“The city that touches the sky” — While the official capital of Bolivia is Sucre, La Paz has more government departments, and at 11,975 ft. is the highest administrative capital, and highest large city in the world. Michael and I realized that we’ve been above 8,000 ft since San Pedro in the end of March. And we’ll continue that trend until Lima, Peru at the end of April.
One of the highest cities in the world at an elevation of 13,420 ft, Potosi is a true mining community, but felt a little like San Jose, Costa Rica to me. Very poor, dirty streets, trash everywhere, terrible traffic, and the worst pollution I’ve ever encountered. It was physically difficult to take a deep breath. The city is packed with Bolivians living their lives, and not many tourists exploring the town.
I must admit, Bolivia wasn’t on our initial list of “Must See Places”, but after traveling through South America and every traveler we encountered exclaimed in sheer horror, “WHAT? You’re not going to Bolivia?? It’s amazing!!” We knew we had to change some plans. Thankfully, when you don’t have a definitive plan in the first place, changing them is quite easy 🙂
San Pedro de Atacama.
We took a two hour flight from Santiago to Calama in Northern Chile on Sky Airlines. Then a one-and-a-half hour bus from Calama to San Pedro. A beautiful drive through the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world, encircled by volcanos in every direction. You may have heard of the Atacama before as this is the region that the 33 Chilean miners were trapped and survived in 2010. No, we didn’t go to the mine, we only stayed in San Pedro. There was enough excitement there.
A 10-hour overnight bus ride from Santiago, delivered us to the adventure-filled, adrenaline-junkie loving town of Pucon.
As I mentioned in my previous post, we used Santiago as our homebase during our time in Chile. That’s a perk of having good friends that live abroad! Halfway through our time in Santiago, we took a couple of days to explore other beautiful regions of the country, including the coastal towns of Valparaiso and Zapallar. Here are those adventures:
Santiago – I’ve been excited to visit you since Michael fell in love with your empanadas and Pisco Sours when he first came to Valle Nevado Ski Resort for work with Mammoth back in 2012. And I must say, you definitely lived up to my expectations.
Those who know me, know I love wine. White, red, rose, champagne. All of it. Some may call me a wino, but I just appreciate all types of wine and don’t discriminate. Unless they’re terrible, of course. Thankfully, in the wine region of Argentina, known for their Malbecs, I’m pretty safe and easily pleased.
Torres del Paine – Chile
After reading dozens of blogs comparing backcountry excursions in El Chalten to Torres del Paine, each stunning and full of adventure, we knew we HAD to experience both. Due to the weather in Chalten being less than ideal, we cut the trip short and headed back to Calafate and straight into a day trip to Torres del Paine, Chile, through Patagonia Extrema South Road Excursions. The thing I find so incredible about the Patagonia region is it’s sheer size; creating a natural barrier dividing Argentina and Chile, both countries able to pride themselves on this beautiful landscape.
El Chalten — A backpacker’s haven — Not much to do in this sleepy little town with one main street of a couple restaurants and a handful of hiking/camping shops and outdoor equipment rentals. Most people use this place as a home base to gather supplies then head into the backcountry. We were told you need a week or two here in order to see everything and take advantage of all the hiking. However, if the weather isn’t on your side, there’s not much else to do here. Thankfully, heading into Fall, we had one lucky day.