Latin America Travel & Tour Information
Santiago de Chile Travel Information
The capital and its surrounding, from N the Rio Aconcagua to the Rio Maipo; within easy reach are Andean ski resorts and pacific beaches, such as the international resort of Viña del mar. On the same strech of coast is the port of Valparaiso.
Nearly 70% of the people of chile live in the comparatively small heartland. The rural population density in the area is exceptional for latin America: it is as high as 48 to the square km to the S of Santiago.
From a third to half of the width of the area is taken up by the Andes , which are formidably high in the northern sector; at the head of the river Aconcagua the peak of Aconcagua (in argentina), the highest in the Americas , rises to 6,964m.
The region suffers from earthquakes. The is a mantle of snow on the mountains: at Aconcagua it begins at 43000m. The lower slopes are covered with dense forests.
Between the forest and the snowline there are alpine pastures; during the summer Cattle are driven up to these pastures to graze.
The coastal range , over 2130m high , takes up another third of the width . It is lower here than in the northern desert, but the shoreline is still unbroken; it is only at Valparaiso and San Antonio that good harbourage is to be found.
Between the coastal range and the Andes lies the Central Valley; the rivers cross It at right angles and cut their way to the sea through narrow canyons in the coastal range.
The Valley of the Aconcagua is separated by a mountainous spur from the valley of the Mapocho, in which Santiago lies.
There is rain during the winter in the heartland, but the summers are dry. The rain increases to the S. On the coast at viña del mar it is 483mm a year, but is somewhat less inland.
Temperatures, on the other hand , are higher inland than on the coast. There is frost now and then, but very little snow falls.
Santiago, founded by pedro de valdivia in 1541, is the fifth largest city in south America , with 4m people , and one of the most beautifully set of any, standing in a wide plain, 600m above the sea.The city is crossed from E to W by the Rio Mopocho, which passes through an artificial stone channel, 40 m wide,spanned by several bridges. Public gardens, laid out with admirable taste, are filled with flowers and kept in good order .
The magnificent chain of the andes ,with is snow-capped heights, is in full view for much of the year , rain and pollution permitting; there are peaks of 6000m about 100km away.
More than half the Country´s manufacturing is donde here; it is essentially a modern capital, full of skyscrapers, bustle, noice, traffic and smog ( tables for which are published in the daily papers, as are the numbers of car registration licence plates which are not allowed into the city each day).
The centre of the city lies between the Mapocho and the avenida O´higgins usually known as the Alameda. From the Plaza Baquedano (plaza Italia), in the E of the city´s central area, the Mapocho flows to the NW and the Avenida O´higgins runs to the SW. From Plaza Baqueano the calle merced runs due W to the plaza de armas , the heart of the city; it lies 5 blocks S of the Mapocho.
On the easterm and southern sides of plaza de armas there are arcades with shops; on the northen side is the post office and the municipalidad; and on the western side the cathedral And the archbishop´s palace. The cathedral, much rebuilt,contains a recumbent statue in wood of St Francis Xavier ,and the chandelier which lit the first meetings of congress after independence it also houses an interesting museum of religious art and historical pieces.
In the Palacio de la real audiencia on the plaza de armas is the museo Historico Nacional A block W of the cathedral is the former congress building now occupied by the ministry of foreign affairs( the congress,which held no sittings after 1973, has been moved to Valparaiso to purpose-built building). Nearby are the law courts. At calle merced 864, close to the plaza de armas,is the casa colorada ,built in1769 , the home of the governor in colonial days and then of Mateo de toro, first president of chile.
It is now the museum of the history of Santiago . From de plaza de armas paseo ahumada, a pedestrianized street lined with cafes runs S to the Alameda 4 blocks away,crossing huerfanos, which is also pedestrianized.
The avenida O´hggins runs through the heart of the city for over 3km. It is100m wide,and ornamented with gardens and statuary: the most notable are the equestrian statues of general O´higgins and San Martin ;the statue of the Chilean historian Benjamin Vicuña mackena who, as mayor of Santiago , beautified cerro Santa Lucia ;and the great monument in honour of the battle of Concepcion in 1879.
From the plaza Baquedano , where is a statue of general baquedano and the tomb of the unknown soldier , the alameda skirts , on the right ,cerro santa Lucia , and on the left ,the catholic university. Beyond the hill the alameda goes past the neo-classical Natonal Library on the right, which also contains the national archives.
Beyond the left, between calle San Francisco and calle londres , is the oldest church in Santiago: the red-walled church and monastery of San Francisco. Inside is the small statue of the virgin which Valdivia carried on his saddlebow when he rode from Peru to Chile. Near the church cloisters is the museo de arte colonial.
Santiago of San Francisco is the barrio Paris-londres, built in 1923-1929,now restored and pedestrianized. Two blocks N of the Alameda on calle Agustinas is the teatro Municipal .A little further W along the Alameda, is the university of chile; the club de la union is almost opposite.Nearvy ,on calle nueva york is the Bolsa de comercio. One block further W is the plaza de la libertad.
To the N of the plaza, hemmed in by the skyscrapers of the centro civico ,is the palacio de la moneda (1805), the presidential palace containing historic relics,paintings and sculpture , and the elaborate ¨Salon Rojo¨ used of official receptions(guided visits only with written permission from the direccion administrative- 3 week notice required). Although the moneda was damaged by air attacks during the military coup of 11 september 1973 it has been fully restored.
In front of the palace is the statue of former president Arturo alessandri Palma.(ceremonial changing of the guard every other day,1000,never on sun; sun ceremony is performed mon). The alameda continues westwards to the Planetarium and, opposite it on the sourthen side, the railway station (estacion central or Alameda) for the S. On avenida Matucana, running N from here, is the very popular Parque Quinta Normal. About seven blocks W of the Estacion central is the southern bus terminal.
Four blocks N of the Plaza de armas is the interesting Mercado central, at Puente 21 de mayo. The building faces the parquet Valenzuela , on which is the cal y canto metro satation ,the northen terminus of line 2, and at its western end,the former Mapocho railway station , now a cultural centre,which is planned to extend eventually over land currently occupied by the prision( currently in use) and the terminal del norte bus station four blocks W.
If you head E from Mapocho station, along the river, you pass through the parque forestall (see below), before coming back to plaza Baquedano. Between the parquet forestall , Plaza Baquedano and the Alameda is the Lastarria neighbourhood (Universidad catolica metro). For those interested in antique furniture, objets d´art and old books, the area is worth a visit, especially the plaza Mulato gil de castro(calle jose V lastarria 305).
Occasional shows are put on in the square , on which are the museo arqueologico de Santiago in a restored house, a bookshop, handicraft and antique shops, and gallery,the instituto de arte contemporaneo and the pergola de la plaza restaurant.
Nearby, on lastarria, are the jardin Lastarria ,a cul-de-sac of craft and antique shops (No 293)Gutenberg, Lafourcade y Cia, an antiquarian bookseller (No 307), the cine biografo (No 131) and, at the corner with Merced, the instituto Chileno-frances (see below).
The Bellavista district, on the N bank of the Mapocho from Plaza Baquedano at the foot of cerro San cristobal , is the main focus of nightlife .
Centred around Pio nono ,this area is full of restaurants and cafes , theatres, entreteinments,art galleris and craft shops (especially those selling lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone found only in Chile and Afghanistan) E of Plaza Baquedano , the main E-W axis of the city becomes Avenida providencia Which heads out towards the residential areas,such as Las Condes, at the eastern and upper levels of the city .
It passes the new headquarters of sernatur( the national tourist board), the modern shopping , office and restaurant areas around Pedro de Valdivia and Los Leones metro stations (collectively know as providencia), to become Avenida Apoquindo at Tobalaba metro.
Parques y jardines
Cerro Santa lucia, bounded by calle Merced to the N, Avenida O´higgins to the Santiago, calles santa lucia and Subercaseaux is a cone of rock rising steeply to a height of 70m.
It can be scaled from the Caupolican esplanade, on which, high on a rock ,stands a statue of that Mapuche leader, but the ascent from the northerm side of the hill,where there is an equestrian statue of Diego de Almagro, is eaiser .
There are striking views of the city from the top (reached by a series of stairs) , where there is a fortress, the bateria Hidalgo (the platform of which is its only colonial survival - the building is closed). Even on smoggy days , the view of the sunset is good; the cerro closes at 2100.
It is best to descend the eastern side, to see the small Plaza Pedro Valdivia with is waterfalls and statue of Valdivia. The area is famous , at night ,for its gay community.
The geat Parque O´higgins (parquet O´higgins metro station on line 2, or bus from Parque Baquedano via Avs Mackena and Matta), is about 10 blocks S of Avenida O´higgins.
It has a small lake, playing fields, tennis courts, swimming pool (open from 5 dec), an open-air stage for local songs and dances, a discotheque ,the racecourse of the Club hipico , an amusement park, Fantasilandia, admission US$ 1.5 (open on weekends only in winter , and not when raining), kite-fighting contests on Sunday, and a group of about twenty good ¨typical¨ restaurants , some craft shops, the museo del Huaso, an aquarium and a small insect and shellfish museum at El pueblito. Cars are not allowed in the park.
In the large Parque quinta Normal, N of the estacion central, are four museums , details of which are given below.
There are several other parks in Santiago, but perhaps the most notable is the Parque forestal, due N of Santa Lucia hill and immediately S of the Mapocho. The museo nacional de bellas artes is in the wooded grounds and is an extraordinary example of neo-classical architecture (details below). The parquet Balmaceda (parquet Gran bretaña), E of Plaza Baquedano , is perhaps the most beautiful in Santiago (the museo de los tajamares is here).
The sharp, conical hill of San Cristobal,forming the parque Metropolitano , to the NE of the city, is the largest and most interesting of the city´s parks.
A funicular railway goes up the 300-metre-high hill from Plaza Caupolican at the northern end of calle Pio Nono every few minutes from 1000-1900 mon-fri, 1000-2000 sat and Sun (closed for lunch 1330-1430), stopping on its way at the jardin zoologico (open 1000-1300, 1500-1800 weekdays, 1000-1800 sat, sun and holidays),US$ 1.25 in week, US$1.40 weekends.
The zoo is being extended and has an excellent collection of animals which are well-cared for (fares:from plaza to zoo US$1.50(easily walked); from zoo to San Cristobal US$2) A teleferico ascends from estacion Oasis, Av Pedro de Valdivia metro station), via Tupahue to the summit,near the funicular´s upper station.
The fare from oasis is US$ 1.8 to the top,US$ 1.15 to tupahue and US$ 1.80 return to tupahue. A combined funicular/teleferico ticket is US$4 . The teleferico runs 1030-1900 at weekends, 1500-1830 weekdays except tues (in summer only), so to get to Tupahue at other times you must take the funicular up and walk down from the summit (or drive,or take a taxi).
An open bus operated by the teleferico company runs to tupahue and the summit from the Pio nono terminal with the same schedule as the teleferico itself. To walk up, head up calle Pio nono for 1km to the sing ¨A la Virgen¨; the path is shady, tree-lined and has good views.
On the hill´s summit stands a colossal statue of te virgin, which is floodlit at night; beside it is the astromical observatory of the catholic university which can be visited on application to the observatory´s director.
The hill is very well laid out around the Tupahue station, with terraces, gardens, and paths;in one building is a good, expensive restaurant with a splendid view from the terrace, especially at night, and an Enoteca, or exhibition of Chilean wines from a very limited range of vineyards (you can taste one of the three¨wines of the day¨, US$ 1.25 each, and buy if you like, though prices are much higher than in shops.)
The casa de la cultura has art exhibitions and free concerts at midday on Sundays. There are two good swimming pools:one at Tupahue, US$4.50; the other, Antilen; can be reached from the road that stars below the Enoteca. Also in the Tupahue vicinity are the botanical gardens, with a collection of Chilean native plants, guided tours available.