Spindly Chile stretches over half of South America, from the driest desert in the world to massive glacial fields. Its slenderness makes it easy to explore the boggling diversity of volcanoes, geysers, beaches, lakes, rivers, steppe and countless islands. With simple infrastructure, spectacular sights and the most hospitable hosts around, the hardest part of a visit to Chile is planning your day.
definitely true of Santiago, the nation’s capital. Scout out the urban edge of
this once-conformist city in design shops and chic clubs, or soak up some
classic Latin culture at lively café debates that stretch all day. Once your
urban fix is filled, stroll the city’s leafy, exotic suburban parks or take
refuge in the Andean peaks just beyond the city’s skyline.
the air has cleared somewhat in recent years, pollution and noise are likely to
cloud your first impressions, especially in winter. But do not be discouraged. The
city – cultured, quirky and ambitious – rewards the patient traveller. Beyond
the conservative conformity of Santiago Centro and the soulless towers of Las
Condes, the financial district, there are thriving culinary and artistic
enclaves that are a joy to uncover. Gourmets feast on world-class cuisine in
Bellavista and Providencia and bohemians gather in the charming old district of
Barrio Brasil. There is also a range of activities within easy reach of the
urban sprawl. Trekking, climbing, horseback riding, skiing, kayaking and wine
tours are just a few of the exhilarating possibilities at Santiago's doorstep.
some of Santiago’s highlights.
Cerro San Cristóbal and Parque Metropolitano
With its 880m
summit, steep funicular, and 5km of cable car, this enormous
city park offers stunning vistas of the city. If smog hides the view, there
are botanical gardens, swimming pools and a zoo to keep you busy.
Barrio Lastarria and Barrio Bellas Artes
Don your chunky
black spectacles and turtleneck, then strike a pose amongst the designers and
writers. With two great museums, a string of bijoux cafés and dinky design
stores, these two central neighbourhoods are the heart of Santiago’s art scene.
Pablo Neruda was as
skilled with the cocktail shaker as he was with the pen, so it is fitting that
one of his houses now watches over the bar-lined cobbled streets of Bellavista
where Chile’s most kicking carrete (partying) goes down.
Museo Chileno de Arte
Pre-Columbian ceramics, metalwork, textiles and stone carvings from all over
Latin America chart the continent’s rich history and culture before the
European invasion. Mummies and trippy shamanic accessories make for more
offbeat finds in the
Museo Chileno de Arte's collection.
Mercado Central and La Vega Central
See some of
Santiago’s best food before it makes it onto your plate at the city’s best
markets. The Mercado Central is a shining silver-mine of seafood while La
Vega Central is the best for fruit and vegetables.
Maipo Valley Wineries
reds at top wineries without leaving town. From chichi boutique set-ups like Viña
Aquitania to viniculture behemoths like Viña
Cousiño Macul or Viña
Concha y Toro, some of Chile’s finest wine is only a bus- or subway-ride
Cajón del Maipo
Ditch the traffic
and the smog and head for the hills. You can hike, ride and raft your way along
the steep-sided canyon of the Río Maipo, just two hours from Santiago.
It is riotously
loud, reeks of sour booze and the name translates as “the louse-pit”. Yet with
its dangerously potent drink mixes, aging barmen and rowdy, guitar-strumming
regulars, this 90-year-old
bar is a local institution.
The article 'Santiago’s urban edge' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.