Let’s be honest: selecting travel destinations in a foreign country is a daunting task. When I first arrived in Chile, I didn’t know where to start: What can I afford? What will work with my class schedule? Where is there to even go?
I’m balling on a budget down here. I mean a shoestring, saving-free-bread-from-restaurants, thrift-shop-only kind of budget. But studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I refuse to let my financial limitations keep me from seeing as much of this gorgeous country as humanly possible.
Lucky for me (and for you, when you read this blog and inevitably hop on the next plane to Chile), the bus system here is cheap, easy to use and incredibly widespread. The landscape is so varied that an hour on the road will find you in an entirely different location with sights, food, culture and people distinct from the Valparaíso region. So without further ado, I present the ideal list of day and weekend trips that will satisfy your wanderlust without breaking the bank or derailing your GPA.
Time from Viña: 1.5 hours by bus + 90 minute walk (or 15 minute hitchhike)
Round trip fare: $6
The bonfire enthusiast’s paradise, this beach destination is a popular (and free) campsite just south of Valparaíso. Lush green hills surround this hidden cove on three sides, dipping down to a rocky coast with sand so soft you’ll hardly need a sleeping bag. The icy cold water is the best way to wake up after a night of marshmallows and stargazing. Pro tip: lock down your food. The stray dogs are sneaky.
Parque Nacional La Campana
Time from Viña: 30 minutes by metro + 30 minutes by bus + 30 minute walk
Round trip fare: $10
The hike to the top of the mountain is strenuous, but the views along the way are worth it. We came across countless birds and lizards, wild horses, and a bull – no wonder Charles Darwin chose the area as a site for his studies. We also came across a couple tarantulas, which a local tried to tell me were completely harmless, but by that point I had sprinted halfway to Bolivia.
Time from Viña: 1.5 hours by bus
Round trip fare: $12
Chile’s capital is a sprawling metropolis, home to a third of the country’s population and rich in culture and history. While the size can feel a bit overwhelming, there are a few must-see destinations to help you narrow your tour, including Santa Lucia Hill, La Moneda Palace and Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago.
Time from Viña: 6 hours by bus
Round trip fare: $30
I left my heart in Pichilemu. This little beach town is the worth the time it takes to get there, and as the surf capital of Chile draws travelers from around the world. In one night at our hostel, I met people from Chile, Mexico, Colombia, England, Australia, Belgium, and South Africa. The people are helpful and kind, the empanadas are divine, and the waves are formidable. Surfers can rent a board and wetsuit for $12 a day, and spectators can watch in awe from Punto de Lobos for free.
Want to read more about this extraordinary country? Check out “4 Reasons to Book a Flight to Valparaiso, Chile”