By Maddie Hume, ISA Chile Program Manager
Saludos, fellow explorers!
Do you love the outdoors, but feel indecisive about your favorite type of climate? Have you been meaning to challenge yourself with the most unique sounding Spanish en el mundo hispanohablante? Well, great news! You can live out your nature and language dreams all in one place – the beautiful country of Chile!
One of my frequent weekend trips was to the coastal sister cities of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. Here, I sipped tea and snacked on media lunas while attempting (key word: attempting) to emulate the great Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, who drew much of his inspiration from the colorful hills and brooding sea. This place is especially near and dear to me since I now have the pleasure of working every day with ISA students studying there. These beautiful, cerro-filled cities are home to winding streets, colorful homes, and artists galore. Participants studying in Valpo and Viña are able to wander these cities as their own and integrate into the true Porteño culture. With programs that range from just a few weeks to a full academic year, there is a program for everyone in Chile.
When students want to escape the coast (sounds crazy, I know!) they can head south to the lush, mountainous regions of Chile. One town that I loved visiting was Pucón. This quaint pueblito sits in the shadow of the Volcán Villarica.
Some choose to make the trek to the summit of this active volcano to take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. I’m not much of a morning person and the hike begins at about 4:00AM. Instead, I whitewater rafted, fly-fished on the Rio Trancura, and wandered the local markets in search of authentic Chilean artistry. I also found a really great sushi restaurant, but that’s beside the point.
If verdant mountains aren’t quite your taste, don’t fret! Chile has it all. As you travel north from the Valparaiso area, the climate becomes more arid until you reach the driest desert in the world (before I went to South America, I really thought that title would have gone to the Sahara, but who knew!). Unfortunately, my camera failed me before arriving in San Pedro de Atacama, so I won’t subject you to sub-par smart phone pics. Rather, below is an example of the geography on the way there.
If I could have captured the scenery upon my arrival, it would have looked like a different planet. Places like Valle de la Luna and Valle Arcoíris transport you to a totally Martian land and provide activities like vivid star gazing, sand boarding, and horseback riding journeys over towering dunes and through dusty canyons.