Travel explorations of nature and beauty in Chile

2014-01-07 13.50.20My favorite hike in the Cochamo Valley. Straight up for 3.5 hours!

The main reason we picked Chile for this year’s vacation was its national parks and stunning natural beauty. Over our many years of travel we’ve realized we are happiest when hiking and exploring the natural world are part of our experience.

Chile has an incredible park system distributed throughout the country which highlights the diverse ecosystems that exist there. We spent a lot of time in and near mountains, rivers, waterfalls, forests and lakes. Mark said he thought it was the most hikes we ever took in one month. And most of them were straight up – a bit much sometimes for flatlanders like us!

The Andes is the longest mountain range in the world and it borders Chile to the east. It seemed that everywhere we looked the Andes were there in the background– huge volcanoes, snow-capped peaks and undulating ranges as far as the eye could see.

Here are some of my favorite photos from our adventures.

man on way to cochamo valley nature in chile

After a seven-mile hike with our backpacks, we had to traverse this river in a makeshift pulley and cart system to access our hostel. It was a little nerve-racking, but Refugio Cochamo was our favorite stop by far!

2014-01-07 17.31.48

Mark sliding down the Tobagon, a rock water slide, found in the Cochamo Valley.


2014-01-10 10.50.38Since it was summer there was fruit everywhere, like these cherries for sale on the street.


2014-01-24 13.15.50Mark hiking up the side of a volcano. There was a great view right over that ridge.


IMG_4799Araucaria, or the monkey puzzle tree.


2014-01-15 13.27.46On this hike in Huerquehue National Park we visited three mountain lakes. We stayed in the beautiful Refugio Tinquilco right at the edge of the park.


IMG_4786Experiencing a little bit of Wisconsin at the lake in Huerquehue National Park.


IMG_4811Fuschia is native to Chile so it was everywhere.


2014-01-30 12.35.25As we moved more north towards Santiago, the capital, the landscape became much drier. We took of our long pants and jackets and switched to shorts and t-shirts.


2014-01-12 17.24.46-1We stayed in some cute places we found on Airbnb, including this yoga studio on an island.


Travels in ChileThis place had a snowstorm in the mountains one night, and when we woke up in the morning the peaks were highlighted in white against a green foreground. Amazing!

Chile is a long and skinny country, separated by immense distances. During our one month of travel we were only able to experience a small part of what Chile has to offer. We traveled around by public transportation, which was convenient and inexpensive, but we weren’t able to reach all of the parks we would have liked to visit. Next time, I would rent a car for part of the trip and head to the more out of the way national parks.

We didn’t book any accommodations ahead of time because we were meeting friends when we first arrived and wanted to hear their itinerary suggestions before doing any planning. This worked pretty well and we were always able to find a place to stay. Airbnb is my favorite way to find accommodations in the US, but it wasn’t quite as popular in Chile, so we often relied on Trip Advisor and personal recommendations instead.

purple hydrangeas lining the street in chile

(If you’ve never tried Airbnb, it’s awesome! We’ve stayed in over 40 properties in several different countries and have had only great experiences so far. Use my referral code to sign up and save $40 on your first stay!)

Chile is definitely a country I would visit again in the future! I’d like to further explore the national parks and reserves, and experience the eastern side of the Andes in Argentina. But, first, there are other countries on our to visit list.

How can we afford to travel to South America you ask? We have a budget range we stick to for our winter travels, which in the past has prevented us from going to any location that was too far and too expensive fly to (like South America and Asia).

A few years ago I discovered travel hacking and since then we’ve flown to Chile for $200 total, New Zealand for $350 total, and Thailand for $100 total. I’m always in the process of earning my miles for next year’s trip – wherever that may be! You can read more about travel hacking here and here.


Other travel posts:

Grateful Reflections on Travel in Chile

Chicago Area Travel Destinations for Gardeners

Let Go of the Shoulds and Let Yourself Do Nothing




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