Recommended in Chile

By Sean Logan
This item appears on page 29 of the February 2019 issue.

Sean and Joy Logan in Chile’s Rainbow Valley.

My wife, Joy, and I have a good-sized list of international locations we are eager to travel to. However, Chile was never on that list, that is, until our daughter received an internship in Valparaíso, creating a great excuse to go and visit her, June 29-July 7, 2018.

After doing a bit of research, we planned an action-packed week, staying in Viña del Mar, skiing in Valle Nevado and touring the Atacama Desert.

While Viña del Mar was just OK, we truly enjoyed touring the neighboring city of Valparaíso with our daughter, and I would specifically recommend Tours 4 Tips (Loreto 6, Santiago, Recoleta, Region Metropolitana, Chile; phone +56 2 2570 9939, tours4tips.com).

Tours 4 Tips offers two walking tours of the city. We took the 2½-hour "Valparaíso Offbeat" (which included a bus ride to get us up the hill). There were about 20 tour members, but they split us up into Spanish and English speakers, so our group had under 10.

The tour is truly free, and they encourage you (in a very genuine manner) to tip what you are able and only if you enjoyed the tour. If you are able and enjoyed it, they suggest $10-$20 per person. Our guide was passionate about his city and provided great information. We tipped $20 each. Great tour, great value!

I would also recommend SCL Transfer (www.scltransfer.cl). The transfer from the Santiago airport to Viña del Mar took 90 minutes, the trip from there to Valle Nevado took about four hours, and the trip back to the airport was around three hours.

The cost of the three transfers was $888 and very much worth it! We rode in a comfortable van that had chains for the snow. Our driver was highly dependable as well as skillful on the icy roads up the mountain.

After our ski trip, it was time to say good-bye to our daughter and head to the Atacama Desert. With its stunning geological features, all within an hour or so of our resort, this may be the most unique natural environment I have ever been to. I don't think there is any way to do justice to what we experienced, but I will give it a try.

We stayed at the Alto Atacama (Camino Pukará s/n, Suchor, Ayllú de Quitor, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile; phone +56 2 2912 3945, www.altoatacama.com), a fantastic resort. The rate of $500.50 per person per night included all food and excursions (up to two a day).

Upon our arrival, we met with our excursion planner, who expertly made recommendations and customized the trips to our preferences and length of stay. Note: It's important to plan, as some excursions require acclimatization.

We decided to start the first evening (Monday) with a star tour at the resort's observatory platform. Looking through a moderately powerful telescope, we were able to see Saturn, Jupiter and a star cluster.

On Tuesday we biked the Devil's Throat in the morning and spent the afternoon with rock art in the Rainbow Valley.

Wednesday started with a cactus hike and ended with the Moon and Mars valleys. The hike lasted two hours and was mostly downhill through a canyon. I would call it moderately difficult, since it had some steep areas. The hardest part was having to cross a small river in a few places; it involved jumping, but, as it was shallow, Joy just walked through the water.

Thursday included a long trip into the Andes for the El Tatio geyser field, then the Atacama Salt Flat and Toconao village.

Each tour was run by our hotel, and there were three or four tour members in each excursion group. All tours exceeded our expectations, but we especially enjoyed the Tatio geysers (take a warm jacket if you want to do that one), the colorful Rainbow Valley and the cactus hike, which followed a small river through a canyon.

The knowledge that the guides had of the area, as well as the great service we received there, made this resort worth the cost.

SEAN LOGAN
Katy, TX