Round the World in 40 Days: Stage 8 – A Tour of Santiago, Chile

Following our eight day tour of New Zealand, we flew out from Auckland on an eleven hour Qantas flight to Santiago, the capital of Chile.

Central Santiago from San Cristobal Hill
Central Santiago from San Cristobal Hill

Flying east across the Pacific Ocean is always a strange experience as you arrive a few hours earlier on the same day that you set off. And flying east is worse for jet lag than flying west.

Hence we decided to confine our two night stay in Chile to a fairly leisurely tour of Santiago, dividing our time between revisiting some of the highlights of our previous visit eight years earlier and exploring some new areas.

Again we stayed at the Holiday Inn Santiago Airport. It is conveniently sited just across the road from the airport, from where frequent inexpensive buses travel in to the city centre. The hotel had almost doubled in size since our last visit, but the welcome and service were as excellent as ever.

Colourful demonstration in support of Michelle Bachelet
Colourful demonstration in support of Michelle Bachelet

The airport buses terminate on the Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins at Los Héroes Metro Station, a convenient starting point for a tour of the central area of the city.

The impressive white façade of La Moneda, the Presidential Palace, is just a few minute walk away with the Plaza de la Constitución at its north side. This plaza contains a monument to the former president of Chile, Salvador Allende, who died in the palace in 1973 during the military takeover. When we visited, a colourful demonstration was taking place near the monument in support of the current President, Michelle Bachelet.

Metropolitan Cathedral and Edifico in Plaza de Armas
Metropolitan Cathedral and Edifico in Plaza de Armas

We continued our walking tour to the nearby Plaza de Armas, a massive square lined with palm trees and surrounded by several historical buildings including the Metropolitan Cathedral. The plaza gives a flavour of Santiago with locals collecting to stroll, chat and play chess matches and painters selling their wares.

Narrow bustling streets lined with shops and restaurants lead down from the plaza to the unimpressive River Mapocho. Across the river is the Barrio Bellavista district with its brightly coloured street art, bars and cafes. We stopped there awhile for a coffee, absorbing its unique atmosphere.

Barrio Bellavista
Barrio Bellavista

Overlooking Barrio Bellavista is the Cerro San Cristóbal (San Cristobal Hill) crowned with a 50 ft high statue of the Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepción. You can walk up to the statue on steep hiking trails in about 30 minutes, but on a hot day, these senior travellers decided the old Funicular was far better option. The panoramic views from the peak are superb.

Stretching away from the Cerro San Cristóbal is the 1800 acre Parque Metropolitano with pleasant walks through varied vegetation. However as senior travellers, we again opted for the easy option, the Cable Car (Teleférico Santiago), which sweeps over the park for 3 miles. Seniors get a 35% discount on prices.

Teleférico de Santiago
Cable Car approaching the Constanera district

We had travelled on this Cable Car route eight years earlier and noted that it was urgently in need of renovation. Apparently it closed soon afterwards and has only just reopened as a modern safe system.

It’s now a great scenic ride with the Constanera Torre skyscraper, the tallest building in South America, gradually coming into view. From the Cable Car terminus, crossing back over the River Mapocho takes you to the massive Constanera Center, the latest and largest shopping mall in Santiago.

Iglesia de San Francisco
Iglesia de San Francisco

The Metro took us back to downtown Santiago and the Iglesia de San Francisco (San Francisco Church), the oldest colonial-era building in the country. We decided to visit this church after buying a painting of it in Plaza de Armas and we were not disappointed with both its fine architecture and beautiful interior.

We found a great place to eat in the nearby Plaza Londres, the Viejo Urbano restaurant,  before a short walk back to Los Héroes Metro Station and the airport bus back to our hotel.

However the short walk turned out to be much longer than expected. A large, but good-natured, demonstration relating to women’s rights was blocking off the streets so we had to catch the bus much further down the Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins. It all added to the atmosphere of this vibrant city.

The following morning, after a leisurely breakfast at the Holiday Inn, we strolled across the road to the airport for our short flight north to Peru and Stage 9 of our Round the World journey.

See also:
Round the World in 40 Days: Planning and Booking
Stage 1 – Golden Triangle of Agra, Jaipur and Delhi
Stage 2 – Singapore and the Gardens by the Bay
Stage 3 – Taipei and NE Taiwan
Stage 4 – Seoul and the DMZ
Stage 5 – Hong Kong Revisited
Stage 6 – Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef
Stage 7 – Earthquakes and Vineyards in New Zealand
Stage 9 – Cusco and Machu Picchu
Stage 10 – Lima and Miraflores, Peru
Stage 11 – Miami and the Everglades