Hostels in Review – “1001 Empenadas”

These are reviews of backpacker hostels I stayed in during my trip to Chile in May 2014. Where I remembered to write a review for the booking site I used (usually Hostelworld, admittedly), I’ve included that at the start, including overall rating the site calculated. Hostelworld has a 500 character limit, and I’m quite verbose …

1) Don Santiago hostel, Santiago
Date stayed: 17 May 2014
Length of stay: 3 Nights

“Lovely, quirky hostel not too far from the metro and a comfortable walk to the city centre. it actually looks and feels like a large house rather than a hostel. Comfy beds, dorm room felt spacious, and nicely homely decorated (I liked the tiles in the bathroom).” (94% rating)

Inside Santiago Hostel
Bathroom tiles. Unfortunately a little dark, but you get the idea.

It’s in the Barrio Brazil area to the west of the city centre, which is quite a ‘working class’ area and, much like the rest of Santiago, seems a little unkempt and definitely without a tourist feel, but the street itself is wide and busy so it doesn’t feel unsafe. It was really like a big house – a large ‘living room’, a smaller ‘dining room’, a small kitchen, and ‘three bedrooms’ (it may have been four – I never ventured into them) upstairs that were sizeable and turned into dorms, and a nicely-sized bathroom (but only one). The staff were friendly, and the place had a reasonably open, casual, vibe.

Inside Santiago Hostel
The dorms; they felt a little ‘cramped’ compared with those in Eastern Europe, but I think that was in part because my fellow backpackers had a *lot* of stuff.

Inside Santiago Hostel
The main living area. Definitely had a ‘living room’ feel to it.

2) Casa Verde Limon, Valparaiso
Date stayed: 20 May 2014
Length of stay: 2 Nights

“Took a little while to find (it’s on the right of the main street, opposite a play area), and looks nothing special from the outside, but it’s built into the hillside and is very spacious (and tall!). Huge kitchen and colourful/comfortable social area. Very close to good restaurant and short walk to city centre.” (94% rating)

Inside Valparaiso Hostel
The colourful living space. I was particularly taken with the cushions and the spiral staircase leading to reception (the usual entrance was to the left, through a side door – it’s built on a hill).

I loved this place – the central common area has a huuuuuge ceiling that rises up the inside of the hill, and when the rain fell on the roof it sounded much heavier than it really was due to the echoing. The pastel colours inside were calming, and while not terribly big as a whole, it felt much bigger than it was. Its only downside was being tricky to find (it’s listed as a roadname that’s actually merely a small terrace on a long road with a different name), and after dark one imagines the dark streets and back alleys would be uninviting, but that’s the same for much of Valparaiso.

Inside Valparaiso Hostel
The sizeable and comfortable kitchen. The rest of the living space was behind me, with a large table to eat at.

The communal areas are large, but there’s only a couple of small dorms so I’d imagine it would get full quite quickly.

Inside Valparaiso Hostel
My dorm was a 2-bed attached to a four-bed dorm. Compared with the living space, it felt quite small.

3) Hostal El Arbol, La Serena
Date stayed: 22 May 2014
Length of stay: 2 Nights

“I stayed in the beach hostel; basically someone’s house with a large kitchen, small living room/social area, and an outhouse where the dorms are. It’s a nice location (on the edge of town close to the beach, down rural tracks) but not sure if some people would be comfortable with the walk past the playing fields. Bed felt a bit rickety but was comfy enough.” (77% rating)

Inside La Serena Hostel
Part of the nice outdoor garden area – it was a good place to relax in the warm Winter sun, and you could pick up the Wi-Fi even there (though not so much in the dorms!).

Ah, now this was an odd one. The same people run two hostels, and swap people between them depending on how full they are – I originally booked the town centre hostel but was put into the beach one. To get there involved crossing the Pan-American highway, then taking a walk along a footpath over the railway line, past some fields and then a couple of football pitches, onto a dusty gravel track before finally reaching it. Not sure how I’d have felt being a single female doing it in the dark.

Inside La Serena Hostel
Again I was in a 2-dorm side-room connected to a larger dorm space. This is the larger space; I had more personal space but also the room’s toilet.

It was, basically, someone’s house; in the UK it would have been a quite expensive detached property with long driveway as you’d find on the affluent edges of cities. I’d describe it as being like an owner-occupied forest chalet. The common area and kitchen were basically the living room and kitchen of the owner’s house, although I will say that the kitchen was absolutely huge and I want a house with a kitchen as big as that. The room beyond the ‘living room’ was where the people who ran the hostel lived. Outside was a patio area with seats (and a kind of mezzanine area too), and a large garden surrounded the property. The dorms were in a couple of separate outhouses, comfortable enough but it all just felt slightly weird.

Inside La Serena Hostel
The living room; very homely and warm.

Inside La Serena Hostel
The kitchen; very definitely someone’s home kitchen I felt. There were even a couple of cupboards designated for the owners.

Still, convenient for the beach …

4) Hostal Triskal, Pisco Elqui
Date stayed: 22 May 2014
Length of stay: 2 Nights

“Not a good choice for a non-Spanish speaker, I’ll admit, but nice and pleasant –huge outdoor landscaped ‘garden’ area divided into little areas with tables and hammocks. Kitchen quite small – not really enough room for more than a couple of people to cook at the same time. Location’s not an issue as Pisco Elqui’s so small, but it is a little way uphill. Wifi very dodgy indeed.” (not booked through Hostelworld so unrated).

Outside Elqui Hostel
The road just outside the hostel in Pisco Elqui. It kept climbing up a hill before turning into a twisting farm track that gave good views over the valley.

Inside Elqui Hostel
One of the many outside tables in the large open area at the back. Not really a ‘garden’, more a series of small patios.

Had I known that Pisco Elqui was so touristy, I’d have not booked anything and just turned up en spec to book in to one of the random hostels/hotels that lined the streets, but I booked ahead and this place had been recommended by others online. The room I was in was small but comfortable – it was a 2-bed dorm and fortunately no-one was in the upper bunk for either of my two nights so it felt quite luxurious. The large open area at the back was good to chill in, but the very small kitchen let it down – while I was there, there was a small group of French people who kind of took over the kitchen for one night so was tricky to cook around them. Not speaking Spanish was a problem as no-one running the hostel spoke English, but it didn’t matter on my visit as nothing went wrong.

Inside Elqui Hostel
The small kitchen. Yep, that’s pretty much all there was.

The Wi-Fi was very temperamental and didn’t often work, if that sort of thing matters to you.

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