An amazing city for my first stop on my 5 week tour in South America! I have 2 nights, 1 day here – not enough to do the city or the country justice so I will definitely have to return to Chile. From here I head to Easter Island for a few days which I’m unbelievably excited about!
From Easter Island I head back to Rio where I have a couple of days to myself before I join a group tour with Gadventures for 3.5 weeks, touring Brazil and Bolivia. What an amazing experience! I’ll be posting regularly during the trip, though some posts may not get published until I’m back in the UK, depending on time and wifi connections!
I’m looking forward to spending a bit of time on my own, I believe and have found that travelling alone needn’t be lonely! You meet some interesting people you wouldn’t otherwise cross paths with, it gives you perspective and makes you realise what a small part of the world we occupy.
I’m always really busy in the run up to Christmas with work and it’s such a busy time of year anyway, so now is a perfect time for a decent break starting with a bit of me time to unwind!
That said I left work Thursday with less than 12 hours to go until I needed to head to the airport and all of my packing to do! Then I suddenly had a panic – ‘What was I thinking?!’ ‘What am I doing?!’
I think I suddenly realised that I’m taking 5 weeks out of the routine! A short while later I calmed down and got excited again; back to packing after my moment of panic!
If you think adventure is dangerous try routine, it’s lethal.Paul Coelho
Also known as Santiago de Cuba is the capital of Chile, and translates to St James in Spanish. It’s the largest city in Chile and also one of the largest in the whole of The America’s. It has a population of c. 7 million and sits around 5-600m above sea level.
You get absolutely stunning views from the plane of The Andes mountains as you fly into Santiago.
I picked up a taxi from one of the official desks in the airport and I had the friendliest taxi driver! He spoke very little English and my Spanish is limited, but he wanted to chat. He ended up talking into his phone with the google translate app on, which would then repeat what he was saying in English. He got me to respond the same way. After a while I stopped noticing that he took his eyes off the road every time he wanted to pass the phone back and forth!
We had a great chat, he told me about the local area, politics, was interested in what I do back home and where I was visiting whilst here. It also helped me recall some of the Spanish I do know from when I lived and worked in the Canary Islands years ago. Great first impression of Chile. Well second impression actually, the first was the not so great lengthy immigration queue!
I’m staying in Hotel Riviera on Miraflores which is really central, its quite small and very basic. It looks tired and rundown, but a great location and near a number of the famous sites! Whilst I’d say come in with low expectations and you won’t be disappointed, the bed and the bathroom were clean. So that and the location mean I would recommend it, despite it being a little tatty looking. Bring earplugs! It’s midnight and I can hear roadworks, political protests and traffic!
The first thing I do when I arrive in the room is close the curtains, only to pull the very dodgy curtain hooks off on the first four hooks on one side. I don’t want the light to wake me up and need to catch up on some sleep. So I stand on the bed in front of the floor to ceiling window, balancing after nearly 24 hours of travelling to get the hooks back in. And they say most accidents happen in the home. Operation successful!
WiFi is generally fine but you have to re-enter the password every time you use it. Breakfast is basic but does the job, and all the staff are friendly and helpful.
Santa Lucia Hill
I’d definitely recommend a visit to Santa Lucia Hill if you are in Santiago. Its a beautiful park to take a wander and I’m told one of the nicest green spaces in the city centre. Its a well maintained park, with a number of trails, stairs and terraces – a gorgeous place to stop and take in the view! It feels a bit like a maze or some sort of secret garden. There are a number of interesting buildings scattered around too.
It’s really peaceful. I grabbed myself a crushed ice drink and sat in the shade for a while people watching – one of my favourite pastimes. The highlight for me is the Neptune Statue, below, it was gorgeous.
San Cristobal Hill
Known for its amazing views across Santiago and better known as Cerro San Cristobal. At over 700 hectares this is Santiago’s largest green space but still very urban. It feels enormous and the views are fantastic, I had no idea Santiago was so big.
It has a funicular railway you can get up and a cable car down the other side to help you enjoy the different views, with some outstanding peaks and viewpoints. Get there early to avoid the crowds and queuing for tickets. One way for both the funicular and cable car is about 4400 pesos. Return is 5800. They are both worth it!
It really is a huge park with plenty to see and do inside, and different areas to wander round. Including the chapel at the top. I enjoy looking at churches when I’m abroad but this one was a bit too holy for me with the music and crosses everywhere. Still worth a look though.
Other key sites
There are a number of other key sites to visit, as I was literally only here for a flying visit I didn’t get chance to see some of them. The two main ones I wanted to see were Santa Lucia, my hotel is literally over the road, and San Cristobal, I walked there, it’s about a mile and a half away.
There was something satisfying about using a paper map instead of following the blue dot! Obviously the map was folded up small with the section I needed in view, then tucked away in my pocket. I was warned about safety in Santiago but as long as you’re sensible it’s fine.
In case its of use some recommended sites are: The Chilean National Library, The Red House, San Agustin Temple, San Francisco Church and The Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. They are all very nearby Hotel Riviera. I passed a number of interesting buildings and fountains just wandering round the city.
Chilean wine has long been a favourite of mine! The Spanish and French influence throughout history still evident in the taste today. The most popular grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenere. Chile is now the 5th largest exporter of wine and the 7th largest producer.
The Practical Stuff
The currency is Chilean Peso’s. As usual I recommend a Starling Bank card for ease of use abroad, great rates and the app is brilliant. https://www.starlingbank.com/
Another site someone recently recommended to me (thanks Alex!), is Eater which has 38 recommended places to eat in most major cities. Unfortunately with such a short visit I didn’t get to try any of these, though I will definitely be using this site in future! Here’s the link in case it’s helpful: https://www.eater.com/maps/best-restaurants-santiago-chile-38
I’m here in the middle of summer so its lovely and hot – though a slight shock to the system given I’ve come from the UK in the middle of winter!
Tap water is generally apparently pretty good and normally safe though I’ve avoided it due to the high mineral content as my system might not be used to it just yet! Wine is going down nicely though!
My 2 pin European plug is working fine in this first hotel.
Next stop Easter Island – so exciting!!