Places we visited: Santiago, Valparaiso, Valdivia, Chiloe, Puerto Natales, Torres del
Paine National Park
Length of stay: 32 days
High point: Trekking "The W" in the powerfully beautiful Torres del Paine National Park
in Patagonia was one of the highlights of our entire trip!! Learning a little Spanish in
Santiago. Finding an inexpensive flight from Puerto Natales to Santiago--this might not
seem like a highlight but it took us 3-4 days to make our way from Santiago to Puerto
Natales over land, and we were thrilled to avoid a repeat journey.
Low Point: Chilean food--for the most part it is bland, bland, bland. The length of
Chile was a low point, as it necessitated many long bus trips.
Local food/flavor: I'm sorry Chileans, but the food here is not very good. Of course
there are delightful empanadas, but day to day the food is pretty unimaginative. We
did really enjoy a few specific dishes, such as pastel de choclo, asado, and the Chiloe
seafood staple, curanto!! We also commend the good and inexpensive Chilean wine.
A bottle of this made the bland food more enjoyable!
Currency: Chilean Peso
Unique Sights: Young and old couples seriously making out everywhere--in the park,
on the street corner, on the subway. We often felt like voyeurs as we walked through
the park. Mighty fine wine for U$2-3 USD (move over two buck Chuck, this stuff was
tasty!). At the store, the cosmetics/toiletry items, such as shampoo and hand lotion,
were locked up in a glass case. But the hard liqour--tequila, vodka, etc.--was out in the
open on a shelf.
Purchases: Funky looking wool slippers and a wool hat hand knitted by local women in
Chiloe, leather bracelet in Valparaiso, beaded necklace from an artesenal market in
Things we did:
- Spent two weeks living with a slightly crabby family in Santiago. All five boarders
staying at this homestay suffered from a minor bout of food poisoning. We also
received a tonguelashing from the man of the house for watching the Super
Tuesday US elections in English.
- Enjoyed five hours a day of Spanish lessions for two weeks at the Natalis
Language Center in Santiago. We highly recommend this school, and our
- Explored numerous neighborhoods in Santiago including Barrio Vista,
Providencia, Barrio Brazil, Barrio Lastarria and our own neighborhood Santa
- Picnicked in the parks around Baquedano while studying and practicing Spanish.
- Shopped for lapis lazuli in several artesanal markets. No purchase made.
- Walked up to the viewpoint in Santa Lucia park which provides a nice view of
- Sat in Plaza de Armas in Santiago and watched life go by. (every city in Chile
seems to have a Plaza de Armas)
- Watched the first half of the Super Bowl at an ex-pat bar. It felt like we were
back in the States. That freaked us out a little so we finished watching the
Spanish broadcast of the game at our homestay.
- Met a couple from France in our Spanish classes and became travel buddies!
- Enjoyed an asado at the home of the Natalis Language Center director where
we had the pleasure of consuming our first pisco sour, a well-known Chilean
- Had a seafood lunch at Central Mercado in Santiago
- Visited one of our favorite produce markets, the Mercado de Vega
- Explored the many hills in our favorite city in Chile, Valparaiso, with our friends
- Toured the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda's home in Valparaiso
- Increased our odds of having a heart attack by eating the traditional chorrillana
dish at J. Cruz in Valparaiso
- Felt like a foreigner twice over when we stayed at a French owned hotel in
Valparaiso. Everyone staying there was from France and spoke only French.
- Stayed one night in Valdivia where we strolled along the river and watched an
intense game of sand volleyball.
- Enjoyed the foggy, rainy mysteriousness of Chiloe Island and its many
impressive wooden churches.
- Took a boat ride in Castro to view the palafitos, waterfront homes built on stilts
- Traveled to a couple small seaside fishing communities in Chiloe
- Watched sack races, folk dancing, and singing at a local festival in Curaco de
Velez on Chiloe Island
- Went to Castro's annual festival where we ate asado de cordero, empanadas,
and purchased wool slippers and hats
- Spent a day in Puerto Natales planning our upcoming trek in Torres del Paine
National Park by talking with our hotel owner, shopping for food and renting
- Spent four days trekking "the W" in Torres del Paine enjoying the magnificent
sights of nature.