After a few days exploring the Chilean capital, we left Santiago on a night bus, heading north, towards the Atacama desert.
CHILE BY BUS
Going from Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama takes about 24 hours, which is quite a long time to be on a bus! But we decided to do it anyway because we could not wait to discover the amazing landscapes of the Chilean Pacific Coast and also – I have to confess – because I do not particularly enjoy being on a plane… In the end, it was 100% worth it as the ride proved to be a total amazement at the constantly changing landscapes. It would have been cheaper to fly but we would have missed all the landscapes.
FROM SANTIAGO TO SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA
STEP 1: FROM SANTIAGO TO COPIAPO IN 12 HOURS
We decided to split the ride into two because 24 hours on a bus was definitely not an option. The first part of the trip took us from Santiago to Copiapo in about 12 hours.
Exploring Chile by bus turned out to be very convenient and safe. We followed a straight sea-level road (so no need to worry about mountains curves!). We managed to doze off a little on the bus (unfortunately I had forgotten my earplugs which would have been quite useful having snoring neighbors…) and arrived pretty tired.
As the town of Copiapo does not offer any particular touristic interest, the plan was to go straight to the beautiful beach of Bahia Inglesa. To get there, we took another one-hour-bus ride to the little town of Caldera, and then a ten-minute-taxi ride to the beach.
STEP 2: A DAY IN BAHIA INGLESA
Our first impression of Bahia Inglesa was quite disappointing as the bay was totally hidden by a thick layer of fog… Anyway we were so tired from the night on the bus that we decided to go straight to our hotel to rest.
When we woke up, it was a totally different picture! The sun had risen and we discovered a beautiful beach, with white sand, rocks, birds, crystal clear waters.
As we visited Bahia Inglesa during winter time, there were not many tourists on the beach. We learnt that Chile was not an ideal beach destination as the water is very cold. In Bahia Inglesa however, the water is nice and warm during summer time. We started to realize that we were in the middle of nowhere, a feeling that would go stronger and stronger all along this trip. A few houses, a few restaurants, the beach and… nothing! Our trip into wild nature was starting to take shape!
STEP 3 : FROM COPIAPO TO SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA IN 12 HOURS
The next day we went back to Copiapo to start the second part of our ride north. After an hour, we realized that the bus stopped at Caldera (the town we were coming from…) so we could have saved us the trouble to go back to Copiapo! But the lady at the bus company had told us that the bus only departed from Copiapo… Never mind.
This part of the ride was amazing and we could not stop taking pictures from the window. The landscapes were constantly changing. At times the road would follow the coast, at other times it would go through the mountains. We loved it!
The problem is that when the sun went down, you can’t look at the landscapes and you start to realize that you have been sitting on that same seat for a long time. What’s more, the bus almost never stops. During this 12-hour ride, the bus only made two 15-minute stops. Do not miss this opportunity to buy food if like us you forgot to bring your snack…
ARRIVING IN SAN PEDRO
We arrived, pretty exhausted, at San Pedro de Atacama at about 1am. A few taxi drivers were there waiting for the bus so we took one to hour hotel. One of the best part of our whole trip was just about to begin…
A FEW TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS
Which bus company?
Many bus companies depart each day from Santiago bus station at different times of the day and the night.
We travelled with the Turbus company and were very happy with this choice. It is a safe company, with two drivers, comfortable seats, blankets and cushions, snacks and – most importantly – with reasonable prices.
What type of seat?
Salon cama: as we travelled by night from Santiago to Copiapo, we wanted to be comfortable to get some sleep. These seats can’t lean down like real beds but they are comfortable and the price is ok.
Semi cama: these seats were smaller and less comfortable but we did not mind as we were travelling by day From Copiapo to San Pedro.
Premium: these are probably even more comfortable but we found they were too expensive.
How to go from Copiapo to Bahia Inglesa?
Copiapo Caldera Bahia Inglesa.
As you arrive in Copiapo, the bus will drop you off at the bus station. You will easily be able to buy a bus ticket there for the city of Caldera, located 1.5 hours away from Copiapo. Once in Caldera, take a taxi to Bahia Inglesa. You will easily find one as they will be waiting for the bus to arrive.
Not to forget
Make sure to have earplugs with you on the bus if you have problems sleeping when there is noise around you.
Bring a snack because the one offered by the company is not very consistent. We had a little sandwich during the ride in “salon cama” and a simple madeleine during the ride in “semi-cama”.
- Next stop: San Pedro, a haven of peace in the Atacama Desert. 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).