During the 23 days we spent in Chile we have seen some seriously beautiful scenery and landscape so impressive that at times I couldn’t quite believe I was seeing it with my own eyes. We travelled some huge distances, from being blown away (quite literally) by the wild land of Patagonia in the very south, to active volcano’s and picture perfect scenery of the Chilean Lake District, to the Mars-like landscape in the driest desert in the world in the very North of Chile.
Travelling in Chile was beautiful, more than I imaged, but it was also been pretty damn expensive. More expensive than I imagined. And for that reason we found ourselves travelling quicker up the country than we had planned. Chile is ridiculously long however, it extends 4270 km in length. In comparison to Europe, this is the same distance as from the North of Norway to the very South of Spain! We spent over 70 hours in total on buses travelling up Chile (that’s 3 full days alone spent on buses!). Luckily, the long distance buses are super snazzy, comfortable and spacious. Complete with snack boxes, toilets on board, blankets, USB points to charge your phone and Spanish-dubbed movies on TV.
In this post I will cover our Chile itinerary, travelling all the way from the very south to the north. At the end of the post I will cover exactly how much I spent in Chile, in a country we have enjoyed but has sure stretched the budget.
Please note: Prices in this post are based on the current exchange rate (April 2018) of $850 CLP to £1 GBP.
1. Puerto Natales & Torres del Paine National Park (8 nights)
Puerto Natales is a town located is the South of Chile in Patagonia. Just 2 hours away from the Torres del Paine National Park which is very popular for hiking. Puerto Natales was therefore a convenient base for before and after our trek. In Puerto Natales we stayed in a hostel called ‘Kiooshtem‘ for 2 nights before and 2 nights after the trek. This hostel was one of our favourite hostels in South America so far. The hosts are awesome, the showers are hot and the beds are soo comfy, it is great value at £11 each a night for a dorm bed.
Hiking in the Torres del Paine National Park is one of the highlights of my South America trip so far. We hiked the ‘W-Trek’ – a 4 night trek, where you hike the shape of a ‘W’. It’s highlights include jagged mountains, brightly coloured lakes, glaciers, rivers and golden grasslands. The most famous sight of all being the incredible 3 rock towers which give the park it’s name.
2. Punta Arenas (2 nights)
From Puerto Natales we caught a nice early bus to Punta Arenas. This took about 4 hours and cost $8000 CLP (approx £10)
We had just over 1 day in Punta Arenas and we spent a lot of time relaxing as the town was dead for Easter Weekend. But we visited the mall, the cemetery and wandered around the town centre. We also found a cute little Venezuelan cafe called ‘Dona Yaya’ which we loved and had lunch at.
Punta Arenas was mainly just a stop off for us to get our night bus from. We were originally going to get a night bus from El Chalten to Bariloche over on the Argentina side, but it was loads cheaper to head to Punta Arenas and head up to the Chilean Lake District instead. The night bus cost us $48,600 CLP each (approx £57) and took 27 hours!
3. Puerto Varas – 2 nights
Our night bus arrived in Osorno city and from there we took a 1 hour bus south to Puerto Varas to see Osorno Volcano. Unfortunately, the weather was awful the whole time we were in Puerto Varas. So we didn’t get to go up Osorno Volcano like we had planned, in fact the weather was SO bad we didn’t even get to see the volcano through the clouds!
Luckily the amazing hostel we were staying in (Margouya Patagonia) made up for the awful weather as it was such a nice place to relax, drink wine and coffee and watch movies. The hostel cost approx £24 in total for a lovely private room. Shaun made the most of his spare time by visiting a gym! (Located in the basement of the Puerto Varas shopping mall). We also treated ourselves to a nice (but expensive – £23 for both) meal at Costumbrista Cocineria.
4. Pucon – 2 nights
We decided not to wait around for the weather to improve and accepted the fact that we were not going to see Osorno Volcano, so we left for Pucon, just 4 hours further north.
Pucon is another Chilean Lake District town, with an even bigger volcano than Osorno, called Volcan Villarrica. This time we were in luck, the weather during our time in Pucon was great!
Whilst in Pucon we visited the Huerquehue National Park for a day trek. We caught the 8.30am bus (the cost is $3600 CLP return). Make sure you get there 20 minutes early to avoid standing up the whole bus journey. We got there 30 minutes early just to be safe! The bus took 1 hour, you then have to pay the park entrance fee ($2500 CLP) and then decide which trek you want to do.
The 2 most popular treks are the ‘San Sebastian’ hike or ‘Los Lagos’ (The Lakes) hike. We were still a bit tired of trekking after the W-trek so we decided to do the Lakes hike as we were told it was easier than San Sabastian. The hike was mainly steep all the way up through woodland and then there are some nice lakes at the top and a couple of great viewpoints of the volcano. The hike only took us about 4.5 hours in total so we caught the 14.10 bus back to Pucon.
In Pucon we stayed in ‘Hostel French Andes‘ and it was great. It was £21 a night in total for a lovely Japanese-style room. Food in Pucon was again, very expensive, but we found a nice local restaurant called ‘Charly Papas’ where a promotion meal plus drink was £5.
5. Santiago – 4 nights
From Pucon we caught a 9 hour night bus to Santiago which cost just £15. We initially booked 3 nights in Santiago, but we enjoyed it more than expected, so we booked an extra night so that we could do a day trip to the Cousino Macul vineyard, we highly recommend the winery tour. This activity cost us £16.47 per person.
Aside from the winery, our highlights also include relaxing in the main plaza, riding the Funicular for a great view of the city and surrounding mountains, visiting the local markets – especially the fruit, vegetable and fish markets. We also enjoyed visiting the Santa Lucia Hill, where you can grab an ice cream and walk up to Castillo Hidalgo for a nice viewpoint of the city.
In Santiago we stayed in Hostel Forestal in a 4 bed dorm for approx £12 a night. This also included breakfast so was good value and the location was perfect.
6. San Pedro de Atacama – 2 nights
We took a direct 23 hour night bus from Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama and when I woke up it looked like we had landed on Mars! The small town of San Pedro itself is nice but very touristy however the surrounding area and landscape is absolutely amazing, it’s like being on another planet.
There are various day tours that you can take from San Pedro and there are too many tour companies to choose from. We went with a tour company called ‘Cosmo Andino’ to do the Mars Valley and Valley of the Moon tour. This activity cost us $18,500 CLP each (£22 each for the tour itself and then another £7 each for the entrance to the attractions) and it departed from San Pedro at 2.30pm and lasted 6 hours. There are cheaper options in town but the reviews weren’t as good as Cosmo Andino plus the other tours departed at 4pm and this tour meant that we could also see the Mars Valley which was so worth it!
In San Pedro (a very expensive town for accommodation) we stayed in a private room in a local guest house called ‘Casa San Marcos 663′. The guest house was very nice, it was clean and had a kitchen we could use. It cost us £29 a night for a private room.
For this trip we have a ‘daily costs’ budget for each country plus a separate ‘activity budget’ of £1000 for the whole of South America, so any major activity’s that cost a reasonable amount we put them in the activity budget.
For Chile we had an initial daily budget of £28 a day. We were actually on budget (only due to the 5 days hiking in Torres del Paine all being put in the activity budget), meaning we spent on average £26 per day for Zoe’s daily costs and £27 for Shaun.
However we were usually eating the cheapest food possible, this meant bread and meat or fast food. By the end of Chile we felt so unhealthy, we could feel the effects on our body from the huge amount of salt and lack of vegetables. Vegetables were just so damn expensive. We could have done with a daily costs budget of at least £30 a day to be able to eat well in Chile.
The below table shows what I spent in Chile during 23 days. You can see my daily costs plus what I spent on activities (note: £238.50 of the £273.73 for activities was spent on the expensive Torres del Paine Trek)
|TOTAL COST FOR 1 PERSON|
|Total daily budget costs:||£600.26 (£26 per day)|
|Total cost spent on activities:||£273.47|
|Total cost of daily budget plus activities:||£873.73|
|AVERAGE COST PER DAY OVER 23 DAYS:||£37.99|