San Pedro de Atacama (Part 2… Finally!)

On our last few days in San Pedro de Atacama, we booked a couple more tours of the surrounding area. One of the tours we ended up doing was el Valle de la Luna tour, which means valley of the moon. The reason it’s called that? You guessed it, it looks similar to the surface of the moon! It was just a couple kilometers away from town.

The rough terrain, sand dunes and multiple colors of the rock give the impression that you are actually on the moon. The only reason you know you are not on the moon is due to the hoards of people and tour buses all around you. Nonetheless it had some of the most interesting landscapes we had ever seen.

Salt mine equipment

Old salt mine equipment from back in the day

Close up of sand/salt/calcium deposits forming the Valle de la Luna

Close up of sand/salt/calcium deposits forming the Valle de la Luna

Moon valley landscapes

Crazy, cool, funky landscapes

Beautiful moon valley landscape!

Beautiful moon valley landscape!

It’s incredible how the earth almost designs itself over time. What we see now are as a result of earthquakes, volcanoes, shifting plates and even just wind! Check out these formations!

Tres Marias Valle de la Luna

This formation, the Tres Marias, was carved out over time by strong winds

Amphitheater Rock in Valle de la Luna

Amphitheater Rock in Valle de la Luna

largest sand dune in the region

Posing in front of the largest sand dune in the Valle de la Luna

Valle de la Luna terrain

Martian-like terrain

We stopped at the famous Coyote Rock to watch the sunset and get some great pics. It was both breathtaking and scary sitting on the tip of the rock overlooking the deep gorge below. It was the perfect finish to the day!

Coyote rock

Here we are, teetering on the tip Coyote Rock. Yes, that’s a giant fracture line in the rock.

Valley under Coyote Rock

Valley under Coyote Rock

The next day we had an early morning tour booked. We were told to be outside of our hostel and dressed warmly by 4:30 am. The company didn’t put enough emphasis on “dress warmly” (I’ll get back to that). Our van picked us up and there were a few people inside, half asleep. We eventually picked up a few more people and started the ascent to the Geysers del Tatio.

This geyser field is located at a staggering 4320 meters above sea level, amongst the highest in the world. It also has over 80 active geysers, some just tiny little boiling spurts of water coming from the ground and others up to 18 ft tall. These boiling temperatures can reach up to 185 degrees F – water boils at much lower temperatures at these high altitudes! There were rocks strategically placed around the geysers forming a path that we needed to follow. Around some of the larger geysers, a rock wall had been built for protection of the tourists. Sadly, within the last 6 months, a tourist accidentally fell into one of the larger ones (before the rock wall went up) and didn’t survive.



Tatio geysers

Geysers everywhere

Water spewing from one of the geysers

Water spewing from one of the geysers

We made sure we were really careful walking around the geysers, especially since it was just below freezing and we could not feel our extremities! We were ill prepared in our clothing choice but we had to ignore the cold and enjoy the experience. We were only freezing until the sun came up and when it did, we almost instantly felt better.

Freezing cold geysers

It was so cold, our lips turned blue

Jen warming up her hands over a boiling geyser

Jen warming up her hands over a boiling geyser

Hillside geysers

Hillside geysers

Giant sized geysers!

Giant sized steam towers

Gringo Eater, Tatio Geysers

Posing in front of the “Gringo Eater” geyser – gringos are known to jump in!

Check out the rest of our pics and vids and see the variety of wildlife at these altitudes. There were also some hot springs, which by the way we did not go in… We just couldn’t brave the cold!!

People in the hot springs

People braving the -5 degree celsius weather

Giant coots

Giant coots

Flamingos AND llamas?!

Flamingos AND llamas?!


Vicuñas that we saw along the way

Llama skewers... Delicious!!

Llama skewers… Delicious!! Does this count as wildlife?


Valparaíso, Chile ((AND a chance for YOU to WIN!!!))

Take a walk with us through Valparaíso and you could WIN your very own walking tour! Continue reading to find out how…

During our time in Santiago, we heard it was worthwhile to visit a couple of coastal towns just west of where we were staying – Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, where a well-known music festival is held annually. We didn’t actually see the festival because there were plenty of other things to do and see around town.

Valparaíso, the now colorful, artsy, bohemian city of Chile used to be a thriving port town until they opened the Panama Canal in 1950, killing the economy. It also became a place where the famous poet, Pablo Neruda, while overlooking the ocean from his bedroom window, wrote many of his well known poems. For his impact on the literary world, he was honored with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Cerro Florida (Florida Hill) in Valparaíso is where he has one of three homes, La Sebastiana, which is now a museum.

Pablo Neruda House Valparaíso

Pablo Neruda’s House in Valparaíso

Pablo Neruda House Valparaiso

View from Pablo Neruda’s bedroom window

Pablo Neruda

Wall painting near the Pablo Neruda museum

Although we’re typically not super excited about museums, we took a tour of the house since it was listed as one of the top things to do. From the moment we walked in, we were absolutely engrossed – the architecture, colors, collectibles, furniture, artwork, portraits – everything was so unique and full of character. As we listened to the handheld audio device, we wandered from room to room, floor to floor, it felt as though we had traveled back in time and could feel his presence. Unfortunately we were not able to capture any of these images because it was against the rules to take pictures of anything inside the house.

The next item on our agenda was a free walking tour of one of the main sections of Valparaíso. Our group of about 20 followed our guide through the vibrantly painted streets. The variety of street art ranged from simple scribbled graffiti to fully commissioned building-sized murals. Every corner we took, there was another piece waiting to be discovered. To keep their homes from getting “unwelcome decorations”, many homeowners have given some artists permission to create beautiful murals on their walls.

Valparaiso city scape cemetery

More vibrant views, the city’s three cemeteries are in the distance

Street are Valparaiso sidewalk

Art literally spilling into the street

Inti street art mural Valparaiso

Mural spanning several buildings by street artist Inti

Chinchinero hostel Valparaiso Chile

This hostel was named Chinchinero, which is a Chilean street performer

The city is full of small passageways, multicolored staircases and narrow streets. Some have said, it is not a city to be seen, it is a city to discover.

Piano staircase Valparaiso Chile

Piano staircase

Valparaiso street art stairs graffiti

Intricately detailed stair artwork

Street art Valparaiso Chile

This crumbling wall art was so fun to look at!

Valparaiso Chile walking tour

Strolling along the streets of Valparaiso during our walking tour

Chilean flag mural Valparaiso

Chilean flag mural

During the tour, we saw homes that were burned, crumbling and falling apart for different reasons. Because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Valparaíso must protect what are called patrimonial homes. These homes are not allowed to be torn down, even if already partially destroyed due to earthquakes, fires, etc. They can only be remodeled or refurbished from the inside. The facade cannot be changed whatsoever! The homes end up staying in these run down states due to the unaffordable expenses it would take to restore them. Interesting!

One of the most noticeable things about this city is that it is mainly made up of hills, 42 to be exact. For many people, climbing up these hills to get to their homes can become tiresome. Many take the peculiar looking elevators, known as funiculars that were built in the late 19th and early 20th century. Some of them, now using electricity instead of a water scales system or steam engine to function, are still used today. We braved a couple of the rickety looking contraptions and enjoyed the beautiful panoramic views they offered.

Valparaiso ascensor funicular Reina Victoria

The first funicular (ascensor) we took was the Reina Victoria

Ascensor Concepción Valparaiso Chile

Ascensor Concepción

Some of the homes had a nautical theme to them and were built to look like ships. They had a triangular shape, like the bow of a ship, and round windows resembling portholes. One home, the most famous one in Valparaíso, is well known for that look and has been nicknamed the “cruise ship house”.

Cruise ship house Valparaiso

The famous cruise ship house

Port of Valparaiso Chile

Port of Valparaiso. Can you see the hidden message?!

We discovered so many little gems while walking the city of Valparaíso and probably didn’t even scratch the surface. It would take months, if not years to see all of it!

The other coastal town we visited just a few metro stops north of Valparaíso was Viña del Mar. Think of it as a bit more of an “upscale” neighborhood with bigger restaurants, hotels and a huge casino!

Beach in Viña del Mar

Beach in Viña del Mar

Reloj clock in Viña del Mar

Famous clock in Viña del Mar

Viña del Mar castle

Castle on the shore in Viña del Mar

Selfie Shannon and Jen

Don’t think we’d get through a whole blog post without a selfie!

We didn’t spend as much time in Viña because we were mainly there to check out the beaches, and of course eat! We ended up having one of the best salads and pizza we had ever tasted. If you’re ever in Viña del Mar, we highly recommend Diego’s Pizza. Below are some pics of our pizza and other food from this stop!

Pizza with avocado, tomato and sweet corn cake

Pizza with avocado, tomato and sweet corn cake

Salad with shrimp, avocado, palm hearts and grated parmesan cheese

Salad with shrimp, avocado, palm hearts and grated parmesan cheese

Tapas Bar del Tio Valparaiso

Tapas at Bar del Tio, Valparaiso

Chicken and avocado sandwich in Chile

Chicken & avo sandwich before visiting Pablo Neruda’s house

Nachos in Valparaiso, Chile

“Nachos” in Chile? Almost!

Sushi Valparaiso

The sushi was pretty good!

Completo hot dog chile

The famous “completo” – a hot dog topped with avo, tomato and mayo. Bomb!

Do you love to discover cities on foot like we did in Valparaíso? If so, submit a comment and let us know about your next travel destination and why you’re heading there – whether it be local or on a whole different continent – and you could win a free self-guided walking tour to a city of your choice, courtesy of GPSmyCity currently has over 470 cities worldwide available to choose from!

The promo codes work on both iOS and Android devices. The first 20 readers that leave a comment on this post telling us about their upcoming travels will each win a free code. Click below for a list of cities to choose from – some may be closer than you think!

*** Important – remember to include in your comment your upcoming travel destinations and/or a city you’d like to visit using a self guided tour!***

GPSmyCity – List of cities to choose from

Giveaway ends April 6th 

Good luck!

We are not hippies we are happies Valparaiso Chile

We are happies!

Puerto Natales & Torres del Paine, Chile

Hellooooo Chile!

Off to a different part of Patagonia, this time in Chile! The main reason we came to Puerto Natales was to see one of Chiles most famous national parks, Torres del Paine, and Puerto Natales is a good starting point. We took a relatively short bus ride from El Calafate into the small town of Puerto Natales. Our first bus ride crossing international borders was actually pretty uneventful, as it should be. We had to all get off the bus a couple times to get our passports stamped and get luggage scanned but before we knew it, we were pulling into town.

We stayed in a hostel called El Sendero, which was definitely a few notches up from our last one in El Chaltén (as far as looks go). It was really cozy and cabin-like, a stark contrast with the cold weather outside. This will be the closest town to the southern tip of the continent that we will be exploring and we could definitely feel the icy quality of the air. Every morning we had a delicious breakfast waiting for us in the very spacious kitchen. It was a great place to stay!

El Sendero Hostel Puerto Natales Chile Patagonia

El Sendero Hostel Puerto Natales Chile Patagonia

El Sendero Hostel Puerto Natales Chile Patagonia

El Sendero Hostel Puerto Natales Chile Patagonia

Our first day we spent wandering around the port town. It was a little overcast but we could still see the dramatic backdrop of the snow peaked Andes – it really felt as if we were nearing the southern tip of the world. There were many boats scattered around the port, all in different states – in and out of the water, some being used for work, some for pleasure and some being refurbished. Many of them were full of color and life and some were just lifeless, shells of what they used to be.

Boats in Puerto Natales Chile

Boats in Puerto Natales Chile

Boats in Puerto Natales Chile

Boats in Puerto Natales Chile


Since we were going to be there for only a day or so, we decided a guided tour through the national park would suffice. They would basically take us through the main points of interest in the park – yes, it was one of those hop on/hop off lazy people tours. We wanted to see the whole park and there was just no way to do it any other way.

The bus picked us up at 8:00 AM and it was a full one! Our guide, Gabriela did an exceptional job of keeping us entertained whilst providing us with pertinent information about the national park.  

The first of many stops was the Cueva de Milodon (Mylodon Cave). This cave was first discovered around 1895 by a German guy who stumbled upon some remains of a giant sloth-like animal called a Mylodon, which in fact had already been discovered earlier by some dude named Darwin. They are said to have lived approx 10,000-13,000 years ago! Pretty neat!

Cueva del Milodón Chile Patagonia

Cueva del Milodón Chile Patagonia


Jen posing with the life-sized milodon

Jen posing with the life-sized milodon

From here, we started heading towards the park and on the way encountered a real gaucho, herding his sheep with the help of his two best friends, a couple of dogs! The bus had to stop because the sheep were strewn all over the road running in different directions. They had lost their way, if you will. Alas they were recovered safely and we were on our way.

Gaucho herding sheep in Chilean Patagonia

Gaucho herding sheep in Chilean Patagonia

A little while later we saw the famous Andean Condor. It is basically a large black vulture with white patches and can have a maximum wingspan of over 3 meters! It was incredible to see them just soaring above us.

Andean Condors in Chile

Andean Condors in Chile

Another interesting animal that was plentiful in the area is the Guanaco, a type of llama native to South America. We were able to catch them from the bus almost the whole way there. The scenery on the way to the park was stunning.

Chilean guanaco

Chilean guanaco

Guanaco on the lookout

Guanaco on the lookout


Vantage point over the valley before entering the eastern entrance to Torres del Paine

Vantage point over the valley before entering the eastern entrance to Torres del Paine

After gaining entry into the park and driving for a bit, we could finally see the famous Torres del Paine (blue towers). They are granite peaks that are approx 2,500 meters above sea level. They were partially covered by clouds at first, but later in the day revealed themselves.

Torres Del Paine Chile

Torres Del Paine Chile

As we continued along the tour, there were many stops to see the beautiful lakes, glaciers, and waterfalls along with the different angles of the mountain range. The weather permitted us to take some great pictures that day. We some how keep getting lucky with the weather!




We stopped here to eat our lunch we packed with us

We stopped here to eat our lunch we packed with us

Suspension bridge on the way to Grey glaciar

Suspension bridge on the way to Grey glaciar

A glacier, just chillin'

A glacier, just chillin’

Granite towers

Granite towers



Salto Grande Waterfall

Salto Grande Waterfall

Oldest hotel in the park, Hostería Pehoé, dating back to 1959

Oldest hotel in the park, Hostería Pehoé, dating back to 1959

Even though we didn’t have time to challenge ourselves with a grueling trek of any sort, we were still able to capture the essence of this grand national park. We would love to return to do the popular 4-5 day “W” trek through the park.

We said goodbye to the town of Puerto Natales, took a bus ride to Punta Arenas where we slept over night at the airport (which, with so many people sleeping in their sleeping bags looked like a hostel by the way). We had an early flight the next morning to Santiago. From there, our friends picked us up and took us to their home just outside of Santiago, Chile, a place where we could hang out and relax for a little while…

Rock climbing like a pro. Nailed it.

Rock climbing like a pro. Nailed it.

El Chaltén, Argentina

Our next stop after the glacier was the trekking capital of El Chaltén which is just a short bus ride north of El Calafate. It’s a haven for backpackers from all over the world who come to see the beautiful sights only accessible by trekking and camping. More than half of the town is made up of hotels and hostels, with the latter making up the majority. The town itself is small and simple. It sits in the shadow of many snow capped mountains and the famous Monte Fitz Roy. There are glaciers, lakes, and rivers of pure, clean, ice cold water that we drank plenty of – without having to sterilize it first. It was the best water we’ve ever tasted.



The day we arrived, the weather was terrible. The winds were so strong we could hardly walk in a straight line from the bus station to our hostel. We couldn’t see a single mountain in the dense cloud cover. The rain was coming down sideways at us and we started to doubt our trekking abilities in those kinds of conditions. We got some groceries and settled into our hostel and prayed for better weather the following day.

Our hostel was, for lack of a better term, hideous. See picture. At $39/night you’d think the accommodations would be a little nicer? We weren’t even sure if was the right place since it looked like an abandoned, dilapidated building. We laughed a little bit about it before we went in. But once inside, we were shown around and it was actually a pretty cool place. The bathrooms were fairly new and clean and our bunk beds in our shared room were cozy. Our roommates were really cool too and we made some good friends out of it. It was just right for us!


We haven’t had the best of luck at times during our trip so we couldn’t believe our eyes the next morning when we woke up to clear blue skies and a perfect view of the Fitz Roy right from our bedroom window! We chose to do the most popular, scenic trail called Laguna de los Tres. It brings you up close and personal to the foot of Fitz Roy, where a beautiful glacier lake sits. It was a 10 km trek to the lake, and very challenging. The last kilometer alone is supposed to take around an hour or more since it is very steep and made up of mostly rocks and boulders. Signs are even posted before the ascent warning hikers against the climb in high winds.



In total, it took us about 5 hours to reach the lake. One of our roommates, C.J. from New York, trekked with us that day and we all took turns keeping each other motivated to keep going. We even found some bracelets along the way that somebody must’ve dropped from their pack on the way up. We each took one and left the rest for the next trekkers to find.




Once we reached the lake, the struggle was worth it. We forgot about our aching muscles and feet once we laid eyes on the bright turquoise glacier lake and the imposing face of Fitz Roy. Check out a quick video from the top!

We spent several hours wandering the area and found rivers, waterfalls and plenty of rocks to climb. Jen enjoys risking life and limb and getting as close as possible to the edges of pretty much anything so she had a good time up there.





We took about a million pictures and soaked it all in as much as we could before starting our descent. Another 4 hours of trekking down the mountain truly tested our limits and our feet so we had to stop for a few happy hour beers before getting back to the hostel. They were probably the best beers we’ve ever had! We agreed that getting lost in Bariloche for those 30 km’s definitely helped us to do the 20 km hike that day.

The next day, the weather had turned back to being windy and rainy. There was a little bit of sun peeking through the clouds so we decided to head out anyways with another friend from the hostel, Elena from Italy. This picture of us looks deceivingly sunny and nice!


We decided on the Laguna del Torre trek, which was a 9 km trek to a different lake. It wasn’t as steep as the previous trail but it still had its challenges. We had strong winds and a bit of rain during our trek but during the last 1 km it started to get much worse.



Trekkers coming in the opposite direction warned us to turn back because of the winds. Naturally, we kept going. We had come so far and wanted to get a peek at that lake with its glacier at its side. As we got closer and closer, the winds were pushing us in all directions and sand and rocks were pelting us. We pulled our jackets over our faces and kept going until we could peek – for just a moment – over the last hill down into the lake. Jen braced herself on a rock to take a short video with the GoPro, check it out!

We checked out of the hostel the next day and said goodbye to friends we had made. The weather once again was terrible, windy and rainy and there were a lot of new people arriving just for a day or two who were seriously bummed out about not being able to do the Fitz Roy trek that we had done a few days before. We still can’t believe our luck and we are so thankful for being able to see such a beautiful place on earth.


That’s it for Argentina!  Next we head into Chile to check out the other side of Patagonia!

El Calafate/Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

We didn’t want to risk another bus catastrophe so we booked a flight to El Calafate. We were there in a snap!

We got lucky yet again with a super awesome AirBnB host named Ezequiel. He’s actually a tour guide and had plenty of good tips for us. We stayed in a guest house on his property on the edge of town, and spent a little time with him and his family talking about our trip over tea. We could see the beautiful turquoise lake (Lago Argentina) from our front window. The lake was dotted with pink flamingos and swans with black necks. There was even a hammock in the living room! It was a lovely, relaxing place.


The main attraction and reason for our visit was to see the spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier. The ice formation is approximately 97 sq miles and where it ends – the part we view – the avg height is about 74 meters (240 ft). That’s a smidge taller than the height of the Drop Tower (formerly Drop Zone) at Great America! It’s also only 1 of 3 glaciers in Patagonia that is continually advancing. Neither of us had ever seen a glacier in our lives so we were pretty excited to see one, especially one so grandiose!


It did not disappoint. We spent hours at the park, first on a boat taking us slowly along the face of the glacier, then afterwards we walked for hours taking in the enormity of it. You could hear the flowing water within the glaciers rivers and waterfalls. We waited patiently for pieces of ice to fall and then listened for the big booming sound each piece made as it hit the water. The pieces falling looked small from where we were standing but in reality, they’re the size of cars, houses, and some even bigger still.







Here’s us having lunch at the park ((CLICK TO WATCH))

You’d think a full day of staring at a block of ice waiting for it to melt would be boring but we could barely take our eyes off of it in time to catch the bus back to our house. It’s not something we will soon forget.