Travel & Leisure listed Santiago, Chile as one of their best places to travel in 2018. I was very excited to be able to see South America and cross that off of my map, especially since it’s such a short plane ride. Who wouldn’t be excited to visit the land where many of the best Malbecs and red wines are produced!
Santiago is the capital of Chile and also its largest city. It is estimated that the population of Santiago is around 7 million, which is slightly less than the population of New York City. Chile’s coastal region is about an hour’s drive from Santiago; Valparaiso is a lovely coastal city. However, the backdrop unique to Santiago is the lovely Andes mountains. Chile was just finishing winter at the time of our trip, and the high reaching snow-capped mountains were quite beautiful!
As we were taking our city tour, I was struck by how physically fit the people of South America are. There are beautiful parks and outdoor sports available everywhere you look. People riding bikes, running, walking and hiking are everywhere. Interestingly, I saw a large group of people doing Zumba on the side of the road. It was just so different to see such active people scattered everywhere. Much different than in the US, where activities such as Zumba are usually confined to indoor facilities.
Winters in Santiago can be chilly, but at the time we arrived it was almost spring, so a light jacket made for comfortable sightseeing. People everywhere were enjoying the weather as our bus made its way up to the highest point in the city.
The views of Santiago were spectacular. A bustling city and beautiful mountains. What’s not to like!
As we ventured out into the city later in the day we came upon a festival….. much like a festival that you would see here in the US. There were food trucks, families with small children, games, music, etc. Before I left the U.S., I made a list of a few things that I really wanted to do while I was in Chile. And guess what? I found exactly one of the things I had on my list!
I’ve always loved Llamas. In Chile, they pronounce it as Yamma, instead of the pronunciation that we use. This particular cutie was named Esperanza. She was all dressed up for photos and was the sweetest thing. She loved to cuddle and nestle her head on your shoulder. If I could have brought her home, I sure would have! Just look at those eyelashes and the sweet face.
I’m a foodie, so before I travel somewhere I like to research what type of food that places are known for and the dished that I should be sure to try! Chile is known for its seafood. Due to its coastal proximity, there is a wide variety of seafood that is available. So, when it was time for lunch we ventured over to the Mercado Central de Santiago, otherwise known as the Fish Market. The Mercado is a popular tourist destination that our guide recommended. It’s a little like the fish market in Seattle, although much smaller and a lot more touristy. It has all of the touristy things you would expect like t-shirts, refrigerator magnets, etc., but hey, I’m a tourist! I needed to buy some souvenirs to take home.
After a quick round of shopping, it was time for lunch. I couldn’t wait to have some fresh seafood and local wine! I call that a perfect lunch. We settled in at a restaurant called El Galeon, which was recommended by our guide. It is located within the fish market, so we knew everything was pretty much right off the boat and super fresh.
Crab is one of my favorite things to eat. I think it’s better than lobster. The texture is less chewy and the meat is a little sweeter. I was thrilled to see such a wide variety of seafood options for our meal.
There is a definite language barrier in South America. There are a few people who spoke English, but not very many. Our Google Translate app came in handy along with my little pocket Spanish book, even though the language in Chile is more towards Portuguese. As we were deciding what to order it was recommended that we get the medium crab, instead of the small. I almost fell out of my chair when I saw the medium crab that was brought out for us. Diana ordered one as well. That’s a lot of crab!
The restaurant had a fun presentation. We got to put on our chef hat and hold the crab while everybody took photos. It wasn’t my preferred dining choice; it was super touristy, but we had fun. The way they served the crab was amazing. I didn’t have to do any work at all! I was determined to eat every last bite. It was served with a side order of mushrooms and olives. I think a little was lost in the “translation”, but it was still really good.
Santiago has an area called Barrio Bellavista that we stumbled upon. It’s a beautiful area of the city that has all kinds of unique shops, hotels, and restaurants. We found many cool galleries and high-end shops where you could buy beautiful pieces of art made from local materials and clothing made from local Alpaca farms.
Bars and restaurants were packed with people. There were certainly all kinds of restaurants and bars to suit everybody’s taste.
Chile is known for its copper mining and its semi-precious stones. According to our guide, Chile is the world’s largest copper-producing country. Semi-precious stones that are found in Chile include lapis lazuli (which is a bright blue stone), malachite, turquoise, jasper, quartz, and obsidian. All around the Barrio Bellavista were shops offering work by artists who had used these materials in their creations.
Santiago is a very interesting city and one you should definitely visit on your trip to South America. Next week I’ll talk about the graffiti street art seen throughout Santiago, as well as my trip to a local vineyard that specializes in organic wines. Until next week! xoxo