You Can’t do it All: Santiago and Valparaiso

One of the myths about travelling is that every day brings something completely out of the ordinary.

Indeed, an Instagram post every other day gives the impression that you’re eternally living the dream.

However, constantly being on the move is actually quite tasking, and it means that you can spend days at a time trying to figure out something worthwhile to write home about.

It also means that you don’t get a proper feel for every place you visit.

When you tell people you’re visiting Chile, the first thing they ask is if you’re going, or have been, to the south.

The same can be said for Argentina, because for most travellers, Patagonia is the pinnacle of a trip to South America.

However, Patagonia can be a self-contained and expensive trip, which means that holders of a Tesco club card bypass the south and head north towards Bolivia.

So if you haven’t cottoned on yet, this is my way of saying I was too cheap to head to Patagonia, and opted to do Chile an injustice by breezing through in just a couple of weeks.

One of the highlights of heading across the border from Argentina is actually the bus journey itself.

Normally an eight hour bus wouldn’t sound overly appealing, but eight hour bus journeys usually entail slogging up the M4, rather than winding in and out of the Andes mountain range that stretches between Mendoza and Santiago.

Upon reaching the Chilean capital, you’ve already been treated to stunning views and landscapes which leave Santiago with a lot to live up to.

The city is a huge dust bowl that feels like it’s been blindly dropped in the middle of the desert.

You only need to climb Cerro San Cristóbal to see that although Santiago homes more than 25% of Chile’s population, it’s a mere dot on the map in relation to the encompassing mountains that enclose it.

Indeed, Chile is all about its landscape, and just outside of Santiago is Cajón del Maipo, a huge gorge that offers long hikes and an introduction into the natural beauty you can expect to encounter throughout the country.

However, it would be wrong to completely ignore Santiago which, in itself, is a lot of fun.

As soon as you walk out of the bus station you are hit head on by the buzz of the city, as you’re forced to walk down one of its busiest streets lined with street sellers and crowded market stools.

The city is very congested, but an evening walk up Santa Lucia Hill takes you into a bubble that allows a peaceful look down onto one of the most hectic cities you’ll find in South America.

And just a two hour bus journey from the capital is one of the most unique cities you’ll find in South America.

Pinned on the coastline, Valparaiso is a colourful and cultural favela styled city that prides itself on freedom of expression.

Walking up and down the steep hills is like climbing through one of the most intriguing free art museums – only without the plaques.

The locals, however, are keen to stress the difference between graffiti and street art. Some home owners even pay street artists to decorate the outside of their house to up its selling on value.

Indeed, each display has a story behind it, whether it remains personal to the artist or steeped in the rivalry between local art gangs.

The energy that goes into the street art translates into Valparaiso’s nightlife. Outside of Rio, the city is the second most popular place to spend New Years and it’s easy to see why.

With people drinking in the streets the party atmosphere rarely ceases, and there is a prominent underground scene that makes it one of the best nights out in Chile.

So, while you might not be able to do everything that the travel guide tells you to in Chile, the mountains that make it so famous are never more than a bus ride away, so you can visit safe in the knowledge that you’re never totally missing out.

Next stop, the desert and San Pedro de Atacama. Until then.

N.B. Instagram accounts used in this blog include:

@jacob_kean

 

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