Small guide to Chile
Best time to travel: late March/April
it is still warm, but the national parks especially Torres del Paine are not stuffed with people, the beaches are empty - perfect for spontaneous travellers who want to experience authentic adventures…
Length: 23 days
Flight: Frankfurt –> Paris –> Santiago –> Puerto Montt –> Puntas Arenas –> Santiago –> Paris –> Frankfurt
Route in Chile: Santiago –> Puerto Montt –> Chiloe –>Puerto Montt –> Puerto Varas –> Puntas Arenas –> Puerto Natales –> Torres del Paine Nationalpark –> Puerto Natales –> Puntas Arenas –> Santiago –> Valparaiso –> Punta de Lobos/Pichilemu –> Santiago
* 780,00 Euro (flight Frankfurt-Santiago-Frankfurt via Paris with Air France per Person)
* 280,00 Euro (car for seven days to travel around Chiloe via Casa Perla; you can save a lot of money if you do not rent a car by a big car rental company but asking your hosts at your hostel),
* 30,00 Euro (pre-paid card for cellphone; good to book our bed for the night while you are on your way)
* 80,00-100,00 Euro per person per day for accomodation, food, public transportation, entrance fees, surfboard or bike rental, etc.
The costs listed obove do not only seem much: Life in Chile is as expensive as life in Europe whereas the value you get for your money is less. Be aware that your pesos will disappear like magic every day. You can save lots of money when you are travelling with your own tent! Chile seemed for me really safe (except of Santiago), so it is really worth it. We always slept in a double room as it turned out that a bed in a dorm costs for two people nearly the same as a double room.
Money: DKB credit Card (Mastercard, pre-paid). You get cash from every bank without paying a fee.
Transit at Charles de Gaulle Airport: it is really hard to get something to eat at Charles de Gaulle Airport in the transit area, so it is good to take an emergency snack with you in your carry-on luggage.
* Taking a rental tandem bike from bicileta verde was the best way to discover Santiago and get in touch with the locals who all smiled when they saw us on our bike. Most bike rentals also offer guided thematic tours through the city if you do not want to ride on your own. You can also make daytrips to the nearby vinyards and go for a wine tasting. We discovered the markets of Santiago and snacked us through the numerous types of empanadas.
*Peluqueria Francesa (Compania de Jesus 2789): amazing old building in the neighbourhood Yungay that includes an old fashioned hairdresser and restaurant stuffed with high class vintage furniture and accessoires that you can also buy. My vintage heaven.
The taxi from the airport to the city cost 5,00 Euro.
Slept at: Casa Perla (Trigal 312, Puerto Montt: 32,00 Euro for a double room with sea view/shared bathroom including breakfast (best value for money option during the whole trip!)
Ask Perla if you want to have a rental car to discover Chiloe or the Carretera Austral. She is really friendly and helpful and takes care that you do not get ripped of.
Puerto Montt has a huge market where you can buy everything especially nature wool in all colours. Damn, I should have bought a whole backpack full of this organic wool that hardly cost anything here.
Route: Ancud –> Castro–>Chonchi –> Cucao (Parque National Chiloe) –> Ancud
Although it is only a half an hour ferry ride it takes you to a total different world. For me the week in Chiloe was the first authentic experience of what I thought Chile would be like: amazing nature, wild, rough. You can walk for hours on long empty beaches without seeing a soul except of some wild horses. My feelings mixed between being in the calmest nature ever and being at the other end of the world.
Shopping: Chiloe offers beautiful crafts work. I can recommend buying hand knitted slippers that keep your feet warm at night. Chiloe is the best place to gather some authentic souvenirs from Chile. I have not found any other place in Chile where I found handy crafts in the same quality and beauty.
Slept at: Palafito hostel in Castro: Design meets tradition meets the needs of the Hipster traveler. Castro is famous for its stilt houses that look amazing especially at high tight in combintation with sunset. The Palafito Hostel is a traditional stilt house. The breakfast was awsome: freshly baked souerdough bread, handmade Marmelade, fresh fruit salad and yoghurt to start the day – when you read this you might not think that this is something special but when you know that a normal breakfast that is included in the hostel prices in Chile normally only include a slice of toast and magerine you will know what I mean: you think you are in heaven.
Parque National Chiloe
Slept at: Palafito hostel Cucao
Long walks on the beach, paddling around the lakes in a canu, enjoying the sun and watching wild horses and fisherman passing by ever ones in a while in their tiny wooden boats.
Especially here, a tent would save lots of money. As peak season was over it was hard to find an open place to sleep in the National Park, so we took the Palafito Hostel although it really hurt our holiday budget. There is a tiny shop in Cucao where you can buy pasta and other very basic food. I would advice to take fresh vegetables and fruits to the park because there are also no restaurants open where you can eat anything at night during that time of the year.
Slept at: Hostel Compass del Sur: Hostel with guaranteed home away from home feeling: warm atmosphere in a Pippi Longstocking environment.
Puerto Varas is the gateway to many outdoor activities. We climbed the Vulcano Osorno which was amazing. On our way back we stopped at a sign: for fresh honey go left and found in the middle of the forest the amazing home of an old woman living there all by herself selling honey and self made marmelade to hikers: absolutely delicous!
Puerto Natales is the Gateway to Torres del Paine National Park. I had the feeling of being somehow in a themepark for outdoor lovers.
Bus Fanfastico sur takes you for 50,00 Euro return to Torres del Paine National Park. As it was low season we had no problem to get a bus ticket and also a park entrance ticket, but in high season they told us you have to book way ahead (weeks to months!).
We walked the W-track and slept in the shelters on the way for a hell lot of money: Bunk beds for 60,00 Euro per Person. You can save lots of money when taking your own tent with you as well as your own gas stove and food. You cannot use the kitchen of the shelters. You can only cook by yourself with your own gas cooker in a restricted area. People I met in the hostel precocked their food and packed it in plastic sip bags so they do not need to carry too much equipment: smart!
I am not an outdoor maniac so observing people in the park who stopped their time when hiking through the park not looking left and right felt really odd for me. You can avoid people when you start the W-track the other way around. For outdoor enthusiasts Torres del Paine seems to be a “Must have on your list”. The destruction of nature by tonns of tourists hiking the park every year although the rangers are doing their best to protect the park is shocking and gives you the feeling of being in Outdoor Disney Land instead of having an authentic outdoor experience.
When preparing for the trip everybody told me to take special outdoor clothes with me. In fact I hiked with my cotton jogging pants and most part of the park I walked in my flip flops. I had a kayway rainjacket with me and cheap zip-pants in case of rain. I felt comfortable with this outfit. For me it seemed more a difficulty of condition to be able to walk six or seven hours a day than to have the know-how alpin hiking. You cannot get lost in the park as there are enough people passing your way.
I really enjoyed observing the birds and guanacos in the park, soaking in the colours of the blue sky in combination with the light yellow grass and the clear lakes: the colours of patagonia.
Back in Puerto Natales we decided to go on a horse trip which was the best thing to do in order to realise that there is also a remote, rough and wild Patagonia. We were three people and a ranger doing a horse ride to Cerro Dorothea. I enjoyed talking with the gaucho on the camp fire while drinking mate about his life in Patagonia. After the trip we stayed for an other hour at his simple hut for a tea. Being confronted with life beyond consumerism was a refreshing experience. I nver experienced such a cold wind before. I was covered in three windbreakers, a hut and helmet and to pair of glove – and still freezing.
Punta de Lobos
Slept at: The Sirena insolente hostel: Design meets the need of a surfer soul of the beaten track. The whole house slept 10 people so it felt more to like visiting friends than staying in a hostel.
Rent your surfboard on the beach though and get a good deal! Taking the bike to discover Punta de Lobos and Pichilemu is also the best way to get around.
“Valpo” as the locals call their city is a heaven for all who love street art. There is a reason why the city is full of beautiful murials: People protect their walls from being spraypainted with uggly motives by letting them painted by street artists. The more popular the artists are in the scene the less risky it is to be confronted with vandalism.
Slept at: Hostel Caracol