In total we spent about 3 weeks in Chile, more or less split in three sections. A third in cities, a third in the desert, and a third in Patagonia.
Unfortunately we didn’t visit the cities at the best time, as they were protesting daily (and still are). This greatly limited our ability to enjoy Santiago, Valparaiso and Viña del Mar properly.
Whilst we felt safe, it’s not nice smelling tear gas in the morning, which happened a few times when we walked through the main parks. It was more annoying that every tourist attraction was closed, and to avoid the rioting we needed to be back in our hotel early each evening.
Overall, Chile was an amazing country to visit. So diverse in landscapes and cultures. Santiago is a really cool city; we hope we’ll be able to go back one day to enjoy it properly.
The Atacama desert and Patagonia were incredible; we feel very lucky to have visited these places. They are very high on the list of places we’ve visited this trip.
Because of a drastic budget cut due to overspend in Colombia, we managed to reduce our overall spend to $1,746 vs $2,350 budgeted. These costs don’t include the $315 (50%) we prepaid ahead of time for the Desert Adventures tours in Atacama, or the $2,900 we prepaid for the W Trek. This latter cost included full board for 4 days for the both of us in refugios. We were very happy with the organisation of the whole thing.
In total, Chile cost us approx $5,000 for 3 weeks, not including flights.
What we would have done differently
- This outcome is probably most likely due to the protests, but we believe we spent too much time in the cities (8 days in total). I think that 2/3 days in Santiago, 2 days in Valparaiso and maybe 1 day in Viña del Mar (it’s a super easy day trip from Valparaiso, but can be skipped if you don’t have enough time) is a better way of spending your time.
- Santiago: For our night before getting to the airport at 4am, we had to stay nearby and slept at a bnb close by. The family was really nice and helpful, and it was the cheapest in the area. Highly recommend if you need to stay nearby. Link here.
- Viña del Mar: Both of our accommodation were great. The first one was a bit nicer (link here) but the second one was clean and cheap.
- San Pedro de Atacama: NOI Casa Atacama was beautiful and a great place to relax. Definitely for a treat though as it doesn’t fit a backpacker’s budget. Link here.
- Puerto Natales: Our second accommodation in Puerto Natales was very cute. It was a nice shared house. It felt very homely and had a lovely sea view from the living room. They were also super helpful and kept our bags for days whilst we were in Torres del Paine. Link here.
For a drink/bite
- San Pedro de Atacama: La Frachuteria was recommended by our tour company as offering the best bread in town and they didn’t lie. We had an amazing French breakfast with dulce de leche stuffed croissants and pain au chocolat, and took away the most delicious cheese stuffed baguette. I’m salivating just thinking about it. Must go!
- San Pedro de Atacama: oddly, there is apparently only one place in San Pedro where you can drink without ordering food, and ChelaCabur is that place. It’s not fantastic, but the beers are cheap and you don’t need to eat with it. It’s busy because of it!
- W Trek: Fantástico Sur did an amazing job organising our trek. We could have done it alone, but it definitely avoided the hassle of contacting each refugio separately, working out itinerary etc and considering some of the food prices we saw in those refugios ($40AUD for a pizza for example), the value seemed very reasonable for full board. Link here.
- In San Pedro de Atacama you have dozens of tour providers to chose from. We went ahead with Desert Adventures as they were recommended on The Lonely Planet, but there are many more to choose from. Tours were good, and guides were nice and informative. The Salar de Atacama, Piedras Rojas, Geysir Tatio and Moon Valley tours are must do.