The Ultimate 3 Day Guide to San Pedro de Atacama

Hello everyone! I’ve been offline for a short while. Sometimes it’s important to take a break from being online, and actually getting out to explore. So that’s exactly what I’ve done, and I now have new, exciting experiences to share with you all!

A couple of weeks ago, my parents visited Chile (miss you guys already!) and we headed up to San Pedro de Atacama, the driest desert in the world, and famous worldwide for its moon-like appearance. I was almost at a point of worry before travelling here, because I had heard so many great things that I didn’t want to be disappointed. But once I arrived, I didn’t want to leave. Here’s how to explore San Pedro de Atacama and hit all the main spots in just a long weekend.

 

 

Saturday: Getting our bearings and astronomy tour 

 

We booked a flight from Santiago through LATAM Airlines and hopped on a two hour flight to Calama. Arriving in Calama, we booked a round trip bus to San Pedro, the main town of the Atacama desert, around one hour away. On arrival, we checked in to our apartment that a local woman was subletting around the back of her home, and began the search around town for the best tour company and itinerary for the weekend.

Note: Entering San Pedro may be a shock of your senses and you will likely get side tracked with all of the cute dogs, ancient architecture,  delicious and fancy looking restaurants, and above all – the natural alpaca wool sweaters that are the trademark souvenir of visiting here.

 

 

saturn-photo-atacama
Saturn through a telescope at SPACE

We had pre-booked a tour with SPACE: San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations (I advise this as it fills up quickly), and in the evening we met in town to hop on a bus for the tour. This was one of my favourite parts of the trip and definitely set us up for a good weekend. We learned all about the night sky, I took a photo of Saturn through one of the amazingly powerful telescopes (one of the most powerful telescopes with public access in the world – see photo below) and ended the night asking all of our nerdy questions over hot chocolate. Definitely recommend.

 

 

Sunday: Half day tour to Valle de la Luna with Flamingo Tours

What to bring: water, sunscreen, warm clothing layer, a hat and good walking shoes (some small crevices and caves to explore).

Starting at 3pm, we met at the Flamingo office on the main street and hopped into the bus on our way to Valle de la Luna, or Moon Valley. On arrival we explored crevices and caves around the entrance to the park which had beautiful salt formations all around.  From there, we visited the Three Marias, three vertical rocks representing three women (photo below). We also visited the Amphitheatre and completed another mini hike before watching the sunset and heading back to town.

Everyone at the Three Marias
Our hike overlooking the amphitheatre and volcanoes.

 

Stopping for a stretch between mini hikes around the Valle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday: Full day tour to Piedras Rojas

 

This is the ultimate tour we found. Leaving at 7am and returning at 6pm, this is the ultimate tour to see amazing spots in San Pedro de Atacama. We were picked up by the bus around 7:30am and made our way to our first stop, a small historical town named. This town has a beautiful church and bell tower with a door made from a now protected species of cactus native to the area. We also stopped to meet the town’s resident llama who stole the show.

We then hopped back on the bus and arrived at Los Flamencos National Reserve. I had never seen flamingos in the wild before, and we were told it was nearing the end of the season (start of May, going into winter) and that we may see maximum 10 flamingos. We were very pleasantly surprised by the turnout of over 50!

Following this, we arrived at Piedras Rojas and explored the area, and saw a lot of wildlife including Suri which are related to an ostrich, vicuña, and a desert fox. Following this, we ended our trip at Laguna Miscanti and Miniques at an elevation of 4,300 metres (photos below)! On Tuesday we hopped on a flight back to Santiago and my (current) real world life – and work.

 

Piedras Rojas
On the way to Laguna Miscanti.

 

Laguna Miscanti

 

 

 

Have you ever been to The Atacama Desert or planning to go? Let me know below and I can help with even more suggestions.

 

 

x – Jenn, The Redhead Abroad

Coconut Oil: My Budget Travel Secret

Coconut oil is a natural, budget travel lifesaver. Cheap, natural, and multi purpose. When I’m travelling, it’s important to maximise luggage space, and ladies, we all know how our personal products can take up all the space, and empty out our wallet after a trip to Sephora. It’s my solution for natural, sensitive skin approved, cheap (!) product with multiple uses. Here’s why I can’t travel without coconut oil.

coconut oil

Makeup Remover

If you’re spending anything over a couple of dollars on makeup remover (I’m looking at you, Lancome), that’s unnatural, and likely irritates or dries out your skin and eyes, here’s your answer. I always use coconut oil every night to take off my mascara, and it works like a charm- even for the waterproof brands – without irritating my eyes. Simply put some coconut oil in your palm, rub your hands together to melt or apply directly to the eyelid and gently rub around your eyes. In seconds, the makeup’s gone! Swipe with a damp washcloth and you’re fresh faced. Easy.

ocean bali

 

Bright Whites

Ever heard of oil-pulling? I was confused at first. I mean, how could OIL make my teeth and mouth healthier? But once I started, I began to notice a difference in the way my mouth feels, another level of clean and healthy, and I also began to feel more energized. Just take a spoonful of coconut oil (you can mix in peppermint oil to get that minty taste if you like), and swish for 5, building up to 20 minutes. After doing some reading on ayurveda, I became interested in how many toxins tend to build in our mouths overnight (morning breath – yuck!), and by tongue-scraping and oil pulling, we can get all those toxins out of our bodies effectively & easily.

 

Leave-in-conditioner

I’m currently living in South America, and the weather is the exact opposite of my home in Canada. Dry, no humidity, and always hot! My hair isn’t too happy. Once a week, before bed I massage a big dollop of coconut oil into my hair, focusing on the ends, and wrap it up in a bun on the top of my head. When I awake, I unravel my hair and shampoo and condition as normal, and my hair is back to it’s shiny, bouncy self. Sometimes I like to mix in a couple drops of essential oils into the coconut oil before massaging, such as frankincense for added benefits or even just grapefruit oil so my hair also smells delicious.

Goodbye Sunburn 

I’m a redhead (the blog name says it all), which means I’ve also inherited very sensitive skin – especially to the sun. Although I put all my effort into applying SPF 50 and more constantly, sometimes the sun is too much for me, and I end up with a nasty sunburn. My secret (I’ve had lots of practice to perfect this), is to rub apple cider vinegar on my sunburn (feels amazing), rinse it off with cold water on a wash cloth, and apply coconut oil generously. It sounds strange, I may smell a bit funky, but when I wake up the next day, my skin feels moisturised and looks way better than it did the day before.

 

Pedicure Au-Natural

I’m one of those girls who has a pedicure as a treat maybe once a year (every 6 months when I’m feeling extra fancy), which means my feet need some at home TLC. Coconut oil is so light but moisturising that I sometimes massage my feet with oil in the morning and it keeps my feet moisturised during the day. Sometimes, in dire situations, I’ll lather on some and put cotton socks over my moisturised feet for a lazy morning or overnight, and the next day they’re ready for the beach.

 

These are just a few reasons why I can’t travel without coconut oil. What are yours?

 

x Jenn, The Redhead Abroad

24 Thoughts of a Canadian in Santiago, Chile

 

These thoughts go through my head at least once every few days as a Canadian expat living in Santiago de Chile. Can you relate?

 

  1. So. Much. Salt.
  2. I need to stop eating all the delicious bread. OK just one more.
  3. Remind me why I can’t pet OR bring home a stray dog again?
  4. I HEARD ENGLISH. Who said that?!
  5. Cheapest best wine EVER. 3$ for a bottle of carmenere? I feel like I’m stealing.
  6. How can I bring back the most alfajores and capri bars back into Canada?
  7. Am I a gringa or not? Do I want to be a gringa or not?
  8. English is so lame.
  9. I can finally full-out dance to reggaeton songs without (as much) judgement
  10. EARTHQUAKE!!! Oh right, a 6.4 is just a “temblor”…
  11. Manjar is a delicious, dangerous thing.
  12. Pisco means trouble. And a massive “caña” tomorrow.
  13. No, I am NOT from the U.S. and yes, Canada is very different.
  14. Quick, think of the few traditional Canadian songs and foods before someone compares my culture to Chile.
  15. Wait. You guys eat horse?
  16. This is way too late for me. I value my sleep.
  17. Fresh squeeze $2 orange juice in el centro is HEAVEN.
  18. I thought I was just learning Spanish but apparently I speak Chilena now too.
  19. The Mapocho River is not a river.
  20. So many allergies. This is my life now.
  21. Avocados are SO CHEAP. I eat them daily. I love my life.
  22. Bilz and Pap is un-drinkable.
  23. I want to wear wedges like all the Chilenas but I’m already a giant here. Dilemma.
  24. If I hear one more thing about Justin Bieber…

What other thoughts have you had while in Santiago or throughout Chile? I hope you had a laugh at some of these, fellow expats! 

 

Want to know more about Chile? Here are some Chilean Etiquette Tips

Here is my experience with Culture Shock in Chile

Check out some of my photos throughout Chile on my Instagram Page and Twitter

 

x Jenn, The Redhead Abroad

 

how-travel-changed-me-woman

How Travel Changed Me as a Woman

how-travel-changed-me-woman

 

We’ve all heard the inspirational quotes about travel that keep us yearning for overseas experiences. “Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer”, right? For those of us who have had travel experiences, from a week or two to living abroad, I’m sure we can all agree that it opens your mind to new experiences and to the world around us. Along with experiencing new places, for an extended period of travelling, we may start to notice that this exposure to new experiences can change how we conduct ourselves, our mentality, and much more. In this post I share how travel has started to change me as a woman since leaving Canada in February, 2015.

 

Travel Changed…

My interest in language and culture

Back home in Canada, we are required to learn French in school as it’s our national language along with English, and I have always loved the language, however I felt it was almost useless in a city such as Vancouver where minimal people actually speak the language daily, being so far from our french friends in Quebec. I began to feel as though languages were more of a high school requirement as they diminished from my “passions” list. I could get by every day using english without needing to communicate in any other language. So why did I need other languages?

But once I began travelling, my perception completely changed. I was visiting countries where I wanted to connect with locals, share stories and ideas. Or even just tell them to have a great day or to see how they are. Once again, my love (and seemingly need!) for foreign languages returned. Now, currently living in Chile and planning to travel around Latin America, I am driven to learn new languages to meet new people and become more immersed in wherever I am at the moment. And returning to Canada, I almost felt as if the english language was boring, I now crave the challenges that come with learning a new language!

 

My thinking about the environment and sustainability

I studied environmental conservation in university, but even without that, environmental issues and sustainability is currently on the forefront of many people’s minds. When travelling, however, especially to areas that are more impacted, or don’t cover it up, you start thinking about how you’re impacting the world and become more conscious of your purchases and actions.

One experience which left a mark was off Redang Island, Malaysia during a scuba trip, where I constantly found coral covered in plastic, fishing line, and cans and plastic covering the ocean floor. It takes plastic hundreds of years to fully decompose. This and many other exposures of environmental impact and humans mistreating our home makes me want to think twice about a use-once coffee cup, thinking about how long my waste will be left on earth for generations to come.

 

My relationship with my body

Being in my home country and especially in my teens, I was constantly worried about my body and my weight, and would never be seen without some makeup or fixing my hair. This continued even after university, where I didn’t have as many pressures but was still exposed to a culture and mind-frame where I easily caved to what “society” wanted me to be, or look like.

Now, living abroad for the past couple of years, I realize how focused I used to be on my appearance. While travelling, I unconsciously began to shift my focus more to new cultures, new cities, new friends who couldn’t care less if i straightened my hair or not, and a new way of living. I didn’t care as much about my appearance or what nail polish colour I was wearing because what and who were around me was much more interesting. Now, I am more concerned about my inner well being, a wholesome health. I rarely wear makeup except for a recent job interview or lipstick when I go out dancing, and my latest style goal is how to be comfortable wandering cities to mountains day in and day out, and cutting down my wardrobe so it all fits into my one 65 litre backpack. I’m pale, my hair is usually a jungle, I haven’t had a pedicure in a while, and I’ve never felt more confident.

 

My anxious nature to ease

I am the anxious type at my core, but I hide it well. At home, I constantly worried about the little things. After being abroad and realising how large the world is and how small my worries really are in the long term and worldwide scheme of things, travelling really helped me put my anxieties and worries into perspective. I have become more easygoing. I meet new friends knowing I will have to say goodbye in a few months, I know I may lose my luggage or miss my bus but it will all eventually work out. I’m learning to slow down and appreciate everything I experience around me. I’ve realised that at this moment in life, the most important things in life for me are  my health, my passport, good people, and savouring the moments.

 

My tendency to judge others and myself

Living in my hometown of Vancouver, Canada, I am grateful to have grown up in a very culturally diverse city, which helped me to become more interested in the world around me. However, my city is also one for style, and “outer-appearance approval” (see earlier in this post). Meeting new people when I was younger, I would judge others on who their friends were, where they lived, or if they had the latest clothes from Aritzia (I KNOW, RIGHT?!) . Since I have travelled, I have become much more interested in cultures around the world, and really when it comes down to it, how similar we all are, regardless of what patch of soil we happened to be born on or how much money is in our pockets. I learned no matter where you live or where you come from, we are all so similar and just subject to different circumstances, and this really helps me to see the world as one land, separated by a couple of human-made “borders”.

 

I would love to hear from you if you have anything to add from what you have experienced, how travel may have changed your mentality or emotions toward life, or if you’ve had similar experiences as well!

x Jenn, The Redhead Abroad

 

Travel Yoga: How to Strengthen your Practice Abroad

Exercising abroad is a difficult task. Your routine is bound to change from your schedule at home in all ways, and especially with exercise! Through travel we tend to replace gym memberships with more outdoor activities like hiking mountains or strolling through the city streets, sometimes it’s nice to still keep a small routine exercise to keep us feeling our best, mentally and physically, while abroad. This is how I have continued my practice abroad, and at sometimes re-ignited my practice when I’ve fallen out of routine, through these travel yoga secrets.

 

I had a difficult time at first trying to keep up with my practice. Going from a membership to a studio close to my house and taking a class before work almost every morning, I knew my practice would change once I was abroad. Little did I know just how much it would change. After incorporating each of these tips I have below, my practice became much more steady, and all of the wonderful benefits I had experienced at home came rushing back – from a strong mind to even stronger legs. Here’s what you can do to continue exercising while abroad, because we all know we aren’t just here for the savasana.

 

travel yoga in melbourne outside

 

Remember your Mat

Bring your mat with you! I use “The Mat 5mm” by lululemon which provides the perfect amount of comfort and support for my practice, and “The Reversible Mat 3mm” for travel is a great lightweight option as well for travellers always on the go. I always hop on the plane with my carry on crossbody bag of essentials (see what’s in it here!) and my travel yoga mat bag slung over my shoulder destined for the overhead bin. In any exercise, especially yoga, it is crucial to practice on a good quality mat to avoid injury and enhance your practice. I’ve tried multiple yoga mats and this is the one, guys. I can do a sweaty one hour hot yoga practice and don’t even need a towel with this mat. Absolute Essential.

travel yoga mat
Photo copyright: lululemon athletica. The Mat 5mm.

 

Roll out of bed & into your practice

Even better, leave your mat rolled out beside your bed waiting for you. I love rolling out of bed and before I can think of anything else, I’m on my mat, stretching and breathing out all of my kinks.That way, you have no excuse that you’re tired or have no time. Set your alarm even a few minutes earlier than your usual wake up call, and get your body moving! Even 5 minutes of just sitting and breathing alone is a total game changer for my entire day. Plus, add in a little yoga workout and stretch and you’re done your workout before you even have breakfast. Total travel yoga win.

 

Find your crew

Wherever you are in the world, try to find a group of like-minded or like-exercising people in your local area. Free park yoga is exploding everywhere and it’s amazing! Check local facebook groups, your hostel or hotel, and ask at community centres to find free or by-donation activities. Plus, a group of fellow travelling yogis will help you to stay on track if you make set times and days to practice together.

Beautiful sculpture artwork near Penang, Malaysia.

 

Do yoga with me (THE BOMB) . com  ( doyogawithme.com )

Best yogs website ever – in my opinion. Sign up for free to access multiple classes right from your device. Choose your level and style of class from kundalini to pre-natal yoga, and get practicing. I recommend this class (intermediate level- choose what’s appropriate for you), which I’ve been following to help re-ignite my practice and I promise your muscles will feel this one! I used to take classes with Fiji in Victoria, Canada and learned so much. So imagine how happy I am to be able to continue her classes when I’m all the way over in Chile!

 

Grab those Studio Intro Deals

And if where you are does have a yoga presence- Get those intro deals girl! During my entire time living in Australia (1.5 years), I think I paid in full for a drop in class maybe once. Many studios have intro passes for your first week or two if you’ve never visited the studio before. As yoga is such a trend these days, yoga classes in Melbourne were averaging $25 or more for a one hour class, whereas by hopping between studios in Melbourne city and surrounding suburbs, I would purchase a two-week unlimited pass, taking up to 10 classes in that time, for $19 in some places. Other studios even had a FREE pass for your first week, no obligations following. In addition, keep your eye out for special events like studio openings, studio anniversaries and International Yoga Day – free classes are everywhere just waiting for you – and for cheap. Travel yoga just got way easier. No excuses there!

travel yoga asana in melbourne australia
Stretching it out in my tiny Melbourne studio flat.

 

There are all my travel yoga secrets! So many options to be able to get moving no matter what excuse is holding me back. Of course finding other ways to keep moving such as hiking, exploring a new city or town, or going for a bike ride are also great ways to see the country you’re in and stay active while doing so! I hope these inspire you to roll out your mat or attend that yoga class in a foreign language, and let me know how it goes!

 

How do you get moving when you’re abroad? Have you noticed a change in your fitness routine when you’re travelling vs at home? Let me know below!

-x Jenn, The Redhead Abroad

Budget Travel: 5 Cheap Eats in Melbourne, Australia

I’m going to get straight to the point because if you’re reading this, you’re likely in Melbourne and hungry! Or just hungry.

I lived in Melbourne for 1.5 years and found out very quickly that it is a beautiful – and expensive – city. But even while living and travelling on a budget we have to treat ourselves once in a while, right?! So I’ve put together this list of my top 5 Cheap Eats in Melbourne, Australia that are sure to leave both your belly and wallet satisfied.
Disclaimer: I have personally tried all of the places I am about to recommend and am in no way affiliated with any of them- just love what they offer. I hope you enjoy them too, while saving a bit of cash at the same time.

 

Happy eating!

 

Grab Dumplings in Chinatown

 

In the heart of the City is Melbourne’s Chinatown, literally filled to the brim with delicious restaurants at every turn. Shanghai Dumpling House and Shanghai Village are my favourites. Shanghai Dumpling House is the ultimate cheap, good food experience. The ambience is definitely casual, and its cash only. At $8 including tax for 20 steamed or friend dumplings of many kinds to choose from, you can eat well for super cheap and BYOB for a couple of dollars’ fee if you wish. This is the ultimate go-to as a couple or group- it’s our go-to before going out dancing or after a movie. Shanghai Village is a bit of a more nice environment but still has super cheap options as well.
Check out Shanghai Village Facebook page here .

 

Pay as you Feel at Lentil as Anything

 

Lentil as anything has a pay as you feel philosophy wherecustomers order delicious meals and donate whatever they can afford. The meals are hard to choose between (my favourite has to be the veggie burger or japanese pancake though), and there are guides posted in the restaurant to show you where your donation will go and how it will help the restaurant. All waiters, chefs etc are volunteering their time, and Lentils is run on an honour based system. They are solely run on the generosity of the public and all staff are volunteers so please donate generously if you can! Check them out and their locations here .

 

Sushi in the City

 

Sushi-to-go is the ultimate grab and go snack in Melbourne. The sushi is served still as a full roll and not cut into pieces. I’m not sure if an official name for this exists, but I’ve just started saying “sushi log” (you heard it here first, guys!), and each log is around $2 depending on where you go. My favourites are all along Swanston street between QV mall and Flinders Street Station. Grab a few of these and bring them to a park or eat in for a quick, fresh, super cheap lunch. I love grabbing a few to go for a mini picnic along the Yarra River.

 

Snack your way around Queen Victoria Market

 

I used to live quite close to Queen Victoria Market. This is the ultimate stop for cheaper veggies, fruits, legumes, fish andmore. After doing our bi-weekly vegetable stock-up, we get hungry! Take a wander around the market where you can find juicy, delicious and cheap local Australian fruits, cafes, and restaurants with delicious, affordable homemade snacks of all varieties. During all seasons they also often have events such as food and craft night markets, free outdoor yoga, and specialty food-truck days. Sample your heart out.

 

Try a Yoga and Dinner Combo at Urban Yoga

 

Urban Yoga is the best deal I have come across in Melbourne in any category- hands down. I found Urban Yoga through Classpass, and one evening I wandered over to the studio where we had a relaxing one hour yin yoga class  followed by a delicious, warm, vegetarian dinner on the floor below. How much, you ask? $17! Or $14 if you’re a student. I was SO excited you guys. Hear me out- yoga in Melbourne, like most cities, is crazy expensive. The majority of yoga studios charge upwards of $25 for a single hour yoga class, and definitely no dinner included. So imagine how happy I was to discover this. My go to for a relaxing, healthy evening.

 

**Side note: Classpass (link)  as I previously mentioned is an app where you pay a monthly fee to access multiple fitness studios around Melbourne (it’s in other cities and countries too). It’s great because instead of locking yourself in to one studio, you can try many. They have a great intro pass option too – try it out if you’re into yoga & fitness at a reasonable price.

http://www.urbanyoga.com.au/yoga-sessions/

 

Talk about cheap eats! I hope you found some foodie inspiration from this list. It’s definitely possible to find meals in Melbourne that are affordable and delicious at the same time!

Have you been to Melbourne? What’s your favourite place to eat?

 

-x Jenn, The Redhead Abroad

How I Survived Christmas Abroad

Have you ever experienced the holiday season away from your family and closest friends? Perhaps in a foreign country as well? The Christmas and New Years holidays are the most important time of year, when family gathers and shares over feasts, gifts, and maybe one too many rum and eggnogs. It’s also a time where we may be halfway across the world, and are just trying to have the best Christmas, knowing we are far from home. I have spent the last two holiday seasons away from my home country and family, and this post is all about how i survived Christmas abroad (and more!), and you can too!

Surround yourself with people in the same situation as you.

If you’re abroad during the holidays, there’s bound to be someone nearby in the exact same situation as you. Find fellow backpackers in your hostel, families of local friends, anyone that you want to share the holiday cheer with! A great idea is organizing an easy and fun Secret Santa gift exchange with a group of people at a small price range, make a get together to share appetizers or desserts or to watch a holiday movie together! This can help everyone have a wonderful morning filled with surprises and treats with those who are sure to soon be close friends.

Embrace new traditions.

The key to surviving the holiday season away from family and in a new environment is to immediately understand that it will be different. You’re in a new country, with a different culture and set of traditions. So let go a little bit of the traditions you have at home (keep a few!) and welcome the new traditions that come your way. It will spark the Christmas excitement again!

For example, I have just spent Christmas 2016 in Chile, where everyone waits on Christmas Eve until midnight and then opens gifts and meets family until the early hours of the morning. In Canada where I’m from, we have dinner, family conversation by the fire and then fall fast asleep only to wake up early the next morning for gifts and a large breakfast.

Viejito Pascuero (Santa Claus) en Chile

Call or Skype your loved ones.

Yes, technology seems to be taking over to a certain degree. And we should leave our cell phones and other devices to the side during the holidays to fully be present and connect with those around us ( really we should do this for the most part always!). One time where your phone will definitely come in handy this year is to call or skype your loved ones at home.

I recently skyped with my family and they showed me around the house, our decorated tree, the snow outside, and them! Although it made me miss my family even more of course, I was able to imagine I was right there with them. Thank gosh for technology with loved ones far away!

You’re doing it!

After experiencing Christmas abroad, the verdict for me is, of course, nothing is better than home. Family is the most important at this time of year, right? But at the same time, what I do enjoy about the holidays abroad with new people I meet in my travels is it opens my mind to other cultures, I learn and practice new traditions, and it makes it that much sweeter when I will finally have Christmas at home again. Travelling at Christmas has also really put into perspective the amount of material items we give and consume during the holiday season. While travelling and keeping in mind those I am usually giving gifts to are travelling as well, it helps you to think much more about what you are purchasing, and how it can be useful to that person, making gift giving that much more satisfying!

Happy holidays to you, wherever you are in the world!

Where is your favourite place to spend the holidays? Do you have any holiday traditions? Let me know in the comments! Please subscribe if you’d like to see more posts like this.

-x Jenn, The Redhead Abroad

7 FREE must-see Spots: Santiago, Chile

Travelling to Chile? Have a week or a day for some touring? Here are my favourite 7 FREE must-see spots in Santiago de Chile to choose from. Get ready to be cultured in all things Santiago. For free!

1. The view from the top of San Cristóbal Hill (Cerro San Cristóbal)

You know that statue of Jesus in Rio de Janiero, Brazil everyone has photos of? Did you know Chile has it’s very own massive Virgin Mary statue? Yep! And it’s right in downtown Santiago.
This statue and the general top area of Cerro San Cristóbal can be reached by a 45 minute walk/hike up the hill from 3 different entry points. The easiest to find is just to the left of the funicular starting point. Another option is to take the funicular (cable car) to the top, which costs less than $4 USD per person.

Virgin Mary statue on Cerro San Cristóbal

Once you’re at the top, prepare yourself for beautiful views! I suggest reaching the top early in the morning before the crowds arrive, however if you don’t mind the people, at sunset it is stunning, and you have almost a 360 degree view of Santiago below. Definitely a must-see!

 

2. Santa Lucía Hill (Cerro Santa Lucía)

Santa Lucía Hill is right in the heart of the city. You can enter at multiple points around the hill. This is a great spot to do a bit of walking, or even to have a picnic and watch the passersby. Walking towards the tip of the hill you will find long, narrow steps which curve up to a look-out of Santiago and the Andes mountains.

This is an important hill because it is where Santiago was officially founded by Pedro de Valdivia, and Charles Darwin actually has a signed plaque just before the last set of stairs up to the very top look-out, stating it was one of his favourite views ever – I am a biology nerd and Charles Darwin is my hero so this was quite exciting!

Cerro Santa Lucía

Right across the street (across the Alameda), is a large artesanal crafts market where you can browse and find anything from handmade leather boots to classic souvenirs like the Indio Picaro (if you don’t know what that is, you’ll find out!).

 

3. Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes)

This museum is gorgeous. Right when you walk in, the entire building opens up into extremely high ceilings and light beams shining through to the floor. Here you can find replicas of famous statues from around the world and quirky exhibits which seem to be on constant rotation. If you’re into fine arts from around the world, this is your go-to. As a separate note, you must place your larger bags in the lockers provided to the left of the front entrance. No entry fee is required. No photos allowed in certain exhibits.

 

4. Museum of Memory and Human Rights (Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos)

Entrance is free, you must check in any larger bags at the front desk. This is an absolute must-see to educate yourself about the deep history engraved in Chile. This museum highlights Chile throughout the dictatorship between 1973 and 1990. It is powerful and packed with amazing, many sad, artefacts and details of what occurred during this time period. The building and layout itself is beautiful, and overall it is extremely well done. If you are interested in learning more about Chile and it’s history, do not miss this.

 

5. La Moneda Palace

This is the government palace of Chile. You are usually not able to get very close to the moneda due to guards and barriers, but it is a must to walk by and check out the statues of historical figures among the grass areas in front. Here is the location of the beginning of the dictatorship which rocked Chile from 1973 to 1990. Interesting fact: When the flag at the top of La Moneda also has the coat of arms on it, this means the president is currently inside the Palace.

La Moneda Palace

 

6. Parque Forestal

This beautiful park runs through the centre of Santiago city along the Mapocho River. Strolling through the trees and stopping to see various views is a pleasant, free activity for anyone. It runs alongside the Mapocho River which is a popular reference point. Whenever I am in the city I always try to walk through Parque Forestal instead of through the busy streets, hopefully with a fresh empanada in hand, and immerse myself in the greenery within the busy city of Santiago.

 

7. Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral & Plaza de Armas

Coming from a country that is very young (Canada), seeing places like these leave me in awe. Santiago is saturated with beautiful heritage buildings and cathedrals, and one of my favourite cathedrals has to be the Metropolitan in Plaza de Armas. The outside is breathtaking in itself, but once you enter it’s like you’re in a whole new world. Take your time looking at the statues, the ceiling, take a seat and absorb it! It’s breathtaking.

Metropolitan Cathedral, Plaza de Armas

**BONUS free must-see: My second favourite cathedral is the Cathedral de los Sacramentinos. Not many know about this cathedral as it is slightly out of the exact center of the city, but when it is open, it is absolutely amazing. Check out a photo I took inside on my instagram .

 

Travelling to Chile? Here are my top 5 must-know etiquette tips for Chile.

Have you travelled to Santiago? What’s your favourite spot to visit (free or not)? I’d love to hear ’em!

Did you like this article? Make sure to subscribe (look to the right) & I’ll send you a note when my next post is up.

-Jenn, The Redhead Abroad

 

Stay Grounded while Abroad: 3 Simple & Fast Tips

For all my fellow travellers who have at some point felt disconnected with themselves and their values while travelling or living abroad. It has happened to me, and may have/will happen to you! But no fret. Here are three of my best tips (Fast and Free!) to stay grounded and connect back to ourselves during our crazy adventures.
My first long, solo trip abroad snowballed into a one and a half year working holiday in Australia.  I was in a new country (and continent!), trying to find a job, couchsurfing, making new friends, and caught up in a tornado of new experiences. It felt amazing, liberating, and exciting. But after a couple of months, I realised amongst the amazing new chaos, I lost for a moment a bit of who I really was. I needed something that was easy, quick, and effective, to help me touch back down to home base while continuing with the adventures!

 

Here are 3 super easy practices I do in a couple of minutes, whenever I feel scatter-brained, to check back in with myself while abroad. The best part- you can practice these anywhere! My favourite times are when I’m riding the train home, walking along a long busy road to a destination, or whenever I have a spare moment (literally just a moment!) all to myself. They are short, effective and obviously free!

 

   

 

1. Focus on your breath. 

 

I know, I know. So simple! But trust me, this is what works best for me. Wherever I am, even just for a minute, I start to focus on and count my breaths, and try to get to 10 without losing count. Sound easy? Try it!

 

This is such a simple way to check in with yourself, how you’re feeling, and to calm down. The goal is not to think about nothing, it’s to simply acknowledge a thought and then let it float away, continuing to return to your breath counts. Even after only a minute of counting my breaths, my breath is deeper, slower, and I seem to complete things and speak with more calm and purpose.  With continual practice, you’ll be able to focus in a much shorter time and stay grounded while travelling.

 

2. Write down absolutely everything you can think of that you’re grateful for.

 

I practice this when I have a bit more time and space such as when I’m on the train or at home.
This I love to do when I’ve lost sight of what I really love and what supports me. It’s a wonderful reminder that you have everything you need at any moment, and it also helps you to think about what you hold dear to you as a reminder. By the end of this list I am literally writing things like “Slippers”  and “water fountains” and “smiles”. It helps you to see everything more humbly instead of always searching for the next cool thing to do. Try doing this for the country you’re in as well or where you’re travelling! I promise you’ll slow down and see everything more vividly.

 

3. Remain close to those who you respect and you share similar values with.

 

Whenever I feel a bit out of it or needing a literal anchor to bring me back to myself, I always reach out to my friends at home. Those who have known me the longest, have supported me through my travels abroad and whom I still consider dear friends even after all of this time living abroad. I have found that my closest friends are those who I can forget to speak to for months at a time, and all of sudden I call them on skype and we can talk as if no time has passed. These are also people with whom we share similar values and experiences, and they automatically ground me while travelling.

 

In addition, there are so many opportunities to connect with new friends while abroad who share similar interests and are likely experiencing similar situations as you! For example, I miss having regular yoga classes with my friends back home, so here in Chile I went out of my comfort zone and tried a spanish speaking yoga class (I am just learning spanish), and have made a couple of friends just by going a couple of times- plus, we are getting to know each other in the language I’m learning! A great mix of making new friends with similar ideals and enriching my experience abroad.

 

What’s your secret way to stay grounded while abroad? Share in the comments below or send me a message! If you liked this post, you can subscribe to the right & I’ll send you a note when my next post is up. x

 

Happy travels & stay grounded!

 

– Jenn, The Redhead Abroad

Top 5 Etiquette Tips: Chile

Interested in Chile and want to learn more about the culture? Chile is a beautiful country rich in deep history and well-engrained etiquette. Here is a list of the top 5 essential etiquette tips to have when visiting Chile – and to fit in with the locals!

 

Tip #1: Permiso!

 

In Chile, saying “permiso” (english: “excuse me”, literally “permission”) is the key to following all polite etiquette in chile. When to say “permiso”:

  • You’re on the metro (train), it’s crowded, and you need to get off, say “permiso” to those in your way. They will politely step aside and allow you to exit.
  • When entering a home or a room. When entering someone else’s space, whether it be an apartment, home, room or otherwise, always announce “permiso” as you enter. This is the equivalent of saying something similar to “permission to enter”.
  • When reaching for something or asking anyone to move ie. reaching slightly across someone to grab something on the table,  or to pass someone in any situation they need to move or you will be in their personal space.
  • When you’re about to eat with your hands. See tip #2 for this one.

 

Tip #2: Fork and knife. Even for “finger food”.

 

If given a fork and knife with your meal, DO NOT eat with your hands. I found this out the hard way while eating pizza. In Canada, we dig right in with our hands. Unless it’s extremely hot or we are in a more formal situation, then we might use a fork and knife. In Chile, it is considered very bad manners to not use a knife and fork to eat, including with what other countries consider finger food (pizza is the biggest one).

A good idea is to wait until someone eats with their hands, ask, or at the very least say “permiso” before picking up something to eat ie. a piece of meat, pizza etc. The only foods I have seen Chileans eat with their hands, and without saying “permiso” first is ice cream cones, empanadas and completos (see my post on these traditional chilean foods if you’re unfamiliar!).

 

Tip #3. Greet (and say goodbye to) each individual.

 

This is a very important tip. It is crucial here in Chile and varies a lot around the world.

In Chile, you individually greet each person. The size of the group, the people, the environment, it doesn’t matter. If you arrive to a party of 20 people and you don’t know half of them, you go around the room and kiss each individual on their right cheek (right cheek to right cheek) and say hello, and your name if you haven’t met before. For women, you greet everyone with this cheek kiss, and add in a hug for people you know well, or whenever you want! For men, you greet with a cheek kiss to women and shake hands of other men- unless he is a close friend or family- then give a kiss on the cheek if you wish. This is common courtesy and is expected of everyone! When you are leaving, you say goodbye in the same manner to each individual. This is very important as you may be seen as cold or impolite if you forget!

Coming from Canada, arriving to a big get together consists of waving and loudly saying hello to everyone, especially if you have recently seen everyone and you are a very casual group. This is seen as very awkward in Chile! Kisses on the cheek are always a good idea.

Extra tip: This form of greeting/departing someone is still valid in an office or interview setting. I learned the hard way!

 

Tip #4. To Tip or Not to Tip.

 

In Canada, we tip everyone. Taxi drivers, waiters, 15% no matter how the service is. Everyone! It’s engrained in our nature now. But in Chile, everything’s a bit more vague.

At restaurants, make sure to check your bill. Usually, the waiter automatically adds the tip into the total, so make sure NOT to tip on top of that! Although this tip has been added in, it is still up to you to decide how much of a tip to give, and it usually depends much more on the service and actual experience you had. Feel free to pay the full tip or discount it a bit.

Do not tip taxis. I haven’t heard of anyone tipping a taxi driver, but if you’re feeling extra generous of course you can.

In other cases, you can tip someone whenever you like, just keep in mind it isn’t necessary and usually they aren’t expecting it.

 

Tip #5. Don’t take your shoes off.

 

Just don’t. Before arriving in Chile, I was used to living in houses where it is very rude if you don’t immediately take off your shoes at the front door. This is usually due to general cleanliness or carpets etc. However, as soon as I started living in Australia with my Chilean boyfriend, my world was turned upside down!

Chileans don’t take off their shoes in their own homes (unless they just rolled out of bed- but they still wear slippers or flipflops), and definitely not in other’s homes. Whenever I don’t have shoes on in the house (I love going barefoot), there is always someone quick to say that I might get sick, even during Chilean summer! So, final word is: keep your shoes on.

 

There are my 5 etiquette tips for Chile! I hope you enjoyed this article and I was able to prepare you in some way for your future South American travels, or that you were slightly enlightened by these cultural differences!

Please comment, share if you like this post, and subscribe for more travel and wellness tips from myself!

For photos of my travels around Chile and other countries, find me on instagram !

x – Jenn, The Redhead Abroad