Updated: Nov 15, 2019
Our time (for now) in Chile ended in Santiago. We spent 4 nights in the capital and honestly didn't know what to expect. We hadn't heard good nor bad of the City, so we entered it with open eyes.
Being located on a fault line makes Chile the most seismically active country in the World. Santiago is a fantastic geographical example of this. The City is located on a plain and surrounded by mountains, providing a truly spectacular setting.
Arriving from the airport, we recommend the official black and yellow taxis with airport. Ignore the scammers, as you come through the arrivals gate. Uber is fine for getting about in the City but there are problems at the airport. We paid CLP$20,000 to get to downtown. Our time here didn't get off to a great start, as Sarah was held down with food poisoning (not contracted in Santiago) but she did soldier on. We stayed in Downtown, between Bella Vista and Lastarria which is right in the hub of Santiago. 80% of tourist sites are within a walk and the nightlife around there is lively (safe lively).
Our hostel was called Hostal Forestal. Fantastic place, really social, lots of things going on, staff were super helpful, spoke great English - definitely recommend. As has come customary, we started with a free tour hosted by Tour4tips. While this wasn't the best tour we've had (not due to the City). We believe this is one of the best ways to get to grips with a City, meet new people and also learn about the history. Even though this wasn't our best experience, we'd still recommend it for these reasons. Expect to tip CLP$5,000-10,000 depending on experience (or CLP$0 if you don't like it). The highlights of the tour included Plaza de Armas and La Moneda Palace, which are rich in Colonial, Republic and modern history.
Love or hate them, our second day was an organised day tour to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. We had considered spending a couple of nights there (the 2 cities are joined) but with Sarah not feeling great and Stu tired of organising everything, the thought of being guided round was very appealing. Our tour was organised through our Hostel and cost CLP$30,000 each.
Valparaiso is a truly charming City. Roughly 1million people live here in and in the suburbs. In stark contrast to Santiago, this City is built in a mish-mash fashion, a result of the speed it has grown. From a distance, you may mistake it as a 'Favela' kind of town, but once you get amongst it, you will realise it is much more. The buildings are all shapes and sizes, each with their own style, mostly using corrugated metal but also with european influence. On this unusual canvas, there are beautiful murals and street art, telling the stories of Valparaiso, Chile and the climate.
Our tour then took us into Vina del Mar 'the South American Miami '. These adjoining cities could not be more different. Going unplanned, artistic and bohemian city, you quickly move into a structured, touristic and modern looking City, with beaches. It is well worth a visit and we imagine in the sun, it offers alot more but it does not have the same heart as Valparaiso.
Our 3rd day took us to the Museum of Memory Human Rights (Museo de la Memoria y los Derochas Humanos). This comes highly recommended by us. It tells the harrowing tale of the atrocities carried out by the military dictatorship between 1973-1990. Maybe not everyone's cup of tea but we think to truly understand modern day Chile, this is a must. Should also say here that the museum is excellent and does a incredible job of remembering those who were affected by the regime. The museum takes donations but we also recommend paying CLP$2,000 for a headset, as much of the museum is on Spanish. Took us roughly 2 1/2 hours to get round.
To cap the day off we visited the sanctuary atop San Critobal, Santiago's answer to Rio's Christ the Redeemer. It's free to enter and you can walk it from the Parque Metropolitano entrance. It takes roughly 45mins and is a fair ascent - there is a lift for those who don't fancy the walk. The view from the top is incredible and gives you a real sense of the topography of this City - this should make anyone's 'to-do list' in Santiago.
Our final day was a gentle one. We visited the bustling Mercado Central and the surrounding markets to take in 'life in Santiago'. If you visit, you will find it a real contrast to the Bella Vista district.
We then made our way to beautiful Santa Lucia hill in the Lastarria district. A really unique park, which houses many fountains, viewpoints, statues and Castillo Hidalgo (Castle Hidalgo). From the top it rivals the view from San Cristobal, the difference being, you are amongst the high rises of Santiago. An awesome experience with a Dulce de Leche ice cream in hand!
We capped off our time in Santiago with a visit to the infamous restaurant Bocanariz. Voted 5 times in a row the best winebar in South America!! With over 350 Chilean wines on the menu and waiting staff who know their craft, it is not difficult to see why! They also offer tapas! We spent along time here :)
If this has given you the travel bug, then great!
Cost for 4 days in Santiago = £212
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