Feb 15, SANTIAGO DE CHILE
Santiago de Chile is like a second home to us.
We’ve visited it countless times either as a main destination or passing through to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, to Atacama desert in the far north, or to the south, all the way down to Torres del Paine National Park and Punta Arenas, on our way to Ushuaia, Argentina.
A couple of times we’ve visited Santiago just to get a plane to Easter Island or a fishing boat to Archipelago Juan Fernandez – also known as Robinson Crusoe Island – one of Chile’s hottest trekking destinations.
Santiago de Chile is a friendly city and one of the safest in South America as well.
Clean, tidy, business-minded, a hard working society that pretty much reflects one of the most dynamic economies in South America today.
It has all one can ask for in a city: a rich cultural life, plenty of nightlife, superb cuisine and an impressive jazz scene, best represented by the Club de Jazz de Santiago, with everything from Latin jazz to blues to bossa nova.
Providencia, one of the top end districts, hosts a jazz festival every year around February, and also provides provably the city’s best clubbing scene as well.
In addition, it has a fantastic sight of the Andes and plenty of adventure travel opportunities just around the corner.
From the ski resorts of Portillo, El Colorado/Farallones, La Parva and Valle Nevado that have given Chile an international reputation as skiing destination, to el Cajon del Maipo (Maipo River Canyon), a favorite week-end retreat for Santiaguinos and a paradise for adventure travel enthusiasts.
Horseback riding – you can even cross the Andes to Argentina on a ten day trip – cycling, hiking, camping and whitewater rafting.
From September to April rafting takes place on the Maipo river – from San Alfonso to Guayacan/Parque Los Heroes – a two hour descent with mainly Class III rapids. Check the International Scale of River Difficultyto learn more about it.
Need some maps?
For all your Chile adventure travel needs, get some inexpensive Chile Maps here.
And if you are in for water sports, just take the two hour bus ride to Viña del Mar, Chile’s most famous beach resort, and don’t forget to stop at Valparaiso, to visit the colorful old town and enjoy a nice sea food meal with a glass or two of chilled white wine.
Try Santa Carolina 5 Stars or Undurraga for starters.
Talking about wines – Chile is a major wine exporter to the world – you have several wine tasting opportunities within the city limits or nearby. Among others…
- Viña Santa Carolina
- Viña Cousiño Macul
- Viña Concha y Toro (Chile’s largest winery, located at Pirque, just after Puente Alto, one of the gateways to Cajon del Maipo
The cultural scene is best defined by Estacion Mapocho, on the south bank of the Mapocho river, with concerts, exhibits, live theater, etc.
It used to be a train station to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar as well as to Mendoza, Argentina.
Another one is Centro Cultural Matucana 100, but there are some others that you may want to explore too.
Santiago de Chile is the financial, cultural and political center of the country.
It was founded by Pedro de Valdivia in 1541 – who also designed the Plaza de Armas – the city’s historic center, and owned the first house where the main Post Office is located today.
Around Plaza de Armas we find other Colonial and Neo-Classical buildings such as the Municipalidad de Santiago (Town Hall), Catedral Metropolitana (1745), Palacio de la Real Audiencia and the Museo Historico Nacional.
The list of Museums include…
- Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino
- Museo Colonial de San Francisco
- Museo de Arte Contemporaneo
- Museo de Artes Visuales
- Museo de la Soliraridad Salvador Allende
- La Chascona (Museo Neruda)
- Museo Nacional de Historia Natural
- Palacio Cousiño
- Casa Colorada
Visit Palacio de la Moneda – the Presidential offices are located here – and of course, Paseo Ahumada, the heart of Santiago de Chile, full of gallerias (shopping arcades) and charming little cafes.
For the best view of the city, go to cerro Santa Lucia and cerro San Cristobal at Parque Metropolitano, crowned by a 36 meters high statue of the Virgin Mary, you can reach it by funicular.
Other Parks include…
- Parque de las Esculturas (Providencia district)
- Parque Quinta Normal
- Parque O’Higgins
For night outs, fine restaurants and cafes, hang around barrio Santa Lucia and Bellavista, among the liveliest around.
Also visit Santiago de Chile’s top end districts of…
- Las Condes
- El Golf
- La Reina
- Lo Curro
Santiago de Chile is a lovely city.
The fifth in South America in terms of population and one of the warmest in terms of friendliness, so don’t be surprised if you are invited to a party of at home for a meal.
It’s also your ideal base camp to explore either side of the country, whether you’re heading off to Atacama or to the wilderness of the Chilean Patagonia, at the far end of the South America continent.
Enjoy it thoroughly and don’t forget to carry a copy of “Chile and Easter Island“, the ideal companion for the independent traveler, by Lonely Planet Publications…
How To Get There:
The main gateway for travelers around the world is Arturo Merino Benitez airport, not far from the city center through Costanera Norte. Taxis, buses or a bus-metro combination will take to downtown in no time.
Santiago airport receives flights from Europe, Oceania and South American countries as well. Just a two hour flight from Buenos Aires.
Time permitting, you can reach it by bus as well to/from Mendoza, Argentina. A beautiful ride through the Andes that takes about seven hours to complete.
During winter month this road may be blocked due to snow storms, so check beforehand, or use instead the all-season international Los Libertadores tunnel to Argentina.
Where To Stay:
From the top end international hotels of “Sanhattan” to a more modest but equally comfortable options, Santiago de Chile has something to everyone.
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