I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.Susan Sontag
Dec 14-22 2016
Santiago de Chile; the capital and largest city of Chile (7 million people and 40% of the population), not as high on the traveler radar as Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro, but just as amazing and the most underrated place we have been so far.
Chileans have also been the most friendly since the beginning of our trip, I would put them up there with the people we met while in Taiwan a little over one year ago.
We arrived from Brazil and took an Uber from the airport to our AirBnb in the Barrio Italia neighborhood. This would be our base for the next week. The area is still pretty undiscovered by travelers, but starting to get more notice as Santiago’s younger generation starts to turn old warehouses and automotive shops into coffee shops and boutiques. The area is very centrally located to Santiago’s attractions and only being a block from the metro made getting around a breeze.
After a nights rest I would set out for the Lastarria and Bellavista neighborhoods, probably the most well known areas of the city. Lastarria is small but full of restaurants, a couple museums, and an open-air craft market. Bellavista, just to the north, is the entertainment area of Santiago, a neighborhood of restaurants, bars, and clubs. We ate at Patio Bellavista, a collection of over 30 restaurants on one block, rumored to be the most concentrated group of eateries in South America. While it is newer and caters to tourists, the place we ate had great food, and you could see a lot of locals also grabbing dinner in the area and enjoying a night out.
The following day we would head to the east and visit the somber Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights), dedicated to commemorate the victims of human rights violations during the civic-military regime led by Augusto Pinochet between 1973 and 1990. Afterwords we headed through the Yungay and Brasil neighborhoods to find a place for lunch. Finally, we hoped on the metro for a long trip to the western terminus to the Pueblito de Los Dominicos, a permanent collection of artists, craftsman, and jewelers whose shops you could visit. We ended up meeting a friendly shop owner named Ivan, who invited us to spend a day hiking the Andes, so went ahead and set up something for later in the week.
For our next day in Santiago we headed out to the historic center, known simply as downtown and includes the adjoining Bellas Artes neighborhood. But first we passed through Lastarria again and visited the MAVI (Museum of Audio and Visual Arts). It included an interesting collection contemporary pieces as well as native artifacts. Once downtown we would wonder around the central Plaza de Armas, which included the main Cathedral, National History Museum, and historic Post Office. We’d head north from the plaza to the cities main market, Mercado La Vega. It’s bustling, noisy and crowded, La Vega is, in a word, chaotic. Passing through the multiple block market we’d head for something more relaxing, a ride one the Funicular of Santiago to the second highest peak in the city, Cerro San Cristobal. On its summit there is a sanctuary dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, with a 72 foot statue of the Virgin Mary. The hill also provided great views over the city to the Andes Mountains where I enjoyed snapping pictures. We’d head back to our apartment to rest up for a wine tour we planned for the next day.
We arose early for the 2 and a half hour trip south to the Valle de Colchagua, one of the many wine regions of Chile. You can read about it on our Chilean Wine Country post.
After a day away from the city we’d return back to Santiago and visit the large Parque Bicentenario. Inaugurated in 2011 and still a work in progress, it is located in the wealthy Vitacura neighborhood. We enjoyed seeing many of the native plant species and feeding some ducks, flamingos, and carp. The park also included an impressive collection of sculptures set aside places to relax and areas for kids to play.
We’d head outside the city again the next day and go on the Andean hike we had planned earlier in the week. Check out our post about the Andean Mountains.
Following a long day in the mountains we would return for our last full day in Santiago. Maggie spent most of the day working while I went and visited the Salvador Allende Museum, its theme being the political commitment of art, as well as La Moneda Palace, the seat of the President of the Republic of Chile, and also housing the offices of three cabinet ministers. In the evening we would head to the Sky Constanera, the tallest building in Latin America (and the second tallest in the Southern Hemisphere). We caught the sunset and watched as the lights turned on across the city.
After a week exploring Santiago it was time to head to the north of Chile to spend our first Christmas abroad in the Atacama Desert.