Last weekend I traveled with 4 other girls from my program to the towns of La Serena and Vicuña. It was wonderful to get away from the busy, smoggy city for a few nights, breathe some fresh air, and explore northern Chile!
On Friday afternoon we hopped on a bus and rode 7 hours north to the coastal town of La Serena.
I guess it’s a popular resort town in the summer, but it’s very pleasant and tourist-free during the winter months! We stayed at a comfortable hostel (my very first!) and enjoyed a delicious breakfast there in the morning.
On Saturday, we wandered through the city and visited a few of the beautiful old churches around the plaza.
We went to a Japanese garden (a bit ironic to be in Chile and visit a Japanese garden, but it was lovely!) and then walked down to the beach to the Pacific Ocean.
We stopped for lunch at a hole-in-the wall “restaurant,” if you can even call it that… but we knew we’d found a local treasure when we walked in and saw some of the people who worked at the hostel eating there too! In Chile, lunch is typically the largest meal of the day and restaurants serve a plentiful- and cheap ($4-5USD)- set lunch. Saturday’s lunch special was veggie soup, bread, rice, and fish! Yum!
We walked back through town, visited the market, bought dried papayas (a regional specialty) and then found our bus to our next destination: Vicuña, in the Elqui Valley about an hour inland from La Serena. Vicuña was much smaller and more rural, and we had another lovely hostel stay here.
On Sunday morning we visited Gabriela Mistral’s birth place and museum (she is one of Chile’s most beloved poets). In the afternoon we took a tour of the Capel pisco factory, samples included! Pisco is grape brandy, used to make “pisco sours,” one of the most popular Chilean drinks. And funny sidenote, a stray dog (we named her Felicity) followed us all the way from our hostel in Vicuña to the Pisco factory, and then it continued to follow us on the whole tour. We pretended like we weren’t the ones that brought the dog…
Monday morning was a national holiday, so we got to enjoy a long weekend. We took a hike up a nearby hill for a view of the valley…and took lots of pictures of the vista along the way!
We spent the afternoon and evening traveling via bus back to Santiago. It was a wonderful weekend and I’m so excited to have made great friends to travel with. Life in Santiago has been fairly eventful as well. In the past week there has been SNOW, more student protests, and my host brother’s first communion! More to come soon. Sending my love from the Southern Hemisphere!