Last month, I spent 3 weeks in Chile. It was non-stop action: buses, flights, treks, mountains, beaches, desert. I decided to visit the South American country while I was en route to Brazil for the World Cup. Though I was meeting a few mates for the tournament, I wanted to enjoy a little independent travel beforehand and get lost in the wild!
Why Chile? I wanted to experience the beautiful and diverse landscapes. There is no other country in the world that combines so many climate zones. There, you can find eternal ice, shimmering blue glaciers, hot springs, snow-capped volcanoes, rain forests, the driest desert on Earth, grasslands, endless sandy beaches, and mountains. Literally, the country offers a piece of everything.
One of my favorite parts of traveling on my own is meeting new people along the way. It’s almost unavoidable; every place you visit and every activity you engage in is usually shared with an unfamiliar face. That’s the beauty, really, of a solo mission! When else can you meet people from different corners of the world, and how often is it to immediately know that you share many things in common – a love for adventure, a desire to see new places, and the thrill of getting as far off the beaten track as possible.
My first stop was the town of Pucon, 6 hours south of the capital city of Santiago. Pucon is a small adventure town that offers a plethora of different activities: rafting; canopying; trekking; tours of the hot springs.
I chose to challenge myself with a hike up Volcan Villarrica. The volcano has an altitude of 2860m and although the 8 hour round-trip journey was not easy to conquer, the incredible 360 degree views of the Andes extending into both Chile and Argentina made it well worth the effort.
From Pucon, I headed north – via an overnight bus and a short flight over the Andes – to the desert town of San Pedro de Atacama. The town was quaint, simple, with houses made from clay and brick. Surrounding the town were lakes, volcanoes and rock formations that were completely surreal. An unforgettable moment was stargazing in San Pedro-de Atacama with a bottle of wine and a few new mates from the hostel I was staying at.
From the desert, I headed to the coast; specifically, to the beach town of Arica. The surf was fun and the town was alive. Chile is renowned for its National Parks, of which Patagonia is perhaps the most famed. I chose to veer from the popular tourist destination, however, and explore National Park Lauca, just a short 3 hour drive out of Arica. The perfect blue skies, expansive salt flats and the snow-capped volcanoes made for some great imagery. Lake Chungara, at a staggering altitude of 4500m, knocks the wind out of you, but the scenery (including the llamas and flamingoes) is absolutely reenergizing.