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Chillin’ Out in Chile

Atacama Desert beach Chile Christmas experience flamingos geysers hiking Hotel Kimal hotels lakes Le Reve Los Molles mojito New Year's pisco sour present Providencia reservations San Pedro de Atacama sandboarding Santiago South America stargazing stars swimming Travel UNESCO World Heritage Site vacation Valparaiso

Instead of a presents under the tree for Christmas this year we’ve decided to give each other  a vacation, the experience of somewhere we haven’t been. South America is calling and we’re headed to Chile to celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year. Our days will be spent with sunny hikes, warm beaches, crystal clear skies and plenty of Chilean feasting. (photo source)

Our first stop will be Santiago. Traveling abroad over Christmas can be a little tricky. You need to keep in mind that many shops, museums and restaurants will be closed (especially if you’re staying in a predominantly Christian city). As far as food goes, your best bet is to have your hotel make dinner reservations for you in advance since they’ll be aware of the best options that will be open. With businesses closed for the holiday there will certainly be plenty of time for strolling. Santiago looks to be pretty picturesque so I have not doubt we’ll keep ourselves more than busy.

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We’ll be spending two nights in the Providencia neighborhood of Santiago at Le Reve Boutique Hotel. The neighborhood is best known for its beautiful homes and excellent shopping. Unfortunately not much shopping will happen while we’re there since by law the stores are closed for the holiday (unless it is a family run business or hotel),  but I am still excited to explore the neighborhood and get a feel for this beautiful “barrio”. (photo sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,  78, 9)

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On December 26 we board our flight for our Atacama adventure. We’ll be spending 4 nights in the desert, and three of the days will be packed with excursions. The Atacama Desert is supposed to be the best location on the planet for star gazing and is one of the main reasons tourists are drawn to this desert.

In addition to taking in the jaw-dropping night skies, we’ll be sandboarding, hiking, checking out geysers and thermal springs, following flamingos, and maybe even swimming in a lake or two. (photo sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

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We were surprised to learn that nearly every hotel option in the San Pedro de Atacama region was already fully booked for the dates we had hoped for. The Atacama Desert is a far more popular destination for New Year’s than we had ever thought. We were lucky enough to find availability at a hotel in the main historic area of the San Pedro de Atacama village prior to New Year’s, Hotel Kimal, and will be calling it home base while we’re there.

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What better place to head to after the desert than the sea? From Atacama we’ll fly back to Santiago where we’re picking up a rental car and heading for the beach. We’ve rented a house on the coast of the famous Valparaiso region about 2 hours from Santiago. The downtown area of Valparaiso is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the region is supposed to be one of the best areas to celebrate New Year’s in South America. We hunted for a house that was away from the hubbub since many of the city slickers head to this area for the festivities. We’ll be staying in Los Molles but it’s nice to know that the conveniences of food stores, restaurants and bars aren’t too far away. (photo source 1, 2)

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The trip is less than 3 months away and I’m glad we finally have all of our accommodations booked. There were so many moving pieces putting a trip like this together- part adventure, part relaxation, two holidays, popular destinations, various transportation logistics. All you can do is research and more research to formulate the best travel plan for you while staying within your budget (which is always trickier around holidays). I would suggest that you give yourself more time for planning than we did so that you can get your first choices when it comes to hotels and activities. Not only do hotels and rental homes book up quickly over holidays the prices also typically spike or there are a minimum number of nights required in order to book. We lucked out this time, but it wasn’t easy to nail down our options.

When we return I’ll be sure to share the restaurants and various activities that highlighted the trip  along with some of our personal photos and of course the recipes for the best mojito and pisco sour that we find. Between now and then we still have Halloween, Thanksgiving, friends’ weddings, family visits, weekend road trips  and the regular day to day. I’m confident to say that after what is sure to be a busy Fall we’ll be looking forward to another amazing getaway.

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