After leaving Argentina and coming back to Puerto Varas, the next morning I took an early flight to the capital of Chile, Santiago. I arrived pretty early in the morning and checked into the San Cristobal Tower because I had some points with Starwood. It was an expensive hotel and I only stayed there for one night because that’s all I could afford.
Day 8: Santiago
On travel days I usually like to keep the schedule pretty light. I first went to have breakfast in Las Condes, where my hotel was. To be honest, Las Condes is really far from the city center but it’s where all the top hotels are. I do recommend staying here, just anytime you want to go anywhere you’ll have to take the metro or a taxi. I opted to take the metro which is kind of hike but super cheap. Also the metro is clean and gets you to all of Santiago’s highlights.
My first stop was at the center of Santiago, the Plaza de Armas. Here there are many ugly government buildings as well as the famous Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral, a church built in 1800. The church is still in use today and when I arrived there were many people in prayer. The square itself is traced back to the 16th century although no buildings from around the period remains intact.
I then walked over to the Palacio de La Moneda, a short walk from the Plaza de Armas. This building dates back to the 19th century and houses all Chilean presidents. Tours are apparently offered for inside but I didn’t feel like it was necessary to see.
Next I walked the streets of downtown Santiago and slowly headed over to the Chilean National Library. In this area there are several shops, stores, cafés where locals visit in the afternoon and the evening. The Chilean National Library is just a library but it’s free to enter and is architecturally rather beautiful. I spent around 15 minutes walking around and taking pictures. Nearby there is also a church that is easy to visit and free to enter. It’s called the Iglesia de San Francisco and can be traced back to at least 1622, making it the older colonial building in Chile.
From here I walked east along the river and came upon the grounds of the Castillo Hidalgo, a castle that dates back to 1816. The castle was once used for protection but now it’s a free park where tourists can climb up and get a great view of the surrounding neighborhoods. On the grounds there is a fountain and a Japanese garden.
On the eastern side of the garden there is a neighborhood called Paseo Barrio Lastarria. It’s a modern neighborhood filled with trendy restaurants, cafés and wine tasting shops. I decided that I really wanted to do some wine tasting given that I was in Chile and Chile is famous for wines. Here they offer all types of Chilean wine and a chance to have wine flights paired with food. It was fun and a relaxing experience.
I finished the day by walking over to Barrio Bellavista, which is a more modern extension of Barrio Lastarria. It mostly has restaurants and shops but I wasn’t interested to look around in either. I wondered over to a metro station and took it back to relax for the night.
Day 9: More Santiago
On day 9 I got up really leisurely at the San Cristobal Tower to watch some tennis and enjoy an in-room breakfast. For my last 3 nights in Santiago I stayed at the Grand Hyatt Santiago, a hotel not to far from the San Cristobal Tower. Both hotels were amazing but the Grand Hyatt Santiago held a more modern, business type feel. It was totally worth using my Hyatt points towards this hotel as it proved to be a really great stay. It’s also one of the few hotels that had views of the Andes.
That day I decided to keep it pretty chill. Unless you plan to do tours outside of Santiago, the city itself can be accomplished by any tourists in 2 days. There are other sites that I didn’t even bother going to because they held no interest to me or I would have to pay to get in. I saw all I wanted to see in Santiago so I decided to have a more relaxed day and explore the area around the Costanera Center.
Here I payed to go up the Sky Costanera, a tall tower that has commanding views of the Andes. I was told that the only way to see the Andes clearly is if it rains and removes the smog. But it did not rain at any point while I was in Santiago. However the view is still amazing on top of the tower and I got some great shots of the entire valley.
Down below the Sky Costanera there is a huge shopping center where I did look around at clothing and souvenirs. There were also a lot of normal restaurants and it was a great place to stop to eat. I then went back and checked into the Grand Hyatt to spend the rest of my day relaxing at the hotel.
Day 10: Valparaíso
Valparaíso is located west of Santiago and is about an hour and half trip on a bus. The bus station in Santiago is not centrally located but it is possible to take a metro from the city. The bus station is crowded and huge but you really don’t need to buy tickets in advance unless it’s during a major Chilean holiday. Buses to Valparaíso leave every 15 minutes to every hour and there are many companies to choose from. I took TurBus which had comfortable seats.
First off Valparaíso is a port city and a pretty grimy city on the surface. However the old city, which lies above the main city center, is the true reason to go to Valparaíso. It has steep, narrow streets and is filled with beautiful graffiti on every corner. Seriously you could spend the day just photography all the wonderful artistic graffiti. But also the views from this part of Valparaíso are impressive and it’s a great place to grab a beverage. To get up to the old city you could walk or take one of the many funiculars around the city that take less than a minute to climb up the steep hills.
I took a chill approach and allowed myself to wonder all the old city starting from the east. It takes while to navigate through all the narrow streets but is certainly worth it and while you walk there are several shops to admire. Modern Valparaíso itself doesn’t have much to offer but sometimes there are markets to walk in. Valparaíso really is an afternoon stop but certainly worth the effort to go to.
Day 11: More Santiago
I was running out of things to do in Santiago so I decided to head back to the center part of the city and revisit some of my old steps. In downtown, I found a souvenir market where they sold scarves, copper and other wooden items. I picked up some copper pans for myself and my family as well as alpaca scarves! That market was actually right across the road from the Castillo Hidalgo. Honestly it’s the only authentic items I considered buying.
I decided to go back to the Patio Barrio Lastarria and to drink in the sun. Pretty relaxing. With nothing left on my schedule it was a slow day but I did have some Chilean food at this restaurant near the Grand Hyatt called Tip y Tap. A little pricey but still good.
Day 12: Flying out
I spent the last day shopping and preparing for my flight home. I really had a full day in Santiago again so I spent it shopping as well as drinking. To be honest I was ready to go home and didn’t really need to see anymore of Santiago. Perhaps I could have done a tour for a day but I was ready to leave.
I was able to secure a first class ticket on a 787 United flight to Houston! Using point I got to experience one of the few times in first class and it was definitely a great experience. Complimentary bubbly, an ability to recline and bragging rights that I sat in seat 1A was definitely worth it for 55,000 United points. I’m going to try to think of more ways to get myself in first class again.
Overview of Santiago and Valparaíso
First of all I had a great time in both cities. I didn’t need to spend that much time in Santiago given that for a major city there really isn’t much to do for the average tourists. Santiago is a hub to jump off and do other outdoor activities throughout Chile so I recommend spending around 2 or 3 days in Santiago. Valparaíso is easily an afternoon type of city.
Chile was a nice country to begin with for South America. The people are calm, friendly and Chile’s cities aren’t as chaotic like many throughout South America. If you’re going to Chile for the first time I recommend that you pick up some Spanish phrases as most people only have basic knowledge of English. Some don’t speak English at all. After nearly 2 weeks I easily spat out familiar phrases.
I didn’t venture out much at night so I don’t know if it’s dangerous to walk alone but I did hear reports and even from locals. Apparently pick pocketing is pretty normal in cities like Santiago and Valparaíso so be on the look out for that. In my experience, I never felt unsafe while in both cities but I only walked around during the day.
Overall I had a fantastic first trip to South America and got to see two great countries along the way. I plan to revisit to view the southern tip of Chile, as well as the desert landscapes in northern Chile.