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Chile in 11 days – Iquique, Atacama Desert, Santiago, Viña del Mar

If you want to know how I got into Chile, read this blog on walking across the border from Peru!

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This has to be the most underrated city in Chile.  Off the beaten traveler path is a little beach town at the end of the Atacama desert called Iquique.  Honestly, I had no idea what to expect, I literally just looked at the map of Chile and picked a place to stay before going to San Pedro de Atacama.  You may recognize this name from the movie called The 33 that recently came out about the miners that were rescued in the Atacama desert. IMG_4790

I didn’t want to take buses for 24 hours so I just was like ok Iquique looks nice.  AMAZING.  It is not that convenient to get to, but if you are planning on doing an extended trip through Chile I highly recommend visiting Iquique.  The views are incredible, the beach is amazing, the people were friendly, and I had some of the best sushi of my entire life there.IMG_4768

 

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This little desert town is a backpackers, and adventure enthusiasts dream town.  The dirt roads, cold showers, and natural surroundings just rock.  The one thing I didn’t do that I wish I had was an astrological tour, the skies are so clear and dark you can go out with a guide and a telescope to look at the stars, I didn’t do this because, well I forgot.  It amazes me that I can forget to do things I want to do when I am in a city for a particular reason, props to me for that.IMG_4854

Day one in the Atacama and I went to the Valle De La Luna, or moon valley.

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This is a salt, sand, and stone valley that looks similar the surface of the moon.  It really was a spectacular sight to see.  I love deserts so this was right up my alley.  Bonus: the bus broke down, so again I was chilling at the side of a desert road with everyone else waiting for the replacement bus to come!   Click here to see more photos of the Moon Valley.

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Day two I went to the Laguna Cejar – salt flats – and we swam in a salinated lake that has more salt than the dead sea! IMG_5229

It was fascinating, you couldn’t even try to stand or drown if you tried!  I made a few friends on this trip and we laughed all day, rocked out to 70s music on the shuttle, and we watched the sunset over the flats while drinking pisco sour.  It was one of the most  memorable days of my entire trip, I truly didn’t want it to end. IMG_5121

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Santiago & Viña del Mar

IMG_5300I cashed in a huge amount of my starpoints to stay at the W in ‘Sanhattan’ – the Manhattan of Santiago, worth it.  I got upgraded to a penthouse suite and I lived in the lap of luxury for three days.  Santiago is like most big cities, lots of shopping, tall buildings, and surrounded by Andes.  I went here though to visit a former colleague and his family.IMG_5245

They graciously showed me the city, and later  took me to their beach apartment in Viña del Mar – their beach views were incredible.IMG_5367I had so much fun staying with their family and their kids.  There is something special about being able to travel, meet old friends, and experience life as a local instead of from a hotel or a tour bus.  You can see real life how it is, plus staying with a family is one of the best feelings when you’ve been solo traveling for so long.

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Click here to see more photos!

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