Jan 11, 2012

Chile - San Pedro de Atacama/Valparaíso

To recover from our emotions at the Bolivian/Chilean border, we stopped for the night at San Pedro de Atacama, only one hour after the border. This small town sprawls around an oasis in the desert. The climate there is dry and mild. What a change after the snow!

The main asset to San Pedro de Atacama's charm is its terra cota houses and therefore its brown narrow streets full of tourists. However, the whole lacks of authenticity. In the handful of streets forming the city center line up only restaurants, souvenir shops, internet cafés and hostels.

Plaza de Armas

Church of San Pedro

San Pedro de Atacama can be an interesting basis for trips in the desert and open-air activities like trekking or sandboarding but we did not stay long enough to enjoy these opportunities.

Landscape immediately outside San Pedro de Atacama


Actually we were eager to go to the Pacific Ocean so we took a 26 hours bus to Valparaíso, bus that arrived three hours late.. well our road crossed the caravan of the Vuelta Chile 2012 (cycle racing)!

Valparaíso is one of the main harbours and conurbations of Chile. The port is surrounded by various colorful hills called cerros. A touch of San Francisco, Guayaquil and Lisbon, all at once.

Some cerros are dedicated to popular housing while others are subject of much attention and carefully maintained. Cerro Bellavista also called Museo a Cielo Abierto (Open Air Museum) is one of the lasts.

Just above the port, other cerros form a maze of streets with hotels, restaurants and artists' studios.

Mural painting in the pasaje L. Bavestrello

In one of them we visited the house of the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The man had a taste for collecting the most various objects and antics. And his house, in addition to its unusual architecture, contains lots of odds and ends.

La Sebastiana, house of Pablo Neruda

The study

View from La Sebastiana

Unfortunately for us, Valparaíso is not a place to go to the beach. We found two beaches: one was closed to swimming because of the presence of scrap metals less than 100 meters from the shore; the other one was just glued to port facilities..

As usual we took public transportation and tried a new one: the collectivo which is a taxi with a pre-defined route, as if instead of waiting for a bus you wait for a car. Very convenient!

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