Thoughts on Chile

Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile

Being back home and back at work has both given us a new perspective on our travels but also severely limited the amount of time that we have to reflect on our trip. The next major post, Antarctica, is a big one and it’ll be a little while before we’ve gone through all the photos and videos to pull out something to illustrate this incredible continent. In the meantime, in our last post we left Chile for the final time so here are my thoughts on Chile.

Time for a little recap and summary of our thoughts on Chile. We really enjoyed our time in Chile, and it is somewhere that I would love to return to and explore further one day. Even though we spent around a month there altogether, I feel there is a lot more we can come back to. Chile is the long thin west coast of South America, it has a huge range of landscapes and some really interesting cities too.

Our camping spot overlooking the Salar de Atacama
Our camping spot overlooking the Salar de Atacama

The infrastructure is good, we took public transport (that was mostly on time!) and also did a lot of driving. It felt the safest country on our travels to drive in. The main roads were good quality, including actual multi-lane motorways, and our campervans Marilyn and Amanda tackled the unpaved bits very well. Compared to it’s neighbour Argentina, the cash machines, petrol stations and supermarkets were well stocked and all the essentials were available with few problems.

We visited a couple of the major cities which had much more of a European feeling than further north in the continent. I’d recommend going to Santiago, lots of backpackers skip this capital city but we found great museums and parks, and some more varied and tasty food. We were warned to be careful of pickpockets in the bohemian and beautifully crumbling city of Valparaiso. Maybe we were lucky, but we felt it was as safe as any major city back home, and just took our normal city precautions to keep safe.

We found the people to be friendly for the most part. We were welcomed to hostels and campsites, and the people we met seemed genuinely pleased that we had chosen to come and see their country. At times, and especially when we first arrived, the language barrier was difficult, although our Spanish had improved a lot, we felt like we’d gone backwards initially in Chile as people didn’t seem to understand us, and we certainly didn’t understand all the Chilean slang used in everyday conversation. There were however a lot more people who spoke English and were keen to use it which made it very easy to get around, although frustrating not to be practicing our Spanish as much!

Pickles aplenty in the market
Pickles aplenty in the market

We also enjoyed the food and wine in Chile. We mostly cooked for ourselves as we had the camper van, and there was a good variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, even further south and in more remote areas where we’d been warned there would be little. We had some good meals out, including the best curry (Santiago) and the best pizza (Puerto Natales) we’ve tasted in South America.

The best part of the country for me was the landscape. Bordered on one side by the Andes and the other by the Pacific Ocean, there are so many different things to see. We visited deserts, salt flats, mountains, forests and wide open plains. We paddled in cold mountain lakes, soaked in hot springs and floated in salt lakes. We camped in a vineyard, by lakes and on mountain sides. We walked in the wind, rain and snow and came away smiling and enjoying this beautiful country.

So that’s my thoughts on Chile, a fantastic country full of variety. The only downside to all these amazing experiences is that Chile is not a cheap country to backpack around, although I think it was all pretty fair value for money. Our only regret is not having the time to explore areas like Chiloe or to take more time in the Lake District. That will just have to wait for next time!

Author: Alex Greenwood

Traveller, muddy gardener, sustainability consultant

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