by Emilce Alonso
Travel Specialist in Trips SouthAmerica
My Trip to the central region of Chile
If you want to experience some of the highlights of Chile but are limited as regards time, my five-day trip experience may give you some ideas for your next adventure…
It all happened when my friend and I wanted to make a short trip after the end of the summer. In 2018, it was very trendy for Argentinians to visit Central region of Chile. That year, there were very good deals on flights, so we decided to visit it after the high-season was over. March is a bit of a transitional period, with summertime crowds thinning out by the end of the month. You can also catch some of the greatest harvest festivals in the wine Chilean country. Santa Cruz, in the Central Valley, throws one of the best Fiestas de la Vendimia (grape harvest festivals), with folk dancing, food and craft stands and free-flowing wine.
While we were planning the trip, my mom and my 12-year-old sister joined. So, we tried to integrate different activities to suit the preferences of each of us. We agreed that the trip was more about relaxing and sightseeing, but we didn’t want to miss the typical historical tours through the capital. Therefore, we decided to stay only one and a half day in Santiago and then go to other places.
This is how the journey begins
Our flight arrived on a Sunday night, so it was convenient to hire a private transfer that would take us to the Providence area, where we stayed for 2 nights. It is very picturesque, modern, with a lot of cultural and gastronomic offer. So, although it’s a bit far from the centre of the city, it is really worth it visiting.
My Travel Tip: Money Exchange
The official currency is the Chilean Peso and it is used everywhere. There are very few places that accept dollars. For this trip, we bought some Chilean pesos before traveling since we would arrive very late at night and we didn’t want to change money at the airport where it is usually less convenient. Yet, wherever possible, we tried to use a credit card.
The first morning, we walked through Providencia neighbourhood until we reached the Costanera Center Shopping. It is a very popular place, which has an incredible viewpoint from the 62nd floor. There, we could not only do some purchases but also enjoy incredible views of the entire city.
My Travel Tip: Visit Santiago Highlights
The first day, we got up very early, but all the places we wanted to visit opened later, around 10-11 in the morning, In order to avoid wasting time or missing some places, I’d suggest visiting first all the outdoor or public places to take advantage of the time in the morning.
The Sky Costanera viewpoint has glass walls in a skyscraper 300 m high with a 360º panoramic view. To get to the part of the viewpoint, you have to go up an elevator that reaches the 62nd floor in just minutes because of its speed. You can go up one more floor via escalator, too. It is the highest viewpoint in Latin America and is as high as the Eiffel tower.
It is generally open every day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., allowing you to go up for the last time at 7:30 p.m. in order to have an incredible view of the sunset with the city illuminated. The entrance costs of approximately USD 17 per person.
On the other hand, if you want to have a more traditional and unique view, you can visit Cerro San Cristóbal, a distinctive attraction. With a prominence of 280 m, it is the second highest point in the city. The hill is located between the Providencia and Recoleta neighbourhoods, with Barrio Bellavista at its feet.
We had lunch and did some shopping at Sky Costanera. Then, we went back to our hotel and left all our staff. We travelled a lot on the metro, which was very comfortable and practical.
My Travel Tip
In order to have access to the metro, you must buy the BIP card that will allow you to travel throughout the metro and microbus system all around Santiago.
It costs approximately $ 1,550 Chilean pesos (about 2.5 USD) and several people can use the same card. You can buy it and charge money in almost all the stations.
Next to our hotel, there is a very known Station, called Los Leones. We took the line 1 from there and stopped at “Estación Universidad de Chile”. From there, we were able to walk to “Plaza de las Armas”, located in the historic centre, and visit the Metropolitan Cathedral, dating from the 18th Century. Opposite this square, you can also take a look at some of the main architectonical buildings, such as the Post Office.
Something that surprised a lot to us was seeing many local people riding their bicycle. There are many circuits that allow cycling tours so it is something I would like to do on a next trip. (You should definitely try them in order to have more adventure while in the city!
After that, we took a small walk through Paris-Londres Neighbourhood, with narrow streets and cafés in the corners among the old buildings. In the afternoon, we walked to Cerro Santa Lucia, a small park on a hill in the centre of Santiago. This is the main point where the town started to be built.
As we strolled up the hill, we got amazed by the lack of noise although we were in the middle of the city and on peak hour. We were able to see Neptuno Fountain and a castle on the top, called Hidalgo Castle, surrounded by impressive structures.
This park, with its incredible combination of nature and historic buildings, was, for sure, the place that I liked the most in the city of Santiago.
We had only some hours left before we travelled to Viña. In the morning, we decided to visit Bellavista neighbourhood: one of the most beautiful areas in Santiago, with both a bohemian and chic air at the same time. My mom really wanted to visit one of Pablo Neruda’s houses so, we took the metro to Baquedano Station and cross Puente Pío IX to the North in order to La Chascona House Museum, where the poet lived his until his death with his last lover.
Chascona, meaning “sloppy” in English, was the word Neruda chose to name the house in honor to the rebellious hair of Matilde, her lover. Back in the 50s, he juggled to maintain two love relationships at the same time. The house has two doors: the main one, which is obviously from the house, and a second one, next to it, that seems to enter another property. Neruda made a thousand twists and turns to keep his love hidden until, finally, he separated from his second wife and settled in La Chascona with Matilde.
The museum is usually open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and costs about USD 11. You can pay by credit card or with cash.
After visiting the museum and touring the picturesque streets of Bellavista, we started back to our hotel to look for our luggage and take a bus to Viña del Mar, two and a half hour away by bus, where we would be for 3 nights. It is true that Chile has a great sea coast but the water is usually very cold, even in summer. However, it was not a limitation to visit and enjoy a few days on the beach and the central region of the country. The area is also well known for the different wine zones, but, to be honest, none of us was interested in it, so we avoided this type of visit. But if you are a wine lover, this kind of tours should be a must on your trip. There are wineries very close to the city or the Casablanca and Colchagua valleys, which can be visited along with a full day tour or a couple of days on the coast.
We arrived at Viña, and after leaving our luggage at the hotel, we went for a walk along the Vergara pier and visit the artisan fair on the “Costanera” Avenue. There, there are also several food stalls where we enjoyed a very rustic snack / dinner. It is located between two small and nice beaches, “Acapulco” and “El sol”. What I loved the most was to arrive and watch the sunset from the pier with views towards the city of Valparaiso.
For this day, we had booked a full day tour around both Viña del Mar and Valparaiso. Although the cities are very close to one another and moderately small, we believed that this was the best way to also get to know more about their history.
We started very early in the morning in Viña del Mar. There, we visited the famous amphitheatre,” Anfiteatro de la Quinta Vergara”, where the well-known Viña del Mar Festival, which host also international artists, takes place. We also visited the flower clock, very characteristic of the city for its variety of vegetation and flowers. Another very interesting stop was the Fonk archaeological museum. There, we could appreciate one of the Moai sculptures, originally from Easter Island. Inside the museum, you can see many works of the Rapanui culture and civilization of this island.
At midday, we set out towards the city of Valparaiso. There, we went down in the Sotomayor square, in front of the Prat dock. Around the main square, there are the main administration and service buildings of the port, the post office, among others.
What identifies this city is the presence of “Funiculars”, which act as elevators for people who live up the mountain, since most of the constructions are made among the mountains. Only some of them remain and were declared a national historical monument.
Here, there is another house from Pablo Neruda, La Sebastiana. As we had already visited the one in Santiago, we skipped that part and went to Cerro Alegre. Cerro Alegre is a very special area, in which the streets are full of art… it seems an open-air museum…All you have to do is walk and discover them. You will get amazed!!
During our last day, we decided to go to a well-known beach near Viña del Mar. The beach we went to is located in Reñaca. Characteristic for its long beach and staggered buildings on the slopes of the hills, it is usually the epicentre during summer for visitors. I recommend it because it is one of the closest beaches to Viña del Mar and has beautiful and different views for a short stay.
We prepared some sandwiches and fruit and went to the bus stop to take an urban bus that goes through all the coastal cities and towns. The truth is that they are next to each other and look the same, but the landscape changes enormously.
We took the urban bus, which took just 15 minutes from one place to another. We got off at the last beach stop in Reñaca to enjoy a day of sun and sand.
My Travel Tip: An important fact to keep in mind
In general, the beaches of Chile are usually cold all year round. I do not recommend thinking of this destination exclusively to spend the summer. But we had a great time on the shores on a beautiful a beautiful 25-28° C day in March! We didn’t get into the ocean completely but it was a nice experience and a relaxing day in these mini-vacations.
To return, we again took a bus that left us back in Viña del Mar. Back at the hotel, we prepared to go out for dinner on our last night of the trip. There are many restaurants with international food, such as Italian or Mexican food, but also many places with fish and seafood dishes typical of the area.
My Travel Tip: Restaurants
If you go to a restaurant, you will see that there is a suggested tip of 10% at the end of the bill. This is just that: a suggestion, but it is what is considered correct to tip. If you want to leave less or more than that or don’t want to leave anything at all, it is up to you. Restaurants do not charge cutlery, as is the case in other countries of the world, and the price that appears on the menu must correspond to the final value with taxes included, so that they do not make you overpay. If you plan to pay somewhere with a credit card, you should ask in advance if this option is available.
Time to say goodbye to Chile and go home. We had our flight in the afternoon, so we took advantage of the morning to once again visit the vicinity of the Hotel and then we took a bus to return to Santiago de Chile.
In Santiago, there are different bus stations. We got off at the first station, Pajaritos, and took a bus there directly to the airport.
Pajaritos is a railway station that is part of the Santiago de Chile Metro network. It is located at ground level, between Neptuno and Las Rejas stations on line 1, in the commune of Lo Prado.
The bus leaves every 15-20 minutes and drops you off at the airport gate.
My Travel Tip
It is a very convenient option but you have to take into account that you have to move several times with your luggage. We only had a carry-on, which made things much easier.
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and and it lived up to all our expectations. I would definitely love to return one day.
If you have any questions or if you need more tips for your trip to Chile, please do not hesitate on contact me. I’d be really glad to assist you!
Travel Specialist, Trips SouthAmerica.