...HELLO- HOLA... GOODBYE- CHAO... PLEASE- POR FAVOR... THANK YOU- GRACIAS...
WHERE TO SLEEP
The Aubrey Hotel- Santiago
The main building was built in 1927 to be home to politician Domingo Duran Morales. This hotel has a heated pool, a great breakfast and lots of character. Located in the Bellavista neighborhood.
★Awasi Atacama- San Pedro de Atacama
An all-inclusive Relais & Chateaux property. This hotel has only 10 suites and each one has a dedicated guide and vehicle to explore the desert. The meals here are a complement to incredible hotel design and hospitality.
Viña Vik- Millahue
A remote all-inclusive winery and hotel situated on almost 30,000 acres in the small town of Millahue (place of gold). Here you can relax at the spa or by the pool or hike and bike on the property's many trails. Also included in your stay is a tour of the tasting room and cellar.
WHERE TO EAT
A unique ancestral restaurant in the Bellavista neighborhood with an amazing wine and pisco list. Don't be intimidated by the native cuisine, here you can and should try the llama stew or the horse steak. All the dishes are clearly prepared with love and skill, you can't go wrong ordering anything from this menu.
This prix-fixe, tasting menu focuses on Chilean's ancestral cuisine much like Peumayen but is much more elevated than rustic. Using only seasonal and foraged ingredients, Rodolfo Gúzman and his team have made creative dishes that are clearly inspired by the chef's time spent at Michelin starred restaurant, Mugaritz in San Sebastian.
Located in the Lastarria neighborhood this restaurant's focus is on Chilean wines. With over 400 bottles in stock it can be an overwhelming task combing through the wine list but these sommeliers know what they are talking about. You can always try one of their many wine flights to start as well if you want a little something from all over the country.
Casa Lastarria- Santiago
A more homestyle approach to Chilean cuisine, housed in a 1930s Tudor-style building. The restaurant is located in the artsy district, Lastarria. There are a number of great dishes to try but don't miss out on the Chilean classic, pastel de choclo.
★Emporio La Rosa- Santiago
With multiple locations in the city it would be hard to avoid this highly acclaimed ice cream shop! Even on a brisk winter day there was a line out the door for a scoop. Try one of the indigineous Chilean flavors like lucuma or miel de ulmo or a house favorite like rosa (rose) or naranja jengibre (orange ginger).
WHERE TO SHOP
A sweet little wine shop in the Bellavista neighborhood specializing in local, small-production wineries.
Lastarria neighborhood- Santiago
An historic neighborhood home to local artisans, great restaurants and the contemporary art museum. Come here for lunch then spend the afternoon soaking up some Santiago culture. Don't miss Emporio La Rosa for a tasty snack!
Barrio Italia neighborhood- Santiago
Settled by immigrant artisans in the 19th century, this area has lots of great antique shops, boutique collectives and cafés. This quaint area of the expansive metropolis feels more community based than some of the others with its open air markets and restaurants. It makes for a great escape in this bustling city.
Calle de Caracoles- San Pedro de Atacama
The main walking street in San Pedro de Atacama. Here you can find everything from hand woven scarves and mittens made from local llama wool to ATMs and pharmacies. This is the area in the small town of San Pedro de Atacama to purchase unique artisan objects as well as souvenir tchotchkes.
WHAT TO DO
La Chascona- Santiago
One of Pablo Neruda's three houses in Chile. No advance ticket purchase is necessary, it is fairly easy to just show up and start the independent tour. Unfortunately you can't take photos of the interiors but that makes the surprise of seeing it for the first time that much more special. Note that this museum doesn't take much longer to tour than 30 minutes so it is a great activity when you are short on time.
La Vega Mercado- Santiago
Santiago's main market with everything from pig's heads to laundry detergent. Take the morning to wander around this enormous, chaotic market and take in the sights and smells. You could also pull up a stool and have breakfast with the locals at one of the many food stalls.
★San Cristobal Hill- Santiago
The second highest peak in Santiago. Hiking up throught the park is definitely doable and very picturesque but unfortunately not clearly marked, so make sure to ask locals for tips. As an alternative to the 45 minute hike take the funicular from the Bellavista neighborhood to the top where there is a peaceful sanctuary built in honor of the Virgin Mary.
Santa Lucia Hill- Santiago
This hill in the Lastarria neighborhood is the remains of 15 million year old volcano. Not nearly as expansive and tall as San Cristobal hill but it does have some beautiful features like a fort, ornate fountains and a Japanese garden.
★Puritama Hot Springs- San Pedro de Atacama
Comprised of eight crystal clear pools in a softly sloping canyon that descend to create waterfalls. You can prop yourself under them for a wonderful back massage and float blissfully in the 86°F pools. This is the perfect place to relax after a long hike in the desert or early in the morning when there is still a little chill in the air.
El Tatio Geysers- San Pedro de Atacama
In the desert of Chile close to the Bolivian border lies the El Tatio geyser field comprised of over 80 active geysers. These geysers are at an elevation of roughly 14,000 ft above sea level making it the highest elevation geyser field in the world. Come at sunrise to see the show at its best!
Valle de la Muerte- San Pedro de Atacama
Also known as Mars Valley, it is located in the salt mountain range in the Atacama desert. Folklore says that the name came from the French explorer who upon discovering it described it to look like a valley on Mars and in miscommunication between languages was interpreted as 'muerte'- Valley of the Dead.
Devil's Ravine- San Pedro de Atacama
Bring your bike to the entrance and make your way through this awesome ravine. You will hardly notice that you are making your way uphill but once you reach your limit, turn around and fly downhill, winding through narrow rock formations and tight turns.
★Ahlarkapin- San Pedro de Atacama
On a clear night you can see the whole Milky Way with the naked eye. This observatory has very knowledgable astronomers to guide you through the night sky and they are also equipped with a high powered telescope, so if you are lucky you may get to see Mars and Saturn.
Laguna Chaxa- San Pedro de Atacama
This part of the flamingo reserve in the Atacama is home to three of the five known species of flamingos as well as half a dozen other types of birds. This is where the flamingos of the desert come to breed and feed. Come at sunrise or sunset to see the best colors of the desert.
★Lagunas Miscanti y Miñiques- San Pedro de Atacama
These high elevation salt lagoons sit at about 14,000 ft and attract vicuñas and flamingos as well as other wildlife. This jaw-dropping scenery looks more like a snowy mountain town in Switzerland than the middle of the Chilean desert. It is a little ways out of town but totally worth the drive. I have never seen anything more picturesque in the world.
Horseback Riding- San Pedro de Atacama & Millahue
There are many ways to go in the desert obviously but her is one amazing trail worth checking out. We started riding through town to Devil's Ravine, from there we went to an old Inca trail that we followed up the mountain. Once we reached the plateau we rode for 30 minutes just taking in the 360° view of the desert and mountains before riding down some of the few sand dunes in this part of the Atacama. Riding in the desert was one of the most incredible experiences of my life that I don't think anyone should skip while they are here.
The horses at Viña Vik know their way around the almost 30,000 acre property and this is the best way to see it. You can ride through the vines to the tasting room or up the hills through some of the untouched parts of the land. There is a reason this place is called "place of gold" and you can see why when you are riding around this beautiful landscape.