Santiago, Chile is a sprawling metropolis of over five million people located in a bowl surrounded by the Andes Mountains. Santiago has a distinctive personality with great sites, colorful markets, vibrant street life and a spectacular museum devoted to pre-Columbian exhibits. Santiago is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts as the city serves as a base for excursions to national parks, ski resorts and Chilean wineries. 

Numerous green areas, thriving markets and an overcrowded downtown area make up Santiago which is a mix of modern skyscrapers amongst historical European and Spanish architecture. Santiago is home to exquisite museums, modern hotels, world class dining and numerous shopping centers. The inner city is a display of health and wealth contrasted by the polluted shantytowns that stretch from the downtown area of bustling streets and vibrant night life.

Climate in Santiago

Santiago has a Mediterranean climate, characterized by hot dry summers and mild moist winters. Rainfall is heavier in the winter months of May to August where high temperatures are in the low 50’s. It rarely snows in Santiago, however, the surrounding Andes provide visitors with great skiing destinations.  The summers can be dry and windy with temperatures reaching the mid 80’s. Santiago is considered one of the 10 most polluted cities in the world due to its location in a natural bowl. 

Activities in Santiago

Santiago’s Mercado Central was constructed of wrought iron in 1872. This vibrant fruit and vegetable market is also home to a thriving fish market. During lunchtime an assortment of samplings can be enjoyed in the central hall. There are many restaurants to choose from with some of the smaller outlets serving the best fare at a cheaper price. The architecture provides and interesting backdrop the bustling market that also sees the likes of street musicians, Souvenir and jewelry vendors.

The Chilean Museum of Pre-Colombian Art is located in the old Royal Customs House in Santiago. Some 4,500 years and about 80 pre-Colombian civilizations of South America make up the museum’s collection which is arranged throughout four rooms that surround a central courtyard. The museum provides insight into the cultures of the Incas, Mayans, Aztecs and other civilizations of the continent.

Sightseeing in Santiago

Cerro San Cristóbal is a 2,752-foot (860m) hill jutting out of Santiago that offers a unique view of the city and the surrounding mountains. There are many walkways on the hill and at the summit is the 70-foot (22m) high statue of the Virgin Mary to mark where the Pope held a mass in 1987.

The Plaza de Armas is a colonial square that was once the Spanish governor’s residence. The square became the hub of administrative, commercial and social life of the city when it was founded in 1541. The square remains the center of life in the city today.

Chilean wines have grown in popularity over the last ten years. Wine tasting tours are a popular attraction in Santiago, and there are many wineries to choose from such as Valle de Maipo, Valle de Casablanca and Valle de San Antonio. Colchagua Valley is the most popular of many “wine routes” established by groups of wineries that can be toured by bicycle during the summer months.

There is a thriving theatre community in Santiago that ranges from small independent productions to large-scale operas. Well known theaters like the Teatro Bellavista, Teatro Alcalá, and Estación Mapocho stage productions on a regular basis, but performances in English are few and far between.

Cuisine in Santiago

Typical meals in Chile consist mainly of lots of meat, especially beef and chicken, rice and potatoes, fresh fruit and vegetables harvested from the fields of Central Chile. Fresh seafood is also available to those who seek it but is not as prevalent as one may think due to the cities vast coastline. 

Travel to Santiago/Passports

Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport is located in Pudahuel, which is a brief drive from downtown Santiago, Chile. There are frequent direct cheap flights between the US and Santiago but direct flights from the UK are not available. The Metro de Santiago is an easy and efficient way to get around in Santiago at a reasonable price and the system services most places of interest. Buses can be chaotic and a bit dangerous while taxis are an affordable option. Travel by foot is also common in Santiago as the city’s street system is a grid structure. A passport is required for travel to Santiago. No visa is required by US nationals for visits of up to 90 days, but a $160 reciprocity fee will be charged for tourists. The receipt is regarded as a multiple entry visa and is valid until the passport expires.



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