Punta Pite: The Hidden Gem on Chile’s Coast
One of the things I like to do when planning a trip is to have a spin through Atlas Obscura to see if there are any cool or unusual, off the beaten path things I should be checking out in my upcoming destination. Planning my trip to Chile was no exception and I found a few items to star on my map like the elevators of Valparaiso (which were closed due to civil unrest) and the El Tatio Geysers, but the one that stood out the most to me as a must see was Punta Pite.
I’d read a few guides and blog posts and did the standard Google search of “things to do in Chile” when I first started planning but no one other than Atlas Obscura had mentioned Punta Pite. We were planning on road tripping all the way north from Santiago to Calama and it turns out that our bucket list item was 85km north of Valparaiso, near the seaside town of Papudo, aka right on the way.
So what was located at Punta Pite that had me so excited? This.
A 1.5km collection of stone paths, bridges, and steps that are so organic they feel as if they’ve always been there and were created by Nature herself. In fact, they are the architectural brain child of Teresa Moller, a landscape architect and designer based in Santiago. She’s described her inspiration as channeling of the words of a famous Chilean poet, who described Chile as “pure geography.”
The area is a 27-acre swath of land hugging the coast that contains a private condo development. The project was to create a footpath and park to heighten the enjoyment of the coast without taking anything away. It took 40 stonemasons two years to complete the intricate work shaping and laying the stones – granite specifically selected to match the natural surrounding rock. The result is architecture that doesn’t call out to be noticed but exists perfectly in step with nature.
There are no signs. No interpretive panels. No admission price. You are encouraged to wander at will. Where the natural landscape allows you to walk, it was left untouched. The pathways simply smooth over the tricky, inaccessible bits. It was designed and built to be in harmony and to respect the surroundings. If a significant rock was in the path, the path was built around it to allow for contemplation of the rock.
Since this is a public footpath in a private development it felt a bit odd driving up to. If there’s a parking lot, we didn’t see it. We ended up parking our rental car on the side of the road where it seemed to not be blocking anything. And since there were no signs we had to guess a little bit at how we could access the path. All we had was a pin on a Google Map to show up where to go.
Like many sites once we got out of the cities of Santiago and Valparaiso, we had the whole place to ourselves to explore at will. I felt like a kid hurrying to round each corner to see what I might find. My experience was just as Moller hoped, the path encouraged me to explore further and to take in all that was around me. The roaring ocean that made me think of home. The exotic flora and the pelicans flying overhead that made me remember that I was half a world away.
There are no handrails or fences to hold you to the path. If you ever wish to step off the path and forge your own way, you’re free to do so. With few exceptions any houses are hidden higher on the hill, out of sight so you can forget for a few minutes that you’re even a part of society. With the wind in my hair and the salt of the ocean in my nose I felt as free as those soaring pelicans.
Punta Pite is humble yet powerful. There is power in its simplicity and joy in the discovery of what it contains.
Book Your Trip to Chile
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Expedia. It's one of my favourite search engines because it allows you to search for and compare flights from multiple airlines.
Book Your Accommodations
You can book your hotel with Booking.com as they have the most comprehensive inventory so they are best for booking a hotel. If you want to stay in a vacation rental or cottage in Chile, use VRBO to find the perfect place for the whole family.
Book Your Car Rental
You can get by without a vehicle in Chile if you're just in Santiago or Valparaiso. But if you want to see beyond the cities, be sure to book your car rental with Discover Cars early.
Book Your Travel Insurance
While Chile is generally a safe country, you never know when something could happen. Be prepared with travel insurance from SafetyWing. Travel insurance has certainly saved my butt before.