We spent three days in Santiago in total. In reality, they weren’t consecutive days; there was a gap between Days 1-2 and Day 3, when we flew to Easter Island. We opted to split our stay between central Santiago and the nearby wine growing area of Pirque. Alternatively, Pirque, which is around 24 miles south of Santiago, is an easy day trip from Santiago. There are plenty of organised trips, but it’s also fairly easy to reach by public transport. We took the metro to the end of the line at Puento Alto, then a taxi for last few (around 6) miles.
|Flight to Santiago|
La Calma de Rita
Dinner at La Calma de Rita
|Day 1||Concha y Toro|
|Travel to Santiago|
|Day 2||Palacio de la Moneda|
Plaza de Armas
Cerro Santa Lucia
|Day 3||Cerro San Cristóbal|
|1||Concha y Toro|
|2||Palacio de la Moneda|
|3||Plaza de Armas|
|5||Cerro Santa Lucia|
|6||Cerro San Cristóbal|
Flight to Santiago
Today we fly to Santiago, then have to travel 33 miles from the airport to our ‘hotel’ in Pirque. This involves a shuttle into town, then two tubes and then a taxi for the last few miles from the end of the metro line.
It’s only a 90 minute flight, from one side of The Andes to the other. I’m not looking forward to it – previous encounters with the Andes have involved way more turbulence than I would like. The captain doesn’t help by announcing; ‘We’re about to fly over The Andes, fasten your seatbelts.’ However, it’s actually quite calm and the view is awesome. White snow and glaciers at the top. Blue lakes surrounded by greenery at the bottom. And it the middle, mountains in every shade of red, yellow, orange and brown.
We reach Santiago Airport, which is basically a huge building site. We park so far out that from landing to reaching the terminal building takes 58 minutes. Next immigration. That takes care of another 52 minutes, then customs, changing money and a queue for the bus. We finally leave the airport after what feels like an eternity.
La Calma de Rita
Our bus, tube, tube, taxi combo is straightforward and four hours after we landed, we reach La Calma de Rita; a quirky little place amongst the vineyards. The accommodation is a mixture of wine barrels and Romany style caravans – we’re in a pink caravan. It’s quite remote (a car would have been ideal) but it has a bar, restaurant and pool, so moving isn’t really necessary.
Dinner at La Calma de Rita
We agree with our taxi driver to collect us in the morning for a vineyard tour, then settle by the pool for a very tasty dinner.
Santiago Day 1
Concha y Toro
La Calma de Rita is a strange place, balanced precariously between rustic charm and just plain dirty. Our Romany caravan is quaint and the bed was really comfortable, but I could do without the mouldy shower curtain. After breakfast, a similar mix of tasty freshly baked bread and nothing else I’d care to eat, we head for Pirque.
Our plan to tour several wineries has been pared down to just one now that our credit card has been cloned and we are unable to hire a car. But it is the biggie; Concha y Toro, the 5th biggest wine producer in the world.
We book the basic tour which includes a glimpse of the founder Don Melchor’s villa and gardens.
Then on to a small vineyard, each row containing a different type of grapes. We’re invited to wander round, trying the different varieties. I’m surprised how different they taste, but then I’m no wine connoisseur. I just like wine. Our tour allows us to taste three different wines. Then we are given a funky orange box to pack our commemorative wine glass in to take home. In our case, home is five weeks and thousands of miles away, so I don’t fancy its chances.
The tour concludes in the Casillero del Diablo, where we see thousands of barrels of wine, a fake devil and a sound and light show explaining how the legend of the Devil’s Cellar came about.
Our hotel is four miles from literally anything, so we stock up on supplies at a local supermarket and return for an afternoon of swimming, lazing by the pool, drinking beer and eating cheese rolls and crisps (which we have share with a very insistent cat).
Travel to Santiago
It’s another long day of travelling; a five hour flight backwards through two time zones, a bus into, a tube and finally a walk along the riverside, before reaching our apartment; Bellapart in Santiago at 8 pm.
It’s such a relief to be somewhere clean and dry, away from the smell of mould of Easter Island. We have Wifi, a balcony with views across the city to the Andes and the real highlight – a laundry.
Santiago Day 2
Palacio de la Moneda
Today we’re sightseeing in central Santiago. We’ve passed though it via underground three times but not surfaced yet. We start with a guided tour of the Palacio de la Moneda (the seat of the President) where we visit the ground floor; courtyards, the press room, state rooms and the chapel.
Tours are free but popular, so need to be booked online in advance to guarantee a place. Security is tight; you will need to bring a passport.
Plaza de Armas
Then on to the main square; Plaza de Armas, a hub of activity amidst its 100 shade giving palm trees and fountains.
We take a quick visit to the cathedral.
This 18th Century cathedral is grand and ornate. To be honest, after several weeks in South America, they all start to look a bit alike.
Cerro Santa Lucia
Next stop is the Cerro Santa Lucia. Here, you can climb several hundred steps through various gardens to a turreted lookout across the city.
Here, we are confronted by the rather surreal scene of a family taking their cat on an outing, while a man plays the soundtrack to Grease on a harmonica.
The afternoon consists mainly of chores; I do 2 weeks worth of laundry while the old man gets a haircut and buys a new belt (following a rather embarrassing incident at airport security when his old one broke, causing him to accidentally drop his trousers). Then we have a quiet evening consisting of a swim in the apartment’s communal pool, followed by drinks on the balcony while the sun sets. It’s such a good view, going out seems superfluous.
Santiago Day 3
Cerro San Cristóbal
It’s our last day in Chile and we’re going to the Parque Metropolitano on Cerro San Cristóbal; a park on a hill on the edge of the city reached by a funicular railway.
First, breakfast from the mini market over the road. The old man buys a cake tossed in a thick coating of icing sugar and coconut. He puts it into a bag, then picks the bag up by the wrong end. The cake falls, he executes a miraculous catch, saving the cake and covering the next lady in the queue in sugar and coconut.
After we’ve finished juggling/eating breakfast, we walk to the funicular which operates from its own castle and takes you 500m up the hill for great views over the city.
You can then climb past a series of painted crosses to a 22 metre high statue of the Virgin Mary.
There are a range of activities available on Cerro San Cristóbal; parks, gardens, swimming, a zoo. The must-do activity is to take a cable car across the park, which has spectacular views of the city.
Tickets for the cable car vary in price according to the day of the week. You can buy a single, return or joint attraction ticket. Details are on the website.
From here we descend on foot to the Japanese Garden is very pretty and also has great views across the city, including the Costanera Centre – the tallest tower in Latin America.
We slip slide back down the hill and head for the Costanera Centre, where you can take a lift to the top for ‘the best view in Latin America’. We lose interest when we realise they want £18 a ticket. The centre contains not only the tallest tower in South America, but also the largest shopping mall. We purchase some lunch and walk to the sculpture park.
The sculpture park isn’t spectacular. But it is free has some interesting pieces and is a pleasant place to sit and have lunch in the shade. Then, we walk the final 2.5 miles back our apartment (not my idea) bringing the total time spent walking today to a good 4 hours.
Trip taken: February 2019
Updated: September 2022
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