Santiago – Chile’s Energetic Capital

June, 2011

Nestled in the Central Valley between the dramatic Chilean Coastal Range and the soaring Andes Mountains, Chile’s energetic capital Santiago, arrests all your senses.

A tireless city and one of the largest in the Americas with over six-million people, isn’t it any wonder that Santiago never sleeps, and offers something for everyone.


Santiago, Chile, South AmericaFollowing the blissful R&R, relishing the quiet time in Santa Cruz including some wine tasting, arriving in Santiago de Chile (shortened to Santiago) is just like being jolted back into a frenzied pace.

Although the drive is just over two hours, the Nilahue bus from Terminal Santa Cruz to Terminal Sur in Santiago, takes around three hours and twenty minutes if all goes to plan, which it did today. Always a bonus.

I have to mention, I was a tad apprehensive booking with this company again after being dumped on the side of the highway, before our last Santa Cruz destination.


Santiago is divided into five main districts, so wandering around here on foot is the best way to encounter and experience what this massive city offers.

shoe shine, Santiago, Chile, South America
A traditional polish

Word of warning: The smog can become very thick here on a still day. You can almost cut it with a knife and it seems to lodge at the back of your throat, make your eyes water, or both.

Santiago, Chile, South America
View from Cerro San Cristóbal

As Chile’s cultural, political, and financial centre, a plethora of sights exude from this city.

Catedral Metropolitana

Roaming the city’s historic centre, the impressive Catedral Metropolitana confronts you with a dramatic introduction to Chilean cathedrals.

Starting its life in 1748 with completion in 1800 on the same site of several predecessors, all of which succumbed to earthquakes.

Santiago, Chile, South America
Stunning pillars, towering arches, intricately gold-lined painted ceilings, and lifelike sculptures are a testament to artisans of the past.

Santiago, Chile, South America
Dazzling opulent interior

Gazing towards the heavens, St Francis waits patiently.

Santiago, Chile, South America
Lifelike sculptures

Love the radiant colours and simplistic but impacting design in this stained glass above the church’s entrance. A Celtic design?

Santiago, Chile, South America
Perfect glassed symmetry

Plaza de Armas

Many Plaza de Armas squares in South America are an integral meeting point for locals and it is here, that I love to sit and observe the local culture unfold.

Appointed in 1541 and Santiago’s original centre, today, many snack stalls, buskers, and fierce competitive chess games take place, whilst surrounded by old jails, courts, city halls, and the majestic Catedral Metropolitana.

Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile, South America
Check mate

Although today this plaza’s centre piece holds a fountain to celebrate Simón Bolívar (liberator), a former gallows was the macabre centre piece during colonial times.

Museum of Contemporary Art

Run by the University of Chile’s Faculty of Arts and inaugurated in 1947, this beautiful building in the Quinta Normal Park, is a delight to stroll through.

Around 2,000 pieces from Chilean and international artists are housed in the museum.

Contemporary Art Museum, Santiago, Chile, South America
Chic coolness and beauty

Santiago’s amazing street art

Street art around the globe is typically unsanctioned artwork and a pure form of not only decorating an old wall, decrepit building, an urban space, but more often than not, delivers a politically-charged message to the masses and politicians.

Street art, Santiago, Chile, South America
Talking heads

Depending in which country you travel, you can usually get a flavour of what’s occurring on the ground, whether disgruntled or euphoric, by the street art.

Street art, Santiago, Chile, South America
Music and art

I am totally captivated by this form of raw emotion and Santiago unfolds much vibrant and absorbing street art around corners, overpasses, across ramps, and splayed on the sides of buildings.

Street art, Santiago, Chile, South America
Another version

Traipsing Santiago’s streets

Stroll around Santiago’s incredibly busy streets and it won’t be long until you are confronted with a local living on the cold pavement, or stuffed in a tiny out-of-the-way stone alcove. Proof that not everyone here is comfortable.

homeless, Santiago, Chile
At home

For a complete contrast, look up from the same spot to see such diversity as a sprawling modern building mirroring wealth and a growing economy, leaving many behind. Same world over.

modern building, Santiago, Chile
Mirrored modernity

Art students casually enjoy the streets to create what could be the next masterpiece.

art students, Santiago, Chile, South America
Estudiantes de Arte

Depending on which of the five quarters you visit in Santiago, streets are adorned with vividly-coloured quaint homes, modern commercial buildings, or sprinkled with striking medieval architecture.

Santiago, Chile, South America
Running late

Dotted through the city are green park spaces, which make a relaxing change but also, there always seems to be something taking place, and today, a group of musicians put on a wonderful show.

musicians, Santiago, Chile, South America
Traditional music

Brightly-coloured traditional clothing and using just drums, shells, their voices, and percussion instruments whilst dancing, the sound and show is intoxicating.

musicians, Santiago, Chile, South America
musicians, Santiago, Chile, South America
Having fun

Cerro San Cristóbal

Soaring 850 metres above sea level and 300 metres above Santiago, the view from this cerro (hill) is expansive and spectacular – stretching out across to the Andes in the distance.

Cerro San Cristóbal, Santiago, Chile, South America
Cerro San Cristóbal – another vista

If you don’t feel like the 45-minute walk and don’t have a car, the easiest way is to take the Teleferico (Cable car), which was broken at the time of our visit. Several hiking trails are also available from the hill.

The Sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception, which is the Catholic Church’s primary place of worship in Chile, a chapel, Mills Observatory (1903), and an amphitheatre, grace the top of the hill. So, many sights to see once on Cerro San Cristóbal that you need some time here…

Cerro San Cristóbal, Santiago, Chile, South America
Sanctuary sadness

Day trip to Valparaíso and Viña del Mar

With many day trips available from Santiago from surfing on the crystal beaches to skiing in the Andes, another great trip is to the port city of Valparaíso and on to the coastal resort city of Viña del Mar. Particularly enchanted with Valparaíso, why not stay overnight, or in both cities?

Such a lovely and relaxing area from the smog, but also the hustle and bustle of Santiago – a separate post on Valparaíso and Viña del Mar fore your discovery.


Not surprisingly, Santiago caters for an abundance of accommodation-types at every budget, which can be overwhelming when trying to choose an abode.

Preferring to stay in a private room with a private bathroom but still in a hostel, the Hostal Providencia is home for a while as it’s close to restaurants but also the centre. Baquedano Metro station is only a five-minute walk from the hostel.

Everyone is very accommodating and friendly here, which makes any stay pleasant. Staff are eager to help with information on Santiago.

The hostel is quirky but still inviting and modern with loads of memorabilia and art gracing its walls. Breakfast is a help-yourself of fruit, breads, and cereals with juice, coffee, and tea.


Recommended by the hostel and a must-try, is the Restaurant Junta Nacional (Ramón Carnicer 87, Providencia) – not only is the service excellent, but the food is also excellent and simply delicious. A little more up-market but well worth the experience…sometimes you just have to splurge a little when travelling.

As soon as you enter, the ambience exudes chicness with its light-coloured quaint furniture, deep red walls, groovy artwork, and suspended chandeliers.

From Santiago across the Andes to Mendoza, Argentina

Fancying another delightful wine tasting tour but this time in Argentina’s Cuyo region, which is famed for red wine and especially the Malbec, it’s on to Mendoza by bus.

All going well, the journey across the Andes to Mendoza should take around eight hours, although I am not sure whether this includes Immigration and clearing Customs. Another issue to consider is that it is winter, so anything can happen on this border crossing and across the stunning snowy Andes – should be a treat for the eyes.

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more images. More posts on Chile at Image Earth Travel.

musicians, Santiago, Chile, South America
Masked musician
Santiago, Chile, South America
Traveller’s stop

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53 responses to “Santiago – Chile’s Energetic Capital”

  1. Sartenada Avatar

    Thank You for this lovely post. It brought back my memories from 2014, when I spent there two weeks with my granddaughter by my daughter who worked there three months. She taught one IT-program for locals. Funny thing for my daughter was that in Santiago de Chile she had a street named by her forename Inca – Calle del Inca. Guess if she has a photo of it and herself.

    Have a good day!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Sartenada, thank you and I’m glad my post brought back fond memories for you with your granddaughter – sounds like you had a special time in Santiago.

      Chile is a wonderful country and I’m enjoying writing these posts as it brings many memories back for me also, but hope that the posts provide some insight for other travellers and readers that may be thinking of travelling.

      1. Sartenada Avatar

        I am sure, that they will. 🙂

  2. fakeflamenco Avatar

    brings back memories of our year in Santiago. Gracias.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      I loved Santiago but the pollution was hard at times.
      Did you travel around Chile during that year or mostly spent in Santiago?

      1. fakeflamenco Avatar

        Yes, the pollution was especially bad in 2002 before they upgraded the buses. We did have the chance to travel around Chile. Desert, mountains, thermal pools, lakes, glaciers! Amazing natural beauty. Santiago was a good central place to be and we were fortunate to make good friends there.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Wow, that must of been bad back then also…
        Sounds as though you had a wonderful time and totally agree, Santiago is a great base for seeing the rest of Chile.

  3. doanteresa Avatar

    Wow, how beautiful! Chile is definitely underrated

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Agree, Chile is underrated but so are many countries in South America. I need to write more about a couple of stunning treks I did in Venezuela, as this is a spectacular albeit dangerous country.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Many thanks for the reblog. 🙂

  4. da-AL Avatar

    I love armchair travel! tx for sharing, as always 🙂

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Ha, ha I prefer to be thrown amongst it! 🙂

      1. da-AL Avatar

        I definitely prefer that too LOL

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Makes for an interesting but albeit sometimes stressful time.

      3. da-AL Avatar

        but the kind of stress (if we’re fortuante) that stretches us & makes us better 🙂

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Totally agree with you. 🙂

  5. emotionsoflife2016 Avatar

    Phenomenal photos, keep on sharing

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you!

      1. emotionsoflife2016 Avatar

        My absolute pleasure

  6. Patty Avatar

    Another great series of photos. I think your photographs of people are might favorite. You really have a fantastic eye on capturing their spirit, dear Nilla.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Patty – very kind words indeed.
      Candid photos are my favourite and hope they capture the essence and show what life is like in another country. x

  7. karenincalabria Avatar

    Great photos – looks really inviting, but your word of warning definitely gives me pause.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks Karen. Never pause and always go for it! 😉

  8. Suzanne [globalhousesitterX2] Avatar

    How long ago did you do this trip Nilla? Or have you added current conditions on to this post?

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Ciao Suz, in 2011. I have the date at the beginning of the post so readers know when I did each trip.
      I’m only getting around to writing about this as we were robbed in Peru and my laptop was stolen along with my updated blogs. 🙁
      I have checked a few things and they’re still the same so haven’t added an update. Are you thinking of travelling to Santiago?

      1. Suzanne [globalhousesitterX2] Avatar

        Ciao Nilla, I was just curious. Apologies I didn’t see the date at the beginning. Tired and should have got off my computer hours ago. Looking for accommodation in Buenos Aires and its driving me too distraction 🙂 Hope alls well in Italy? Oh yes forgot to say, we have a second housesit in Italy in May then again in September!

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        No problem at all. I’m wondering now whether it’s pointless adding the date into the post as you’re not the first person that hasn’t noticed it there. 😉
        Spent a couple of months in Argentina during the same 10-month trip in South America: Buenos Aires More posts on Argentina.
        All is well in Italy. Excellent, sounds pretty cool. When are you off to BA?

      3. Suzanne [globalhousesitterX2] Avatar

        November on the way back from NZ to Spain. An extended stopover!

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Sounds wonderful! Check out the Buenos Aires link as I’m sure the hostal is still operating.

      5. Suzanne [globalhousesitterX2] Avatar

        Nilla, long gone are the days we stay in hostals 🙂 The mere thought of a whole lot of twenty somethings vying to out do each other regarding their travel would do it for me!

      6. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Hostals in South America are not backpacker dorms. They’re usually family run and much safer/more security than hotels. You stay in a private room and bathroom. Then some offer a communal kitchen if you want to prepare something. I would not stay in a hotel again as this is where were robbed – inside job.

      7. Suzanne [globalhousesitterX2] Avatar

        Ummm, I think we will have to agree to disagree. No doubt many have been robbed via all means of accommodation. Depends what family you stay with 🙂 We have had our credit cards skimmed in the most unlikely of places so its all a gamble. That’s why we pay for insurance as long as we are safe the rest is not that important it can be replaced. A nuisance though not replaceable. Still trying to find accommodation that I like, funny this one is harder than any I have looked for in other countries!!

      8. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Good points and I always have travel insurance but as we were gone for so long and didn’t return to Oz quickly after the theft, we didn’t get anything back. Plus the police officer that documented the theft (in Spanish) got the stolen cash amount very wrong. Not to mention travel insurance only covered around $200. I hate to say it I think travel insurance is a necessary evil but a rip-off.

      9. Suzanne [globalhousesitterX2] Avatar

        When we got flooded while on the farm, and other property we owned the insurance came in handy as you can imagine.
        Travel insurance is a total rip off, I agree! For us it covers health or worse case situations to ease the minds of those back home who get anxious 🙂

      10. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Have to have house/boat insurance.
        Also repatriation back to Australia. 😉

      11. Suzanne [globalhousesitterX2] Avatar

        You will love being back 🙂 No doubt when we head over that way in 2020 you will be back in Europe LOL 🙂

      12. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Who knows what the future brings! Everything changes like the wind. 😉

      13. Suzanne [globalhousesitterX2] Avatar

        So true Nilla 🙂

      14. Suzanne [globalhousesitterX2] Avatar

        It was a very interesting write up about your trip Nilla. As usual I enjoy reading your posts. Ciao x

      15. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Thank you. I’m enjoying writing these posts as it brings back so many memories. 🙂 x

  9. the eternal traveller Avatar

    A friend of mine is heading there for a holiday next week. I’ll send this on to her.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hey thanks for forwarding my post. I have a few more Chile posts that may help.

  10. Terri Webster Schrandt Avatar

    Gorgeous photos and great information. My husband’s mother is from Chile and he lived there for two years as a young boy. He has been back to visit extensive family in all the cities you mentioned, one of his favorite places. I have yet to go but this post is a great introduction> Bookmarking it! 🙂

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Terri – wonderful feedback.
      I still have more posts on Chile to write yet, but if you or your husband would like to read more, then check out Chile. 🙂

  11. Valerie Cullers Avatar

    Thank you so much for the post. Such lovely pictures. I love the stained glass windows of the cathedral and the other photos! Great post!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Valerie.
      I love stained glass and would like to learn how to make it – may be when I return to Australia. 😉

      1. Valerie Cullers Avatar

        Yes, I love it too! My father took it up as a hobby. It is a great one!

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Really, how cool. I’ve seen some stunning stained glass in different countries…your father would love it all.

  12. Oh, the Places We See Avatar

    What an engaging post — you had me at the first photo. But I really liked the street art and the photo called “Running Late” best. Colorful and representative of this country you have captured well.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you! I love candid photography and also try to capture snippets of history that best describe a place – not so much the touristy scenes.
      Glad you enjoyed my post. 🙂

  13. Robert Parker Avatar

    Excellent photography and description, you’ve really given the flavor of the place. The country and the people of Chile are both wonderful.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hey…thank you for your kind feedback. Makes me very happy that you enjoyed my post and photos. 🙂
      Chile is spectacular and have a few more posts to write yet…

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