Santiago – Left or Right?
There are two very different sides to Santiago (Chile’s capital). It really depends on whether you turn left or right when you walk out of your hotel room. Unfortunately for us we went ‘Left’ first. We had decided to take a walk to O’Higgins Park and then wherever our feet took us after that. It felt quite run down, there was a lot of graffiti, closed shops and a lot of auto repair places. It just didn’t have that ‘city’ feel that I was expecting.
We went into a restaurant to have a bite to eat and when we were leaving we saw a man lying on the ground. He had a big cut on his head. Understandably concerned we went back into the restaurant and told them. The response: –
‘Oh, that is so typical of this part of Santiago, the police will be along shorty’.
We just walked away, not wanting to get involved. After all who knows what had happened. As we carried on walking we noticed more and more people sleeping rough on the streets, just anywhere they could lay their head. Regardless of all this I still felt rather safe. It was however a little disheartening.
This area of the city does have an array of large buildings that used to belong to the richer citizens of Chile. When the poorer communities moved closer though, the rich up and left to live near to the mountains. This left the large empty buildings which have now turned into medical practices or universities.
A couple of days after our first venture we decided to go ‘right’. Once you hit Santiago’s centre you are right smack in the heart of city life. Endless array of shops, malls & restaurants. The shopping centre was bustling with people. Many of which were sat outside the cafes having a drink or a bite to eat, it was so social. This was much more like the ‘Santiago’ I expected.
I love the way everything is laid out too. Long straight roads, and for a girl with not much navigation skills this was a blessing for me.
If you are a fan of home comforts then you will be pleased to know that there were plenty of Starbucks & Subways to choose from. However, the smaller local places looked much more inviting.
One major thing I was surprised to see (or not see in this case) was the Andes. Once in Santiago we expected to have a constant view of the Andes however there is a smog constantly clouding the view. I asked the local tour guide if it ever clears up and he said this cloudiness was due to the pollution issue in the city. The only time is gets clearer is just after it rains.
As the city is surrounded by mountains it becomes very hard to ventilate the air and pollution becomes a real problem here. The pollution issue has got so bad in the past that the government had to declare a city wide environmental emergency. If you think that coming to Santiago you will be surrounded by the wondrous views of the Andes…..I’m sorry, but think again.
The best view of the marvellous mountains is unfortunately from the sky. They are however truly spectacular. As we were flying over the Andes as we were getting ready to land you couldn’t help but look down in awe.
Parque O’Higgins, Santiago
The more time we spent investigating Santiago the more we realised just how well located our hotel was (Booking – Hotel Plaza Cousino). We were just around the corner from Parque O’Higgins which is named after one of Chile’s founding Fathers Bernado O’Higgins. Here you will find a vast array of things to do:
- Fantasilandia – Check the opening times as they were only open Saturday, Sunday and holidays when we went. Price roughly £17 per adult
- Movistar Arena
- Lollapalooza Chile – Music Festival that runs usually from 16th to 18th March. I’m so gutted I didn’t know this was happening, I hear Liam Gallagher was performing *cries into pillow*
- Swimming Pool & Fitness Centre
- Skate Park
- Children’s park
- Vast array of greenery to work out, sit and relax or go for walks.
The park is free to enter and walk around however you obviously have to pay for the extras.
Santa Lucía Hill
It took us about 30 minutes to walk to Santa Lucia Hill but it was a lovely walk through the city centre. It seems like alot of people come and have their lunch at the bottom of the hill or just relax on the grass. It’s a very chilled out atmosphere.
Santa Lucia Hill is a small hill located in the centre of Santiago. There are the remains of the castle still on the hill and you can walk to the top of some parts to get a great view across the city. Again, it is just a shame about the view of the Andes being so covered in smog. There is no charge to go up Santa Lucia Hill and there are refreshments and toilets (at a charge).
There are plenty of places to sit and relax if you wanted to stay for a few hours you could bring a picnic and not feel out of place.
San Cristóbal Hill
Another fantastic view point, the second highest in Santiago. You have the option to walk up and down the hill or get the cable cars. I saw plenty of people running, biking and skating up the hill. Rather them than me. We decided to get the car up to the top at roughly £2 per person. We then walked back down. From our hotel to the very top was roughly a 10km walk. There were so many different pathways you can take on the way up/down with various picnic/seating areas. You can get off at the middle and the very top and take in the views, have a bite to eat or get a drink. There is even a swimming pool which is open at certain times of the year.
It is understandably a very religious place and we were told that the pope had recently visited to do a speech.
Much more to see
As Santiago is only one part of Chile I’m sure there is much more to see. We booked a small tour through Viator to show us the highlights but I also saw tours to the pier and for wine tasting at nearby vineyards. There are so many restaurants, cafes, parks and shops that we couldn’t possibly have fit it into our time here. I did find food on the expensive side when you converted it into GBP so make sure you budget a little more for shopping. As we were trying to stick to healthy options we had to pay for the more expensive ingredients. The fruit etc. is all based on weight so choose wisely.
I would most certainly come back, its just a shame about the smog!
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