A Must See! The Impressive Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia

While in the Atacama desert, other travelers had been telling us about the Salar de Uyuni tour (salt flat tour). We weren’t 100% sure that we were going to do it, but after hearing great stories, we decided it had to be done.

After a few obstacles, including a shady tour company, a $160 (each) visa fee for entrance into Bolivia, and almost not being able to access money from the ATM, things were looking bleak. We thought that the trip might actually not happen, especially when the van to pick us up from our hostel did not show up on time. We were ready to accept that possibility.

Once we made it past our final obstacle (the Bolivian border), we met Martín, who was to become our driver and guide for the tour we were about to embark on. What we didn’t know at the time was that this trip would become our favorite experience thus far.

Martín and his Land Cruiser drove six of us (us and our new friends Sarah, Kayla, Nicolas and Angela) through some of the most stunning landscape and terrain we had ever seen.

Cruising through Bolivian desert

Cruising through Bolivian desert

The first 2 days included desert terrain, giant rock formations, lagunas, flamingos and chinchillas. We also stayed in a refugio and an actual hotel made of salt!

One of the species of flamingos we saw along the way

One of the species of flamingos we saw along the way

The culmination of the trip was the third and final day where we got to see the largest salt flat in the world! The Salar de Uyuni is one of the most breathtaking places on earth you can ever see and experience.

Soaking up the beauty with some amateur ballet

Soaking up the beauty with some amateur ballet

After watching the sunrise over the salt flats and taking a million pictures, we had a few more stops to make. One was a random rock island (Isla Incahuasi) in the middle of the salt flat filled with giant cacti! Another, the Cemetario de trenes, used to be a functional railway for mineral transport since the late 1800’s. Now it sits as an old train graveyard since the 1940’s.

View from the top of Cactus Island

View from the top of Cactus Island

Too cool for the train yard

Too cool for the train yard

Check out our photo album for the rest of our pics and watch the video below of our amazing trip!


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?


Bahía Inglesa/Caldera, Chile

We took another bus even further north in Chile to visit a small town called Bahía Inglesa. We stayed in the nearby town of Caldera (it was cheaper) for a couple days so we could get a glimpse of the turquoise waters that Bahía Inglesa is known for. Just a short 7 min drive south of Caldera, it was the first beach we had hung out on since Rio!

The first thing we saw stepping out of the car was the beautiful bright blue waters with lots of different rock formations creating little coves for people to swim in. The sand was very white and there was not a shortage of seashells at all!

Bahía Inglesa, Chile

Bahía Inglesa, Chile

Bahía Inglesa, Chile

Chile’s version of the Caribbean?

Bahía Inglesa, Chile

Pelican poop covered rock

Bahía Inglesa, Chile

Lizard sunbathing

Bahía Inglesa, Chile

Beautiful day on the beach

Bahía Inglesa seashells

Thousands of awesome seashells!

We pitched our umbrella, read books, practiced our Spanish, and had fun collecting seashells to make “abstract art”. Give us a break, we were bored! The shells were incredible though.

Bahía Inglesa, Chile

Shannon’s creation

Back near our hostel in Caldera, there was not too much going on. It’s a quiet little port town, with a lot of stray dogs. We walked around and were able to snag a few pictures of some pretty old machinery. Maybe something to load or unload boat cargo? In any case, it was very interesting to imagine what it looked like back in its hay day.

Caldera, Chile

Our gang of dogs came with us wherever we went

Caldera, Chile

Huge structures falling apart

Casa Mariela Hostel Caldera

Our hostel, Casa Mariela

Later on that night, we went out to dinner and made a few friends, listened to some live music and danced a little, too!

Caldera, Chile

New friends, they are from Viña del Mar

It was a nice few days, but we had enough of the beach and were definitely ready for some real adventure! On to the most visited destination of northern Chile, San Pedro de Atacama!

Vicuña/Pisco Elqui, Chile

After filling our minds and eyeballs with lots of art and port culture, it was time to escape to a more rural area. Abundant with vineyards and located in the Valle de Elqui, Vicuña seemed like the ideal environment we were looking for.

So, we finally did it – after 50+ days of traveling, we actually missed our bus to Vicuña! Literally sprinting towards the bus terminal (following a couple of different metro lines to make our 1:00 pm bus), much to our dismay the bus had already left. It was only 1:06pm….!

Thank goodness there was another bus going to the next closest city, La Serena, and we were able to catch a ride with them. Interesting enough, our bus actually caught up with our original bus and we were able to hop on and continue directly to Vicuña, phew!!

Our Airbnb host, Carlos, surprised us by picking us up from the bus terminal and taking us to his home a few minutes away. Him and his wife were very accommodating! They owned a small shop in town where they sold children’s clothing but we didn’t know it until we stumbled upon it while walking downtown. They welcomed us out of the hot sun, into their shop and gave us some juice. While hanging out, we showed them our blog and they were excited to read about our adventures.

Jen showing our blog to our hosts

Jen showing our blog to our hosts!

Vicuña is the place of birth to the other Chilean poet and educator, Gabriela Mistral, who, 26 years before Pablo Neruda (one of her students!), also won the Nobel Prize in Literature. She was the first Spanish-American woman to ever receive this honor.

During our stay, one of the things we did was take a bike tour. This time there was no guide – just us, our bikes, and a map! The map led us through a couple pisqueras (or pisquerias), a Hare Krishna retreat, some small villages, a cervecería, solar kitchens, several vineyards and most of all some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve ever laid our eyes on. The whole trip was a total of about 18k, in the blazing hot sun!

Vicuña bike tour

Vicuña bike tour

Vicuña vineyards

Vicuña vineyards

Hare Krishna retreat called EcoTruly

Hare Krishna retreat called EcoTruly

EcoTruly, Vicuña


Aba Pisquera, Vicuña

Aba Pisquera

Aba Pisquera, Vicuña

Distillation area

Cerveceria, Vicuña

Cerveceria Guayacan

Pisco vineyards, Vicuña

Pisco vineyards


More beautiful Vicuña scenery

Vicuña donkey

We stopped to say hello to this little guy

The following day, we visited the neighboring town of Pisco Elqui, which is known as the heart of Chilean pisco production. You can’t come here without trying a few pisco sours, yum!! We also walked around the small town and admired some of the street art and quirky restaurants.

Pisco sours, Pisco Elqui

Pisco sours, trying different flavors

Mistral Pisqueria Pisco Elqui

Pisco Mistral

Pisco Elqui

Salad in Pisco Elqui, so good!

Pisco Elqui restaurant

Pisco Elqui restaurant

Pisco Elqui street art

Pisco Elqui street art

Church in Pisco Elqui

Church in Pisco Elqui

Selfie :-)

Selfie 🙂

Vicuña was a great scenic, relaxing place to hang out for a few days and pickle ourselves in pisco. Next up, the coastal town of Caldera!

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.com. 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!