Today’s blog post comes to us from Texas A&M student & new API alumni Jane Turchi! She just returned from an API study abroad program in Valparaíso, Chile.
No study abroad experience is complete without trips!
During my time living and studying in Chile, it became important to develop a schedule ensuring that there is plenty of time to study, adventure and reset. This can be difficult when the week gets busy and there’s a long list of things to see and do. While there is plenty to do here around Valparaíso, some of my favorite days have been spent on trips to other cities in Chile.
A long country encompassing many diverse regions mostly accessible by buses, this makes Chile a great place for weekend getaways. These trips also allowed me to see more of Chile’s rural regions and enjoy some differing climates and environments.
It is winter here in Chile, and while it is fun to bundle up in sweaters, my friends and I were ready for some sunshine. With this in mind, we made plans to travel to the north to the city of Antofagasta. A smaller port city in the south of the Atacama Desert, Antofagasta is known for the copper mining in the region.
Defined by the beautiful coastline, the city is proud of La Portada, a local park featuring a natural stone arch. When the weather is nice, Antofagasta’s beach is also decorated with many vendors selling anything from socks to soaps to handmade jewelry. Here is an art piece I found from a local artist. The piece made a great Fathers’ Day present for my host dad!
While Antofagasta isn’t top on the list of travel destinations, in the winter it is a fun (and warm) getaway. The city offers a chance to learn more about the wildlife in the area and the history of native tribes of northern Chile at their Regional Museum. The Huanchaca Ruins just outside the city also offer a chance to get some sun and learn more of the history of the region.
No matter where you go in Chile, you’ll probably end up in Santiago at some point. The country’s capital and economic center, Santiago offers many tourist attractions. It’s also an advanced city, boasting the tallest building in Latin America, the Gran Torre. Sixty-four stories tall, the building offers spectacular views of the city and the mountains.
I highly recommend learning the history of Chile or spending some time in some of Santiago’s museums. During my time there I enjoyed the Museum of Memory and Human Rights and Santiago’s Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. Both museums helped me better understand this diverse and interesting country by better understanding its history. Other notable attractions are the La Moneda Palace and Santa Lucía Hill.
Star-gazing is a must-do while in Chile. One of the most popular areas for stargazing, Vicuña is a small rural town in the Elqui Valley.
While many tours are offered there, I advise staying the night somewhere remote where you can see the stars for yourself. Hiking is also popular in the area and small towns like Diaguitas offer interesting excursions during the day. Small business-owners offer home-cooked meals and hand-made art such as this clay piece here.
I was only able to stay in La Serena for a day and a half, but it was still fun to walk around the street and explore more hidden treasure. While it can be a long walk from the main city area, the Monumental Lighthouse is a popular attraction for tourists in the area. The lighthouse was under construction when I was there, but usually the lighthouse is free and open to the public. In the evening the beach walk and restaurants beside the ocean can be some of the most scenic places in the city. The city center offers several more ferias, museums and cozy restaurants to enjoy.
The great thing about Chile is that there’s always more to see!
During my time here I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of this geographically and culturally diverse country. Due to the weather I have been unable to travel much in the south of Chile, but the Patagonia region offers views that I hope to experience in the future as well.