This post is for you, that in the next holiday will spend 4 wonderful days in Chile or to you, that after learning of the things you can do there will also want to organize a trip to this nice country.
Getting to Know Chile
With approximately 18 million inhabitants the country is based on its economy copper (easily perceived in craft fairs, in which magnets, frames, bookmarks and other souvenirs always take some of the material). The city of Santiago is crossed by the Mapocho River “water that penetrates the earth” and is located in Chile’s central valley, next to the Andes.
Day 1: Downtown and Traditional Points to Visit
It is very easy to get around by subway through the city, I truly believe that there is no need to rent a car or to get taxi, but it depends on what you prefer. Suggested tour: wake up early and go to the street as soon as possible. To reach the center just follow the map according to your nearest station and get off at the “Universidad del Chile”, which has a beautiful painting in honor of Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral. When walking through the historic center it can be noted many beautiful and well preserved buildings, laden with colonial history, remnants of dictatorship, times of richness excess and a lot of stone in buildings.
The Plaza de Armas (located near the eponymous station), the main square of Santiago and considered ground zero of the city, is the site of reference for historical activities. There are many sculptures and trees, being the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Historical Museum and the Post Office building some of its surrounding monuments. It’s nice to do the rides in the morning and have lunch in the Central Market, that strongly smell like fish, due to the fishing culture in the Pacific. Restaurant recommendation: Donde Augusto, right in the center of the market. Do not miss the opportunity to eat a King Crab or Centolla in Spanish, garlic and oil. Besides having violeiros that make the meal adorable, the very moment of serving Centolla is a sideshow. There is plenty to do within the market, with great diversity of craft stalls to buy souvenirs and travel gifts. If you want to visit the Nevado Valley, Viña del Mar and Valparaiso there are sales stands for these tours, which are a bit more complicated to do on your own.
Don’t worry about making a visit to the market in a hurry because it is really big. Take it easy, and as it is close to the Plaza de Armas you can come back there and make more visits. As the square is large and surrounded by attractions is tiring to do everything in a morning or an afternoon. The National History Museum, for example, has two floors and a large expanse of collections, as well as a library with centuries-old books and a patio with a cannon and a war locomotive. There is a national organ that is called DIBAM (Dirección de Bibliotecas Archivos y Museos), which is responsible for taking care of the physical part of monuments as well as for promoting culture in its immaterial sense. The Metropolitan Cathedral is a good place to end the tour through the historic center. It is a place that will easily touch you, including those who are not Catholic or do not follow any religion. The cathedral has a colonial brand and at the same time a feudal one, with thick stone walls, stained glass in the windows, minute details on all the walls, paintings on the dome, shrines, confessionals, a beautiful altar and an underground part where bishops and priests are buried.
Day 2: Valle Nevado
The safest way to do this tour is hiring a local agency. To walk on the steep mountains, narrow and snowy permission and specific chains for it are required. Anyway … the vans often pick up passengers between 7:30 and 8:30 am, in order to go renting clothes and snowboarding or skiing equipments and the way to get to the Valley takes around 1 hour. There’s a stop halfway, in Farellones ski station that is already in the Andes and close to other ski resorts, such as La Parva and El Colorado. The group I was in decided to meet the Valle Nevado (3,000 meters high), take some pictures there and go back to go skiing in Farellones, which has less steep slopes and shorter distances for beginners. The valley itself is wonderful and certainly worth it for those who already have experience with winter sports. If you do not know how to ski or ride a snowboard is interesting to take some lessons before. The whole tour is quite tiring but surely fruitful. The van gets back on the setted time and usually goes back to Santiago between 18h and 19h. When you arrive in the city you see if you want to eat or drink something out, the rides of this day finish earlier so it’s up to you.
Day 3: Palácio de la Moneda , National Library , National Metropolitan Park and Cerro San Cristóbal (phew!)
The ride to see the changing of the guard must be adapted according to the day of the week and most likely will be the first of the day. Station: La Moneda. In particular, I had the impression to be witnessing an event of a country still very marked by dictatorship and by strong features of this period. Admission is free.
Guard Palace Exchange Calendar to 2016:
April, May, August, November and December – odd days;
June, July, September and October – even days.
For those who like churches there is a close palace called Iglesia San Francisco, which dates from 1572 and which also has a Colonial Art Museum of the Franciscan order. In this museum I entered on the Gabriela Mistral room, where it displays the original Nobel Prize in Literature medal offered to the poet, whose name the room, won in 1945. The tour in the Church is free but the museum entrance is over or less 1,000 Chilean pesos. Another very interesting place togo is the National Library, founded in 1813, neoclassical building. It is close to Sant Lucia station and has between 4 and 5 floors with a collection of about 1,300,000 books, newspapers, magazines, maps and historical documents. If you want to really appreciate you do not go in a hurry.
If you decide to go to the National Park go prepared to walk with comfortable clothes and appropriate shoes and of course enough time. It’s a beautiful place and to get there the access is made through a funicular. This same transport then leads to the Cerro San Cristóbal. Enjoy during the trip to eat a typical sweet made of peanuts, honey and sugar, sold as “maní”.
The funicular costs 1,500 pesos per person and halfway up leaves visitors at the zoo. To enter the zoo you pay more 1,500 pesos for children and 3,000 adults. The zoo is huge, it looks like a maze and have sooooo many stairs. In addition to an aviary full of animals in their natural habitat it can be found polar bears, white tigers, penguins, zebras, kangaroos, grizzly bears and so on … At the end of the tour who wants to can expect the funicular and climb to top of Cerro San Cristóbal, which has a craft fair and a sanctuary. To go down back you just have to get the shuttle back to the entrance. Being a day with various activities the ideal is to eat something and rest, especially if you are planning on going to to the Pacific the next day.
Day 4: Vinã del Mar, Valparaiso, Neruda House, Pacific
To this day tour there is also the possibility of hiring an agency that leads to the port cities. In addition, the other option is to take the subway to the University of Santiago and take the bus that leaves from 15 to 15 minutes (both to Valparaiso and to Viña del Mar), and Turbus Company usually has the cheapest tickets (about 6,600 pesos each way), with comfortable buses and more flexible time. It is recommended to buy the tickets in advance to make sure that the time you have will be well spent, unless you stay one day in each city. On the way, the right side of the bus has a privileged view of the wine route of Casablanca (another drive that can be added to your trip if there are more days of trip). You can also drive with two tolls of 2,600 pesos each.
If you prefer to go by van, passengers are fetched around 7: 30-8h and they follow on Route 68, road to Valparaiso (120 km from Santiago), where is located the one line of the subway. Note: our van stopped on the way to go in a rustic greengrocer, so we could experience the “chicha” (fermented grape juice with 3% alcohol content), but not all of them stop.
Valparaiso is often described as being uglier than Santiago, but it has its charm. It is a port city and quite bohemian (tip for those who like a bar) and also has restaurants with delicious seafood and one of the famous houses Pablo Neruda (La Sebastiana), 5 floors and a beautiful view of the Port. To visit the house there is complete information on the Neruda Foundation website; entry costs 6,000 pesos for adults and 2,000 pesos for students, the foundation is open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am to 18pm (in January and February, the hours are from 10h to 19h). If not by van, you can take a lift to reach the top of the hill. It is worth walking around the city and watch the colorful houses and streets with more hidden places. There is also the Plaza Simon Bolivar and Valparaiso Cathedral.
Viña del Mar, in turn, is the city of gardens. One of its attractions is the Flower Clock, a gift from Holland to Chile. In this region be sure to get your feet wet in the Pacific and bring some little shells. If you go there in during warmest season there is a remote possibility to bathe in the sea, but it is still very cold. In the city there is also the Municipal Casino of Viña del Mar (the oldest of Chile).
One of the “must go” points is the Fonck Museum, which has one of the six moai that are out of Isla de Pascua (one of those breathtaking rides, but more travel time is necessary or the desire to change one of the days of traditional places to go there, I couldn’t go but surely will onde day). The museum is in charge of preserving and expanding the archeology and ethnography of the Rapa Nui culture, an important part of the Chilean culture.
The museum hours are these:
On Mondays from 10h to 14h and 15h to 18h;
Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10am to 18pm;
On Sundays and public holidays from 10h to 14h.
Tickets are purchased at the museum itself and the price is 2500 pesos for adults and 500 pesos for children. On the 1st of January, May 1, 18 and 19 September and 25 December the museum will not open.
Generally, the tip is to prioritize what you like to do. Soon we will post another trip to Chile to spend more days for the July vacations. Besides all that was mentioned the Atacama Desert is amazing and worth putting in the script.