Celebrating New Year’s in Valparaíso, Chile

New Year’s Eve is a massive event celebrated in all corners of the word, and the colorful city of Valparaíso, just under two hours away from the capital city of Santiago, Chile, is no exception.

New Year’s Eve in Valparaíso is mostly known for its spectacular firework display, which is one of the most famous New Year’s fireworks display in the world, but also for its party atmosphere. The ‘party city’ does not disappoint at this time of the year with its bustling bars, restaurants, clubs and street parties as well as the pyrotechnical show which lights up the sky over the bay, reflecting in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Continue reading

Hiking the W-Trek of the Torres del Paine: An Ultimate Bucket-List Experience

When I first arrived in Chile, or even, when I first started to plan my trip to Chile, all I saw was the following photo, in some form or another. It was on the front of every single travel book, on posters, postcards, ads and even on the 1000 peso bill. I had to go.

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I arrived in Chile in August and hoped to travel to the towers at the end of my stay, in April, but one thing led to another, and there I was in November, setting off for my trip to Patagonia.

Fortunately for me, the trip was already planned by a good friend of mine, Tannis, who was meant to go with another friend, but who could no longer make it. She invited me to go, and of course, I said yes. Just three days later, I was at Santiago airport, ready to board my flight to Punta Arenas, one of the most Southern cities of the world.

From Punta Arenas, Tannis and I jumped straight into a coach which took us up to Puerto Natales, which took around 2 hours. Puerto Natales is a really lovely town which sits on the Patagonian fjords and is the closest piece of civilization to the park.

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We spent quite a few days there before we set off on our trek, so we had time to pack and prepare for our trip and get all the last bits and bobs we needed. Turns out we were quite unprepared, well I certainly was.

The main thing we had to buy was food, of course, we were doing the whole trek unguided, so we needed to buy all of our food for 5 days at once, which included a lot of beans, rice, soup and chocolate.

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The other thing I wasn’t prepared for, was how cold it was (most nights dropping below freezing). So I had to buy a hat, a long-sleeved underlayer and some wind-proof trousers, among other things.

If you want to be more prepared, unlike I was, then you can check out Zoe Baillargeon’s ultimate packing guide, on the Cascada Travel website.

It was soon time to start the trek. We actually did the reverse W-Trek, where you finish at the Torres del Paine, rather than start there. You can do the trek either way round, the distance and difficulty stay almost the same, but we liked the idea of finishing at the towers, almost like a reward. What we did was pretty similar to this:

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Pretty soon after you leave Puerto Natales, your signal cuts out, there’s no wifi (except in a few of the refuges, but it’s really expensive), and you’ve disconnected from the world.

The W-Trek Day 1:

Day one was a great day because at that point of the trek you’re in such high spirits, you feel good, you have lots of energy, and you’re not sick of beans and rice yet.

The day starts by taking a bus to the Torres Del Paine National Park, where you will have to pay an entrance fee of $21.000 CLP and be briefed on the safety and security of the park, before taking a catamaran boat (another $15.000 CLP) to the Refugio Paine Grande, which has bathrooms, a café and a minimarket, so you can grab the last few things you need before starting the trek.

From there, the trail leads up through a long windy track, all the way to the Grey Glacier and the Refugio Grey, where you can camp for the night. It’s only an 11km trek, and the shortest trek of the whole trip, but as it was the first, we weren’t used to the distance, especially while carrying such big bags on our backs, so it felt like miles.

Every turn you take on this trek opens up to a brand new piece of stunning scenery until eventually, you get to the massive Grey Glacier (what you see in this photo below is only one side of the glacier). I had never even seen an iceberg before that day, so that alone was really cool, let alone the glacier.

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The W-Trek Day 2:

Day 2, is one of the longest days of the trek (depending on your route). We had to walk the 11km back down the way we came to the Refugio Paine Grande, and then another 8km to our next campsite, Campamento Italiano.

(Let me just mention that 19km feels like about 30km when you’ve not slept much because of the cold, you’re carrying a 15kg backpack and it’s pretty hilly).

The second part of our trek that day was stunning, just like the first. As the trail opened up onto a small lake called Lago Scottsberg, with an amazing backdrop of the Cumbre Bariloche and the recognizable Cuerno Principal.

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The two parts of the trail are very different, with half being along one side of the mountain range, and the other half being along the other side. It goes from more rocky and narrow paths to more flat and grassy paths. The change in scenery makes the whole trail more interesting and exciting as you continue along the route, before arriving at the Campamento Italiano.

The W-Trek Day 3:

I was still feeling awesome on day 3. I was tired and a little sore, but none of that mattered, I was in Patagonia, the most amazing place I had ever been.

On this part of the trek, you get to hike up into the Valle Frances, to the Mirador Britannico. The trek to the middle of the valley was 6,5km, with the last kilometre or so being up a steep hill that takes you to the amazing Mirador (viewpoint), perched right a the top of a rock, where you can see a 360° panoramic view of the whole valley. It’s the perfect place to sit and relax, have a picnic or a snack, and take in the beautiful scenery.

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While the majority of this route is through the forest, there are several stops along the way which also offer phenomenal views. One of which, about 2km in, looks directly out to the Glacier Francés.

For the very first time since we had arrived, there were blue skies all day long, which made this trek even more beautiful. Another great thing about day 3, is that you get to hike without your bags for the first time, as no matter where you camp next, you have to pass by Campamento Italiano again so you can leave them there, and pick up them up on your way down.

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When we arrived at the viewpoint, we sat on the rock for a good while snacking on chocolate, of course, until we decided we had better make our way back, as we had another 10km to do that day, back to the original point we started at, then a little further on to the next campsite.

There are three options of places you can stay from that point, Campamento Italiano for a second time, Campamento El Francés, which is an extra 3km away, and Refugio Los Cuernos, another 2,5km after that. We chose Campamento El Francés, but right before we got back to the point we started at to pick up our bags, Tannis tripped and badly hurt her knee (tore her meniscus, ouch). So change of plans, we stayed at that campsite another night, with no idea what we were going to do the next day.

The W-Trek Day 4:

Day 4 was hard, we decided to push through and continue in the right direction, I took all the heaviest things in my bag, as well as much of Tannis’ stuff as I could fit, to try and make it a little easier for her. It turns out that trek was quite a bit longer than we thought… a total of 21km, but we made it in the end.

Most of the path is along the Lago Nordernskjöld, a bright blue lake which stood out despite the grey clouds overhead. It was hard to get my phone out without it getting too wet because of the rain or fly away in the wind, but I managed to capture this:

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It was heavily raining and incredibly windy for the majority of the trek when we did it, but we made it in under 10 hours. As usual, though, the whole trail was just so incredibly beautiful that I think it was worth the pain (just).

The last few kilometres that day were really hard, Tannis was limping and in a lot of pain, and I couldn’t even feel my legs at that point, but we were there, at the Las Torres Campsite, the last campsite of the trip, and where we would be leaving from the next day, after our last trek up to the Torres Del Paine and back.

The W-Trek Day 5:

Day 5 is the big day, the final day of the W-Trek, and the day of the Torres del Paine!

From the Las Torres campsite, the Torres Del Paine are a 10km hike away, with the last kilometer being incredibly steep and difficult, rising over 600m and taking the average person almost one hour to climb. At the end of the trek, you arrive right at the base of the towers, where you can take your insta-perfect pictures, of course, and sit and take in the stunning view of the towers, before heading back the way you came, for another 10km.

This is what’s supposed to happen anyway, but it didn’t go so well for us, that day was the foggiest and windiest day yet, and we were told by so many people that it wouldn’t be worth the trip up there because it’s the steepest trail of all, the winds were 74km/h that day, the temperatures were severely low, and we probably wouldn’t get to see the towers anyway because of the fog. On top of all that, we didn’t know if Tannis would make it on her knee.

We didn’t make it all the way to the towers, but we gave it a go and did get to see them… just for a few minutes.

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Believe it or not though, I wasn’t disappointed. I was tired, hungry and ache-y, but definitely not disappointed. Foggy or not they were still amazing.

Every single bit of the 5-day journey to the towers was stunning, beautiful and honestly, life-changing. The towers are incredible, of course, but if you come to Patagonia just to see them, and not the rest of the park, then I think you’re missing out.

The W-Trek is an experience, an adventure and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If it’s not on your bucket list yet, then it should be! I loved every second of it, some bits were harder than others, but every bit was worth it, and I would’ve done it all again!

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If you’d like to find out about more trekking opportunities in Chile, or are interesting in this trip and others, be sure to download the TheBesty app to book the best tours and activities, discover fun things to do, and find the guaranteed lowest prices on hotel bookings – all in Latin America.Which-one-do-you-prefer-Apple-Store-or-Google-Play

 

What to Pack for Your Trip to Chile

Packing. Some love it, some hate it. Either way, I’ve created a packing list for those visiting Chile, to make the process a little easier for you.

I am currently in Chile, and will be here for 8 months in total, before I continue my journey around South America and eventually, back home. So I had to pack everything I needed to last me up to 10 months, in just two bags, to ensure I could carry it all around when I travel with no problem.

No matter who you are and where you’re traveling in Chile or around, this list should simplify your packing process and make the whole experience a little less stressful.

Clothes

  • 2 Pairs of Jeans – Jeans are an essential because they’re incredibly versatile. You can wear them anytime, anywhere and if they’re not white, you can wear them over and over and over again.
  • 1 Pair of Convertible Pants – They’re ugly, they’re certainly not cool, but they’re actually incredibly useful. They’re especially useful in Chile where the temperatures vary massively and most places the temperature drops significantly at night. Convertible pants are also much easier to hand wash and are a lot lighter to pack than jeans. I wear them a lot when I hike because it’s cold in the morning, and then you start to get hotter the more you walk and the hotter it gets you can turn them into shorts.
  • 2 Pair of Shorts – It gets hot in Chile, especially if you’re travelling up in Northern Chile, so you’ll want shorts. The best part is, they take up very little space.
  • 5 or more T-Shirts – You’ll wear your tees every day, so bring ones you can wear over and over and won’t get bored of.
  • 1 Long-Sleeve Shirt – You know, to keep a little warmer.
  • 2 nicer clothes (shirts, dresses) – No matter what you plan to do when you travel, you’ll want something to dress up a little, whether that’s because you like to go clubbing, out for dinner at a nice restaurant or likely to try and impress someone while you’re here.
  • 2 hoodies or jumpers – Again, it depends on where and when you go. But I recommend bringing a comfortable hoodie you like to lounge around in and you know will keep you warm, and a nicer one you can wear out to dinner.
  • 1 waterproof jacket –These are awesome. I use mine all the time. I’d never thought I’d say this, because this is the type of freebie thing you can get anywhere, but invest in one you like to wear regularly, and this is what you’ll be wearing daily. It packs lightly and weighs nothing, I keep mine in my bag wherever I go.
  • 1 large coat –Your need for a Jacket will also depend on where and when you’re going. Anywhere Santiago and South I’d recommend bringing one, especially if you’re going in the winter.
  • Hat/Scarf/Gloves – Especially if you’re planning to ski, or going down south to Patagonia for example, where it gets cold.
  • Underwear (pants, socks, bras) – This is one thing that does depend a lot on how long you’re staying. Some things you can get away with wearing over and over, and some things you can’t. This is one of those things where you can’t. Bring as many as you can fit in the extra space in your bags… unless you know there will be a washing machine nearby the duration of your trip.
  • 1 pair of trainers or hiking boots – If you plan to hike a lot, then don’t forget to wear proper hiking boots rather than trainers, I made that mistake and the result is a very bruised backside, because the hills are pretty steep in the Andes… clearly.  If not, trainers will do you fine.
  • 2 pairs of everyday shoes – Cutting down on shoes was the hardest decision of all. I started at 8 pairs, and managed to narrow it down to 2. These are annoying to pack as they are heavy and take up a lot of space, so don’t be tempted!
  • 1 Pair flipflops or sandals – For the warmer days. Waterproof sandals are a good idea as well if you’re planning to go camping or staying in hostels where you might want to wear them in the shower!
  • PJs – Two pairs will probably cut it, perhaps a pair for hotter temperatures and a warmer pair for when it’s colder.
  • Gym clothes – The amount you want to bring is dependant on the amount of exercise you plan on doing while you’re here, but I’d bring at least one and you’re bound to need it for at least one of the thousands of activities there are available to do here.
  • Swimsuit – Whether it’s in the sea, a swimming pool or volcanic hot springs, you’ll want a swimsuit!

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Toiletries

Most places you go will provide you with the basic shampoo, soap, etc. and remember, you can always buy some once you arrive but some things you want to remember to bring so that you have them as soon as you land.

Some things to think about:

  • Toothbrush / Toothpaste
  • Makeup – Try only bring what you really need!
  • Medicine – If you need to bring a lot, then bring a prescription.
  • Nail clippers / Tweezers
  • Razor / Shaving cream – Unless you have a tremendous beard you plan on keeping.
  • Glasses / Contact lenses – Basically whatever you need to see.
  • Female sanitary products
  • Hairbrush / Comb – Plus any hair products you need.
  • Deodorant – The key to smelling good when you’re wearing the same clothes you have been for a while.
  • Towel – Towels are likely provided wherever you stay, but I brought one of the compact ones just in case and use it a lot.
  • Sunscreen

I wouldn’t recommend bringing a hair dryer or hair straighteners/curlers if you’re not going to use them every day, as they’re big and bulky!

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Electronic Equipment

  • Adaptors – Chile uses type C and L plugs. So you may not need an adaptor, as type C plugs are fairly common. If you do need to bring them, then I’d recommend bringing one plug-to-socket adaptors (for bigger devices such as laptops or cameras), and one 2-USB-to-Socket one (for phones and tablets). Info about Chilean plugs available on this website: https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/gb/chile/
  • Phone + Charger
  • Laptop/Tablet/etc. + Chargers – If you think you’ll need them
  • Portable battery – If you don’t have one I’d recommend investing in one no matter what you plan to do once you get to Chile.
  • Camera – Unless you plan on just using your phone for pictures.
  • Headphones

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Other

  • PASSPORT – Obvious of course, but it’s the one thing you absolutely can’t forget.
  • Sunglasses / Cap
  • Money – I’d recommend getting about 200,000 CLP out before you arrive, so you’re ready with cash in hand when you land
  • Prepaid travel card – Not necessarily needed depending on your situation, but I needed one as I couldn’t open up a bank account while I was here. They’re a great and easy way take out cash while you’re here, for no cost (if you go to the right bank. I used Monzo, you can find out a little more about Monzo here: https://monzo.com/
  • Money belt or similar – Chile is not a dangerous country, but they do have a reputation for sneaky pickpocketers. I bought a dinky purse that loops onto my belt and so far hasn’t had any problems.
  • Travel Backpack – No matter what the purpose of your travel is, I’d recommend bringing a travel backpack for several reasons. 1) It’s the easiest to carry around, 2) It’ll stop you bringing too much stuff, and 3) even if you’re not planning on travelling too much, I’m sure you’ll be tempted as it’s so easy to travel in and around chile for not much money!
  • Smaller backpack – Try bringing a versatile one that’s suitable for a trip to town as well as a hike or tour.
  • Pen and notebook – I like to always keep one on me, whether it’s to quickly note something I want to remember down or to log what I’ve been up to.

A few final notes before you go…

If you’re currently thinking I’m crazy for suggesting to bring such a small amount of clothes for such a long amount time, then let me explain.

Before I came I remember my University Year Abroad Director saying “Pack half the amount of clothes and twice the amount of money” and she couldn’t have been more right. You won’t notice it’s missing if you don’t have it with you, and if you really need something you don’t have, then you can always buy a new one.

So, I’d pack the same amount of clothes for 2 months than I would for 6 or months, so long as you have enough to keep warm, keep cool, and keep comfortable.

Lastly, remember that you’ll want to save space for souvenirs and things to bring back, so make sure you leave some space for that.

That’s it! You’re ready for your adventure!

If you’re looking for some fun things to do when you get here then download the TheBesty app to book the best tours and activities, discover fun things to do, and find the guaranteed lowest prices on hotel bookings – all in one place.

Download TheBesty app in the App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android).

 

Visit the Piedra de Aguíla, one of the best viewpoints in Chile!

Piedra del Águila is definitely a must-see if you’re traveling around Angol, Concepción or anywhere nearby. It’s the best viewpoint from the whole mountain range and one of the best in Chile.

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The Piedra del Águila is located in the Nahuelbuta National Park, a stunning location especially known for its unique Araucarian trees, which are extremely tall and resemble stools popping out over the dense forest below.

These unique trees are native to central and southern Chile and western Argentina. They are considered to be a Chilean national tree and the Nahuelbuta National Park is a great place to see them while also taking in the views of the west and east.

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The Piedra del Águila, a large rock that looks out over the great forest and the National Park, offers extraordinary views towards the Pacific Ocean and Mocha Island on one side, and to the volcanoes and towering mountains of the Andes on the other side.

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The trek up to the rock alone is an awesome adventure, the Araucaria trees will tower over you as you walk through the dense forest.

From the park entrance, it takes roughly 1 hour to get to the rock, along a 6km track. It’s a suitable walk for people of all ages to come and enjoy so take your family, your friends or even your colleagues to come on the adventure with you!

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Spring is the perfect time of the year to start your outdoor activities and get active again after the cold winter and it really is a phenomenal place that you must visit, whether you’re a local or a tourist!

If you traveling in Latin America, download the TheBesty app to book the best tours and activities, discover fun things to do, and find the guaranteed lowest prices on hotel bookings – all in Latin America.

Download TheBesty app in the App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android).

Vineyard Tours With More Than Just Wine

One of the best things about visiting Chile is that in just a couple of hours you can make it from the heart of the desert to the beach, from snow capped mountaintops to the city, or from the countryside to the depths of former mines. Even better yet, you can do this all with a glass of wine in hand. Check out these fantastic tours which offer more than just wine.

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Discovering Chile’s Best Vineyards

If you love a glass of wine or two, and you’re about to visit Chile, South America’s viticulture centre of excellence, you’re about to visit a country with 400 vineyards dedicated to the production of premium wines! The majority of vineyard are concentrated in 8 valleys which find themselves located from the shadow of Los Andes, to a stones throw from the coast, from the outskirts of metropolis Santiago, to in tiny villages where life seems to go at the pace of an eternal Sunday. With so many options, the choice of which to visit can prove mind-boggling, but if you find yourself in this quandary, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. Keep reading and discover four of the best vineyards to visit during your time in this wonderful country.

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A guide to Chilean Spanish

To native Spanish speakers and non-native speakers alike, Chilean Spanish can sometimes leave you scratching your head wandering what all this ‘weón/wea’ nonsense is about, but don’t worry! Have a read of this guide to Chilean and the next time a Chilean asks you ‘cachai?’, you can respond with an emphatic ‘si po weón!’.

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Off The Beaten Path in Santiago de Chile

In Santiago, you are never short of things to do and places to see, however sometimes the crowds can begin to feel overwhelming. If you’re looking to get away from the hoards, check out these suggestions to discover some lesser-known hidden treasures.

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Top 5 Airbnbs in Southern Chile

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If you’re in Chile in search of natural hot springs, lush hiking trails, and jaw dropping scenery, come to the southern region, it has it all and more. For that reason, here are the top 5 Airbnbs in Southern Chile. From value, location, to the host and ratings – discover why these make our list. Continue reading

Top 5 Tips for Booking an Airbnb in Santiago Chile

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Santiago, Chile is a desirable destination for all types of travelers, and Airbnb is just as versatile in what it offers as this booming capital city. Before you book your stay, here are the top 5 tips for booking an Airbnb in Santiago, Chile. Continue reading