Patagonia…On top of the world at the bottom of the world

[TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE] — Going to Torres del Paine in Patagonia has been one of my lifelong goals, well, at least for the last 15 years. Finally got a chance to go, paired with a visit to the Atacama Desert in the northern half of Chile — the driest place on the planet (and posts to follow). Patagonia actually straddles Chile and Argentina and I could never figure it out, finally just picked Chile and didn’t even get a chance to see the Argentina side, which people I met strongly recommend. Where is it? Look at a map, find South America, then take a left and go aaallll the way to the bottom. It’s there. End of the earth. It’s hard to figure out what

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[EL TATIO GEYSERS, ATACAMA DESERT, CHILE ] — You get up early in the morning, when it is still dark and head out for the long drive up, the dawn sun gently rising behind the silhouettes of jagged mountains. You go from the warm desert to the early morning chill of 14,000 and just as the sun crests above the mountains, the rays open up a great, steaming, boiling field of geysers — El Tatio, the third largest geyser field in the world, and certainly the highest. It is breathtaking. You spend hours just wandering between each bubbling hole into the earth, each with its own signature look and formation, some in pools, some in heaps of calcified earth, built up like anthills. Steam surrounding you

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This may be one of the coolest hotel experiences on the planet.

TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE] — If you’re going to Patagonia the Tierra Hotel is the perfect base to explore Torres del Paine national park. It’s actually inside the park, with stunning views of the steep granite mountains called The Towers. Okay, here’s the deal: the Tierra Hotels in Chile have an awesome setup, all built around the adventure side of travel. There are two different sister hotels, one in the Atacama Desert in the north and the other right next to/inside the Torres del Paine national park in Patagonia. You pay one (hefty) price per day, but all your meals and drinks are included, but what is really cool is the “Guide Experience” that comes included. Each hotel has about 10-15 trained guides (and a dozen

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[ATACAMA DESERT, CHILE] — I am seriously months (and many countries) behind on posts; damn work keeps getting in the way. So forgive me, dear reader, as I try to catch up….. The Atacama Desert. Good lord. I’ve read about it, saw films about it, including this remarkable one, and was just totally consumed with getting there.  So I combined it with a Fire & Ice Tour of both the Atacama and Patagonia, with layovers in Santiago. Nestled in the upper right corner of Chile, one of the longest and skinniest countries in the world, is this freak of nature — the driest place on our planet, only  few hundred miles from the Pacific, where some places have no registered rainfall since they started measuring such things,

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[SALAR DE ATACAMA, CHILE]  — Only miles from the driest valley on the planet is the Salar de Atacama, the great salt flats of the Atacama Desert, a salty oasis in the middle a great pan of caked soil…and a calm resting place for flitting, sipping and slurping Andean flamingos.  At about 7,500 feet above sea level, the air is clear and the sun strong. This is the third largest salt flat in the world, and it sits in its own chunky basin, ringed by a great string of volcanoes in every direction.  You literally can set a string line for miles and miles and the elevation barely changes — it’s about 1,200 square miles. Out of the dried flaking cakes of mud, pops pockets of

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[ATACAMA DESERT, CHILE] — The two Chilean sister hotels of Tierra Hotels are one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. They’re expensive, but worth every penny. Everything is included: room, breakfast, lunch, dinner, booze, and the best part — guides. When you had it all up, and being in one of the most remote and foreboding places on the planet, it actually is a great value…an experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Set just the right amount outside of the little desert oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama, the Tierra nestles nicely into the surrounding desert landscape. Everything is done just right. When you arrive, they immediately give you a glass of wine and sit you down

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You Should Go Here in Santiago

[SANTIAGO, CHILE] — There are lots of great neighborhoods in Santiago — take some time to read about each one — I was just in and out for a night on each end of my trip to Chile, but these are some of my favorite places I stumbled onto. Santiago is so cool. Lots of barrios, each with their own personalities. And so clean. Everyone’s well-educated, with great style and gathering together to talk about what’s happening in the world. And Chile. And one thing I walked away with was the power that the internet has had on the world. Our world used to be dependent on manufacturing and industry, now all these great capitals are thriving with thousands of internet, app and web design firms popping

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A great boutique hotel in a very quiet part of Santiago

[SANTIAGO, CHILE] — Santiago is a bustling city with lots of cool neighborhoods and great places to stay, but the Hotel Carmenere is a relatively new small little boutique hotel tucked away on a quiet street, within walking distance to everything, but serves as your own private oasis to get over the plane ride and chill before starting out into the city or come back for a little nap. It’s less a hotel and more like staying in a private mansion, with just a handful of rooms and an almost perfect backyard, with an extremely friendly staff that just all act so extremely pleased to have you staying in their little secret place. Here’s what TripAdvisor has to say about — a rarity with TripAdvisor

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You should eat here in Santiago

[SANTIAGO, CHILE] — I only spent two nights in Santiago, so didn’t have a chance to eat around much, but here are places that I liked and would recommend. In Bario Lastarria, which is where I’d just go an walk around, there are lots of cool places to duck into. In prime spot right on the corner is this nice little place with prime outdoor tables for great people watching, right on the corner of Paseo Barrio Lastarria…I think it might be called Gatopardo, but not sure.   You can’t miss it, by the awnings and cool building backdrop below.           Mercado Central — located just off the city center, Mercado Central is really outstanding. A huge lumbering Victorian iron structure with

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