Last weekend I traveled with my study abroad program (all 30 of us!) up to the northern region of Chile.  We stayed in the port city of Iquique and visited the surrounding desert area.  Here’s a quick run down of the weekend…

Thursday: We flew up to Iquique. It only took about 2 hrs on plane.  I think it would have been about 20+ hours of driving!  Sidenote: I really like LAN airlines.  They give you a BOX snacks…even on short flights!

Friday: We spent the day in Iquique (see pictures below).  Highlights of the day included a boat ride in the bay (and we saw sea lions!) and volunteering at a school.  We watched some of the school kids perform traditional dances for us and we also learned some of the dances from them!

Saturday: We drove up into the desert (near the Atacama, the world’s driest desert).  We visited two abandoned nitrate mining towns and the “geoglifos pintados.”  These drawings in the earth of the cliffs were created sometime between 500-1500 AD.  I can’t even begin to describe how vast and dry the desert was and it was even hard to capture it with a camera.  I’ve never been anywhere quite like it.  The soil has been compared to that of Mars, and apparently some outer-space movies have even been filmed in this desert!  In the afternoon we went to the oasis town of Pica for lunch and to go swimming in the hot springs there.  It felt so good after a long day in the desert.  On our way back down to Iquique we stopped in the town of La Tirana to visit the church where the largest religious festival (celebrating the Virgen del Carmen) in Chile is held each July.  We were lucky enough to get to see a smaller festival happening and got to listen to traditional music and watch some dancing in the plaza outside the church!

Sunday: our last day in Iquique.  We had free time in the morning, so I walked around the town with some of my friends and we went down to the ocean.  We ate lunch at the Casino Español (a restaurant, not somewhere to gamble!) and flew back to Santiago in the evening.


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