I'm so there: Santiago, Chile

I'm so there: Santiago, Chile

Join us each week for a marvellous travel adventure. Today, we're going to give you the insider's tips to making the most of your visit to Santiago ...

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Welcome, to the stunning Santiago!
Welcome, to the stunning Santiago!

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Valparaiso is a colourful seaside town.
Valparaiso is a colourful seaside town.

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Get the best view at Cerro San Cristobal.
Get the best view at Cerro San Cristobal.

Before you go

The capital of the longest country in the world offers plenty to see and do. It's best to spend at least three days here to give yourself enough time to visit all the main attractions.

Chile is in the southern hemisphere, and Santiago's winters last from June to September, and summers from November to March. Temperatures fluctuate widely - a typical day in July could see the mercury going from 6 degrees Celsius in the morning to 15 degrees in the afternoon. It's best to wear something light underneath, then wrap yourself up in a warm jacket that you can take off when you feel hot.

Most Chileans don't speak English, so picking up some common Spanish phrases will make your trip a lot easier. Santiago is a relatively safe South American city, and people are friendly - so don't be afraid to ask for directions whenever you need to.

Unlike in Hong Kong, there are stray dogs literally everywhere. Remember to wash your hands afterwards if you decide to pet them.

In Santiago, stray dogs can be seen almost everywhere.

 

Where to go

Santiago is seeped in influences from its history. It used to be a Spanish colony, so there's plenty of European architecture to appreciate around the city. One good place to visit is La Moneda Palace, which currently serves as the office of President Michelle Bachelet. The magnificent limestone building was built in the early 1800s and was used as a coin production house.

Another interesting piece of architecture is La Chascona, one of the three homes of the Nobel prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. The house, in Bellavista, has an unusual design inspired by Neruda's love for the sea. Inside the house, you can see some of Neruda's prized possessions, as well as a painting he drew for his girlfriend.

The National Museum of History is a good place to learn more about Chile's history. There's a section about dictator Augusto Pinochet's rule from 1973 to 1990 and the coup that overthrew his regime. English audio guides are available for non-Spanish speakers. Best of all, entry is free.

Nature lovers can visit Cajon del Maipo, which is less than two hours from Santiago. It's the perfect place to camp, hike, climb and enjoy the great outdoors on horseback. Rafting is a popular activity in the summer, while skiers flock here during winter.

If you have extra time on your hands, you can spend a day or two enjoying the beaches and seafood of Valparaiso, a colourful seaside town about two hours from the capital.

Must try

You can get churros from food carts at most parks in the capital.

Every Chilean will tell you their favourite food is the cazuela, a soup cooked with rice, potatoes, squash, corn, green beans and meat, but it's overrated. We recommend the empanada, a baked or deep-fried bread stuffed with meat, cheese and vegetables - delicious when it's fresh out of the oven. The Chileans also love manjar, their version of condensed milk. It tastes best inside churros, a fried pastry which you can get from food carts at most parks.

Latinos seem to be born with amazing abilities to sing and dance, and there's good music playing every night at all sorts of venues. If you're short of cash, head over to restaurants with open mic sessions to enjoy quality live music while you dine. We recommend Phone Box Pub, a casual eatery near the Pedro de Valdivia metro station.


Top selfie spot

Cerro San Cristobal is a hill conveniently located near the Baquedano metro station. It offers a panoramic view of Santiago as well as the Andes mountains.

You can walk to the top in only 90 minutes, or take the cable car. It's best to go after it rains, when the air is clearest and the sky is blue.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Santiago, Chile

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