Backpacking across the Andes Chile Santiago

Backpacking across the Andes – #1: Santiago (Chile)

Santiago. The starting point of an amazing adventure: a roadtrip that would take us from the Chilean capital to Lima in Peru, via Bolivia, in 30 days and about 3500 kilometers!

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AN EXTRAORDINARY TRIP ACROSS THE ANDES

A trip full of amazing and unexpected landscapes more beautiful the ones than the others (lagoons, geysers, volcanoes, salt desert, Inca ruins…). A trip of extreme temperature changes between day and night and of constant amazement. A trip that would also be hard sometimes. We would be cold – very cold, suffer from the high altitudes (about 4 900 meters at the highest!), experience “basic” accomodations, sleep on buses or trains, … But all in all it was worth it and I would do it all over again! The Andes truly offer magical landscapes to discover! Here we go!

OUR ITINERARY

Chile

 Santiago – 20 to 26/07

Valparaiso – 24/07

Bahia Inglesa – 27 to 28/07

S. Pedro de Atacama – 28 to 31/07

Bolivia

Uyuni – 01 to 03/08

La Paz – 04 to 07/08

 Tiwanaku – 06/08

 La Isla del Sol – 08 to 09/08

Peru

 Ollantaytambo – 10 to 16/08

Machu Picchu – 15/08

Cusco – 16 to 17/08

 Lima – 18 to 20/08

 A LITTLE MAP TO BETTER PICTURE THE ITINERARY

BUT FIRST THINGS FIRST: SANTIAGO DE CHILE

CHILE, A COUNTRY OF CONTRASTS

This long and narrow strip of land stretches over 4 300 kilometers from North to South, but only over 350 kilometers at its widest point East to West. One third of the population is gathered in the capital, while most of the country consists of desert land, from the Atacama Desert in the North that we would soon explore, to the glacial lands of the Patagonia region in the South (that we hope to discover one day ;-)).

EXTREME TEMPERATURE CHANGES BETWEEN DAY AND NIGHT

Coming from sunny and warm Mexico, the adaptation to the Chilean weather was hard, especially at night. We arrived in Santiago in mid-July, which corresponds to winter in the Southern hemisphere.

On the same day, you would need using a strong sunscreen during the day and several layers of thermic clothes, socks, sweaters at night.

What’s more, Chilean houses are usually not equipped with heating so our first day in Santiago consisted in finding warm clothes as well as sleeping bags for extreme temperatures (that we would later need for our trip in the Uyuni desert in Bolivia).

Once equipped against cold temperatures, we started exploring the Chilean capital!

Copping with temperature changes – If you visit Santiago during winter time, bring thermic clothes: they will keep you warm and won’t occupy much space in your backpack. If you are always cold like I am, a hot-water bottle can be an option to warm you up at night! Don’t forget to put sunscreen during the day; the sun is strong.

DISCOVERING THE CHILEAN CAPITAL

We discovered a very modern city, full of palm trees, with huge buildings, lovely parks and hills, beautiful cathedrals, and most importantly with the majestic Andes mountain range in the background. Anywhere we looked, we were surrounded with this huge “wall” running across South America (from Venezuela to the South tip of Chile!). This is probably what I liked best about Santiago.

Here is the best of what we saw of Santiago de Chile.

STROLLING AROUND THE PARQUE FORESTAL

Our exploration of Santiago started near the Mapocho river, at the metro station Baquedano. We discovered a very dry river, as it had not rained for a long time. The Andes were right there in front of us: beautiful, amazing, magestic! I have always loved being in the mountains but the Andes are very different from the mountain ranges I had seen before. Santiago is only a few hundred meters above sea level and the Andes seem to rise straight up to the skies, creating the impression of a huge wall protecting the city. The snowy peaks add a beautiful touch to this scenery. We walked through the very pleasant Forestal park, which somewhat reminded me of my dear Paris

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CLIMBING THE CERRO SANTA LUCIA

We walked from the parque Forestal to the Santo Lucia hill. This lovely park up on a hill is right in the middle of the city. From there you have an amazing view of the city and the giant Andes.

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BEING AMAZED BY THE BIBLIOTECA NACIONAL

Next to the Cerro Santa Lucia, we discovered this amazing library from another century! This impressive library which was built in 1927 is accessible for free! I loved this quiet atmosphere, the dark wood and ancient books. I felt like grabbing a book and sitting in that chair…

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LUNCH AT “LA FUENTE ALEMANA”

Food in Chile is delicious! What’s more, our friend Roberto was the best to recommend great places to eat (and the best to organize a BBQ!). So, according to his recommendations, we had lunch at the Fuente Alemana which was close to the Cerro Santa Maria. Our delicious sandwiches were prepared right in front of our eyes. It was so good!

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WALKING AROUND THE PLAZA DE ARMAS

The Armas plaza, the heart of Santiago, is a pleasant place where you will find the beautiful Metropolitana cathedral. If you like to take pictures, try to go the plaza des Armas in the morning to have the sun in your back (I wish I had known that…).

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WATCHING THE SUN SET AT THE CERRO SAN CRISTOBAL

Our day of exploration ended at the Cerro San Cristobal. With an altitude of 860 meters, it is the best place to see the sun set of Santiago.

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Many thanks to our friends Roberto y Corina for their hospitality and for showing us around their amazing city!

Continue reading

  • Next stop: the colorful city of Valparaiso. Click here to read the article.
  • All articles about this country: click here to see all articles about Chile.
  • All articles about this trip: click here to read see all articles about this backpacking trip across the Andes (Chile – Bolivia – Peru).
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