Santiago and Valparaiso in 3 days

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View from Cerro San Christobal

Santiago de Chile, the last stop of our Patagonia trip.

You can find info on the full trip here:

Patagonia in 14 days

Santiago is the capital of Chile and – with about 8million people – around 50% of the population live here. It is located in a valley and surrounded by mountains. While this causes a not-so-small smog problem, it is a great background for some beautiful pictures, *if* the air is clear enough. 😉

Santiago were the last three days of the 14 day trip to Patagonia. A stark contrast with about 25° vs. the 5° in Punta Arenas. T-Shirt time again.

Transport from the airport was smooth – public transport is very good. Take the centropuerto bus from/to the airport. It stops at several central locations and is much cheaper than a taxi, which would set you back around 30.000.

We arrived in the evening and only went for a small bite afterwards. Unfortunately, the hotel was absolutely awful, with squeaking beds, not clean, and a very noisy street. Not much sleep. So next morning I spoke to the owner, he was so kind to refund the remaining two days and we checked into the Panamericano, a solid 3-star hotel in the business district of the city.

The whole thing lost us quite a bit of time. And those things always suck, so after that the first thing you need is to sit down, have a great coffee, and get the spirits up again.

So the afternoon started slowly and we went for a stroll through the city, heading for the Plaza des Armas, which is surrounded by most of the museums and going past the presidential palace La Moneda. I recommend heading into the Court of Justice as well – impressive inside.

We continued to the Parque Forestal and stopped at the Emporio La Rosa ice café. This place is rated amongst the greatest icecream parlors in the world and features crazy flavors such as rosewater. Not cheap, but well worth it! They have several branches, we went to the one at Merced.

Across the river and into Bellavista district. This area is similar to La Boca in Buenos Aires. Full of life, great Street Art and many bars and restaurants. But a bit shady at night and very very touristy.

I liked the street art very much, for that alone you should visit. But coming back later that night the area with the bars just felt…cheap.

Most important: You can find one of the three houses of Pablo Neruda in this district, called “La Chascona”. This is well worth a visit, although we skipped most of the museum inside. He is famous for his writing, not his furniture. 😉 He is a Chilenian icon and one of my favorite writers. His poems are astonishingly beautiful.

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“Someday, somewhere – anywhere, unfailingly, you’ll find yourself, and that, and only that, can be the happiest or bitterest hour of your life.”

Onwards to the adjacent district (I think it was called Patronato, I liked that one, lots of shopping areas and very local) and headed for La Vega Central. You can buy some great fruit and local food here. Which is what we did and took the stuff back to the hotel for a short break.

Quick side note: All of this was done walking, which easily fits into the 5 hours it took us. You can get many free tours, starting from the Bellavista museum or at Plaza des Armas. They are great if you want to know more, but of course not really free. 😉 They follow almost exactly the same route we did, but usually do that split into 2 segments of 3+hours each.

We relaxed a bit at the hotel and then headed for Cerro San Christobál to get a sunset view of the city. You can either hike upstairs for free, take the Bellavista Funicular (most expensive and it was out of order when we visited) or the cable car (Teleférico) which is a bit far to the east but quite cheap.

We had already done a lot of walking, so we took the metro and then jumped onto a taxi to get to the Teleférico starting point. The Teleférico does at least one stop in between. Just get a one-way ticket up all the way to the top. The view during the ride is already nice and from the top it is just great.

Visibility wasn’t good – most people recommend to go up just after strong rain so the smog is washed away – but it was still amazing.

 

Many people also rent bikes to go up. I think that would’ve been an even better idea. It is not *that* steep and probably a really nice bike ride up.

The park closes quite early. You are okay to stay inside, but there are no lights on the hiking ways and the Teleférico stops at 7:45pm or so. So we did not stay until it was fully dark and, like most people did, went straight down after the sun was gone. The hike down takes less than half an hour and is very easy.

Ended up being back down in Bellavista around 9:30pm and could experience the nightlife there. As I wrote – quite commercial and touristy. Probably fun place to get drunk if you are with lots of friends, but otherwise there are nicer areas to have a more local and cheaper dinner.

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We were quite tired and instead opted to go for a small sushi place that was recommended to us for all-you-can eat near our hotel. Actually it was mainly popular for the Wasabi Sour drink they offer.;-)

On the next day we booked a tour to Valparaíso and Vina-del-Mar. You can take a much cheaper public bus there and walk on your own, but I was lazy and wanted the tour, which also stopped at a vineyard on the way. I think it cost like 50.000 per person. Did not search long, you might find cheaper options. Another benefit of the tour is that you get shuttled across Valparaíso. The city is very hilly and not small, so otherwise that’s tough walking all day. There is some leisure time included to walk around on your own in both cities, enough to take pictures. But of course the stops are not always the ones near the best photo spots.

Valparaíso is Unesco world heritage with all the colorful houses, spread over the hills, and again a huge selection of incredible street art all across the city.

It was a major hub and trade port before the opening of the panama canal, as it was one of the last stops before the Magellan Strait. It also houses yet another home of Pablo Neruda.

Even though the city was destroyed several times, by quake and fire, many old houses are still intact – for example Latin America’s first Stock Exchange.

You also definitely have to ride one of the historic evelators (called ascensores) spread across the (very hilly) city. They cost a symbolic 1 peso, so have some change handy. A boat tour across the harbor is included in some of the tours and really nice. You see the military port, some sea lions, and get a good view of the city.

Vina-del-mar on the other hand is your typical modern beach town. Soulless and [Not recommended]

The tour ended in the evening and we went to a Peruvian restaurant to get some great Ceviche and Seafood. There are many great Peruvian restaurants in Chile and – even though technically not local food – my clear recommendation!

Day 3 and the last day in Santiago. The flight back was not until the afternoon, so we checked out, put our stuff in storage at the hotel, and went for a long walk in the Parque de los Reyes. This park is actually not that popular in tourist guides, but I found it very beautiful, with lots of flowers, very clean, not too many people and a really cool freestyle climbing spot. (see pics below)

After that off to another tourist spot – the Mercado Central to get some good seafood for lunch before heading to the airport. Almost every guide lists this as one of the main sights for great local food and fish. I did not like it at all. It is incredibly touristy, the restaurants in the center are overpriced. If you really want to go, pick one of the smaller restaurants at the sides (but then Spanish speaking only). Be mindful of the standard tourist rip-offs like picture-only dishes that are massively overpriced – always ask for the price of every dish in advance. Overall [not recommended].

After lunch, got our stuff from the hotel and rode the centropuerto to the airport for long flight home after 14 days in Latin America.

Shoot

  • Santiago: Best panoramic views from Cerro San Christobal, go for sunset and ideally on a day with low air pollution. Not suited for night shots unless you have a car.
  • Valparaiso: Go up the hills and shoot down towards the ocean and/or get on a boat and shoot the city from there
  • Great architecture and buildings in Santiago around Plaza des Armas
  • Street Art on Bellavista district of Santiago and Valparaiso

Plan

  • Airport transfer: Centropuerto busses go every 10-15mins and you can pay the driver. Easiest way from/to the airport. Account for delay due to traffic jams.
  • Public transport – metro – is very good, easy to manage and safe
  • Getting cash is simple and really free if you have a free cash credit card like DKB, so no need to change money
  • Hotels are (unless you are unlucky) usually quite good and even short notice bookings were fine
  • For Cerro San Christobal check if Teleferico or Funicular are running and when the last ones go

Avoid

  • Standard tourist tricks in the tourist spot restaurants
  • Be careful in Bellavista in the evening
  • Generally Chile is quite safe, especially by Latin American standard, so no need to worry too much beyond normal street crime

 

[Travel Date: 11/2017, Duration 3 days]


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