I spent over a month traveling Chile!
I had the benefit of being able to stay with a Chilean family, to travel Chile with them, and see over half of the country! I even spent a week in Patagonia at “The End of the World” on my first solo viaje. In this post, I want to recap some of the highlights of my trip, and what I learned along the way!
The first interesting thing is that Chilean Spanish is totally different from the Mexican Spanish, or Spanglish, you might be accustomed to in California. Aside from a completely different vocabulary, the Chileans have the tendency to cut words in half…taking abbreviation to a whole new level.
For example, what many Spanish speaking countries would refer to as “el noviazgo”, dating, in Chile they call “pololeando”. So if you’re going out with someone, you’d call that person your pololo or polola.
“Po” is probably the most common utterance, which you will hear interjected in sentences all the time. The closest translation might be the Mexican “pues” – meaning then…I guess you could compare it to the snooty English, “fine, then”, okay, pues, okay, po. Get me? As far as dropping sounds off the words, you’ve gotta hear it to believe it. Check out this video.
Next, Chile is a huge country!
If you look at a map, you’ll see that it’s about as long as California and Mexico combined. It’s 2,653 miles long, yet only averages 110 miles from east to west (taken from wikipedia). With my Chilean family, we drove all over the country. From Santiago to Viña del Mar, Viña to Valparaíso, Maitencillo, and Horcon, talk about a road trip!
The beach towns are amazing, although the ocean cold, so I did not swim! If you want to travel Chile, one way to acquaint yourself is to look at the map and compare the distance from the equator. The towns in Chile and California which are the same distance from the equator will generally have a similar climate. Chile and California have a lot in common, besides the opposite seasons (they have winter when we have summer), both areas produce spectacular wines, produce, and people – of course. Both have epic mountain ranges, The Sierra Nevada in North America and The Andes in Chile. Meaning you get nice summers, lots of water, rivers, and lakes…and you get to ski in the winter!
The next travel Chile family adventure was a seven-hour road trip from Santiago to Pucón.
If you don’t know Pucón, you definitely want to. My first recommendation is do not go in February! Similar to Lake Tahoe on a holiday weekend, they do not have the infrastructure to support the traffic, and you will spend hours waiting to drive just a few kilometers. That aside, in Pucón you will find a plethora of activities, from waterfalls and glaciers, to volcanoes and lakes. The area is in the heart of Mapuche Country (the indigenous folk of Chile) so you get great food and history lessons too. It is totally safe, and the climate is great.
While this far south, consider crossing the border into the Lakes Region of Argentina…
I did not, but I hear it is equally as spectacular. Instead, we drove back to the coast, this time to Valdivia. Valdivia is a beautiful German influenced port town, and also the site of the most powerful earthquake ever recorded (9.5 in 1960!). The stories of the town being completely flooded and the boat tours you can take to see houses underwater are a must. You’ll also learn about one of Chile’s biggest embarrassments – the drawbridge that was installed upside down and therefore never completed. For a great beer stop at the Kunstmann Cerveceria! Our journey continued south into Osorno, Frutillar, Puerto Varas, and Puerto Montt, where we got to see the beautiful Lago Llanquihue, Volcán Osorno, and Volcán Calbuco. Road trips are the best! Especially to the end of the world – Chilean Patagonia.
If you like hiking, and can handle crazy cold, windy, unpredictable weather, you have to go to Patagonia.
In my case, I wanted to escape the winter, and a week was plenty of time to travel Chile and see the Chilean side of Patagonia. (I HAVE to go check out the Argentinian side next – when I am more prepared for el frío). What I can tell you is visit Torres del Paine Parque Nacional. Three days just gave me a glimpse into the astounding beauty of these massive mountains and glaciers. The Cave of the Mastodon is also a must, you not only learn about this giant prehistoric sloth, but you get to see where they lived. I recommend a guide as the park is big and there is a lot to see. The last adventure I had was a boat ride to Isla Magdalena, where we got to walk around an island filled with tens of thousands of penguins! Not being a huge fan of birds, it was a pretty crazy trip to see the cycle of life there – but I don’t want to dissuade you from going, so I will leave it there.
What I can tell you is that Chile is amazing! You have to travel Chile!
There is soooooo much to see and do! The people are amazing! They eat four meals a day, breakfast, lunch, “once”, and dinner; you’ll never go hungry here. They love to party, and to share their culture and lifestyle. Although the weather down south can be a bit cold, the friendliness of the Chileans will keep you warm.
If you get the chance to go, you will not be disappointed. Below is my vacation slideshow. Check it out and enjoy!