Share on Pinterest

"Santiago is just another big city." That's what everyone would tell me when they said they went for just a night or two before moving on or skipped it altogether. "It's just another big city," they'd say. "It's boring," they'd say. But I had already decided that Santiago would be where I'd spend my last ten days in Chile, in South America. I was nervous. People made me nervous. Everyone had me thinking that I was making the wrong choice. Maybe I should have decided to spend more time in Valle de Elqui. Maybe I should have decided to go down south....

Every time I was buzzed into my hostel in Valparaiso, Chile, the woman at the front desk would ask me, "A dónde fuiste?": "Where did you go?" "Solo caminar," I'd say. "Just for a walk." Valparaiso is a walking city. Street art covers most of the edifices, every inch of blank space. Around every corner there is some new drawing to see. You can spend hours just walking, observing. It's actually illegal to write on the walls in Valparaiso. But homeowners can give permission to artists to paint on their homes, and do so because they would rather have artwork there than a...

I was taking the photos above when a man tapped my shoulder and pointed across the plaza. A parade of people were walking by, clapping, singing, followed by three cars decorated in orange balloons. I moved away to be closer and, as they walked by, saw that the first of the cars was carrying a coffin. A funeral procession was leading its way through Plaza de Armas. The parade stopped in front of the sculpture I had just been taking photos of. The cars stopped. People gathered around to remove the coffin and set it up. ...

By the time I reached La Serena, Chile, I was feeling a little burnt out. In Bolivia I had traveled a little quicker than I like to. I saw a lot of places, amazing places, but no where I could stay for more than a few days. So I moved. A lot. I meant to stay just one night in La Serena and use it as a jumping point to explore the Valle de Elqui region of Chile. But I just didn't feel like getting on more buses. So I stayed in La Serena for three nights. And I took just...

I'm fascinated by the stars. Mostly, I suppose, because I'm a city girl and I don't get to see them that often. Chicago is filled with big building and lots of light. I'm lucky if I can see a handful at a time. So I was beyond excited when I read about SPACE — San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations — in my guidebook. SPACE is the largest public observatory in Chile and every night they host tours. I booked an 11pm tour which had me whining beforehand because making plans for late at night makes me just want to...

My Salar de Uyuni tour dropped me off in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. It's a small town near the border and while there isn't much to do in town, tours around the area abound. I spent an afternoon on the most popular tour: Valle de Luna, or Moon Valley. We made a few stops to check out the death valley landscape before heading into Valle de Luna and climbing to the top of the hill. The main draw is sunset. Not just watching the sun set behind a hill but turning around and watching the pink and purple and...

I wasn't exactly sure that I wanted to take a tour of the cooperative mines in Potosi, Bolivia. It's a working silver mine, meaning that going into the caves involves a voyeuristic view of a painstaking job. Tight, claustrophobia-inducing chambers, dirt and dust containing anything from silica to asbestos, wretched climbs. On one hand, it seemed interesting: a chance to see something in action that I would never see elsewhere. On another, kind of scary, dark, and dangerous. Not to mention the fact that you're going there to watch people work. Do their job. Their dangerous and difficult job. ...

I'd like to say that it was my impeccable travel skills that brought me to Sucre, Bolivia, just in time for their biggest festival of the year: Virgen de Guadalupe. But, who are we kidding? I had no idea it was going on until I checked into my hostel and the guy working there told me it was starting the next day. September's Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe brought people from all over the region in to celebrate: the town was packed! The festival centered around a parade that featured community after community performing traditional dances in traditional outfits. There...