Nestled in the geopolitical centre of the nation is the vibrant, exciting and eager city of Santiago. Once seen as merely an inconvenient hub between here and there, today Santiago is a tourist destination all on its own.
Santiago is located in the central part of Chile, Región Metropolitana specifically, where the Mediterranean valley climate means short winters and nice, hot summers. Four distinct seasons makes it somewhat easy to predict what choice of clothing you will need, though sunny days are not unusual even in the dead of winter.
There’s evidence of indigenous cultures being present in this valley for thousands of years, including the Incas right up until the Spanish period. In 1541 Pedro de Valdivia founded the city known as Santiago de la Nueva Extremadura (Santiago of the New Extremity). Since then, it has grown and thrived and morphed into the Andean jewel it is today.
As part of this modern growth, Santiago is filled with arts and cultural experiences, waiting for you to participate in and learn about. From the many museums (modern art, Chilean history, etc.), to the Gabriela Mistral and La Moneda cultural centres, Santiago offers it all. The low-key arts and crafts fair in Santa Lucía, and the more upscale (yet very cozy) arts and crafts village in Los Domínicos, are great places for local shopping, and the many malls (Alto Las Condes, Costanera Centre) offer many of your more typical modern shops.
Don’t forget to go easy on breakfast, as you will want to savor the varied culinary experiences Santiago has to offer. Hearty Chilean sandwiches? Fine crafted vegetarian food? Patagonian style barbeque? Elegant yet tasty dining? These are all possibilities for your palate in Santiago, along with an emerging international cuisine, where you can enjoy the flavors of the rest of the world.
The national holidays (Fiestas Patrias) on September 18th, 19th and the adjacent weekend are a great time to be in Santiago, as the weather is warm and crisp, and the many fondas will leave your belly full and your feet stomping to Chilean dances and liveliness. New Year’s Eve is also an exciting time in the city, with all the fireworks shows and late night parties. But there is never a bad time to visit Santiago.
There are many old tales of poetry and suffering, and hope and optimism in the streets of Santiago. Interwoven in the very fabric of the radiant capital of Chile, are the songs of the Chilean people and their history. Take it all in with a glass of Chilean carmenere; who knows where the night may lead you?