Santiago, Chile, is a city set against an awesome backdrop. The snowcapped mountains of the Andes on the horizon contrast with the modern skyscrapers that criss-cross the city vista. This contrast is microcosmic of Santiago as a whole; a fast-paced, developed city set in spectacular natural surroundings. Despite this, Santiago’s tourism industry is less developed than other South American hotspots – think Lima, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. This underrated city is well worth a visit, and here’s a list of must see spots for a first time visitor to the city of the island hills.
1. Santa Lucia Hill
After arriving, head to Santa Lucia Hill to get a first glimpse of the city. Climbing up to the top of the cerro provides you with panoramic views of the cityscape, helping the visitor understand the layout of the city and giving a glimpse of the mountainous surroundings. For the best views, head to the hill after rainfall, as this helps clear the smog that can sometimes obscure the view.
2. San Cristobal Hill
Another viewpoint that is perhaps slightly more accessible is the viewing platform at San Cristobal Hill. Get your exercise on and hike to the top or opt-for the more leg-friendly cable car to whisk you to the top. After checking out the view, head to Patio Bellavista near the cable car station for a pisco sour and dinner.
3. Las Condes hiking
Santiago’s natural surroundings make it a great place for outdoor activities. Head to Las Condes and go for a hike in the hills. The stunning scenery and warm weather (even in winter) make it a perfect place to visit.
4. Plaza della Cuidadanía
To learn more about Chilean history and culture, head to the Plaza della cuidadania in the centre of the city. At the heart of the city, this square is home to the Palacio de La Moneda, the headquarters of the Chilean parliament. Stroll around the city and keep an eye out for the chess players that congregate for a game in their lunch breaks.
5. Tours 4 Tips
A free walking tour of the city, the customer only pays the amount they believe the tour was worth. A bargain in itself as the tours are fantastic. The morning route takes you to La chimba – the other side of the river. From there you will wander through the central markets, taste typical Chilean food and end in Santiago’s biggest cemetery, where you will learn more about Chilean culture. It’s informative but most of all, fun. A great activity for the solo traveller.
6. La Chascona
The former home of Chile’s much lauded poet, Pablo Neruda, La Chascona is a colourful house turned museum celebrating his life and work. The house itself is worth a visit, but the museum is interesting and provides an insight into Chile’s cultural scene.
7. Museum of Memory and Human Rights
A museum dedicated to the victims of human rights violations in Pinochet’s regime of the 1970’s-1990s, this experience is extremely humbling and emotional. Grab a headset and wander around the exhibition, learning more about this important period of Chilean history. A must see for anyone visiting the city.
8. Costanera Centre
On a rainy day, head to the Costanera centre, the tallest building in South and Latin America. This glass skyscraper is quite spectacular, and the bottom few floors are filled with enough shops to please even the most particular customer.
9. Day Trips
Visiting Santiago without exploring some of the surrounding areas would be a waste, so grab a seat on the comfortable semi-cama buses and head for the coast. Visit Valparaiso to see the famous street art or head to Zapallar to see where Santiago’s rich and famous summer. Make sure to sample some fresh seafood whilst you enjoy the Pacific Ocean views.
The mountains of the Andes are constantly on show from the city, so don’t miss the opportunity to head to ski resorts such as Valle Nevado and Portillo for a unique experience skiing in South America.