Menu Close

Chile – Santiago and the Atacama Desert

November / December 2022

After a few weeks at the touristy Playa Maya in Yucatan, Mexico I flew to Santiago de Chile, the capital of Chile. I have been to Chile several times and always enjoy coming back.

In 2009 I was in Patagonia and Chiloe. 2014 I traveled from Santiago de Chile north to the Atacama Desert. I visited Easter Island in 2015 and 2017 and 2017/2018 I traveled from the Atacama Desert in the north to Puerto Montt in the south.


Santiago de Chile

Bocanáriz Restaurant

A visit to the Bocanáriz Restaurant is a must for me on any trip to Santiago. The photo shows the list of wines served by the glass, all of which are from Chile.

This year they had an great lunch menu at an attractive price on offer. The photo shows the dessert.

Vina Cousino Macul Winery

This excellent winery is only 12 km from downtown Santiago and is accessible by direct bus. I liked the wines and the tour was very informative.

The cellar of the estate with up to 100 years old wines

Oporto Steak Bar

This restaurant in an elegant Santiago business district was new to me and serves excellent steaks. The crème brûlée was caramelized right at the table.

Since I had already seen most of the sights in Santiago during my previous visits, I went in search of lesser-known places.

Templo Bahá’í

After my visit to the main temple of the Bahá’í religion in Haifa/Israel, it was now the turn of the only temple of this religion in South America. It was opened in 2016 and impresses with its unique architecture. The individual parts of the building are made of marble and cast glass.

Parque Bicentenario

On the way to a restaurant I visited the Bicentenario Park with a pond, where besides flamingos …

… black and white swans live. This swan even has a young one on its back.

Aquí Está Coco

This restaurant is one of the best in Santiago for seafood and fish. I went to this restaurant back in January 2018. Meanwhile, it has moved, but the food is still top.

Now I know what abalones are (sea snails) and of course I ordered them again as an appetizer.

The waiter kindly showed me one of these sea snails before processing.

Mercado Central

The huge market is always worth a visit.

Halved pigs feet

South America is home to many varieties of corn. This corn is black.

Railroad Museum (Museo Ferroviario de Santiago)

About 15 historical locomotives and some wagons excite the railroad enthusiasts.

Senso Restaurant

The Senso Restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel delights with its architecture and upscale cuisine.

Atacama Desert

On approach to Calama, the gateway to the Atacama desert, the wind farms and solar collector systems become visible, for which the Atacama Desert offers ideal conditions.

Death Valley (Valle de la Muerte)

After a short walk from the main town of San Pedro de Atacama towards the northeast, I reached Death Valley. Like everywhere around San Pedro de Atacama, the rock formations here are spectacular.

Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna)

Visiting the Valle de la Luna is one of the highlights of an Atacama trip. I visited the valley several times before (2014 and 2017), but this time I was shocked. I always rode my bike to the Valley of the Moon in about an hour. Even before, I had to pay an entrance fee at the entrance to the protected area. This year, the entrance was only possible with an online ticket and the fee was increased heavily. In return I received a map, which I didn’t need and a ranger explained the area to me, which I already know. In the past I stayed until sunset and enjoyed the red lit rocks. All the more I was disappointed when I heard that some paths I know were now closed and all cyclists must leave the valley at 3 pm. In addition, the ranger drew my attention to the fact that on a narrow hiking trail is one-way, because crossing would be too dangerous. Under this pretext, more than three quarters of Swiss hiking trails could be defined as one-way trails. Oh dear! With the additional entrance fee, more rangers were hired to control the observance of these rules.

Despite everything, the landscape is still impressive.

As a well-behaved Swiss, I was at the ranger station at 3 p.m. sharp and wanted to sign out. The rangers smiled and said that this was not necessary. Mmmh … So I could have stayed longer without any problems.

Tour to the Geysir del Tatio

I had skipped the tour to the Geysir del Tatio on previous visits, probably because you have to get up early and it is very cold on the plateau at 4’000 meters early in the morning. But this time I wanted to visit one of the last outstanding sights. After two hours of driving we reached the plateau at the foot of the Tatio volcano before sunset. Steam was rising into the freezing air everywhere and hot water fountains a few meters high were shooting out of holes in the ground. We were out so early because the vapors are hardly visible at higher air temperature during the day.

On the way back, we stopped at a viewpoint of Putana Volcano.

An impressive experience!

Quebrada de Chulacao

The Atacama River flows through this valley. The entrance to the national park is a few kilometers north of San Pedro. Here I also received a map and explanations from a ranger. I soon left the bike and continued on foot, so that I could enjoy this great area in peace and find the best photo positions.

I visited this unique area already in 2017.

At the beginning, the valley is still wide.

Then the path becomes narrower and more spectacular.

View of the 5’916 meter high Licancabur volcano.

At the end of the hike I reached the church of San Isidro. Since 2017, the door and the cross on the church got a new color and there is no cross any more on the pedestal in front of the church.

The 5,916 meter high Licancabur volcano is also ever-present in the village of San Pedro de Atacama.

Pasteleria Suiza

The baker and owner of this patisserie is not Swiss, but he has gained professional experience in Switzerland.

Laguna Chaxa

On the way to the red rocks (Piedras rojas) we stopped at Laguna Chaxa, 55 km from the main town of San Pedro de Atacama, in the protected area La Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos. The lagoon is home to small artemia, a shrimp specie up to 1 cm in size, on which the numerous flamingos in the lagoon feed. Since the lagoon has no outlet and the water can only evaporate, the salt and mineral concentration is very high.

Red Rocks (Piedras Rojas)

After another 130 km, at an altitude of 4’200 meters, we reached the area of Piedras Rojas, which is covered by red rocks. The red color comes from the oxidized iron in the rocks. Although the weather was cloudy, I enjoyed the wildness of this windy and cool area.

Mars Valley (Valle de Marte)

A heavy wooden gate with a sign indicating construction work denied access to this valley which is only a few kilometers from San Pedro de Atacama. I hiked on and discovered a path not far from the gate that led into the valley without crossing an obstacle. Because of the official closure I was alone and also I paid no entrance fees here.

The further I went, the more impressive the landscape became.

The view at the end of the Mars Valley, in the background the Licancabur volcano

Piedra del Coyote viewpoint

I hiked further across the desert and reached this breathtaking viewpoint after 2 hours.

After another 40 minutes of hiking I came to the also fantastic

Likan-Antay viewpoint

On the hike back to San Pedro de Atacama

Christmas trees in the desert

From San Pedro de Atacama I traveled by bus over the Andes to Argentina. I took this photo from the bus, saying goodbye to the Licancabur volcano on the left of the picture.

The Atacama Desert around the main town of San Pedro de Atacama is a unique area that I always enjoy visiting.