September 2017: As part of a larger trip to Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia we spent a night in San Pedro de Atacama. We arrived via the Bolivian Siloli desert following a 500km off road drive from Uyuni and it’s salt flats. This photo sums up the difference in wealth between the richest and poorest countries in Latin America. We reached the border to be treated to a lovely metalled road as we descended from 16,000ft down to the Atacama at 8,000ft! I always wanted to visit but from what we could see of it – and we could see for tens of miles as we drove down the mountain – it couldn’t shine a light on the Siloli. Maybe we’ll visit on another trip… Our flight back courtesy of BA was enhanced with an excellent conversation with Anne, one of the two captain’s on board BA’s longest and newest flight to Santiago. Thanks for the cockpit photos Anne!
October 2015: What an amazing country! We spent 18 days here and only just covered the southern half of this fantastic diverse huge country. Visit Chile for the scenery, wildlife and geology. The people are lovely kind and helpful. We can’t wait to go back and visit the ski resort just north of Santiago and, of course, the Atacama plain in the extreme north. One slight downer; don’t go for the gastronomic experience. While dining out is in-expensive and plentiful the food is surprisingly bland and vegetables are few and far between.
At that time there was no direct flight from the UK so we flew BA to Rio de Janeiro, spent a few days there, and then on to Santiago. As the distances are so great air travel is essential, other than a quick trip to the coastal town Valparaiso. We flew nearly 23,000 miles on this trip. The national airline is LAN and their hub is at Santiago (SCL), hence the number of overnight stays. The airport is fresh and modern with a nice lounge if you are flying club. We flew club from Rio and to Easter Island. Most internal flights are economy only. LAN is a quality airline with a modern fleet. Chileans don’t associate travel with eating so consequently food at airports is very poor and limited.
- 1 night Santiago
- 3 nights Easter Island
- 1 night Santiago
- 2 nights Valparaiso
- 3 nights Pucon
- 1 night Huilo Huilo
- 1 night Puerto Varas
- 1 night Punta Arenas
- 3 nights cruise Magellan Straights & Tierra Del Fuego
- 2 nights Santiago
The Holiday Inn at the airport is literally 30m from Departures. It’s a very good, well insulated hotel and a useful hub if you are arriving late or departing early. Don’t feel you are missing out by not having a hotel in downtown Santiago.
If you are hiring a car, all the main companies have their vehicle drop-off and collections right behind the hotel.
We don’t speak Spanish which mostly is not a problem with tourist related venues and big towns and cities but if you’re lost in the boonies – beware.
Day 06 – 24/10 – Fly
Depart Rio Arrive Santiago
21-28c Mostly sunny, little rain.
15:20 GIG – SCL 19:20 LAN 787 £460-£762 premium
Hotel Holiday Inn at Airport
Day 07 – 25/10 – Fly
Depart Santiago Arrive Easter Island
09:20 SCL – IPC 13:15 LAN 841 £944 premium
Blog : Easter Island Experience – Tranquil and other worldly, a must do.
Day 10 – 28/10 – Fly
Depart Easter Island Arrive Santiago
14:55 IPC – SCL 21:35
Hotel Holiday Inn Airport
Day 11 – 29/10 – Drive
Santiago to Valparaiso via Casablanca valley wine region
Blog : Valparaiso and the Casablanca valley wine region – Two extremes
Day 13 – 31/10 – Drive Fly Drive
Drive from Valparaiso to Santiago airport
Depart Santiago arrive Temuco Maquehue airport
14:35 SCL – ZCO 15:55 LA 237 £185
Try and get a left-side window as you fly. You will see the spine of the Andes with it’s jagged and brutal landscape for the whole flight down. Interestingly and unlike the more familiar Alps, when at cruising altitude you can see right over the Andes and into the Argentinian Mendoza plains.
When you are about to land at Temuco this is what you can see. It could be Devon or Gloucestershire.
Temuco is a working town and so of no real value to the traveller other than access to the north of the Lake district. The airport is a typical 2-gate modern building with the hire car companies right outside. Book your hire car in advance. I recommend a 4×4.
Blog : Chilean Lake District – Truly beautiful countryside.
Day 18 – 05/11 – Drive Fly
Drive from Puerto Varas 1 hr 20k to Puerto Montt El Tepual Airport
Depart Puerto Montt El Tepual Airport arrive Punta Arenas
16:20 PMC to PUQ 18:30 LA285 £243
15c cloudy feels colder due to windchill.
The drive from Puerto Varas to Puerto Montt El Tepual Airport is a bit confusing so make sure you have good directions or sat nav. My alter ego Gerald nearly missed the flight by not bothering to check the route. You can read his light-hearted short story here.
On arrival at Punta Arenas airport take a taxi into town. It takes about 1/2 an hour and costs about £20.
Blog : Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego – Utterly desolate, the most amazing place.
Day 22 – 09/11 – Fly
Fly Depart Punto Arenas arrive Santiago
17:30 PUQ to SCL 20:50 LA286 £ 295
Transfer to hotel downtown.
We checked in to the Hotel Lastarria £180/n – £240/n. We had a ‘Superior Junior Suite’. Its a 2014 TripAdvisor winner and part of the Splendia group but we didn’t like it. The room was very small (our normal minimum is 25m2 and this was larger but due to the poor layout seemed much smaller). The intention was to spend our last day exploring Santiago, stay another night at Lastarria, then get an early cab to the airport.
23 – 10/11 – Explore Santiago
Transfer to Holiday Inn at airport.
The following morning we decided we would leave the hotel a day early with a late check out, explore the attractions of Santiago and take late afternoon cab to the airport Holiday Inn! It is counter-intuitive but it had good food, nice rooms, comfortable beds and allowed us a decent breakfast before our 9.40 flight to Sao Paulo.
Santiago is a hugely disappointing city, which I wouldn’t bother visiting and certainly wouldn’t recommend. There is a hill with an old funicular taking you to a modern open-air church at the top and some decent views of downtown. There is a nice square called Plaza de Armas but there is no cafe culture and it’s difficult to get an alcoholic drink.
My advice would be to give yourself another day in one of the country’s beautiful regions.
24 – 11/11 – Fly
Depart Santiago arrive Sao Paulo
09:40 SCL to GRU 14:45. LA760
Depart Sao Paulo arrive London Heathrow
17:25 GRU to LHR 06:55 BA0246