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Santiago Chile Travel Tips

Independent Travel Tips for the professional at Leisure

December 2007


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 on earth.

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 tourist activities.

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 Grande.

  • San Cristobal Hill - You can take the gondola for a great view of the city and the Andes mountains.

  • 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 Santiago markets

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 Santiago market

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 guitars.  

  • Chileís largest flea market is located along Bio-Bio street in Santiago, and this weekend-only flea market sells everything imaginable, including antiques. 
  • 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 furniture.
  • 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 wines.

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 Aires.

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.

Valparaiso slums

Traveling from Santiago to Buenos Aires

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 busses. 

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 famous Chileans.

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 Chile

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.





Note: The opinions expressed on these pages are the sole opinion of Donald K. Burleson and do not reflect the opinions of Burleson Enterprises Inc. or any of its subsidiaries.

Suggestions?  We are always seeking new tips for the professional at leisure, and any suggestions would be most welcome.  If you find an error or have a suggestion for improving our content, we would appreciate your feedback. 

Copyright © 1996 -  2010 by Donald K Burleson. All rights reserved.