Santiago city; the capital of Chile that is entirely surrounded by rugged landscapes and snowy mountain peaks. A place that left me with a real mixture of emotions ⏤ for more reasons than one.
To tell you the honest truth, my first impressions of Santiago were not the most positive. But after a little exploration, it came to be a city that I really quite enjoyed. To save you from having a similar negative experience, I’m here to share my top tips for travel in Santiago; a place that you may potentially grow to love:
Don’t stay Downtown
This is definitely my most valuable tip ⏤ my hotel was booked in downtown Santiago and on immediate arrival, the location was definitely a downfall; the area is a little rundown, restaurants are very sparse and there’s really not much going on in the area.
If you’re planning on staying in Santiago, I would definitely recommend staying east of the downtown area, or even further around Barrio Bellavista or Santa Lucia. The area is much nicer and there is much more to do in this part of town!
Bring Warm Clothes – Especially in the Winter
I visited Santiago in July; during the winter and let me make this clear… It was pretty damn cold.
The first day that I arrived the weather was utterly brutal – strong winds, frosty rain and temperatures that literally froze my toes! So please, make sure you bring the essential amount of layers, and absolutely nothing less. Even during the summer the temperatures generally don’t reach any higher than 21 ºC ⏤ there are certainly no tropical temperatures here!
Use the Metro – It’s a Great System
The metro is an amazing way to travel in Santiago ⏤ the system is very easy to use and although the entrance to the underground stations can sometimes look a little sketchy, underneath is a very pleasant, safe way to travel.
If you’re looking to get from one side of the city to the other, look no further!
Be Prepared to see some Serious Pollution
One thing that I was most certainly shocked about in Santiago city, was the extreme amount of pollution that can be seen hovering low in the atmosphere. Even when you fly into the airport on arrival, there is a thick layer of smog lurking in the air that could easily be mistaken for a layer of wispy cloud.
It’s only when you walk higher up the many hills in Santiago, that the colour of the smog becomes a distinctive brown colour ⏤ there’s absolutely no doubt that this is an issue of pollution; especially when the city’s high-rises disappear beneath a dirty layer of smog.
It’s a sad, sad sight to say the least; especially when you know just how magical the views could potentially be.
Barrio Bellavista is the Best Place to Eat
There’s certainly no doubt about it! Barrio Bellavista is an area between Mapocho River and San Cristóbal Hill – this part of the city has a huge array of delicious restaurants, colourful buildings and a very charming atmosphere. The area is easily accessible via the metro system or around a 40-minute walk from the city centre.
Drink lots of Wine
I’m no avid wine drinker by any means, but it’s a known fact that Chilean wine is some of the best.
If you’re interested in having your fair share of alcohol intake, definitely try some whilst you’re in Santiago city. You could even go on a winery tour if you really want to go all-in on the Chilean wine!
Escape the City and Head to the Andes
As I’m sure you already know, the Andes mountains surround the entirety of Santiago – it would be such a shame to come to this amazing city and not visit these magical mountains. There are a huge array of tours to choose from that will take you right into the heart of the Andes. I visited Cajón Del Maipo, and it was truly amazing.
Why not, right?
Go on Day Tours!
One of the best things I organised for my time in Santiago was a day tour up the mountains and through the Chilean countryside!
As I said, the city itself is not the most charming (brutal perhaps, but I’m just being honest) ⏤ my experience in this part of Chile was completely lifted by simply getting out of the capital. No matter if you visit the Andes or the colourful city of Valparaíso, it may be a choice that you’ll be very grateful for. Nothing beats stepping out of the major cities… In my opinion anyway.
There’s no doubt that Santiago is a lovely city, but it was certainly not my favourite. The beautiful Andes mountains that surround this city certainly lift the spirit of a place that is really quite polluted. If you take a little more time to research and plan, you could potentially have the time of your life here in the capital of Chile, but having a detailed itinerary is a very helpful step!
Don’t push it to the side too quickly, Santiago city is an amazing place if you know how to explore a little deeper.
Like it? PIN IT!
I don’t mean to be rude, but as a chilean there are a couple of details I got to mention. The reason behind the smog in Santiago is because it is surrounded by mountains, which makes it harder for the pollution to escape like in other cities. There are some days where the smog is way more noticeable than on other days.
Also in summer temperatures avarage around the 30°C, it even gets to 36°C sometimes!
My travelling recommendations as a Chilean (Of what I like to do in my vacations), is to visit Valle del Elqui, which is the place that has the most clear skies in the world, which make it a beautiful place and there are some nice observatories around. Also it’s very close to La Serena, which is a coastal city.
Also I would recommend going to the South of Chile, where there is a lot of vegetation and lakes, which I find very appealing (I love going to Pucon, a very beautiful touristic place).
Or if you’re looking to places that are closer to Santiago I would recommend going to Cajon del Maipo, a place that is high in the mountains and has some very interesting landscape.
I loved your tips on Santiago there’s a lot to see, like the temple of Bahai, Farellones ski center, Costanera center (The mall with the tallest skyscraper in South America), the Catedral, Santa Lucia Hill, the palace of La Moneda, etc… Lots to see, and I love to see people that come to visit Chile and the places it has to offer. Thank you for sharing this post!
Great article, thanks for the tips! Indeed, Chile is one of the most interesting countries in South America, with its diverse, pristine landscape second to none! However, the country is also afflicted by tourist targeted scams and crime.
Do be wary of the bird poo/mustard scam, poor student scam, border crossing scam, drink spiking, pickpocketing, robberies, muggings, pirate taxis, airport fake taxis, taxis with two occupants, carjackings, snatch thefts, flat tire scam and many more!
I didn’t realise how picturesque Santiago was with the mountains. I feel most of these tips apply to a number of South American capitals. I couldn’t believe how cold I was most of the time!
They’re so so beautiful – the Andes really does lift the feel of the entire city! I totally agree, although in terms of pollution, Santiago was definitely the most affected out of all of the cities I visited in South America; Devastating! And yes, it’s so extremely cold. Especially during this time of year ❅❄︎