Santiago and surroundings
Santiago is the capital of Chile and in South America is considered the third highest in quality of life and the second best city to do business in Latin America, in addition to the as well as the second safest. It is a city of alpha class, modern and competitive, which also has natural surroundings for outdoor activities and relaxation.
Santiago is home to the main administrative buildings and government of Chile. It has 37 communes, 26 of which are located in the metropolitan area. In these communes we find entertaining neighborhoods with vibrant nightlife, restaurants, designer shops and art galleries.
In Santiago there are also large parks and natural areas. One is the Parque Metropolitano "Metropolitan Park" located in Cerro San Cristobal (San Cristobal Hill) where you can visit the zoo, hiking trails, swimming pools, the Santuario Inmaculada Concepción which is found at the peak, the funicular railway and cable car.
Since its location is in a valley, it's surrounded by mountains that offer attractive panoramas like visiting the ski resorts in winter, hiking, horseback riding, climbing and much more in Cajon del Maipo and discover the typical flavors of food while enjoying a day in the countryside.
Because of its central location, Santiago also allows you to be at the beach in only a few hours, so in one day you can see Valparaíso, Viña del Mar and other locations in the area such as the Port of San Antonio, Rocas de Santo Domingo and Isla Negra among others.
In the surroundings of Santiago the most important wine regions of the country are found which are known as Ruta del Vino (the Wine Route), where you can visit the vineyards and taste different wine strains accompanied by Chilean cuisine.
According to archaeological studies, it is estimated that the first inhabitants of Santiago was established themselves around the year 800, with the emergence of farming communities that cultivated potatoes, beans and corn alongside the Mapocho River basin. These towns belonged to picunches under the influence of the Inca Empire, which built some fortresses such as Huaca del Cerro Chena and the Santuario del Cerro El Plomo.
With the arrival of the Spaniards, the conquistador Pedro de Valdivia founded the city of Santiago del Nuevo Extremo on February 12, 1541. It was the master alarife Pedro de Gamboa who designed the street grid layout in a Spanish style. The city was attacked by the Indians in September of that year, during the War of Arauco, but managed to be protected. In addition, Santiago suffered several earthquakes, so it was not until 1607 that the Real Audencia (Royal Court) was established in Santiago, which gave it the role of capital in Chile.
The first buildings of Santiago began to be built around 1561, with the Catedral de Santiago Santiago Cathedral) and la Iglesia de San Francisco San Francisco Church) in 1572, made of adobe and stone. In 1767 Puente Cal y Canto was constructed, which joined the northern area known as La Chimba.
Also in 1780 the construction of major buildings such as Palacio de la Moneda was performed as the Palacio de la Moneda, the facade of the Cathedral and the design for the San Carlos canal were performed, all of these constructions were done by Italian architect Joaquín Toesca.
In 1810 the First Government Meeting in Santiago was proclaimed, which began the process of Independence of Chile, which was finally consolidated in 1818 during the Battle of Maipú.
After this, Bernardo O'Higgins assumes the position of Supreme Director , i n the period known as Patria Nueva (New Nation) in which important works such as the construction of the Paseo de la Alameda de las Delicias were performed.
Subsequently during the nineteenth century in the so-called Conservative Republic, different institutions such as the Universidad de Chile and Quinta Normal, Park of Cerro Santa Lucía, Teatro Municipal (Municipal Theatre), Club Hípico and the current Parque O’Higgins were built.
In the year 1857, the first railroad reaches Santiago, which made it the centerpiece of the country's rail system. In 1884, Estación Central de Santiago (Central Station of Santiago) is opened.
During the twentieth century, Santiago became the economic center of Chile and major banks and shops were set up in the capital. Also, several municipalities were created to improve the local administration of the city. In the beginning of the century the construction work of the Santuario de Inmaculada Concepción on the summit of Cerro San Cristóbal began and also an Observatorio Astronómico (Astronomical Observatory) was installed in 1903.
In 1910 the Centenary of the Republic was held with the implementation of various urban projects in the capital, including the expansion of the rail network to Cajon del Maipo, the construction of Estacion Mapocho (Mapocho Station) in the north of the city, the creation of Parque Forestal and Museo de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts) and the Biblioteca Nacional (National Library).
At the start of the 20's, Santiago's growth began to accelerate and the people began to settle in the foothill areas, while the downtown area became a financial, commercial and governmental sector.
In the 60's major advances were made in the city, with the construction of the International Airport of Pudahuel and the Metro de Santiago (Santiago Subway) network.
With the start of the 21st century, Santiago positioned itself as a modern metropolis, with urban highways, major skyscrapers and large housing complexes and shopping centers.
Where to go
Parque Metropolitano: (Metropolitan Park)
It is the largest urban park in Chile and is located in the hills of San Cristóbal, Chacarillas, Los Gemelos and the Tupahue secrotrs, Lo Saldes, La Pirámide y Bosque Santiago. It has more than 720 acres and within its attractions are the Metropolitan Zoo, the Santuario Inmaculada Concepción, the Funicular Railway, the Teleférico Metropolitano, different themed gardens, hiking trails, the Pablo Neruda Amphitheatre, a restaurant and much more.
Barrio Bellavista: (Bellavista Neighborhood)
One of the bohemian neighborhoods of Santiago and has restaurants, theaters, bars, clubs and shops to visit during the weekends. It also has beautiful turn of the century architecture and restaurants that stand out for their particular world cuisine.
Here you can also find one of the houses of the poet Pablo Neruda, "La Chascona", which is used as a museum.
Bellavista is one of the entrances to the Parque Metropolitano (Metropolitan Park) where the funicular railway takes you to the zoo and to the Santuario de la Inmaculada Concepción.
Zoológico Metropolitano: (Metropolitan Zoo)
Located in Parque Metropolitano (Metropolitan Park), within Cerro San Cristobal, it has a surface area of 4.9 acres and a collection of more than 158 native and exotic species. Among its attractive features are an aviary with walkways and an amphitheater where you can enjoy live entertainment.
It is the most famous park in the city of Santiago and is located in the heart of the downtown area, between Lastarria and Estación Mapocho (Mapocho Station). Within it are the Museo de Bellas Artes de Santiago (Museum of Fine Arts of Santiago) and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Museum of Contemporary Art). It is a beautiful tour where some weekends you can find a craft fair to buy souvenirs.
Close to Parque Forestal you find Barrio Lastarria which is a beautiful neighborhood with neoclassical architecture, designer shops, modern gastronomy, museums, cinemas, bookstores and music stores, with a quiet and residential style, but an active bohemian life.
It is another of the neighborhoods that stands out for its designer shops, gastronomy, art spaces, bookstores and outdoor activities such as bike rides, lectures, among others. It is located on Avenida Santa Isabel (Santa Isabel Avenue), in the neighborhood of Providencia.
Palacio de La Moneda:
It is the government palace in Chile, headquarters of the Ministerio del Interior, Secretaría general de la Presidencia, Secretaría General de Gobierno y Ministerio del Desarrollo (Social Ministry, General Secretariat of the Presidency and General Secretariat of the Government and Ministry of Social Development). The building was built to be the Casa de Moneda in colonial times, designed by Italian architect Joaquín Toesca.
In 1845 it became the Governmental Palace, which was also the residence of the presidents until 1958.
Currently, opposite the Moneda you can find the Centro Cultural Palacio de la Moneda (Cultural Center of La Moneda), a cultural center where art exhibitions are held, there is a film library, free cultural workshops and other activities related with arts and culture. It features famous restaurants and cafés with typical modern designs.
Parque Bicentenario: (Bicentennial Park)
Newly opened, it is located in the commune of Vitacura. It has 30 acres surrounding the Mapocho River. It has more than 4,000 trees, an artificial lagoon for water sports, biking and running trails and outdoor spaces for sports and recreation.
Cerro Santa Lucía:
The Santa Lucía Hill called Cerro Huelén by the first inhabitants of the area is another attraction in the downtown of Santiago. Inside you can find the Castillo Hidalgo, a neoclassical building, with viewpoints where you can observe the city and some thematic gardens, including the Jardin Japones (Japanese garden).
It was declared a National Monument in 1983.
Mercado Central: (Central Market)
It is housed in a beautiful wireframe building with a neoclassical style with patterns in wrought iron, decorated pillars and arches supporting the roof. It was opened in 1872 and currently hosts several restaurants with typical food and seafood such as fish and shellfish as well as some fruit, vegetables and traditional Chilean craft stands.
This is the nickname given to the major financial and commercial district of the capital, located on the border of Providencia, Las Condes and Vitacura communes. Here are more than 50 office towers and currently the Costanera Center, a large complex that includes the largest shopping center in South America, two 5 star hotels and 2 twin towers. The central building, the Gran Torre Santiago, is the tallest commercial building in Latin America, with 300 meters and 70 stories high.
Pueblito de Los Dominicos:
It is a well known craft center that brings together a great quantity of Chilean artisans and has 160 local stands made of mud and straw. Here you can buy all kinds of hand-crafted products like wood, wicker, clay, wool fabrics, leather work, silver jewelry and much more.
This town is located 36 kilometers from Santiago, in the middle of the Andes Mountains. During the winter months it is used as a ski center to practice winter sports. Through Farellones it is possible to access El Colorado, another famous ski center in the area.
It is also well known for its archaeological importance by the findings in the Cerro El Plomo, like the famous mummy "Niño del Plomo". Here the Casa de Piedra was also found, a construction possible built by the Aconcagua Culture that can be used as a refuge for adventurers and muleteers.
In turn 17 of the road to Farellones you can find the Santuario de la Naturaleza Yerba Loca (Nature Sanctuary of Yerba Loca), one of the most important nature reserves in the Metropolitan Region and where various outdoor activities take place, hiking for example.
Santuario de la Naturaleza Yerba Loca:
This natural area is located between the La Paloma hills to the summit of Cerro El Plomo. It is considered a National Monument and has forests, a botanical garden known as arboretum, camping areas, five trails and the possibility to access the hanging glaciers of La Paloma and El Altar Hills.
It is home to a lot of native wildlife such as different kinds of rodents, reptiles, eagles, peregrine falcons, tiuques, vultures and condors.
Santuario de la Naturaleza: (Natural Sanctuary)
It is located in the sector of El Arrayàn, east of Santiago. It is a natural reserve that has waterways, trails and camping areas to relax and enjoy fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, wildlife watching and other activities.
It is one of the most important ski centers in the central zone and is located 46 kilometers away from Santiago and 3,300 meters of altitude above sea level. It is located on the slopes of Cerro El Plomo and has an excellent tourist infrastructure with hotels, modern ski slopes, specialty shops, equipment rental and more. It is one of the biggest major attractions during the winter months in Santiago.
Reserva Nacional Río Clarillo: (Rio Clarillo National Reserve)
This national reserve is located in the commune of Pirque, south of Santiago, and into the Clarillo River, between 850 and 3050 meters above sea level. It has more than 13,000 acres of surface. It has trails, picnic areas and bathing areas to enjoy the refreshing waters of the Clarillo River, especially during the summer.
Cajón del Maipo:
The Cajón del Maipo is located in the southeast of the Metropolitan Region, approximately 60 kilometers away from Santiago. It is a mountainous area, irrigated by several rivers such as the Maipo River, El Colorado and El Yeso, among others.
It is one of the ideal places for lovers of the outdoors, since it has camping areas, places for hiking, climbing, canopy, rafting, horseback riding and much more. It also has areas of hot springs in the vicinity of the San José de Maipo volcano, located near the town of San Gabriel.
It has many interesting places to visit and enjoy the mountains throughout the year.
San José de Maipo:
It is the most important town of Cajon del Maipo and the capital of the commune. There are several shops and squares where during the weekends you can enjoy samples of craft products made in the area, plus delicious traditional cuisine such as homemade bread, tortillas, kuchenes and much more.
This tranquil town has various accommodation alternatives which allow you to feel comfortable in a natural and peaceful environment, as well as different alternatives to taste delicious local products like hot chocolate, kuchen, and dried nuts among others.
Also in this area it is possible to see the Tinoco Tunnel, a historical monument reminiscent of the old days of the railway that travelled around this place.
In this town you can see the rocky slopes of the mountains, you can go horseback riding that go deep into the mountains and enjoy the winter snow that accumulates in the boulders of this place.
Embalse El Yeso:
This is the area where the Embalse El Yeso is found, which is a large deposit of emerald green waters with a depth of approximately 55 meters. It is located more than 2,000 meters in altitude and enables you to do all kinds of water activities such as fishing and wind surfing. In the surroundings you can camp and enjoy the mountain.
This area was declared a National Monument and is administered by CONAF. It is located at more than 3000 meters of altitude and brings together two glaciers: El San Francisco and El Morado Glacier, which can be reached by hiking during the summer months and with the right equipment.
Here we also find the Laguna and Cerro El Morado, a famous peak of over 5,000 meters of altitude.
Lagunillas is found by taking a detour to the left of Cajon del Maipo sector following Route G 355. This brings us to the Centro Invernal Lagunillas, an attractive ski resort that features a complete infrastructure to enjoy the snow and its activities during the winter.
In summer, you can make descents in mountain bikes through its paths, hiking or just watch the stunning scenery that can be seen at 2200 meters of altitude.
This small town is at more than 2,000 meters of altitude and has thermal pools with healing waters. They can be visited during the summer.
This town is one of the most remote of Cajon del Maipo, at over 3,500 meters of altitude. Here you can enjoy natural pools directly from the rock, surrounded by spectacular mountain sceneries.
It is worthwhile to start your trip in Santiago of Chile in the downtown area, where we can see the most iconic government buildings and discover the most popular city. A good starting point is the Palacio de la Moneda, political operations center of the country, where there is also a Cultural Center that offers various free art exhibitions throughout the year.
Around La Moneda there are other government buildings such as the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economy and others. Crossing these streets and at only 15 minutes we find the Plaza de Armas, the center of Santiago where the Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago (Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago) is located, considered a National Monument as well as the Edificio de Correos de Chile (Chilean Post Office) and the Municipality of the City.
If we continue walking north, we find dynamic streets with shops where you can buy all kinds of products at affordable prices, and finally the Mercado Central (Central Market), where you can enjoy a delicious plate of fish and seafood to regain strength and continue touring the city.
Leaving the Mercado Central (the Central Market) you can see the Parque Forestal, a beautiful grove that runs parallel to the Mapocho River and can be seen by foot. Here, the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts) can be found, which is a building which was opened to mark the Centenary of Chile in 1910, and stands out for its beautiful neoclassical architecture. Inside this museum you can find exhibitions of art collections from the colonial era to the present, as well as works by foreign artists.
Upon arriving at the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts), you can tour Ismael Valdés Vergara Avenue and arrive to Barrio Lastarria, a beautiful artistic and bohemian neighborhood with beautiful architecture, nice bars, international restaurants and cafés. Here we also find bookstores, music stores, designer shops and a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy.
Further south we can see Barrio Bellavista, an emblematic bohemian neighborhood of the capital, where we find many restaurants and bars as well as craft shops where you can buy traditional products such as lapis lazuli jewelry, copperware, textiles and carvings, among others. Here you can enjoy the night life of Santiago, and enjoy international cuisines located in different locations.
One of the most attractive places in Bellavista is called Patio Bellavista. It is an urban space that has many restaurants, craft shops, cafes, bars and ice cream parlors, perfect for spending an afternoon or an evening dining. It also offers artistic shows and live music.
Bellavista also allows you to see Cerro San Cristobal, where the Parque Metropolitano (Metropolitan Park) and many other attractions such as the Funicular, the Santuario de la Vírgen (Sanctuary of the Virgin) at its peak, several themed gardens and the cable car. Accessing through the street Pio Nono in Bellavista, we can enter the Metropolitan Zoo and see their varied collection of animals and beautiful walkways.
Within the Cerro San Cristóbal is also the Chascona, the house built by Pablo Neruda which is currently used as a house-museum with a variety of personal items of the poet. Here you can take tours that provide insight into the interesting collections of Neruda, from stained glass to furniture and art pieces.
Another attraction found in the downtown area of Santiago is the Cerro Santa Lucia, which is characterized by its beautiful castle Hidalgo, neoclassical style, with towers and panoramic views to observe the surroundings. Inside there is a road for vehicles and pedestrians, as well as gardens and spaces that get you away from the city noise.
Cerro Santa Lucia has a small craft fair on the ground floor of Castle Hidalgo and across from Centro Feria Artesanal Santa Lucía (Santa Lucia Craft Fair), where you can find all kinds of products made by artisans. Works in leather and silver jewelry with semi-precious stones are the highlights of this craft fair.
In the eastern sector of the city we can see the business and financial center of Santiago, the famous neighborhood Sanhattan, "Manhattan in Santiago." Here the most important offices, luxury 5 star hotels, exclusive restaurants, chic art galleries, shopping malls and businesses are located. Also in the eastern part you find Pueblito de Los Domínicos, another craft center to buy products made from native materials of the country.
In the Eastern area you can also enjoy outdoor trips, walking around places like Santuario de la Naturaleza de El Arrayán (Nature Sanctuary of El Arrayán), where you can enjoy outdoor picnics and other activities like horseback riding and hiking. For those who love adventure and ecotourism, the Reserva Nacional Yerba Loca (Yerba Loca National Reserve) is an excellent alternative because of its challenging walks and you can also cherish breathtaking hanging glaciers in the Cordillera de los Andes.
If you visit Santiago during the winter, a visit to the Ski Resorts is a must. In the Eastern area you can visit Farellones, El Colorado and Valle Nevado, which is the most modern of all winter resorts in the country and offers the largest ski area in South America, as well as excellent tourist infrastructure and services.
In addition to Farellones, it is possible to know the Mountain by accessing through the south of Santiago to Cajon del Maipo. In this tour you can explore various locations around the mountain range, enjoy traditional Chilean cuisine, breathe fresh mountain air, participate in activities such as hiking, climbing, canopy, horseback riding and more, or just simply relax in the hot springs of Baños Morales and Baños Colina.
Also in the south of Santiago we find the Reserva Nacional Río Clarillo (Clarillo River National Reserve), offering entertaining interpretive trails and the ability to enjoy the cool, refreshing waters of the mountains, accessing some of its river descents to Clarillo River.
In Santiago you will find a great quantity of money exchange houses, banks and ATMs throughout the city. Credit cards are accepted in most shops and the currency used is the Chilean peso. If you visit the small surrounding towns, it is recommended to carry cash.
In Santiago there is a modern public transportation system known as Transantiago, with buses that allows you to connect to all the districts of the city. Another quicker alternative is to take the Metro, or subway, which also covers the main communes and has stations in the most important places of the city.
There are also taxis that circulate around the city. It is always recommended to be careful and to pay for these services in cash and with correct change.
In Santiago there are many alternatives to renting a car, which will allow you to go to more places and move independently. It is a neat town, with good streets and highways which makes it safe to drive.
Since the surroundings of the city tend to be mountainous, it is suggested to choose ATVs to prevent accidents and always travel on authorized roads.
The telephone code of Santiago is 02. To call from abroad you must dial the international code of Chile, which is 56, then the code of Santiago 02 and 2 before the telephone number.
Where and what to eat
Santiago, Chile is a cosmopolitan city that offers all kinds of flavors and preparations in high quality international restaurants. In its bohemian neighborhoods like Bellavista, Lastarria, Isidora Goyenechea in the Eastern sector and BordeRío, we can find food from around the world, from Peruvian, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, to name a few, in addition to Creole cuisine.
The cuisine of the central zone of Chile is characterized by ingredients like corn, potatoes and fresh vegetables, and meats such as beef, chicken and pork. "Parrilladas" are very traditional, where barbecued style beef is eaten, accompanied by various types of salads and baked potatoes.
Other meat dishes include "lomo a lo pobre", a plate of meat accompanied with fried egg, fries and fried onions; lamb chops, and pork ribs among others.
You cannot miss the seafood and shellfish dishes that can be eaten in diverse preparations such as shrimp, crabs, scallops, sea urchins and "locos", which are made with fresh ingredients in places like the Mercado Central (Central Market).
All kinds of dishes are prepared with fusion of traditional and exotic ingredients, bringing new flavors that create new and exciting preparations to Chilean cuisine, also including native elements like pine nuts, merkén, quinoa grains, among others.
If you want to eat local food, we recommend visiting some of the "picadas" or traditional restaurants where the dishes are hearty and delicious. Cazuela de Vacuno (Beef Casserole), carbonada, charquicán, pastel de choclo and humitas are some of the classic dishes of the Chilean cuisine. These can be found in the downtown area of the capital, as well as neighboring towns like Cajon del Maipo, Pirque, among others.
Among the most representative drinks, the Chilean pisco sour is the quintessential appetizer before any meal. To accompany any dish, a cup of Chilean wine is recommended, white is recommended if you eat seafood and red for meat and pastas.
As for desserts, many have rescued the Creole flavors including mote con huesillo (sweet drink with wheat "mote" and dehydrated peaches) as a main ingredient of preparations and sweet desserts. You can also sample lucuma ice cream cake, canned fruits, and cakes with dulce de leche and merengue (meringue), including empolvados (powdered cakes) and chilenitos, traditional Chilean pastry recipes.