The (Revised) Chile Trip Bucket List: 5 MUST-See Places

When I first found out that I was going to Santiago, I constructed a bucket list of things I absolutely wanted to see while I was here. Of course I based this list on what I’d read in guidebooks about Chile, and didn’t think about the fact that Chile is about 4,000 miles long, and getting from one end to anther would take about 8 hours by magic carpet.

Now that I’ve spent some time in Santiago, I have a better idea or some places I want to see, and a more realistic picture of what excursions are possible, at least for this trip.

(If I ever come back to Chile, maybe I can visit Punta Arenas, the southernmost region of Chile and Torres Del Paine, a remarkable national park in Patagonia.)

So here’s my revised bucket list of the top 5 places to see on this trip:

5. Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago

My host family has promised to take me here and they swear that it’s an absolute MUST for anyone visiting Santiago. The museum commemorates the victims of the Pinochet Regime (which, if you haven’t read about this in my earlier blog posts, is a huge part of Chile’s history and even present politics). I expect the mood here to be quite somber, but a tourist, and someone who is deeply interested in the Country’s history and politics, I can’t leave the country without seeing it.

Museum of Memory and Human Rights
Museum of Memory and Human Rights

4. Valle de Casablanca

About 60 miles west of Santiago is Valle de Casablanca (Casablanca Valley), Chile’s wine country. I love to take a day trip here and take a tour of the Casas del Bosque and Emiliana vinyards. Emiliana won the Green winery of the year award in 2012. You can find them in the organic section at Martins (Where I normally shop in The States). They make a mean Cabernet Sauvignon, that’s affordable on a college budget, and I’m not usually a white wine person, but I love their Chardonnay! (I feel like I should be their spokes person right now)

There is an all day winey tour you can take of all the most important wineries in the area, but it’s a little too expensive for me, so I’d opt for the do it yourself version.

Vineyards in Casablanca
Vineyards in Casablanca

3. Casa de Isla Nerga

About 25 miles further west of Casablanca, is Pablo Neruda’s Casa de Isla Nerga. I’ve already seen one of Neruda’s many houses, La Chasconda, which I would also recommend to anyone visiting Santiago, but since this house was ravaged during the Pinochet Regime, many of the artifacts, that are now there, were taken from Isla Negra. This entire house is filled with Neruda’s eccentric collection of nautical nick-knacks and it’s actually, also, his burial site.

Neruda's Casa de Isla Nergra
Neruda’s Casa de Isla Nergra

2. Viña del Mar

Also west of Santiago, right near Valparaiso which I visited during my first week here, is Viña del Mar, also known as La Ciudad Jardin (the garden city). This city is sits right on the beach, it’s about 2.5 hours from my house, and I think I might be taking a lot of trips there when the weather gets a little warmer. I’ve heard there’s even a little surf school there, Nanuka Surf School and surfing is something I’ve always wanted to try (of course the real place to go surfing is Pichilemu, about 4 hours south of Santiago, but I might have to take a lesson or two before I venture out there).

Viña del Mar
Viña del Mar

1 and a half…

Ok I lied…there are 6 places on my list, but I’m really torn between these last two.  They would both be very long trips and they are opposite directions of each other. I’d be lucky to even get to visit one of these places, but sadly, I don’t think I’ll have the times or means to visit both.

Pucón

Pucónis about 14.5 hours south of Santiago. It’s a stunning national park on a lake, with a huge volcano that you can actually climb. In addition to the awesome volcano climbing, you can also go kayaking or take a relaxing dip in the Termas Geometricas (hot springs).

Pucón
Pucón

Atacama Desert

About 15.5 hours north of Santiago is the Atacama Desert, the worlds driest dessert, with a landscape comparable to Mars and an altitude higher than Denver. The Atacama also has it’s own hotsprings, the Termas de Puritama and Volcano, the Licancabur, a lagoon with salt concentraitions high enough that you can float, Lagunas Cejar (Cejar Lagoon), Salt flats inhabited by flamingos and at night one of the most spectacular views of the stars that you can find in the world, viewable from the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory or just laying on your back somewhere on the desert floor

I actually just talked myself into going here as I wrote this.

Valley of the Moon, in the Atacama Desert
Valley of the Moon, in the Atacama Desert

At the end of my stay in Santiago, I do have a couple more extravagant adventures planned.

At the end of October, I plan to go to Cusco, Peru with a couple of students I met here from Harvard and of course while I’m there I want to see Machu Piccu and the Incan Trail.

When I finish my internship (after November 15th), my mom wants to visit and travel with me to Easter Island! I am so excited for this. I have been fascinated with the Rapa Nui culture every since I studied the Moai Statues in an Art History class.

And finally, the week after that, my super awesome boyfriend wants to meet me in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (which isn’t anywhere close to Chile, but happens to be a city that my Dad’s airline, USAirways, flies out of).

After that I am going to spend some much needed time at home with my family and friends (and try to find a real job so I can pay for this crazy adventure).

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