Chile: Weekend Adventures – Part 1

Hi everyone!  So I am at the end of my semester here and can’t believe how fast the time has flown.  It has been fun and challenging, but I am ready for it to be over so that I can start my SA travels!  It’s difficult to do a lot in just a weekend so I’ve been making plans to travel more after the program.  I want to see more of Chile and some of the surrounding countries before heading back.  The Hoch will be joining me for some of it too!

For this post, I will focus on some of the weekend trips that I’ve been able to take.  Most have been to destinations that are about 2-3 hours away from my home base, La Ligua, while a couple have been even further (6-7 hours max).  I’ll break this post up based on destinations since a I’ve been to a few more than once.

Viña del Mar: (2 hour bus ride)

I’ve been to Viña a few times, first to meet up with other volunteers for what became a monthly get-together and another time for a second meetup which involved another volunteer’s birthday asado.  Viña del Mar is a really nice and clean city.  Very modern with beaches, nice malls, restaurants, and even Uber!  My first time, I didn’t think it was anything too special, just another city, but is has grown on my a bit since my second visit.  I will get to see more of the city in a week since I am scheduled to participate in the English Winter Camps there as part of the volunteer program. 🙂

First monthly meetup with fellow volunteers. Dinner at a Mexican Restaurant.
Being Tourists with my 2 partners in crime, Kate and Jessie (both Aussies), at Museo Fonck
Viña Beaches
Group shot at a fellow volunteer’s birthday asado (cookout).

Valparaíso: (2.5 hour bus ride)

I’ve also been to Valpo a few times to meet up with fellow volunteers.  Sometimes we will split our time between Viña and Valpo since they are pretty close and there is a metro that runs between the two cities along the coast.  Valpo is a colorful, port city filled with murals, cerros (hills), and is known for its nightlife.  Valpo is a dirtier city, but has character.  I liked Valpo instantly.  I think you’ll see why just by looking at the photos.

Murals for days….

Seriously, just walking around this city is so interesting.  Hills and murals along with some coffee and/or ice cream shops and you’ve got yourself a nice way to spend the afternoon.

Port view from one of Pablo Neruda’s homes (a famous Chilean poet and Nobel Prize winner)
First night out on the town with Brenden (from the states), Jessie, and Kate in Valpo. It took some time, but I’ve adjusted to Chilean night life. You just need to start late and pace yourself. Before you know it, it’s 5am.
Happy Hippies (here with Lucy, a Canadian, and Cindy, from Phoenix)
Piano stairs and girls weekend with Lucy, Cindy, Laura (from LA), and me!

La Serena, Coquimbo, and Valle de Elqui: (6+ hour bus ride)

La Serena, Coquimbo and Valle de Elqui are in the Coquimbo Region (Region IV) and is the furthest north I’ve been in Chile so far.  I went with fellow volunteer Jessie for a long 3-day weekend.  And I think it’s been one of my favorite weekend trips here in Chile so far.  If I could describe it in one word, I would have to pick “Random”.  Jessie and I did not plan much of anything in advance aside from transportation and lodging.  We just sort of flew by the seat of our pants, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much.  Sometimes those are the best trips.  I’ll dive into some of the randomness in a bit.

To begin, La Serena is a nice clean city and has been compared to the San Francisco of Chile as far as the weather goes.  For the most part, warmer temps all year around, but very cloudy at times.  Coquimbo is a nearby port city, and similar to how Valpo is to Viña, Coquimbo is a dirty city, but has more character.  Valle de Elqui is further inland and consists of several small towns, pisco distilleries (local alcohol), and observatories for star gazing (which was absolutely amazing by the way)!  The scenery is beautiful and the weather was nice with sunny, clear skies.  I would say it was definitely a highlight of our time in the Coquimbo Region.

Now on to the random bits of the trip:

Our first night in Vicuña (a town in Valle de Elqui), we signed up to go to the Mamalluca Observatory.  We were part of a small group and had a driver take us up to the observatory.  After spending several hours taking in the views of the Milky Way, learning about different constellations, and seeing some stars and even Jupiter in a telescope, we headed back down to the town.  We were hungry and started asking our driver, Juan, for any recommendations.  He dropped us off at a recommended place and even offered to drive us around the next day so we could site see some more of the valley.  The following day, we took him up on his offer.  He took us to some nearby villages, view points, and a pisco tour in a local pisquera.  He was nice and all, but in retrospect, we should’ve done our own thing.  He wasn’t a tour guide and turned out he was just smitten with us.  We had to tell him where to go which defeated the purpose of having a local show us around.  We should’ve known this based on the fact that the night before he had us sit in the front seat with him even though there was plenty of room in the back of the van.  Oh well, guess you don’t know for sure until you try.  Can’t complain about the views though.

Valle de Elqui Scenery
Our driver for the day, Juan
Pisquera Fundo Los Nichos

After our “tour” of Valle de Elqui, we headed back to La Serena and went to check into our hostel.  Well our hostel had overbooked, but had availability at their other location.  So the owner’s daughter came and picked us up.  The other location happened to be on a dirt road in the middle of what looked like abandoned fields.  There was a love motel down the street and in order to get to the main road, you had to walk along a random trail, eventually step over a small guardrail, and then cross over some railroad tracks.  It seemed a little sketchy, but the hostel itself was nice so we went with it.  Plus since we had to switch locations, we were upgraded to a private room and bathroom!

That evening, there was an asado at the hostel so we decided to do that for dinner and made plans to head out on the town that evening.  After a late dinner and some pregaming, Jessie and I went to a bar and then a night club at the casino.  We had a pretty good time once the club became busy (which was at 3am by the way!).  We decided to head back around 4:30am.  We arrived back at the hostel and could hear some techno music blasting down the street.  I had washed my face, brushed my teeth, and crawled into bed when Jessie was like “Get up, we’re going to find this music!”.  So I reluctantly got up, got dressed, and we headed back out.  We followed the music and found what looked like a rented space for a house party.  There was a DJ, a bar, and a dance floor.  We met some locals there and continued dancing until we were too tired to keep going.  Supposedly there was an after the after party thing that would start at 7am!  We did not even try to go to that.

After sleeping half of the following day, we made ourselves get out of bed and met up with some other volunteers for a late lunch along with exploring both La Serena and Coquimbo.

Some photos from that day:

La Serena
Jessie and I were able to meet up with fellow volunteers, Cindy and Laura at El Faro (lighthouse) in La Serena
La Serena Beach
Coquimbo Street Shot

Our last morning there, we were up early and ready to explore a bit more before our 1pm bus back home.  We had already seen a lot of the must-see places and instead started talking to the neighbors of the hostel.  There were 2 old men standing in a field of some sort.  We started to make small talk with them and before we knew it, one was driving us around La Serena giving us a local tour of the city before dropping us off back at the hostel.  He was super nice and enthusiastic about his city.  It was a nice (and random) way to end the trip. 🙂

Anyways, that is all I’ve got for now.  If you’d like to see more photos, check out the following google albums:

Chile: Valparaíso & Viña del Mar

Chile: Valle de Elqui, La Serena, & Coquimbo

I’ll try and post part 2 within a week instead of letting another month pass by. :/ I hope you all enjoyed the 4th of July weekend back home!  I’ll say it’s a bit strange to experience winter weather for the 4th.  Doesn’t feel right at all.

Until next post!


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