The name of the house is a homage of Neruda to his partner Matilde Urrutia. In the indigenous language Quechua, La Chascona means “The disheveled one”. In 1953 when the house was constructed, Neruda and Matilde had a secret romance, because the writer was still married. The writer only lived with Matilde in this house two years later, after his separation.

Like all the houses of Neruda, La Chascona is very picturesque, with very peculiar furniture and objects which the writer collected. The house was built with views of the Andes and the city.

The place is so interesting that it is worth a visit even for those who aren’t interested in the Neruda’s work.

La Chascona
Address: Fernando Márquez de la Plata 0192, Bellavista, Providencia, Santiago.
March to December – Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm
January and February – Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 7 pm
Closed on Mondays
Admission: $ 7,000 CLP
$ 2,500 Students CLP, also with an international student ID (ISIC)
https://fundacionneruda.org/en/museums-houses/la-chascona-museum-house/ (website in English)

Visiting the district Bellavista isn’t complete until you climbed the hill Cerro San Cristóbal. You can get up there by walking or by cable car. We took the cable car in the late afternoon to watch the sunset from the top.

The hill Cerro San Cristóbal
The hill Cerro San Cristóbal

On Cerro San Cristóbal is a Catholic church dedicated to Our Lady of Conception. The image of this Saint is on top of the hill. It also has a very cute little park and a zoo (which I wouldn’t recommend to visit as I am against this kind of attractions). However, the main attraction of Cerro San Cristóbal is the view of Santiago and the Andes. San Cristóbal is the second highest point in the city, at an altitude of 880 m and with its 280 meters high (from base to top). In contrast, the Sky Costanera lookout where you pay an entrance fee of $ 10,000 CLP is 300 meters high.

The view from Cerro San Cristóbal down to Santiago
The view from Cerro San Cristóbal down to Santiago

If you are lucky and get a clean day (unfortunately, Santiago is one of the most polluted capitals in the world), you can see well the Andes and the snowy peaks.

Cable Car
Address: Pio Nono Funicular Station
Opening hours: 10 am – 6:45 pm
Return trip – $ 2,000 CLP adults / 1,500 CLP children and seniors

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Itinerary
Day 2 – Downtown

With more energy after a good night sleep, the second day is more convenient to explore the city centre.

Cathedral and the Santiago Post Office building
Cathedral and the Santiago Post Office building

Beginn your tour at Plaza de Armas, where you can find the Cathedral (built between 1748 and 1800), the “Edificio de la Municipalidad de Santiago” (Santiago City Hall), the building of “Correo Central” (a post office built in 1882 with the style of French architecture), the monastery “Al Pueblo Indígena” by Enrique Villalobos and the National Historical Museum (free entrance).

National Historical Museum
National Historical Museum


I recommend to visit the Museum, which can be visited in about 1 hour. It shows the history of Chile, even beginning prehistorical. The museum has collections of popular arts, crafts, clothing, archeology, furniture, coins and medals, books and documents, weapons etc. One of the pieces at the museum is the flag on which Chile’s independence was sworn.

National Historical Museum
Address: Plaza de Armas 951, Santiago
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm
Free entrance
http://www.museohistoriconacional.cl


On one side of Plaza de Armas you can go to Paseo Ahumada, a pedestrian street, which is one of the busiest shopping streets in Santiago. There you will find several shops, sellers on the street or banks. At Calle Augustinas, one of the perpendicular streets, are several exchange offices, where you probably will find the best quotation to exchange Euros, Real or Dollars.

Following Paseo Ahumada, entering to the right in Augustinas, you will arrive at Plaza de la Constitución and Palacio de la Moneda (Palace), which is home to the Chilean president, which got its name because at the beginning it worked as a mint.

Palacio de la Moneda
Palacio de la Moneda

The Palace was the scene of one of the darkest moments of Chile’s recent history, having been bombarded by airplanes and cannons on September 11, 1973 as a coup d’etat that brought Pinochet to power, and also inside of it where the president at the time Salvador Allende died (as official history, he would have committed suicide).

The exchange of the guards takes place in front of the palace irregularly at 10 am during the week and at 11 am on weekends. See the 2017 calendar: http://nosnochile.com.br/troca-de-guarda-no-chile-calendario-2017/


Palacio de la Moneda offers free guided tours in English and Spanish, but it is necessary to book in advance here: https://visitasguiadas.presidencia.cl/ (website in English)

Two blocks before Palace of La Moneda you can find Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, one of the most important ones in Santiago.

Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art
Address: Bandera 361, Santiago
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm (entrance is recommended until 5:30 pm)
Admission: $ 4,500 CLP adults. Students with an ID: $ 2,000 CLP. Free entry for children under 10 years.
Free admission on the first Sunday of each month.
http://www.precolombino.cl/en/ (website in English)

From La Moneda Palace it is just a short walk of about 10 minutes to the beautiful church of San Francisco. The baroque church was built between 1575 and 1895 and is, along with the convent, the oldest architectural monument in Chile.

Before there was the convent, today it hosts the Museum of Colonial Art of San Francisco.

Church of San Francisco
Church of San Francisco

Museum of Colonial Art of San Francisco
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, from 09h30 to 13 h and from 15 h to 18 h
Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm
Admission: $ 1,000 CLP adults. Students and Seniors – $ 500 CLP
http://museosanfrancisco.com/en/ (website in English)

What was in the early days the courtyards and gardens of the convent, was changed in the 1920’s to the district called Paris-London, which are actually two streets. The facade of the San Francisco church is on Calle London, which is divided by Calle Paris. It is a very quiet and charming piece of Santiago. In the two streets there are some hotels and restaurants.

Church of San Francisco
Church of San Francisco
District Paris-London
District Paris-London

Leaving the Paris-London suburb, in less than 10 minutes walking along Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins, the main one of Santiago, you will arrive at Cerro Santa Lucía, which I also recommend visiting in a late afternoon to close the second day of the itinerary.

The walk up to Cerro Santa Lucía takes you on a pleasant walk, first stopping at the beautiful Neptune Fountain (Fuente Neptuno), following the Circular Garden, then the Plaza Caupolicán Park, the Sepulcher of Benjamin Vicunã Mackenna (Chilean politician and historian), the lookout before arriving at Castillo Hidalgo.

Although much lower than San Cristóbal, at 629 meters above sea level and a height of 69 meters, Cerro Santa Lucía also has a 360 degree view of Santiago, the Andes and Cerro San Cristobal as well.

Neptune Fountain, Cerro Santa Lucía
Neptune Fountain, Cerro Santa Lucía
Cerro Santa Lucía
Cerro Santa Lucía

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Day 3 – Human Rights Museum, Normal Farm Park (Quinta Normal Park), Central Market

One of the most interesting and important things we visited in Santiago was the Museum of Rememberance and Human Rights (Museo de la Memoria y de los Derechos Humanos).

Human Rights Museum
Human Rights Museum

The museum is “a space designed to give visibility to the human right violations committed by the Chilean State between 1973 and 1990 (the time of the military dictatorship) in order to dignify the victims and their families, stimulate reflection and debate on the importance of respect and tolerance so that these things will never be repeated “(excerpt from “About the Museum” on the official website).

Despite the heavy theme, I consider this the most important visit, precisely because it allows reflection on these issues, at a time when we see the term “human rights” being so trivialized and distorted and we also have absurde people asking for the return of dictatorship in Brazil. By the way, I think that Brazil would need a museum like this. I am amazed how dictatorships in South American countries have ended just recently and people already forget the damage they have caused.

It isn’t allowed to take pictures or videos inside the museum. But the collections and exhibitions are interactively very well organized, so that the visitors won’t just reflect but it  is also creating emotions. I found it very difficult to read the reports, to see the photos and the human beings (behind the names and numbers), victims of the Chilean military dictatorship and the families that were destroyed.

The visit is free and I recommend to plan at least with 2 hours to see everything with time.

Museum of Memory and Human Rights
Address: Avenida Matucana 501, Santiago
Underground Station Quinta Normal
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm
Daylight saving time in January and February, from 10 am to 8 pm
Free entrance
https://ww3.museodelamemoria.cl

Park Quinta Normal
Park Quinta Normal

The Human Rights Museum is located in front of Quinta Normal Park, a huge green park, a lake with pedal boats, an “invernadero” and several museums: National Museum of Natural History of Chile, Museum of Science and Technology, Railway Museum of Santiago, Museum of Contemporary Art. You can spend an entire afternoon there, visiting the museums of your choice. Some have free admission. We visited Natural History Museum, which is very interesting, especially for those traveling with children.
The park is closed on Mondays.

Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum

National Museum of Natural History of Chile
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 17h30 pm
Sundays and public holidays, from 11 am to 17h30 pm
Closed on Mondays
Free entrance
hhttp://www.mnhn.cl/613/w3-channel.html

Museum of Science and Technology (MUCYTEC)
Opening hours: March to December – Tuesday to Friday, from 10 am to 5:15 pm; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 11 am to 5:15 pm
January and February, Tuesday to Friday, from 10 am to 6:15 pm; Saturdays and Sundays, from 11 am to 6:15 pm
Admission: $ 800 CLP adults. $ 650 CLP children and $ 400 CLP seniors.
http://www.mucytec.cl/

Railway Museum of Santiago
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday, from 10 am to 5:50 pm
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 11 am to 6:50 pm
Admission: $ 800 CLP adults. $ 500 CLP children and students, and $ 400 CLP seniors
http://www.corpdicyt.cl/mferroviario/

Museum of Contemporary Art
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 am to 7 pm
Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm
Closed on Mondays and holidays
Free entrance
http://www.mac.uchile.cl/

Depending on what you want to visit, the tour in Quinta Normal Park can take a long time, as I said, one whole afternoon or all morning. After that we went by subway to the Central Market of Santiago. Well, the Santiago market is a bit different from other cities. There are more restaurants and kiosks, specializing in fish and seafood dishes. For example, if you are looking for stalls with fruits, you will find them on the street in front of the market.

We visited the market, but ended up not eating there. Well, I found the harassment of the salesmen a little annoying (I know it’s normal in a market, but I’m not obliged!). As I’m a vegetarian, I didn’t find many options. But I’ve heard good things from some people who ate at the market restaurants and I think for those who like fish and seafood, it’s worth the trip.

The Market is a few blocks from Plaza de Armas, so in case it is more convenient for you, you can visit it the day you are strolling around downtown.

If you have still time left, you can take advantage of visiting one of Santiago’s many parks, such as Bicentennial Park.  Unfortunately, we didn’t had time to visit.

For those who like amusement parks you can find one in Parque O`Higgins: Fantasilandia (https://www.fantasilandia.cl/).

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Day 4 – Conha Y Toro Winery, Costanera Center, Sculpture Park Museum (Parque de las Esculturas)

Parque de las Esculturas and Costanera Center
Parque de las Esculturas and Costanera Center

One of the many attractions in the surroundings of Santiago are the wineries. The two most famous ones are Concha y Toro and Santa Rita.

We decided to visit Concha y Toro and went on our own, taking the subway and buses. It was very easy to get there and we paid practically half the price of what we would have paid if we had gone on a tour of a travel agency. It is necessary to plan 4 hours to include the trip to the winery in the itinerary.

It is important to schedule the visit in advance, to guarantee the desired time (they have tours in English, Spanish and Portuguese) so that you don’t have to wait so long.

Concha y Toro
Address: Virginia Subercaseaux 210, Pirque
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, from 10 am to 5:10 pm
How to get there: https://www.conchaytoro.com/tour-wine-experience/how-to-get-to-the-winery/ (website in English)
Admission: $ 12,000 CLP (Tour & Wine Experience, including tasting).
https://www.conchaytoro.com/tour-wine-experience/?lang=en_us (website in English)

After our tour to the winery, we spent the afternoon to visit Costanera Center, the famous shopping mall in Santiago, which operates in a modern architecture building that is already part of the city’s landscape. In fact, the building is huge and the mall is only located in one part. The building itself functions as a business center with several offices. That’s also where Sky Costanera is, which I’ve already mentioned above.

The mall is very big, with shops on various floors, famous brands, food courts, a cinema and supermarkets. As we don’t enjoy shopping so much, but love food (haha!), we went for lunch to Emporio La Rosa and had one of the famous ice creams there. According to the menu, La Rosa is one of the best ice cream shops in the world. I don’t know who created this ranking but the ice cream is really good! =)

Costanera Center
Address: Avenida Andres Bello, 2425, Providencia
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, from 10 am to 10 pm (the larger stores run from 11 am to 9 pm)
http://mall.costaneracenter.cl/index.php?lang=en (website in English)

Costanera Center is located in a very modern and chic area of ​​Providencia. Enjoy this city park. In front of the building, there is Parque de las Esculturas (Sculpture Park), a very beautiful park, next to Mapocho River. As its name suggests, it houses several sculptures. It’s great to rest there after a busy day. From here you have a beautiful view of the Andes, the Costanera Center and other modern buildings in Providencia as well.

For the evening, we were taken by a friend of friends, who is from Santiago (thank you, José) to a nice bar, Liguria, more frequented by Chileans than by tourists. They have 3 restaurants in Providencia and we went to the one on Av Providencia. The price is pretty high, but the ambiance is great and the food very tasty. The best of all there is the attendant. The waiters are super attentive and fun. The bar operates on a continuous schedule from early in the morning until dawn.

 

Liguria
Av. Providencia 1353, Providencia
http://www.liguria.cl/

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Day 5 – Tour Valle Nevado

Valle Nevado
Valle Nevado

On our penultimate day in Santiago, we took the tour to Valle Nevado. This is definitely a tour where it is worth it to hire an agency. It doesn’t compensate in any way to go on your own, because it would be necessary to rent a car and the road has a multitude of curves that can be very dangerous for those who aren’t used to drive there, especially during snow season.

At the time we did the tour, it wasn’t snow season yet. Therefore, we did the tour which is called by most of the agencies “Panoramic Andes” which includes the trip to Valle Nevado ski station and a stop at Farellones station.

We did the tour with the agency Somos Tour, which I didn’t know before. But I booked with the Brazilian Amanda, who was very helpful at Plaza de Armas (several agencies approach tourists there).

The tour lasts between 8 and 9 hours and it’s quite tiring. So, you’ll probably do just that one tour on this day. Even out of season, it’s worth the trip because the scenery is very beautiful. When we went in early May, there was snow only on the mountain peaks, but at the end of the month, the station was opened, almost a month in advance of the planned date (usually it opens in mid-June). The price of the tour varies according to the season.

The tour offered by the agency was very good, with a comfortable van, in good condition and the guide Alex was very friendly and explained everything very well.

The recommendation is to go with enough clothes, because the station is at 3,100 m altitude and even though it isn’t snowy season yet, it was damn cold. For those who tend to get sick with the road curves (when you start counting, there are more than 60 tight corners), the tip is to pick the front seat next to the driver.

Somos Tour
hhttp://www.somostour.cl/ (website in English)
Amanda – +56 9 4488 4249⁠

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Day 6 – Return trip Valparaiso and Viña del Mar

Castillo Wulff, Vinã del Mar (photo taken with HDR)
Castillo Wulff, Vinã del Mar (photo taken with HDR)

To end our first trip in Santiago, we made a very traditional return trip to Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, coastal cities that are approximately 1h30 away from Santiago. We organized everything on our own and we also spent about three times less than if we would have gone with an agency. It is very easy to get there and I will explain everything in another post.

Unfortunately, it rained a lot on that day and it was not possible to visit everything we would have wanted. But, I recommend to anyone who wants get back to Santiago at the same day: leave early enough to enjoy both places. For those who have more time, I recommend spending a night in Valparaiso or Vinã del Mar. Therefore, you can enjoy to get to know everything with more time.
In Valparaiso, we visited another house of Pablo Neruda, “La Sebastiana”, which I even liked more than the house of Santiago.

With this itinerary, I believe we took advantage of our first visit in Santiago. The only place I planned to visit but in the end we hadn’t enough time was Cajón del Maipo. I am very sad about that, especially because I later heard that it had snowed there and it looked so beautiful.

Several agencies do the Cajón tour, like Somos Tour itself, but it is also possible to go on your own.

Stay tuned as in the next few days, the detailed posts of the tours to Concha y Toro, Valle Nevado, Valparaíso and Viña del Mar will be posted on the blog.

In case you already know Santiago, please leave your tips in the comments! =)

* This article was originally written in Portuguese by Karla Larissa. Translation by Juliane Boll.

Você pode ler este post em português aqui:

Dicas práticas e roteiro de 4 a 6 dias em Santiago do Chile


20-day-itinerary in Chile: Santiago, Pucón, Andean Lakes (Lagos Andinos), Chiloé Island and Atacama

Two years after our first trip to Chile, we came back to make peace with this country. That’s because in April 2015 when we traveled the North of the country, we had a full week of heavy rain, to the point that the government declared a state of calamity in that region. This time, we wanted to make the most of it but taking into consideration the weather of the season (May). So, we postponed the dream of getting to know Patagonia and planned our 20 days between Santiago and the surrounding areas, Andean Lakes (Lagos Andinos), Chiloé Island and Atacama. Luckily, the first impression from 2015 was “washed away” and we left Chile with a lot of love for that country.

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Continue reading 20-day-itinerary in Chile: Santiago, Pucón, Andean Lakes (Lagos Andinos), Chiloé Island and Atacama