Chile: first cut a travel plan

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Nov 21st, 2016, 09:36 PM
  #1
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Chile: first cut a travel plan

Hello Fodorites,

I need a LOT of advice. This is my first post of what will surely be many. All countries seem pretty overwhelming when trying to make a travel plan.

About us: the "us" is my wife and me...in our 60s. Not budget travelers. My wife LOVES nature, more than anyone I know, but she will N-O-T hike more than 1/2 hour. We have 14 days to spend on this trip, plus two days getting to/from Chile. Moving more than every 2-3 days (preferably 3) is too tiring for my wife. We will probably travel in late October 2017 (since that seems to be a good time in terms of travel.

Our interests: quaint villages; different cultures; beautiful nature. We often like to hire a private guide for part of a trip and rent a car for other parts. A tour bus isn't our kinda thing.

So far, my thoughts are:

-Santiago 3-4 days. See the main city sights, Plaza de Armas, Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center, Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, La Moneda, streets of Bellavista. Also, areas around the city: Cerro Santa Lucia. Drive through the Cajon del Maipo.

[Valpariso doesn't seem to be very highly recommended. The Rough Guide says "Today, Valpariso wears a rundown, moth-eaten air. Crime and poverty are worse than elsewhere in Chile..." At first, I thought of visiting Valpo, but that's a pretty blunt assessment]

-Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. 3 days. Hopefully we can find some driving tours, since my wife is not into hiking. Once in a while I can sneak off for 3 hours of hiking, or so.

-San Pedro de Atacama. Fly from Punta Arenas, change in Santiago, to Calama. 3 days. El Tatio geysers; Salar de Atacama; Valle de la Luna

So...that's about 9 days so far, then:

-fly Calama to La Paz Bolivia...or drive. 3-4 days on Bolivia. Which makes about 13 days. I haven't yet figured out what to do in Bolivia. We were at Titcaca once, so I'd want to see something else this time.

I have Atacama just before Bolivia so we can get acclimated. Atacama is at about8,000 ft, while Lake Titicaca is 12,500 ft. 7 years ago we flew from sea level to Titicaca; I spent two days in bed under a doctor's care, with an oxygen mask!

So..I have maybe 1-2 days unaccounted for. Should we try to squeeze in some other area: Lakes District? The glacier of Patagonia aren't of great interest: we saw them in Argentina. I know it would be easy to spend much more time in this interesting country. I'm more inclined to distribute these 1-2 days among some of the areas already listed above.

BTW, we aren't much interested in wine tours. We live in California where there is a lot of wine (I drink it 360 days a year), and my wife can't drink alcohol.

Comments???


Thanks!
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Nov 23rd, 2016, 05:15 AM
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I think you need to put this out in a schedule form as you are not including travel days/times in your allowed day count. In order to reach Torres del Paine, it will take you an entire day of traveling from Santiago (time sitting at the airport, flight, rental car, driving to Tdp, checking in etc) same for the reverse. So your count of three days really equates to only one full day in TdP. That's an awful long way to go for one day.
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Nov 23rd, 2016, 05:39 AM
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I'm not sure some of the people here who have visited Valpo would agree with your guidebook. I'm thinking about a trip to Chile and that city seems to get good reports from the people here who have visited. I will watch this thread with interest.
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Nov 23rd, 2016, 08:47 AM
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If your wife does not like hiking it does not sound like Torres del Paine is a good fit for you. There are limited roads and the best sights require hiking to them. There are one day tours to the park from Puerto Natales where you are driven around, but it is an expensive side trip just for that. If you do want to go and stay in the park I would suggest one of the hotels rather than the shared accommodation in the "refugios" or camping options. At least your wife could walk around near the hotel. Hotel Torres might be a good option. Their all inclusive offers both active and less active day tours. Dates are important because not everywhere is open in early October.

I think the lake district would be a good fit for both of you but the weather is likely to be still cold and wet at that time of year. Views are often covered by clouds.

There are occasionally people who can't see past the sometimes run-down look of some of Valparaiso and don't enjoy their visit. Most do enjoy it. If you stay overnight on Cerro Alegre it is full of nice restaurants and small lodgings of various prices. Otherwise, a long day trip from Santiago. Definitely worth having a look to see what you think.

You won't be able to take a hired car from Chile into Bolivia.
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Nov 23rd, 2016, 10:50 AM
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I loved Valparaiso, although it was 8 years ago we visited, so maybe it has changed. Santiago just didn't do it for me but each to their own.

Being a long thin country, travelling to the far south then north will eat significantly into your 14 days.

Is there any particular reason you have chosen Chile? It seems that, given your interests, other countries may well meet your requirements better. Maybe take a look at Colombia or Peru.

The main reason most people visit Bolivia is for the Salar de Uyuni which can easily be reached from San Pedro de Atacama. The altitude there is significantly higher than Titicaca so you should ensure you are properly acclimatised given you past experience. It will also be stunning cold, minus 20c .
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Nov 23rd, 2016, 11:47 AM
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Valparaiso has only changed for the better. the hill neighborhood of Cerro Concepcion seems quite trendy and upscale. I believe there are some boutiquey type hotels there now, and lots of restaurants. That must be a very old copy of Lonely Planet. I was there this year. I would certainly add it to your itinerary. I don't think October for Torres del Paine is a good idea, but it is possible to see some of the park from the main park road viewpoints and take the catamaran across although it may not be running in October.
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Nov 25th, 2016, 09:25 AM
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hulberg:
Valpo is still a colorful day or two...but do not venture into the hillside slums...favelas...I agree with EK's post above. Sort of a a preview of coming attractions, here are some Chilean pics which will introduce you to some of the regions and suggestions: (I'm open to any direct questions on anything you see herein...you'll see several lodging recommendations in the lake district.)

https://goo.gl/photos/3fwDWDCbNybeqaPB9

stu tower
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Nov 25th, 2016, 09:50 AM
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I failed to write that what you seem to be planning will be a major hassle in 14 days. Add a week or cut down your destinations appreciably. We took nearly a month to cover what you see in the pics...and did not include Atacama or TdP
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Nov 25th, 2016, 12:08 PM
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You don't need to panic about wandering into the wrong neighborhood in Valparaiso..take one of the tip-based walking tours first, then you can get a sense of which neighborhoods are ok for unaccompanied tourists. I used Tours4Tips..they also operate in Santiago. Also check the website for valpostreetart.com.
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Nov 25th, 2016, 06:27 PM
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Like others have said, we loved Valpo. I found it far more interesting than Santiago. I think you are trying to do too much. Traveling in Chile is not fast. TDP was one of my favorite spots. We did some hiking, but also driving around. We had our own car that we rented in Puerto Natales and drove to TDP. Even if you don't hike, I think it's still worth seeing, beautiful scenery.
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Nov 25th, 2016, 09:53 PM
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Wow, thanks Fodorites. That's a lot of great input early in my planning.

Typical me: trying to cram too much into too few days. That bad for any traveler, but really hard on my wife, who otherwise is a great travel buddy.

Well, sadly I can see that TdP is out. Too far to travel, often windy and only about 60 F (my wife is from the tropics and H-A-T-E-S being cold. And if the sights to be seem are accessed by hiking, as opposed to car...that won't work for us.

Maybe I'll have to cut out Bolivia. Hmmm...crellaston says Salar de Uyuni is "stunningly cold," and higher than Titicaca. Bad combination. I sure found Titicaca interesting...until the altitude sickness put me in bed.

******So, let me ask the question a different way. If we want to enjoy some beautiful nature, without hiking, where should we go???*****

Small towns, cultual differences are also a big plus. On every trip this is some little village that is a highlight.

Huentetu suggests the Lakes district, but cautions on the weather. (We would be there in late October or early Nov.). We were in Bariloche, Argentina a few years ago, which is just a few miles from the Lakes district of Chile and seems rather similar. But we spent so little time in Bariloche that time in the Lakes district might be a viable option.

Atacama is on about the same latitude as the Salta area of NW Argentina, which we visited a few years ago. Very enjoyable (in part because of a great guide there).
What about other regions?

We do plan to visit Santiago, but I don't usually find a city like that to be the highlight of any trip.
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Nov 26th, 2016, 10:16 AM
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As far as the Salar, I think the altitude rules it out for you.. if you visit the southern lakes you go up to 5,000 meters! Weather wise, I went in late November and neither La Paz nor the Salar were overly cold..crellston may have gone in their winter (our summer). La Paz is also a high altitude city, although at the southern end where some of the nicer hotels are it is similar to Cusco.

You may want to research the altitudes in the Atacama. I found these but haven't verified.. for reference Juliaca and Puno (L. Titicaca) are 3,850. So I think Atacama may also be out for you.

San Pedro de Atacama - 2300m

Altiplano Lagoons 4100m

El Tatio Geysers 4300m


Ree Torres del Paine, one of the good things is that it is at low altitude. So despite the famous wind, it may be worth looking at again. You CAN see the spectacular Cuernos from the road, the Towers only at a distance. The wildlife viewing can be good. Punta Arenas has few sights of interest nearby. I stayed at a great B&B there (La Casa Escondida). There is an option to do a "seat in van" day trip to TdP which runs along that road, from Puerto Natales,Another excursion takes a cutter with some shelter (Turismo 21 de Mayo).http://www.turismo21demayo.com/excur...eda-y-serrano/.
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Nov 26th, 2016, 11:18 AM
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I did indeed visit Salar de Uyuni in winter both times (July and August). Nov would be warmer. I am used to altitude, having spent many months in the Andes over the years, but even I found it uncomfortable at times and the Salar is no place or be if you are badly affected. There is just nowhere to go for medical assistance if needed and to get to the nearest (very basic) medical facility would involve at least a days travel.

Given your stated interests, i would give consideration to Colombia some photos and info our trip earlier this year @ https://accidentalnomads.com/category/colombia/
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Nov 26th, 2016, 01:19 PM
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I imagine you have been to the Peruvian Andes already. Another low elevation destination you might look at is the northwest of Peru.. a nature lodge that is a rescue plac for the spectacled bear several other mammal species...Chaparri. It is near the city of Chiclayo not far from Trujillo also ,which you can fly to from Lima..lots of interesting archaeology as well as the local "witches market". I have friends who have traveled the world birdwatching and Chaparri is one of their favorite (if not the favorite lodge)

The weather in that part of Peru is good year round. The same can't be said for much of South America starting in October..

Their direct link is

http://www.chaparri.org/
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Nov 26th, 2016, 03:47 PM
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Re the elevation, I don't think I am any more susceptible than "normal" people. My episode in bed in Puno/ Titicaca was the result of flying there from sea level (my travel agent's idea...not mine!).

But, crellston says that altitude can still be uncomfortable. Indeed. In Nepal, I flew from Kathmandu (4500 ft) to start a trek at about 12,000. The highest we got was 13,500. I did feel the altitude (though not as bad as Titicaca!) and thought the views would be just as good on another route at, say, 8000 ft. I see Salar is at 12,000 ft...hmmm. And mlgb says it can go up to 5.000 m. Yikes!

Yes, mlgb, I have been to the Peruvian Andes. Not to NW Peru. I LOVED Peru, and would like to visit another area sometime. One of my favorite countries -ever.

Crellston...Columbia, I haven't thought much about that. I have heard it is beautiful I will check your photos...thanks. I have the probably incorrect impression of a politically unsettled country; I guess I still have the FARC guerillas in my mind. I realize that wasn't the entire country (I always scoff at people that judge an entire nation based on one corner of it). But...if my wife starts googling Columbia, she won't want to go. Maybe some other time.
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Nov 26th, 2016, 05:44 PM
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I second crellston thoughts on checking out Colombia. Perhaps your wife's googling will come up with the current status of the country, not outdated info. I would not consider it "politically unsettled." I never felt in the slightest unsafe or came across any evidence of instability. Lovely people and incredibly economical to visit. Maybe check it out a little more before dismissing it.
One article
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/tr...-medellin.html
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Nov 26th, 2016, 09:32 PM
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Lots of good photos, crellston. Especially Baricarla (maybe I'm spelling that wrong).

thanks for the article, yestravel. I read it...I think I'd like Colombia. For me, the more adventurous, the better. But that article would totally turn my wife off. A bit of explanation: she left Vietnam as a refugee (fortunately in an airplane). So, my idea of adventure can be for her dredging up bad memories.

Fortunately, we have been on many wonderful trips. But Colombia -or Myanmar - are not for her at this time.

I think we'll have to stick to Chile this trip.
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Nov 27th, 2016, 04:46 AM
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How about Chiloe in Chile? A peaceful, lovely village that is easy to get to from Punta Montt? I also liked the Chilean Lake District.
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Nov 27th, 2016, 07:56 AM
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If you want to stick to Chile, have you considered EAster Island? Added onto an international ticket it can be a lot less expensive than buying as a separate ticket. The flight is 5-5.5 hours, so it depends on whether you want to spend part of your holiday in an airplane, but it is a wonderful experience and worth taking 4-5 days there.

I am still unsure that the lake district would have decent enough weather for you. It will be slightly less somewhere like Pucón than the island of Chiloe (which has the most rainfall on anywhere in Chile).

I know you said no wine country but the area around Santa Cruz in the Colchagua valley (about 2.5 hrs south of Santiago) is also a pleasure to visit for the rolling hills - wildflowers in October - small villages and nice hotels with good food. I don't drink but always enjoy visiting the area. The museum in Santa Cruz is well worth a visit.

If you can set up a private car and driver to take you around, the small towns between there and Rancagua in the Cachopoal valley have some wonderful adobe structures, the weavers of the traditional "chamanto" poncho worn by Chilean horsemen in Doñihue and a view of traditional central Chile. I am not a travel agent and don't know how you would set this up but imagine your hotel could think of someone to do this.

Another thought is La Serena and the nearby Elqui valley. You can bus (6-7 hours or a short flight). La Serena is on the coast and weather could be variable but probably not bad in late October. Not beach weather but walk on the beach weather. A hired car is a good option here to visit the Elqui valley. It boasts a lot of year round sunshine, small villages, telescopes to see the night sky, and visits to a pisco factory. A good area to try a pisco sour (for you!).
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Nov 27th, 2016, 11:50 AM
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So it sounds like pretty rainy weather in October. maybe think about another destination?
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