Santiago, Chile - October 2008


The flight from Rio de Janeiro to Santiago, via Sao Paulo, was very pleasant.  LAN have some new looking 767-300 aircraft with large widescreen seatback TVs and a vast selection of movies and music to choose from.

On arrival in Santiago I was pleased to find a driver holding a card with my name on it. The pleasant feeling disappeared when I discovered that the reception desk at the hotel had tipped off the driver to my arrival and in return received a commission.

The hotel was opposite the Cerro Santa Lucía park, which has lots of paths and stone steps leading around and up to the top of a hill with some great views of the city.

It's only one block to the Bellas Artes metro station, a number of cafes and little places to eat.

Santiago doesn't strike me as a great 'tourist' destination but there are plenty of interesting places to experience if you take the time.  My time was interrupted by a trip to Robinson Crusoe Island which was an adventure in itself!

It's a short walk from the hotel to the Museo de Bellas Artes, with a rather interesting statue of of Daedalus and Icarus in front.  

In Greek mythology Daedalus and his son Icarus were trapped on the island of Crete (a story in itself) and so Daedalus fashioned wings made from feathers held together with wax for them both. Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun, as the wax would melt. Unfortunately Icarus ignored his father's words, flying so high that the wax melted and the wings fell apart. Icarus plunged into the sea and drowned.

On the way to the Museo de Bellas Artes I was stopped by a friendly man and a woman that asked me where I was from and made polite conversation, before explaining the young woman was a student and needed money for her studies, and would I help?

Unfortunately tourists everywhere are subject to all sorts of scams.

At the back of the Museo is the Academia de Bellas Artes, with another interesting statue - this time of a horse, by Fernando Botero.  Like London, you can't walk around Santiago without finding statues everywhere.

The Plaza de Armas is the main square in Santiago.  The  metropolitan cathedral in the plaza has suffered from many earthquakes and has be rebuilt several times. The interior is very impressive.

There's a large pedestrian precinct just off the plaza with a range of shops and coffee bars. Around the precinct are a number of coffee bars including Cafe Haiti. In these bars the young women serving your coffee wear short tight skirts.  These are the least risque of the 'cafe con piernas', coffee with legs. In the arcades off the main precincts you'll often find bars with mirrored glass and loud music where the women wear as little as bra and panties.  Despite the rumours only non alcoholic drinks are served and you can look but not touch!

A cemetery is perhaps not everyone's idea of a tourist attraction but Santiago's necropolis rivals Buenos Aires for amazing mausoleums. There is also a memorial to those that 'disappeared' during the Pinochet regime.

Many of Chile's famous are buried in the cemetery and there are even guided tours available.  When I entered the cemetery a man with several schoolgirls approached me and asked me where I was from.  I was reminded of my earlier experience and was wary, but the man was a guide at the cemetery and kindly gave me a map of the necropolis and some information on the cemetery, at no charge.  

One morning there was trouble at the hotel.  I decided to take a morning bath instead of a shower, to relax the mind and aching muscles, but had a shock when a maid came rushing into my room!

Apparently the plumbing wasn't so good and the water had made it's way down to the hotel bar below my room. A few more maids and the hotel manager later and they realised I wasn't intentionally flooding the place and left me alone.

Walking north from the hotel you pass over the river into the Barrio Bellavista, a rather run down looking area. Here is the Cerro San Cristobal hill and municipal park.

Unfortunately the funicular, an interesting way to ascend the hill, was closed for maintenance, so I had to take a bus to the top, where there are even more impressive views of the city than at the Cerro Santa Lucia.

At the top of the hill is a statue of the Virgin Mary that can be seen from all over the city, especially at night when the statue is illuminated.  There is also the funky Teleferico, with rather small cable cars that seem unlikely to carry four people, but they can!

I was also lucky enough to find some postcards.  Until now my exploration of Santiago had failed to turn up any postcards but the gift shops had lots at very reasonable prices.

The next day I took another trip to the Plaza de Armas to post my cards.  The post office is rather fancy, with a small museum covering the history of mail. They even have a British post box.

There's also a selection of souvenir stamps to buy, including stamps from Easter Island, the next stop on my tour.


A statue of Daedalus and Icarus outside the Museo de Bellas Artes

The statue outside the Academia de Bellas Artes

An impressive mausoleum in the cemetery. I'd be happy to live in this one!

The Pinochet memorial

Cable Cars at Cerro San Cristobal 

The Virgin Mary at the top of Cerro Can Cristobal