After our short stay in Valparaiso, Ryan and I headed back to Santiago to fly up north to San Pedro de Atacama, the world’s driest (non-polar) desert. Average rainfall in the Atacama region ranges from 1-15 mm per year, although some areas have reported up to four years without rain. The aridity of the area, and therefore the lack of plant life, the orangish soil, the salt flats, and the mountains all contribute to an otherworldly appearance. It truly does feel like being on Mars, and this landscape attracts thousands of visitors every year to the Atacama Desert despite its harsh weather conditions.
Valparaíso, Chile can take your breath away, both literally and figuratively. The city consists of 41 “cerros” or hills that rise up from the coast, one flowing into the other in a labyrinth of brightly colored, well-graffitied homes and buildings. The roads, staircases, and alleys that connect the hills either climb up at a steep incline or snake their way lazily along the side of the hill. Climbing the hills on foot is a workout even for the young and fit. Fortunately for the elderly, the infirm, and the lazy, there are many cheap public transportation options, including ancient “ascensores” or funiculars, busses, colectivos, and taxis.