Chile travel guide: what to see and where to go
Santiago is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Latin America and it's located in a valley surrounded by the Andes mountains, giving the city breathtaking landscapes. The capital is a combination of traditional history of Chile, urban architecture and diverse skylines and topographies. We invite you to tour the city by getting to know the great historical center and the bohemian areas, the modern architecture, the different museums, our big parks and, of course, going up the hills and enjoying the view.
Where to Go
- Santiago Historical Center: This area of the city concentrates the greatest amount of heritage of our history. Visit Plaza de Armas, the core of the capital, where historical buildings such as the Cathedral, the Pre-Columbian Art Museum, the National Historical Museum, Municipal Theater and the Central Post Office, meet street artists and chess players. Then, you can visit the surroundings of the government house, Palacio La Moneda, and its great cultural center.
- Stroll around Barrio Lastarria: Near the Historical Center, a bohemian little neighborhood appears which stands out for its combination of modernity and avant-garde architecture. Many good restaurants are located here, as well as independent design shops, a vintage cinema (El Biógrafo) and art museums and cultural centers like Bellas Artes, Museum of Visual Arts (MAVI) and Gabriela Mistral Center. Also, you can take a walk through the Parque Forestal as one of its many frequent visitors, climb up the Santa Lucía Hill.
- Cultural heritage and history in Barrio Yungay: This neighborhood is the largest patrimonial heritage area in Santiago. Its architectural beauty is a contrast between the buildings of the 19th and 20th centuries where the aristocracy lived, and the cités and tenements destined for family groups. Also, if you are a fan of street art, Barrio Yungay has some of the most spectacular murals in Santiago. In this same area the Quinta Normal Park is located, which concentrates a large cultural offer: the National Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC), Matucana 100 Cultural Center, the Santiago Library and the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. The latter is a copper-covered building that exhibits the human rights violations and “disappearances” in Chile that occurred under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet between 1973 and 1990.
- Design and Decor at Barrio Italia: This area is one of the most electric and trendy districts of Santiago, with a great offer of restaurants and bars, organic coffee shops, art galleries and boutique stores mainly of decoration, art and design. Saturday is the best day to visit Barrio Italia: you can enjoy great food and an amazing nightlife, especially if you like jazz clubs (like the Jazz Corner).
- Urban and bohemian nightlife in Bellavista: This neighborhood near the Mapocho River is plentiful of bars and restaurants located in several streets, which are painted in bold colors with murals and graffiti reflecting its vibrant street art. This place is full of young people enjoying beers and local food, especially in the evenings between Thursday and Saturday. The entrance to Cerro San Cristóbal can be found here, a hill that you can go up on foot, bicycle or by funicular. From the top you can see the city, while sitting in the shadow of a giant Virgin Mary statue. Moreover, if you feel like extending this visit, you can go to Metropolitan Park with its 720 hectares of surface. Here is also the National Zoo, the Botanical Garden, two ourdoor public swimming pools, and picnic areas. Nearby this hill, is the eclectic house-museum of the chilean poet Pablo Neruda, named La Chascona, where he lived with his lover Matilda Pérez back in the 1950s.
- Picnic and sports in Parque Bicentenario: This is one of the favorite attractions to most people who enjoy sports. The Bicentennial Park is a green space where Santiaguinos walk their pets, have picnics and do physical activity. This space is especially attractive during the spring, where the weather is nice and you can enjoy a whole afternoon enjoying nature.
- Fresh local food in Mercado Central and La Vega: The Central Market is one of the most characteristic gastronomic centers of Santiago, located in a metal structure inaugurated in 1872 and declared a National Monument in 1984. Try a “pastel de jaiba” (crab pie) or seafood and fishes, all prepared with fresh ingredients sold in the same market. Meanwhile, La Vega Central is a picturesque market where you can find fruits, vegetables, spices and seeds. La Vega is a daily postcard of merchants who have mainly inherited this trade, maintaining this activity as a family tradition.
"Some 2,200 miles off the coast of Chile, Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, is among the world’s most remote inhabited islands... In recent years, Easter Island has drawn more than 100,000 annual visitors, most of whom are lured by its ancient monolithic statues, called moai, around 1,000 of which dot the landscape".
NORTHERN CHILE: DESERT, BEACHES AND ANDES MOUNTAINS
"Far from being a desolate, arid wilderness, the Atacama desert is overflowing with life. Its ancient cultures offer a warm welcome to modern travellers, and fertile oases sustain an astonishing diversity of life here in the world’s driest desert. On the high Andean plateau, you’ll find small villages at up to 4,000 meters above sea level where timeless traditions linger in extreme and wonderfully photogenic settings.
Visit San Pedro de Atacama and explore its singular landscapes, quite unlike anywhere else on earth. Vast salt flats, active geysers and intense blue lagoons are just a few of the extraordinary features of this region. Journey to the stars and learn more about the constellations in one of the many famed astronomical observatories in the northern half of Chile. If you’re a fan of water sports or simply enjoy soaking up the sun, don’t miss the northern coastal region, with its exquisite sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and exquisite seafood".
SOUTHERN CHILE: LAKES, VOLCANOES AND FORESTS
"A sudden cloudburst and a heavy shower pass as quickly as they began, and the sky is soon an intense, deep blue once more. Breathe in the earthy, humid scents of the forest and meet some of the warmest, friendliest people on earth. Discover its singular beauty and the unique living heritage of its original peoples. Without a doubt, the Mapuche culture is a fundamental element in the central Chilean heartland.
Enjoy a day’s fishing or simply explore and observe the extraordinary flora and fauna of our nature reserves and national parks. Visit Pucón, Valdivia and Puerto Varas, or explore the southern island of Chiloé and its beautiful landscapes. Go trekking to the National Parks Conguillío, Huerquehue, among many others".
PATAGONIA: WATER, GLACIERS AND WILDLIFE
"Vast, exotic, wild and infinite in its beauty. That’s how Patagonia was described by the explorers who arrived here almost 500 years ago. Little has changed to this day. Come and discover a truly unspoiled wilderness of mountains, fjords, glaciers, forests and steppes.
Live and breathe Patagonia’s ranching history and the gaucho lifestyle as you discover the far-flung cities and pioneer towns in these cinematic landscapes. Rent a car or climb on a bike to travel down the Carretera Austral or Southern Highway and get ready to be blown away by northern Patagonia at its very best. If trekking is your passion, then head for the Torres del Paine National Park to experience truly magnificent forests, mountains, waterfalls, lakes and stunning views of the Southern Ice Fields"
* Areas to avoid at night: Avoid Cerro San Cristobal, the Mercado Central area, Plaza Italia (also known as Plaza Baquedano or Plaza de la Dignidad) and Cerro Santa Lucia after dark.
* Situational Awareness Practices: Do not hang bags and purses on backs of chairs or place them on the floor. Maintaining close personal control of your possessions will reduce your chances of being a victim of theft.
Chile lies in an active seismic zone and is prone to major earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. Being prepared for earthquakes hazards is up to all of us. Below you will find a list of recommendations to deal with an emergency of this kind the best way possible.
Seismic Protocol - During
• In case of an earthquake, stay indoors until it has stopped and you are sure that exiting is not dangerous. Most injuries occur when people are hit by falling objects when they try to go in or leave.
• If you are at home, at work or at school, cover yourself by getting under a table, desk, a strong bench or in an inside corner of the building.
• You must stay away from glass, windows and anything that could fall and injure you over. If you are in bed, stay there and cover your head with a pillow to protect yourself from things that could fall.
• Drop, cover and hold on until the earthquake stops. Then move to a nearby safe place.
• If you are in a wheelchair, try to move to a safe place under a doorframe. If you can’t do that, lock the wheelchair brakes and cover your head with your arms.
• Do not use the elevator. If you are outdoors, stay there. Stay away from buildings, streetlights and electricity wires.
• If you are using public transportation (bus or subway) and you are standing, hold on to the handrail. If you are sitting, stay that way and wait for the instructions to evacuate.
• If you are driving a vehicle, do not stop on a bridge or a tunnel. Reduce speed of the vehicle progressively and park in a safe place away from streetlights, trees, road signs, electricity wires and stay in the car.
• If you are cooking, switch the oven off and cover yourself.
• In case you are at a crowded place (theater, movie theater, stadium, subway, etc.), keep calm and do not rush to the doors. Wait for the instructions to evacuate.
Seismic Protocol - After
You must be prepared for aftershocks, which in general are less violent than the main earthquake but they can be strong enough to cause additional damage to already weakened structures. These aftershocks can occur even months after the earthquake.
• Do not walk without shoes because there can be glass and other sharp objects on the floor.
• Turn off the gas to avoid leaks and afterwards call a professional to turn it back on.
• If you are in a place that has been damaged by the earthquake, evacuate to the safe zone.
• If the electricity goes off, use flashlights. Do not use candles, matchsticks or flames indoors because there may be some gas leaks.
• Stay away from the street. If you have to go outdoors after an earthquake, you have to pay attention because damaged structures can fall over, like walls, bridges, etc.
• Use the phone only for emergencies, prefer messaging.
• Clean up spilled toxic elements like alcohol, oil, gasoline, etc.
• Open cabinets cautiously because objects can fall out of them.
• Stay informed through a battery-operated radio or television to listen to the instructions from the authorities.
• If you are trapped in the rubble: Do not use matchsticks. Do not move or stir up dust. Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or with your clothes. Do not scream because you can inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
• Stay away from the damaged area, unless the police, the fire brigade or other safety organization asks you for help.
• Do not use the bathroom unless it is safe and the sewage system is not damaged.