Surprising North: Bahía Inglesa and Surroundings

Chile is not a top destination for beach holidays, due to the cold currents of the Humboldt River off Chile’s shores. However, during a rental car trip through Chile you should not miss to spend some nice days on the beach, which can be combined with some exciting day trips with your rental car, to discover the surroundings. Today, we present a region quite popular with Chileans for long weekend trips: the coastal zone of the Atacama region. This is where desert meets  sea.

As a starting point, we recommend Bahía Inglesa, a small seaside resort on the Pacific with a rocky beachm white sand and turquoise water. Ostiones (scallops) are a specialty there, divers bring them fresh from the sea every day.

You can do sea kayaking, take diving lessons or go on sailing trips. We recommend a visit in November / December or March as it is warm during these months and they are outside the Chilean summer holidays.

From Bahía Inglesa, take a day trip with your rental car to the Pan de Azucar National Park near Copiapó. There are over 20 cactus species and other plants there, that can survive without rain,  covering their water needs with only coastal fog. Foxes, guanacos and many species of birds live there, too. The park is especially beautiful during the rare phenomenon of the “blooming desert” when plant seeds suddenly grow in the soil after precipitation.
The island off Pan de Azúcar is home to the northernmost colony of Humboldt penguins in the world. Fishermen from the village of Caleta Pan de Azúcar will be happy to bring you there by boat. Highlight of the park is a viewpoint, which can be reached via a hiking trail of about 1 km. From there, you have a great view over the surrounding beaches, the park and the desert landscape.

One benefit of traveling by rental car is that you can make stopovers where ever you like and do not have to stick to a schedule. On the way to the national park, for example, visitors interested in geology may stop at the “Santuario de la Naturaleza Granito Orbicular”: A granite block with a pattern of black circles and brighter structures, probably produced by the gradual cooling of magma around a central core. This structure is extremely rare, there are only very few worldwide. From this rock, walk along the beach between the rocks to a sea lion rock in the sea. Large crabs, starfish, sponges and other sea creatures hide in small waterholes between the rocks.

The very small beach Playa La Virgen is also suitable for a day trip with the rental car: you might even fell like in the Carribbean in this narrow bay with white sandy beach and crystal clear water. If you would like to enjoy this pearl woth no or little other visitors, come on weekdays in spring or autumn. The place owes its name “virgin beach” to a naturally shaped stone figure on the access road, which from a distance looks stunningly like a kneeling Madonna.

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