The Magnificent Andes in Chile
When flying south into Santiago Chile
you cannot miss the Andes mountains towering in the distance
and you get a feel for the desolate and unpopulated areas
that cover most of Chile.
Many areas of Chile are dry and are totally uninhabited,
especially the area around Arica, one of the driest places
Further to the south you enter the area of Chilean
Patagonia, a breathtaking area of spectacular mountain peaks
and panoramic vistas.
The Andes range extends in a ribbon, but they are not
just a narrow strip. In some areas the Andes stretch inland
for almost a hundred miles.
Chile is a long, thin country with a massive coastline
and there are a wealth of tour operators who can help you to
safely explore the wonders of the Andes and Patagonia.
Always choose a tour that is specifically recommended by a
trusted source, such as your cruise line or hotel.
Santiago, Chile tips
The capital of Chile, Santiago has over 5 million people
and was founded 1541. A majestic city, Santiago sits at the
foot of the spectacular Andes Mountains. Santiago has hot
and dry summers (During the US winter, November to March)
with hot temperatures approaching 100 degrees.
Hotels in Santiago Chile
Santiago is a huge city with cheap prices where you can
live like a king on a modest budget. You can get a luxury
suite with a butler (try the Sheraton Towers) for under $200
per night. We also recommend the Marriott,
centrally-located for shopping and very comfortable.
The city of Santiago is spread out over an amazing
distance, as far as the eye can see, with the snow-capped
Andes on the horizon. The city is modern and clean, and you
can stroll alone in the main downtown areas at night without
fear. This is the breathtaking panoramic view of Santiago
from the Sheraton Towers, a marvelous hotel with world-class
amenities, all for under $200 per night.
Let's take a look at some of the most popular Santiago
Touring in Santiago Chile
For touring, we highly recommend engaging a dedicated
English speaking driver, which only costs $10-$20 per hour,
a real bargain. We hired
Mauricio Mora, an outstanding English-speaking guide
that we highly recommend if you want to get the insider
secrets of Santiago and the surrounding areas.
Don't leave Santiago without dedicating some time to go
for a drive into the foothills of the Andes. There are many
things to do in Santiago, something for every taste:
Shopping - The low prices
make Santiago a shopping wonderland. Your US dollars go
a long way and it's like an all-day every-day half-price
sale at Macy's,
Day Trip to the Andes - The
Valle Nevado Ski Area is a great half-day trip to the
Andes. Also, "Cajon del Maipo" is the entrance to the
majestic Cordillera de los Andes. Only one hour away
from the city, you can start hire horseback rides.
The Central Market - Not for
everyone, you can witness the bustling people buying and
selling, a plethora of Chilean culture and La Vega
San Cristobal Hill - You can
take the gondola for a great view of the city and the
Dining - Native Chilean
foods are abundant and the beef in Chile is great ,with
hearty charcoal-frilled Churrasco steaks and fresh
sausages. We also see Empanadas (fried turnovers filled
with meat), and Pastel de Choclo (a corn-mash pie with
meat and olives). Oh, and donít forget the Chilean wines
which are considered the best in the Americas.
The markets of Santiago
No trip to Santiago is complete without a trip to the
main city market, a great place for street music, fresh
seafood and happy people.
A worker enjoying a morning drink among
the garbage at the Santiago market
The Santiago market is bustling and very busy, so always
make sure they you stay with your driver or tour guide, as
pickpockets have been known to work the market area. It's
much more than fruits, meat and vegetables. You can see
vendors selling everything imaginable, and it's a fantastic
way to sample the Chilean food and culture.
You can buy almost anything in the
The local Santiago central market has kiosk restaurants
where the locals eat, a great way to try authentic everyday
Chilean foods, largely beef and pork sandwiches.
A typical kiosk restaurant in the
Shopping in Santiago
Some of the most sought-after
handcrafted items include alpaca clothes and copper goods.
If you like antiques, beware that the prices can be quite
high and shipping to the USA is very expensive. For local
handicrafts in Santiago, check out the goodies from Chileís
indigenous Aymara and Mapuche Indians, who make handcrafted
musical instruments like the pan flute and 10-string
- Chileís largest flea market is
located along Bio-Bio street in Santiago, and this
weekend-only flea market sells everything imaginable,
- If you like antiques, check-out
the Sunday-only market on Paseo Estado street, between
Alameda and Plaza de Armas in Santiago.
- Los Dominico's market that is
known for local handcrafted products, jewelry and
- There are shopping malls in
Santiago, including Alto Las Condes, Parque Arauco and
Mall del Centro.
- Santa Lucia Handicraft market,
located on Alameda road.
- Pio Nono in Bellavista, for
handcrafted paintings and handcrafts.
The downtown Santiago area has many wonderful sidewalk
cafe's with great food, friendly people and super-cheap
Tapas and a great wine, all for under
$20 in a Santiago sidewalk cafe
Port of Valparaiso, Chile
Many visitors to Chile arrive by cruise ship at the port
of the port of Valparaiso, a two hour drive from Santiago.
Valparaiso is a booming shipping port about a 1.5 hour drive
($150 by taxi) from Santiago.
The Valparaiso dock at night
When the cruise shops disgorge their passengers they
prepare for a second cruise through the Tierra Del Fuego,
into the Antarctic, and up the easy coast toward Buenos
The Valparaiso cruise ship dock
The city of Valparaiso has some very poor and dangerous
areas and it is highly recommended that you use a tour guide
that is recommended by your hotel. You can get a two hour
tour of Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar from an English speaking
guide for only $50.
Traveling from Santiago to Buenos
If you are not interested in the two
week cruise from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires, it's only a 90
minute airplane ride from the Santiago airport. Some of the
more adventurous explorers will rent a car and drive from
Santiago to Buenos Aires. The best way to travel on land
between Santiago and Buenos Aires is by bus. Driving is a
problem because of the busy reads and the requirement for
special Argentinean permit which must be acquired 10 days in
advance. You can buy a bus ticket on Andesmar or TurBus to
Mendoza and then continue to Buenos Aires with Andesmar
Note that many claim that
Mendoza sucks, and many donít recommend going to
Mendoza. The best way to travel between Santiago and Buenos
Aires is by air, a 90 minute ride with tickets as low as
$150 one-way on Aerolineas Argentinas.
Valparaiso has numerous tourist sites and you can get
your photo taken with a Llama for only a dollar.
Valparaiso llama photo op
Valparaiso is also the home of the Chilean Navy and they
have monuments to their Naval heroes all over the city.
Valparaiso Naval hero monument
Right across the bay from Valparaiso we have the resort
community of Vina Del Mar, an enclave for the rich and
Vina Del Mar, Chile
Vina Del Mar is a wonderful resort town adjacent to
Valparaiso, but a world-away from Valparaiso in terms of
beauty and cleanliness.
The coastline at Vina Del Mar Chile
Vina Del Mar has many activities for the tourist
including horse carriage ride a full casino, fine
restaurants and many water sports activities.
A horse carriage ride in Vina Del Mar
Right in-between Vina Del Mar and Santiago you will pass
through some of the famous Chilean wine country.
Casablanca Valley, Chile
On a car ride between Vina Del Mar and Santiago you will
pass through the Casablanca valley, a major wine producing
region. With fertile soil, dry heat and irrigation, the
Casablanca valley is producing some of the finest varietal
wines in Chile.
The Casablanca (white house) area is
known for great Chilean wine
In sum, Santiago is one of the best
tourist areas in all of South America. It's safe, cheap and
clean, with friendly people and outstanding dining.
For the full story, see our
Santiago Chile travel tips.