We know that the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the name Santiago is the protagonist of Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist” but today, we are talking about one of the most prosperous and beautiful cities of Chile.
With a metropolitan population of over 7 million people, Santiago is both the capital and the largest city of Chile. Founded in the year 1541, Santiago is home to many a marvellous neoclassical, art deco and neo-gothic building. Due to its sheer size and popularity, it is a financial, social, cultural and political hub. Most of Chile’s high-profile business takes place in Santiago and the city has thus become a thriving juggernaut on its own.
Located in the semi-arid climate zone but adhering to Mediterranean properties as well (to some degree), temperatures around Santiago do not tend to fluctuate much. With warm days almost all year long, temperatures drop only to cool during wintertime (June to August). These mild winters are also characterised by humidity and by daily means fluctuating between 8-10 degrees Celsius.
Santiago is served by the renowned Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport. Due to it being the only Latin-American airport having direct links with Oceania, it is one of the most crowded ones in the region (serving more than 16 million people each year). The Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport also serves as a primary hub for the following airlines: Sky Airline, PAL Airlines, LATAM Airlines, One Airlines and Aerocardal. The city is served by another, much smaller, airport known as the Eulogio Sánchez Airport. This one, however, is privately-owned and you are not likely to find yourself there.
Santiago’s rail-based conveyance is handled by the Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado (EFE) firm. The central station (the Estación Central) offers rides to relatively adjacent cities such as: San Fernando, Talca and even Chillán. Note that getting to the central station is fairly easy due to it being served by both the metro system and a bus system.
There are countless bus terminals around the city specifically planted for your convenience. We explicitly recommend the Terminal San Borja located near the Estación Central metro station. This one offers rides towards all parts of Chile (should you wish to travel to other places as well when you are done with Santiago).
Serving more than 2.5 million people every day, the Santiago Metro is one of the busiest metro systems in the world. Operating with 100 stations and 5 lines, the Santiago Metro offers an easy way to get around town in a swift fashion. Prices are affordable and the vehicles themselves are safe (even if overcrowded at times). With a little patience, you might even find the whole experience to your liking.
What’s important to know about Santiago’s taxi system is that the vehicles themselves must always have orange plates. If they do not, then do not trust them at all for their drivers might be conmen. The majority of them should also be painted black with yellow roofs. Prices are not that celestial but traffic jams are common (this is also a warning to all those who travel on four wheels). Santiago contains 37-38% of the cars of Chile, meaning that urban transportation on ground level can often prove frustrating.
SIGHTS AND ACTIVITIES:
South America shall always bear the tinge of Pre-Columbian times and for this very reason, you should start off with visiting the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino (the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art). Established in 1981, the museum boasts with a collection of items reaching 10.000 years into the past. Located close to the Plaza de Armas, the establishment is accommodated by the Palacio de la Real Aduana (constructed between 1805 and 1807). A must-see for history-lovers and for those who have always been fascinated by the Pre-Columbian peoples.
Next up should be a stop at Santiago’s central square, the renowned Plaza de Armas. A masterpiece crafted by Pedro de Gamboa, the plaza is surrounded by important buildings such as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, the Palacio de la Real Audiencia de Santiago and the Central Post Office Building. What we must also draw your attention to are the gorgeous palm trees standing around there effortlessly (wink).
Bordered by the Alameda del Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins (the main avenue of Santiago), Santa Lucía Hill should be another one of your points of interest. What you should know about this harmless little hill is that it is in fact the legacy of a 15-million-year-old volcano. Suddenly, the innocent little outcrop becomes an imposing natural wonder. Soaring at an ordinary height of 629 metres it is but 69 metres above the local area. This is because the city of Santiago itself is situated at a general height of 521 metres (with the surroundings of Santa Lucía Hill sloping towards 560 metres). If you are up for some relaxation, this is your place to visit.
Located under the Plaza de la Ciudadanía (Citizenry Square), the Centro Cultural Palacio de La Moneda is a cultural complex so vast that it should not be left out by any means. With a giant parking lot that is capable of storing over 560 cars, you are sure to have a comfortable time entering and exiting the facility. If you happen to be in the area when exhibitions are taking place, then you should definitely pay it a visit. The facility is in the southern section of the La Moneda Palace (another vital point of interest for you to check out).
Covering more than 700 hectares of land, the Santiago Metropolitan Park is our final recommendation for you at this point. If you wish to blow off steam and let go of the tumults of the city, then be sure to hop over to this unparalleled natural reserve. It is important to know that the reserve houses both the Chilean National Zoo and the facilities of San Cristóbal Hill. Do take your children with you if you happen to be travelling with them.
Santiago lives up to Coelho’s Alchemist in terms of beauty and of deeper meaning. If you wish to truly behold the past and present grandeur of South America, then book your flight now and enjoy!.