Passing through lush vineyards, cool little beach towns, enjoying starry southern skies at one of the many observatories and not to mention exploring the volcano-dominated altiplano scenery of the Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth there͛s something for everyone in the north of Chile. On the high Andean plateau, you͛ll find small villages at up to 4,000 meters above sea level where timeless traditions linger in extreme and wonderfully photogenic settings. If you͛re a fan of water sports or simply enjoy soaking up the sun, don͛t miss the northern coastal region, with its exquisite sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and superb seafood.
North Road Trip
Begin with a few nights in the happening capital,. Stroll around the historic centre, soak up some heritage in the fantastic museums, break for a lively seafood lunch in the Mercado Central and spend the afternoon gazing over Santiago from the summit of Cerro San Cristobal. If you’ve got any energy left, the bohemian neighbourhood of Bellavista will be open for dining, drinking and dancing until the early hours.
Starting early, pickup yourat our centrally located Condor Campers HQ and get ready for your North road trip. Before driving off, stock up on cheaper essentials in the city and head west where you’ll soon reach the . This is Chile’s fastest growing wine region where you can learn all about the process and sample the best white wines of Chile at one of the many vineyards.
On to funkyto walk its famously steep cerros (hills) and ride antique elevators like Cerro Concepción, the city’s oldest. This UNESCO World heritage site is a great place to get lost in the steep maze of bright mural lined alleyways, feast on the catch of the day, and take a boat ride around the harbour at sunset before eventually collapsing in one of the antiquated bars that stay open until the small hours.
Make your way north along the beautiful road that hugs the coastline, searching for your tailor made beach town., and are some of our favourites or, for those who like scuba diving or snorkelling, you’ll enjoy going under in . All places have fantastic beaches and are a great place to sit down with a tasty empanada in one hand and a glass of Chiles finest in the other. Sit back and just enjoy the spectacular sunsets of the Chilean west coast.
Next, you’ll soon arrive at. A UNESCO listed cloud forest that grows in the middle of a coastal desert area more than 1,250 km from its usual preferred habitat – a true testimony of what the Atacama Desert was like over 30,000 years ago. With your Condor Camper at the ready there are little roads that will take you to observation points where you can spot different species of animals, more than 440 species of trees and native plants and breathe in the fresh air from the millennial natural site.
Continue on route 5 north, admiring Norte Chico’s coastline and you’ll arrive at, Chile’s second-oldest city and thriving regional capital. La Serena, with its beautiful architecture and long golden shoreline make it a perfect base for exploring the nearby sights and restocking all your camping essentials.
A short journey east from La Serena takes you in to the lush green, one of Chile’s most important valleys and the heart of Chilean Pisco production. After sampling the national alcohol ‘Pisco’ in the village of Pisco Elqui, be sure not to miss some of the world’s best stargazing at one of the many observatories. Our favourite is the Observatorio Cerro Mamalluca. Book on a guided tour for a truly unforgettable evening beneath the most magical, clearest skies on the planet.
Rejoining the coast, head to. Wildlife enthusiasts will jump for joy boarding one of the excellent boat excursions to the nearby islands. This national park is home to cormorants, pelicans, Peruvian boobys, marine otters, playful bottle-nosed dolphins, sea lions, huge whales and of course, the cheeky Humboldt penguins!
Continue up the coast stopping at the little beach town of. Quiet white sands and turquoise waters have made this cute seaside resort one of the North’s most popular vacation spots.
The next area of interest north is, a unique and beautiful national park where an abundance of white sandy beaches, stony headlands and sheltered coves line the desert coast. Here, in this 437-sq-km park, are superb coastal campsites, numerous hiking trails, many species of cacti as well as foxes, birds and vicuñas. The shore is also home to many species of migratory seabirds including our firm favourite, the Humboldt Penguin.
Saving almost the best till last, next stop is, the driest place on earth! Ancient cultures and travellers from all over the world intermingle in this age-old town with dirt roads and adobe homes. Take at least three to four days to explore the whole region. El Tatio Geysers, Valle de la Luna, Altiplano lakes, Salar de Atacama, Piedras Rojas, these are just some of the sights here. There are also countless activities on offer for everyone. Trekking, biking, sand boarding , just dreaming …..This marvellous, fascinating corner of the globe is a place to admire and not be rushed.
San Pedro de Atacama is the perfect drop off location for various onward destinations in South America. Here are a few options:
– Take route 27 from San Pedro to the border crossing at , an Andean mountain pass nestling at 4,200 metres. Once in Argentina, visit and . Continue to Jujuy to stock up on supplies before hiking in the nearby . Further south is , the heart of the area. A great base for picking up information about the neighbouring regions and also home to Argentina’s best empanada! and are just some of the wonderful sights to be enjoyed as you slowly make your way back south to , Argentina’s best and most famous wine region. A breath taking journey through with stunning vistas of the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas, bring a sad but memorable end to one unforgettable, fantastic road trip. Drop off in at Condor Campers HQ.
Those wishing to continue to Bolivia can drop off their Condor Camper at our remote location depot in San Pedro De Atacama and join an excursion to in Bolivia via the Salar de Uyuni, another incredible place to visit in South America.
Those heading towards Peru can continue with their Condor Camper north passing through UNESCO listed and . This, former mine is now an interesting modern day ghost town thriving with history. The Chinchorro mummies are the oldest known artificially preserved bodies in the world and these can be found in the at the Museo Arqueologico San Miguel de Azapa. Less than 20km away is the city of and another Condor Camper remote location. Drop off your campervan and continue your adventure however, don’t rush from Arica too soon. Surfers, sunbathers and swimmers can all find their niche along Arica’s plentiful beaches with superb camping options.
Retrace your steps back to the Panamericana 5 and follow the road south back to calling in at places you didn’t have chance to visit travelling north.