Perhaps you’ve been doing some travel reading as of late and have come across more than one recommendation to visit Santiago, Chile. If you’re like most people, you don’t know a whole lot about this South American city or even the country itself. Not to worry as this article is meant to give you the information you need to decide for yourself whether or not a visit to Santiago is worth your time.
To start, Santiago is the capital of Chile, and is the financial, administrative and cultural center, making it the most important metropolis in the country. The city itself possesses a cool, continental, Mediterranean-type climate with an average temperature of about 57 degrees Fahrenheit. In the summertime (late November to March) temperatures can reach up to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter (May to September) the temperature can drop to 46 degrees Fahrenheit and Santiago receives most of its rain (about 12 inches annually) during this time as well.
Santiago has been selected as a site to host numerous summits as well as concerts. The annual music festival, Lollapalooza, will be held in Santiago this year. The city has a well-developed system of transportation that connects its most distant points. The metro of Santiago is one of the most modern metros in the world and the city has a fleet of recently renovated urban buses as well. Northwest of the city you will find the international airport Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez, which receives numerous flights daily from all parts of the world, and for those of you interested in traveling to Santiago by land, there are buses available from Argentina.
Infrastructure aside, Santiago also has an incredibly vibrant cultural life. There are close to 40 art galleries and some 30 different museums from which you can choose to visit. Downtown Santiago has a number of fascinating attractions. The most popular sites in this part of the city are the Palacio de la Moneda (Currency Palace), the Plaza de Armas (Main Square), the Iglesia Catedral (church cathedral), the Museo de Arte PreColombino (Museum of Pre-Columbian Art) and the Casa Colorada (Colored House).
The Bohemian neighborhood Bella Vista, meaning beautiful view, stands out among the other neighborhoods due to its unique restaurants, art galleries, bars and the homes of some recognized writers. Perhaps the most notable example of this last attraction would be one of the homes of Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize winning Chilean poet. The boat-styled house is called Chascona (a term unique to Chile that is synonymous with despeinada, meaning disheveled) which could be a reference to the fact that Neruda originally built the house for his lover Dona Matilde Urrutia, who would later become his third wife.
A couple of other neighborhoods of interest are Las Condes and Providencia, both of which have modern-styled buildings and a generally relaxed atmosphere. Some other places worth your time to visit are the Cerro San Cristobal (Saint Christopher Hill), which affords you an amazing panoramic view of the city, and the Jardin Zoologico (Garden Zoo).
For those of you who have a taste for fine wine, many famed Chilean vineyards can be found in the surrounding valleys just a short distance outside of Santiago. One winery you may be familiar with is Concha Y Toro, located just 45 minutes from Santiago in a century-old park in the area known as Pirque. There are tours available daily with bilingual guides who will take you throughout the hacienda of the Concha y Toro family, explaining the history and importance of the house, the parks, and the vineyards.
And, if you follow those same valleys a bit further, you’ll discover the Andes Mountains are actually quite close and that great skiing spots like Valle Nevado, La Parva, Farallones, El Colorado and Lagunillas with their powdered snow are all within reach of Santiago. The most popular of the ski destinations would be El Colorado, which at just 39 kilometers from the Santiago became the birthplace of skiing in Chile when, in the 1930’s, the first skis brought from Switzerland were put to use there. Ever since then, more and more people have discovered the area and made it what it is today: the largest and most skiable area in South America.
Sadler is a contributing writer to our travel blog.