|Subject: Re: Traveling to South America|
I just returned from a wonderful three weeks in Chile. It is an outstanding country to visit for beauty and diversity of nature. We traveled to the Altiplano, La Araucania and Patagonia along with some time in Santiago.
It is very easy to travel in Chile. LanChile is very good airlines.
It was always on time except for one delay due to mechanical
difficulties and very good in customer service. We took 6 different
flights so I can speak from experience. It is also very easy to drive around outside of Santiago. Ruta 5 is their main interstate which is 4 lanes easy to drive, but heavy on tolls. Once you do get off the Ruta 5, you will be doing a lot of travel on gravel roads but they are mostly in good condition just slow traveling. In Santiago, the metro is wonderful. It is cheap (50 cents), frequent trains and very fast. It is crowded at times and expect to stand.
Santiago is a large city similar to any other large city in the world. A few items to keep in mind. The eating times are very similar to Spain. Lunch is usually 1-3pm and Dinner is usually 9-11pm. It is customary to start you meal with a Pisco Sour which is made from clear brandy, lemon and egg whites. Very good. Many of the restaurants are closed on Sunday along with some stores. Most of the museums are closed on Monday. Expect weather similar to LA. Also expect a lot of noise and smog.
We stayed in Providencia which was a good area. I recommend the Hotel Orly which has great service and has a lot of english speaking
visitors. It is useful to speak a bit of Spanish although many people in tourist industry do speak some English. The Spanish in Chile is a bit different from other countries. The accent is a bit more similar to Spain, spoken very fast and they often drop vowels so it can be difficult if you are used to Mexican Spanish.
You can see the highlights of Santiago in a day or two. I recommend
the Pre-Columbian Museum, Mercado Central fish market, La Chascona
(Neruda's house in Santiago) and walking in the central area and neighborhoods of Bellevista and Providencia.
In April, it will be Fall. I would not recommend Patagonia during this time. The Lake District would still be possible and would have some fall color. But since you are also planning on visiting Peru, I would recommend visiting Northern Chile. We did not visit the Atacama desert area around San Pedro but it might be a good option for you. We really wanted to visit the Altiplano so we went to Arica and Putre which we really enjoyed and was a highlight for us. My husband is a horticulturalist/botanist so we went for the flora. But unless you are interested in the area for nature, it might be a little remote for your month. San Pedro also has a lot of natural options like geysers and desert but is less remote and has lot of tour options.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me. Also, if you want to read some early trip notes, check out my blog at http://tinyurl.com/yyc3.
Marta in rainy dark Washington State