When in Santiago ..... visit the Andes

Geographically speaking, Chile is one interesting place! Of course, the most dominating feature of the country when looking at a map is its thin, long shape, spanning more than 4,190kms along the western edge of South America. It is never more than 185kms in width. In the north you find the amazing Atacama Desert, the driest in the world, and in the south the glaciers, fjords and dense forests of Patagonia. All of this is wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains.

While I was in Santiago, I went on a trip to the Andes. Traveling only 40 kilometres from the city, you ascend more than 2500m by travelling by bus on a winding mountain road in less than 60 minutes!!! The road has 67 hairpin bends (my cycling friends will be interested to hear that there is an annual bike ride up from Santiago to the 37th bend – pure torture, if you ask me!)

Leaving Santiago at 520 meters above sea level, it does not take long before the vegetation changes. You will see on the photo above the quisco that dominates the lower Andes and is one of the few cacti that can withstand cold and snow. 

A short while later, you reach the vegetation line and it starts looking like a moon landscape.

The trip ended at Valle Nevado, a ski resort at 3025 meters above sea level (As a side note, to see a ski resort in the middle of the summer and to see all the snow ploughs in the dust is a bit of a sad sight, but that can easily be rectified by a trip back in winter :-)!) The views were phenomenal and we were lucky to see a few Andean condors (Chile’s national bird is one of the world’s largest fowls, with a wingspan of over 3m!) watching us from high above in the cobalt blue sky. It was a good day – everywhere you looked there were reminders that we are now DEFINITELY in someplace other than our own country. And that is my favourite kind of realization….

You can read more about the ski resort here.

Image credits: All photography by me

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