From Caldera, Ryan and I took a bus down to La Serena, which means “serene” in English. I liked La Serena right from the start. It is a charming, well-organized city with beautiful colonial architecture, a metropolitan downtown, and a long, golden beach. However, just like most beach towns in Chile in June, it was sleeeeeeepy. Apparently the place triples in population during the summer months of December, January, and February. But in late June, just about every apartment had a “For rent” or “For sale” sign in the window, especially in the buildings along the coast.
Ryan and I ended up in Caldera, Chile because of a photo I saw online. Considering that the trip back down to Santiago from San Pedro de Atacama is a 20-24 hour bus ride, we wanted to make some stops along the way to break up that journey. I googled “beaches northern Chile” and saw a beautiful photo of Bahia Inglesa, just south of Caldera. I said, “Ooh, let’s go here!” Thus began our 2-day “adventure” of photo chasing and bad timing.
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.