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Chile: 10 Things To Do In Taltal and Why You Should Visit

By 03/31/2018 July 11th, 2018 No Comments

Volunteering In TaltalVolunteering In Taltal Getting To TaltalGetting To Taltal Accommodation In TaltalAccommodation In Taltal Ten Things To Do in TaltalTen Things To Do in Taltal

For the many, many people who travel Chile (us included), the normal route involves a long trek from San Pedro de Atacama to La Serena or Santiago or vice versa as there’s nothing very interesting between the two points, or so they would have you believe.

If you are looking to stray off the beaten track, and not spend over 10 hours on a bus, or are travelling from north to south and haven’t seen the beach in a while, Taltal is the perfect place for a quick stop to break up the journey.

Taltal is a small coastal city south of Antofagasta and north of Chañaral. The city’s rich history and unique geography, flora and fauna make it the perfect stopping point for any tourist looking to discover another less touristy side of Chile.

This awesome little berg has it all, from stunning beaches like Tierra del Moro or Cifuncho (voted among the top 5 most beautiful in Chile), to species of cacti that exist nowhere else in the world, and delicious ocean fresh fish and local dishes such as Red Conger Eel.

We were amazed at just how much there is on offer in Taltal, but don’t take our word for it, why not stop off for a few days in this hidden gem, where the people, the atmosphere and the sun always seem to be shining.

 Volunteering in Taltal:

We stumbled across this diamond in the rough while applying for volunteering positions on the helpx website, looking to stretch our budget a little and spend a bit more time in the country.

The ad for EFTG (English For The Greatest) immediately stood out. In exchange for teaching 3 separate levels of classes; housewives in the morning, teens in the late afternoon and workers at night, we were provided with a bed, breakfast at the kiosk every weekday morning and basic food supplies like rice and beans, sugar, salt, pasta, etc… to use for the rest of our meals. Anyone who has travelled on a budget will know straight away that this is a doozy of an offer.

When we arrived we were met by Hector Tello, the principle and founder of EFTG. Which it turns out is not just an English school but an NGO, whose mission is to enrich the lives of everyone in Taltal.

EFTG works heavily with the people of Taltal and it’s neighbour Paposo, to provide English and German lessons as well as itroducing community development iniciatives and raising money for local charities.

The NGO also runs a kiosk in the Plaza de Armas, All of the profits of which go straight back to the community.

Volunteering with EFTG was the highlight of my trip to Chile. What was in the beginning a stressful part of the journey for me (I’m the budget man remember and Chile is daaaaamn expensive) became a funfilled experience with some wonderful new friendships.

The work is challenging but rewarding and the social life is fantastic. We had barbecues, went kayaking, dinners, drinks, we were even invited to stay for Christmas. You can email [email protected] in advance to enquire about volunteer vacancies and we highly recommend you do.

Why not take a quick look at the video to see just how much fun we had in Taltal!

 Getting To Taltal:

From Iquique:

Busses leave frequently from Terminal Esmeralda on Calle Esmeralda from 00:20 to 22:00. Travel time is roughly 8 hours and prices start from $18600CHP (€25 / $30USD).

From San Pedro de Atacama:

Busses leave from Terminal San Pedro de Atacama, Socaire, at 07:01 and 11:45. Travel time is roughly 6 hours and prices start from $14,700CHP (€20 / $23USD)

From Calama:

From Terminal de bus Calama Av. Granaderos 3051 and Turbus Calma Av. Granaderos 2963 from 08:45 to 13:45. Travel time is about 5 hours and prices start from $15,000CHP (€20 / $24USD).

From La Serena:

Busses leave from Terminal La Serena, Amunátegui 107, tickets start from approx $17,000 CHP (€22 / $26USD). The journey takes roughly 7 hours, and busses run from 00:05 to 22.40.

From Santiago:

Busses leave Terminal San Borja, San Francisco de Borja 184 and Terminal Alameda, Av. Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins 3750, from 16:25 to 23:55. Travel time is approx 12 hours and prices start from $28,100CHP (€38 / $45USD).

Do make sure to ask the driver / ayudante to give you shout when you get to Taltal, it’s small so you may miss it!

It’s worth noting that tickets are more expensive depending on the day/time of travel, so if you’re on a budget maybe use turbus.cl to find times and prices and then go to the local office to try find a better rate.

 Accommodation in Taltal:

If you’re travelling on a tight budget you can camp on Tierra del Moro and Pozo de la Tortuga beaches in Taltal for free, all you’ll need is a tent. The camping areas are all clearly marked.

There are no cooking or showering facilities though, so you’ll be totally roughing it. Alternatively the Hospedería Taltal on calle Juan Martinez have dorm rooms starting from $10,000CHP (€13 / $16US) per person.

They have double rooms also at $20,000CHP (€26 / $32US), all with shared bathrooms and Wifi. This was the cheapest accomodation we were able to find. It’s not the ritz but it’s clean and comfortable which is about all you expect for the price. It’s the perfect place if you’re watching your pennies.

The Paposo inn on Calle Serrano is a beautiful hostel with a warm family vibe, an open air sun patio with a little fountain and a fully equipped common kitchen.

It’s spotlessly clean and feels more like a home than a hostel. This would be a great place to stay if you’re travelling with kids. They have dorm beds at $11,000CHP (€15 / $18USD) per person, all dorms are with aircon and shared bathroom.

Alternatively they have one double room and one family room (1 double bed and a single) both with private bathrooms a fridge and balcony, TV and aircon for $40,500 (€55 / $65USD) per night.

Slightly out of our usual budget, but we were lucky enough to be put up here while we volunteered with the local NGO. We were also delighted to help create and design their website.

 Ten Things To Do In Taltal:

#1 Wicked Water Sports:

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Row dammit row!!

Taltal is all coastline, and where there’s waves, there’s water sports, Taltal is no exception. Why not get your pocahontas on and go on a kayak tour with local guide Cristian Fuenzalida.

He runs a “lobera” tour, where you will kayak through jelly fish infested waters (and they are HUGE) to la puntilla where you will see Lobos del Mar (sea lions), alternatively you can go fishing in kayak in the same place or further a field to the hot desert shores of El Playa Cifuncho.

Contact Cristian Fuenzalida:

Whatsapp: +56981991526 | Email: [email protected]

Had enough of floating on the water? How about going under! You can go scuba diving, snorkelling or get your PADI with experienced dive masters Rodrigo and Ignacio at OASIS CLUB DIVE CENTER.

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🎶Life’s always betta down where it’s wetta!!!🎶

Contact Oasis:

Rodrigo Quiroga PADI Whatsapp: +56981478561

Ignacio Fernández Dive Master Whatsapp: +56968975692

Email: [email protected]

 

Costs:

Sea lion tour: $15.000CLP (€20 / $24US)

Kayak fishing $15.000CLP (€20 / $24US)

Kayak fishing Cifuncho $30.000CLP (€40 / $48US)

Open Water Dive – PADI Certificate $260.000CLP (€354 / $422US)

Snorkeling $45.000CLP (€61 / $73US)

#2 El Médano Cave Paintings:

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Yabba dabba dooooooo

North of Taltal, is El Médano ravine, an important Chilean historical site where you can see perfectly preserved red cave paintings by the now extinct Chango tribe.

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🎶Changos, meet the changos🎶

This 1500 year old graffiti show the tribes cooking methods as well as their unique fishing and diving methods. They were famous for living off the sea and hunting sea lions, swordfish and whales! They hunted whales, in kayaks!

It’s amazing to get a glimpse into how they used to live from these murals.

How to get there:

The ravine can only be accessed with a local guide, according to Local NGO, EFTG chief Hecto Tello. It’s in order to protect the site. They’re quite proud and don’t want too many people going down there.

Diego Carmona of Llanca Expediciones is your man for tours, but also you can go with the EFTG guide Javier, and it will be cheaper.

Contact Javier:

Email: [email protected]

Contact Diego:

Whatsapp: +56 9 4285 1081

Email: [email protected]

Cost:

$40,000 CHP (€65 or $75US) with Llanca $25,000 CHP (€32 or $38US) with EFTG school guide.

#3 The Oldest Mine in South America:

In 2008 archaeologists discovered a 12,000-year-old iron oxide mine in Taltal the oldest ever found in the Americas. It shows just how long the people here have been in the mining business.

A team of researchers led by Diego Salazar of the Universidad de Chile found the 40-meter trench dug by the Huentelauquen people (try sayin that 3 times fast), the first settlers in the region, who used iron oxide as pigment for painting stone and bone instruments, and probably also for clothing and body paint, aren’t people awesome?

How to get there:

You can walk there it’s about 2 / 3 km from town, and it’s a beautiful coastal walk. Alternatively you can take a taxi from outside the bank in the main plaza.

A taxi will cost $2000 CHP (€2 or $3 US).

Cost:

Entry to the site is gratis!

#4 The Beaches of Taltal:

Taltal is all coast, which means beaches, beaches and more beaches which was amazing for us as we were travelling from San Pedro and hadn’t seen the ocean in a while;

El Muelle de Piedra, located 2km north of Taltal has camping areas and play areas for the little ones. But it’s a little too stoney for sunbathing or relaxing.

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El Muelle de Piedra

El Pozo De La Tortuga, is a favourite area for the locals to go for tea and sunsets, the area has built in grill/barbecue areas as well as picnic benches and kids shallow swimming areas and playground. It’s a really nice family atmosphere, but it can get a little crowded, especially in the summer when local families literally move into tents on the beach! (It’s a local tradition).

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El Pozo De La Tortuga

Tierra Del Moro, is the busiest beach in Taltal because of its beautiful white sands and good surf. We’d recommend it for swimming and tanning. In the summer, the beach is manned by lifeguards.

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Tierra del Moro

Cifuncho, is Taltal’s pride and joy when it comes to its beaches. Voted in the top 5 most beautiful beaches in Chile this stunning playa is 32 km south of Taltal so it’s a little harder to get to, but totally worth the effort.

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Cifuncho

Here you will find a small fishing dock where you can enjoy fresh seafood ceviche, sea urchin and red conger eel a local favoirite (which is delicious).

How to get there:

Muelle de Piedra, Poza De La Tortuga and Tierra del Moro are easily accessed from town either by foot or taxi. Taxi costs $2000 CHP (€2 or $3US).

There is a public bus from the plaza de Armas for $300 CHP (€0.40 or $0.45 US) it doesn’t have a number but it has a sign in the front window that says “playa”.

To get to Cifuncho costs $700 CHP (€0.90 or $1 US) There’s a public bus leaving the main square every Friday ONLY at 9am and returning at 6pm and ONLY in the summer months (December to March).

Cost:

Entry to all the beaches is free.

#5 Paranal Observatory and The V.L.T:

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Very. Large. Telescope. The name says it all really…

Located 110 km to the north of Taltal is one of the sets of the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace, The Paranal Observatory, home to the V.L.T (literally meaning Very Large Telescope).

Unfortunately you cannot use the telescope but it’s still really impresive to see, apart from some amazing photo opportunities there are still actual scientists working here at night so you’ll need to keep the volume down if you visit during the day!

How to get there:

There is no tour to observatory as of yet, so at the moment you need to organise your own transport. Javier at EFTG can usually organise this for you if you contact him in advance.

Also there’s a local tour guide Cristian Tapia, who can take you there but you will need to negotiate a price with him directly as it’s not a fixed service.

Contact Cristian:

Whatsapp: +56 9 4093 0832 | Email: [email protected]

Also you need to register your visit ahead of time here.

Cost:

Entry is Free.

Transport with Cristian $10.000CLP (€14 / $16US) per person approximately.

#6 Hike The Hill and Catch A Sunset:

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You say hill, but all I see is this mountain…

At the south end of the village there is a large hill / mirador where you can see the whole town as well as a beautiful sunset. It’s a tough climb so we’d only recommend it for fairly active travellers. Oh, and while you are there, ask any local about the “naked gringo” story (HIL-ARIOUS)

How to get there:

Walk to the south end of the town and then follow the path. Nice and easy.

Cost:

Another freebie!

#7 Visit Paposo:

Paposo is a small fishing village 52 km north of Taltal. The oldest village in northern Chile and border with Bolivia until the Pacific war in 1879. This was where the Chango people used to live and the people here still live solely from fishing.

The village has its own microclimate so there are species of cactus here that you literally cannot see anywhere else in the world!! and if that’s not enough of a reason to visit, there’s a tradition that if you help a local fisherman unload his haul, he’ll give you lots of fresh fish for your trouble.

We’re not sure what time they arrive in from the catch at but we were there around 2pm and there were boats unloading.

How to get there:

You can go out onto the main road out of town heading north and hitchhike for free, from the same place if you see the ‘turbus’ bus you can flag them down and pay $1000-$2000 CHP depending on your negotiating skills. Alternatively in the summer months, December – March, the local bus that goes to the beaches from the main plaza, also goes to Paposo. The journey will cost you $700 CHP (€0.90 / $1 US)

Cost:

Free free free!!

#8 Volunteer:

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Help a little, it helps a lot

It’s worth mentioning again, trust us! If you’re not on a tight schedule why not spend some time volunteering with the EFTG English school? They’re constantly looking for people to help out at events, teach English classes or just swing by and say hi to the students. It’s an amazing opportunity to see a new side to the country and its people. Even if you only have a week or two to spare, email Hector and offer a helping hand, he will definitely have some work for you.

How to get there:

You can email [email protected] in advance to enquire about vacancies or alternatively go to the kiosk on the northeast side of the main square opposite the ‘sabor brasil’ ice cream parlour and ask for Hector.

Cost:

Our favourite, Free!

#9 Eat, eat, eat:

We’re going to combine two things into one here. First you NEED to go to the Sabor Brazil icecream parlour across from the EFTG kiosk and try the Chocolate Brownie or Tres Leches flavours.

Secondly, pop into Costa Traviesa and have Pichanga del Chef and a beer by the ocean. Pichanga del Chef is a giant plate of chips with slices of steak and prawns, all covered in melted cheese and served with 3 dipping sauces. One is enough for 2 people, although I did my best to get through one alone.

Cost:

Sabor Brasil, $1,000 (€1.30 / $1.60US) per scoop.

So Pichanga del Chef $12,000 (€16 / $19US) – costly but it WILL feed minimum two people.honestly, don’t be a hero, share it with a friend.

How to get there:

Sabor Brasil is on the northeast corner of the Plaza de Armas,

To get to Costa Traviesa walk to the coast from the Plaza and take a left. Its about 2 blocks down on your left hand side.

#10 Chill out in the Plaza de Armas:

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Don’t look at the cherubs!!

Built by the British in 1877, if you look from above, has shape of a British flag. The fountain is held up by four cherubs representing the four seasons. There is a legend that says that anyone who looks into the eyes of a cherub will fall in love with the city and always return.

Today the plaza is the central hub of the city where there is constant music laughter and life. Have an ice cream, grab a bench and test the legend. This was one of our favourite ways to pass the long sunny afternoons.

 

How to get there:

It’s right in the centre of town, you can’t miss it.

Cost:

Free (unless you count falling in love with a cherub as a cost)

Worth A Mention:

The people of Taltal claim that El Andino restaurant serves the best ‘completo’ (hotdog with tomato and avocado) in Chile, and we think they may be right. We’ll have to try A LOT more completos to be sure but for now its definitely in the top spot.

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Hot (diggity) dog

All products sold at the EFTG kiosk are locally produced and all proceeds go directly to the supporting the school and local economy, so have some carrot cake and a coffee and feel good about yourself for helping… you’re such a good person!

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Coffee with a conscience

Taltal is a mining town and still functions on the siesta principle so everything, and we mean EVERYTHING, closes from about 1 / 2pm until about 6pm, learn to love your siesta (I know I love a nap in the middle of the day!!)

Cristian Tapia can organise tours of sights and activities in and around Taltal. He has no set tour packages or prices, so you can tailor your own tours and the price will depend on where you want to go and how many people are in your group. As far as rough prices go, Cristian himself will tell you, “everything is negociable”.

Contact Cristian:

Whatsapp: +56 9 4093 0832 | Email: [email protected]

As always, if there’s anything we missed or if you have any questions please feel free to comment or contact is directly!

Now get your butts to Taltal and help spread the good word and lotta love this town has to offer.

Another big shout out to Hector and co. for making us feel like family.

Luke Gibney

Author Luke Gibney

They told me I had to grow up, so I sold everything I own and bought a one way ticket around the world.That's how you adult!

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