I arrived in Chile via the northern desert at San Pedro de Atacama, after a lovely tour of the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. This trip was a quick one – not nearly enough time to explore the length of this diverse country. I spent a week in Santiago with a day trip to Vina del Mar, Valparaiso and of course, wine tasting!
Map of Chile
Things to Do in Chile
- San Pedro de Atacama – I only spent one night here to rest before heading to Santiago, but if you are planning a longer stop, popular day trips from the area include those to the Atacama desert (multi-day tours to Uyuni in Bolivia are available as well), stargazing tours at night and bike rentals to go sand boarding nearby. My favorite haven in this dusty little town was Red Deli, where owner Carola Nudman has free wifi, delicious empanadas and sandwiches and – best of all – she makes a delicious cortado with illy coffee, the first non-nescafe that I’d had in a loooong time!
- Santiago – One of my favorite activities in Santiago was my mercado tour and cooking class with Uncorked Cooking Workshop. It was a great into to the city’s main markets and the most iconic dishes of Chile – you can read about my class here. Also highly recommend the Free Santiago Walking Tour as a good intro at the beginning of your trip. The beloved poet Pablo Neruda kept a home here called La Chascona, which is worth a visit if you’re interested in this interesting and beloved national figure. The (excellent and free) Museum of Memory and Human Rights tells the sombre tale of life in Chile before, during and since the 1973 coup and resulting dictatorship under Pinochet.
- Vina del Mar
What to Eat in Chile
- Caldo de Congrio – a seafood chowder made from conger eel. Poet Pablo Neruda was so enamored by it, that he wrote an ode to this delicious soup!
- Sopapillas – popular (and cheap!) street food, usually sold in the mornings. These are a pastry or type of bread made out of pumpkin.
- Empanadas de Pino – Empanadas are popular all over South America and Chile is no exception. The most popular is called Empanada de Pino, pino comes from a Quechua word that refers to the filling mixture of beef and onion. They are also stuffed with raisins, half a hard boiled egg and an olive – sometimes with the pit, be careful!
- Chorillana – bar food at its best, usually portioned to feed at least three people while soaking up the alcohol. Includes a bed of fries covered with sliced meat, sausage, onions and fried egg.
- Pastel de Choclo – like a meat pie with corn, mashed potatoes, ground beef, olives and more
- Porotos granados – beans with mashed corn, pumpkin, basil and red pepper. Can also be made with sausage or ground beef.
- Ceviche – every country has a version of ceviche, and Chile’s is very similar to Peru’s, although you’ll often find a very delicious Chilean touch – avocado! – added. Accompaniments in Chile often include watercress or some type of greens.
- Humitas – similar to a tamale, humitas are made of mashed corn (usually with onions, lard and cheese, although Chilean versions also sometimes include things like basil, which is often eaten with corn). Unlike humitas I’ve had in Ecuador, the Chilean variety are usually savory.
What to Drink in Chile
- Terremoto – The word literally means “Earthquake” and these were invented after the major tremor that resulted in widespread damage in Chile in 2010. The drink starts with pipeno (a sweet fermented wine) and gets a scoop of pineapple ice cream (!!) and a float of Fernet Branca. It sounds like a bad idea to me, but they’re much beloved here!
- Pisco & Pisco Sour – there’s a bit of debate over whether Chile or Peru can lay claim to the origins of Pisco, but the Chilean version is a bit darker than Peru’s, since it’s usually been aged. No one disputes that the Pisco Sour was created in Peru in the 20s by an American – the original recipe was very similar to a whiskey sour, but it’s since evolved to include egg white (which produces the traditional frothy top) and a few drops of agnostura bitters. In Peru they’re served in an old fashioned glass but in Chile, you’ll get your pisco sour in a festive champagne flute.
- Mote con Huesillos
A special mahalo to those who helped with tips…
Christy & Erik, Angie, Kim on a Whim