They call themselves an urban exploration company, and I guess thats a good description. Basically a really cool and different way to explore Santiago and see the city's real side. Foto Ruta offers group events every Saturday which begin with a photography workshop and an introduction to the area, and then in groups people go out with a map and set of clues and explore the city.
I found it to be by far the most interesting activity in Santiago, which doesnt tend to have a huge amount on offer for tourists. So i'd highly recommend it, even to people are arent interested in photography!
It's a little jazz bar half way up a hill in the scruffy, poetic quarters of Ecuador 169, Valparaiso. Careful, it's a rough hill. To enter, you step through a doorway of stone piano keys.
No English spoken, no beer from a glass, no smoking ban. The place is thick with jazz smoke and there are instruments littered against every corner and wall. Sometimes the regulars will pick up a sax or a guitar and just start to jam, cigarettes hanging from their mouths. This isn't amateur stuff—the standard of the music is incredible..
If you want a beer, you sometimes have to wait for the owner to come back with a slab of cans from the supermarket. Then the party is on. Small place with a hot, lively atmosphere. Named after Henry Chinaski—the most famous bar-fly in American literature.
Ecuador 169, Valparaiso, Chile
Google map: bit.ly/UlK6f2
Torres del Paine is big, dramatic and contrasting with many wooded areas that add to its charm as well as to colours of the landscape. This is nowhere more evident than in Valle del Frances sector where hiking through the forest reveals a theatre of primeval nature performing live in front of your eyes - Paine Grande massif with its spectacular blend of granite and sedimentary rock, snow capped peaks, glaciers, glacial caves, rivers, waterfalls all shrouded in a lush blanket of dense woodland. Trekking further up you pass through a Tunguska-like lifeless forest before arriving at a small plateau, ending by being encircled by magnificent rugged mountain peaks, severe and barren.
There are 887 reasons to see the world’s most remote inhabited island: the mysterious carved stone figures known as Moai.
If you love solitude this island feels uniquely special. From mid-afternoon onwards you can picnic alone at the Rano Raraku Moai quarry, surrounded only by hundreds of giant lichen-blotched faces and beyond, the blue Pacific Ocean. I don’t believe anywhere is more magical.
By the time Captain Cook accurately charted the island’s location many of the Moai had been wilfully toppled in favour of the Birdman cult. What happened, no-one knows, but turning over your breakfast roll reveals - baked into the crust - the sinister figure of a crouching Birdman.
Google map: bit.ly/RanoRarakuMoai
B&B Chez Oscar Av. Pont
+56 32 255 1261
By far the most spiritual, calming, friendly and awe inspiring place I have ever had the fortune to visit. As three intrepid travelling girlies we stayed with Elvira in her guesthouse. One of us was lucky enough to return six years later and we were still remembered (in a good way) even after only staying four days. Rapa Nui gives you everything, sandy beaches (Anakena) three vivid green breath taking volcanic lakes, rocky heather highlands, caves to have a little sleep in, stories of death defying acts of boys becoming men taking part in the birdman ceremony illuminated with petroglyphs, locals turning up to Hanga Roa for a concert (imagine a village hall) not in the loudest car with the biggest exhaust but by horseback, being serenaded by our guesthouse owner Elvira's son in Polynesian, Rapanuian and Spanish. Hitching a ride back into town after a long walk on a horse with no saddle cor blimey that hurt! That is even before I mention the Moai. If you are ever lucky enough to have the opportunity spend a some time on this remote island, do it, it will stay strong in your mind forever.
Sheepskins hang up to dry on a long line outside the Estancia, and flamingoes stand sulkily among black faced swans on the shoreline. They feast you on giant mussels and lamb that has smoked over an open fire all day; the rooms are a riot of fascinating clutter from pioneering days. The gauchos have long hair and knives in their belts; the riding is to suit your pace and the horses here gave me the confidence to make that a gallop. I'm utterly thrilled that my photograph is on the estancia's website.
Estancia Cerro Guido is a working ranch spectacularly situated on the border of the Torres del Paine national park in Chile. From there you can ride out to an Indian grave, a heaped stone cairn at what feels like the top of the world, snow topped mountains all around and always with the “torres” and “cuernos” in view - the granite towers and horns of the 12 million year old Torres del Paine massif. When I was there condors circled above, close enough to hear the wind in their feathers, and 30 more tore at a dead sheep as we rode past on our descent, listening to the eerie shriek of a guanaco. In the evening picture windows let us prolong our enjoyment of the view, while our lamb bbq dinner in the luxurious estancia only heightened the contrast to the wild and remote location.
Our instructions were to meet a man called Don Pepe in El Castillo at noon. We parked at the horse hitching post and waited at Restaurant "El Pionero". The staff were very proud of their accessible toilet and delighted to have their first ever visitor in a wheelchair. Estancia Barranca is a traditional Chilean working farm in full view of the awe inspiring Torres mountains. It is across a river impassable by car (or wheelchair) so we left the rental car in a stoney river bed and continued in the jeep. The staff did everything possible to assist my friend and were totally un-phased by a wheelchair user in such a remote and rugged landscape. We spent two memorable days watching the muster, enjoying the famous Patagonian hospitality and attempting to discuss the finer points of sheep shearing in Spanish.
Location: Eastern edge of Torres del Paine National Park, Chile approx 130kms from Puerto Natales
Booking: We arranged our trip from Puerto Natales through the excellent Hostel Natales. www.hostelnatales.cl/
La Sebastiana - once the home of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda - is worth the puff up the steep hills of colourful Valparaiso. Evoking the poet's strong attachment with the sea in its wonderful details, from the port hole windows to the nautical paraphernalia and ship drinks bar. The view out over the cluster of brightly painted corrugated houses and sea beyond, leaves you understanding why Neruda loved Valparaiso and La Sebastiana.
Collado, 1, Valparaíso Valparaíso Region, Chile
+56(0)32 222 0092
Google map: bit.ly/q5oc5H
•March to December: Thuesday to sunday 10:10 to 18:00 hours.
•January and february: Thuesday to sunday 10:30 to 18:50 hours.
•General entrance: $3.000 each person.
•Students and seniors: $1.500 each person (presenting college credential or school pass).
Sara Wheeler travelled alone around the long skinny country that is Chile for six months in the early 90’s, and this is her account. She tells it like it is, and the truth is travel can be horrible: missed connections, sea sickness, squalid rooms and the frustrations of bureaucracy. We learn about the history, literature, geography and politics of the country, she mixes with everyone from the poorest to poshest, and there are plenty of detailed maps of her route. Best of all, the book is hilarious, with phrases like: “our room was made entirely of hardboard, the bathroom locked on the outside and we had to unscrew the lightbulb to turn the light off."
Travels in a Thin Country by Sara Wheeler
A crescent of crushed white pebbles, the crystal clear water of Lake Pirihueico and a couple of snow-capped Andean volcanoes looming overhead. A simple, leaning wooden shack with a corrugated iron roof was the restaurant/shop. I bought a beer and a sandwich, slapped on the factor 30 and unfurled my towel while waiting for my bus to Argentina. The elderly Maipuche woman who ran the place provided entertainment when she decided to give her cat its weekly wash in the lake.
At the eastern end of Lake Pirihueico in the south of Chile's lake district. A breathtaking 90-minute ferry ride from the opposite end of the lake is part of the little-used cross-border route to San Martin de los Andes in Argentina.
Google map: bit.ly/pGl09h
At 2,847m high, it was no easy task climbing Volcano Villaricca but it was definitely one of the highlights of our gap year in South America. I did wonder if we would make it to the top, the last part is ice and we wore crampons, but the views and the sight of lava in the crater made this an experience not to be missed. The way down is much more fun as you slide through tunnels in the snow. Don’t miss the hot springs ‘Los Pozones’ in the evening, it definitely eased our aching muscles.
Andesmar on O’Higgins 480, Pucon: www.turismoandesmar.com
Prepare for (or recover from) trekking around Torres del Paine with hearty - but delicious - vegetarian food at El Living in the centre of Puerto Natales. There is a good range of hot dishes, salads and sandwiches - supplemented by daily specials - including veg moussaka or thai noodles and fantastic cakes such as dark chocolate and peanut butter. Drinks include homemade lemonade, pisco sours and a selection of wine.
La Plaza - Puerto Natales - Patagonia
Banos Colina is a natural hot spring in the Chilean Andes at the head of the Maipo valley, a short drive from Santiago. The water emerges from the rock and cascades down a series of pools, each slightly less hot than the previous one, so that you can find the temperature that suits you. There are simple changing huts, car parking, and at weekends and holidays, a masseuse is available. After a walk in the mountains towards the snowline, and a long, therapeutic wallow in the milky-blue water, what better way to end a day than a half-hour massage while you gaze up at the snowy peaks. You can also stop at a farm on the way up into the mountains, to buy freshly-baked bread and home-made cheese to keep you going all day. A memorable and totally refreshing day out in the mountains.
About 40 minutes by car from central Santiago.
Google map: bit.ly/hhirhz
In the red, barren desert of northern Chile this gorge in the surrounding rocks was cut by the river which provides an oasis below. You can cycle to the top and then speed down the desolate sandy tracks. It is also possible to explore this quiet landscape on foot. However you choose visit it you can be sure you won't forget this beautiful canyon in the desert.
If you hire bikes in San Pedro de Atacama you can follow the cycle map from the town centre to the canyon.
Google map: bit.ly/fPBDah
In the driest desert in the world, a company called Space runs star gazing tours. The view of the night sky is fantastic - there are more stars than you could ever imagine and we were able to spot Mars, Saturn and Sirius as well as many constellations. French astronomer Alain talks through the signs of the zodiac and entertains with his hilarious stories. Despite the sub-zero temperatures, this is an experience not to be missed, and the hot chocolate at the end will warm up those freezing toes. Also not to be missed in the Atcama is the sunset at Valle de la Luna - watching the colours appear over the lunar landscapes is out of this world.
This breathtakingly beautiful national park is situated in the Andean range. It holds towering snow-topped volcanoes with flamingos in the surrounding glassy lakes. Alpacas and llamas graze in the surrounding land. It is unforgettably stunning.
Riding in the Torres del Paine national park, Patagonia, is exhilarating. Chilean saddles are deep and comfortable, with stirrups like buckets - giving the illusion it is impossible to fall off. The gauchos are black eyed and long haired, with knives stuck in their belts. We rode to the Milodon cave made famous by Bruce Chatwin, then to an Indian graveyard high on a mountain where condors wheeled above our heads close enough to hear the wind in their feathers. We saw an armadillo and rode past herds of guanaco, always within sight of the granite towers and horns of the Torres. We passed turquoise lakes and glaciers and raced for miles through pampas. I wanted to take all the horses I rode home with me - and a gaucho too.
We spent six nights in this hostel in April 2010 and enjoyed every moment of our stay. After staying in numerous different places this year on our world trip, this hostel stands out as one of the best. I suspect our experience was also made better by the fact that we had a room at the back of the hostel and not overlooking the interior courtyards which could get a bit busy. Anyway, our room was large, clean and very comfortable, with a partial view of the sea (which is a couple of kms away) and ensuite bathroom. The breakfasts were generous and they also provided an option to purchase extras such as freshly squeezed juice, at good prices. The hostel is near a large shopping centre (including cinemas) and the centre of town. There were no cooking facilities though that didn't stop us purchasing fresh food daily and enjoying it in the courtyard at the hostel. The staff were all really helpful and friendly and we would happily recommend this place to anyone.
We stayed at Entre Vinas over Easter 2010 and had the best breakfasts ever, served to us in our room! There's a pool, the courtyard and garden are lovely and it's well located - rural, so you'd need a car, but near vineyards and Santa Cruz itself. The rooms are very well appointed, and the service was really personal.
Although there was a little damage to the main building from the 27/02/2010 earthquake, all the guest rooms, in a newer, separate part, were undamaged and the hotel and vineyards were operating as usual. The little damage to the hotel was due to be repaired by August 2010. I really hope visitors aren't put off coming to Chile and also venturing south of Santiago, because tourism is functioning as normal, and will help recovery. You will be welcomed with open arms!
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