South America Travel Tips

Santiago de Chile: a Nice Surprise

After 3 long months of wandering throughout South America, 17 different locations, thousands of km… it was time to chill out and relax for a while.

And Santiago de Chile, believe it or not, suited me perfectly.

The majority of the people I met during my travels told me there was nothing to see in Santiago and that I would have hated it.

At times you’ve got to trust your gut (thank you Sharon, my dear friend!), and this means doing something you feel good about it despite what the other 99% says. It’s like when all your friends tell you “that movie is horrible”, you go see it, and you think it’s the best movie ever! Hands up if that has happened to you too 🙂

Well – spoiler alert – I booked 4 nights in Santiago but then I extended my stay for another 9 days… Santiago was indeed a big surprise.

Yes, it’s a metropolis. It’s not a beautiful tropical island or a big city full of history. It takes a couple of days to visit the main tourist sites. And let’s be clear: after 26 years in Rome, I’m not a big fan of overcrowded, busy and polluted places any longer.

But Santiago has a special atmosphere, and that’s sufficient for me.

The city center and the Nueva Providencia area are, on average, clean, organized, pedestrian friendly, spacious, and the city has a sense of order I haven’t experienced anywhere else.

Transportation works well (in the middle of the summer) and traffic is relatively decent. People seem happy and content. It’s hot, but it’s not humid – you will sweat a bit, but you can breath. There are great universities, awesome and modern offices, cool skyscrapers, a couple of hills you can hike to enjoy the view, many parks, lots of bars/restaurants and overall it’s not that expensive. Shopping is so good people travel from Argentina (Mendoza is just on the other side of the Andes) to buy items (mostly electronics) at half the price.

Yes, it’s a good city to live in. Not much to do for a tourist really, but if you want to experience a modern lifestyle without too many city problems, Santiago might surprise you.

Doing the touristy bits in Stgo

On day 1 and 2 I did a little tour of the city: Plaza Italia, la Chascona (one of Pablo Neruda’s houses), Barrio Bellavista, Cerro Santa Lucía, Cerro San Cristóbal, Costanera Shopping Center, Plaza de Armas, la Moneda.

They’re nice, mostly the two hills from where you can admire the city from the top (and get some exercise done).

In both AirBnBs I stayed, I was able to get a lot of work done as well – it’s January and it’s pretty normal to be busy with clients at this time of the year.

Also, the perfect time to assess my achievements, my results, my income, my costs and find out what I liked and what not after all these weeks in Argentina and Chile. So far, so good!

Viña del Mar: sure, why not?

On Saturday I decided to go to the beach at the last minute. When I say “go to” this means getting a bus for 2 hours each way, but well, you have to go for this sometimes.

The engineer in me failed to guess that the whole city of Santiago would have had the same exact idea… so the bus got stuck in traffic all the way up to Viña del Mar and I didn’t get there before 3.30pm.

Not a problem though. I walked to the beach, took a few pics, dived in the waves for a few mins and then ate my sandwiches. There were so many people everywhere, I wasn’t expecting Viña to be a city this big. The beach was great though, and you can sense there is a lot to do here in the summer.

The beach has massage centers, gym equipment, lots of nice shops and a very interesting “Sport city”, where you can play sports for free.

Overall I had a good time, got good sleeps (unlike in the previous hostels, thank you AirBnB!), got work and some exercise done, ate local food included a beautiful sandwich called “Completo Italiano”, met great Santiaguinos (people of Santiago), but mostly relaxed and reset.

I find it hard to justify the “relax” bit while staying 13 days in a metropolis, but well, you know I’m a little “different” by now!

Next stop: San Pedro de Atacama.

And then, Bolivia 🙂