Tuesday, November 22, 2016

* Top Tourist Places to Visit in Chile

     Along its more than 4,300 km., the Chilean geography encompasses an incredible variety of climates and landscapes which together with the country's development in many areas, have turned Chile into a favorite tourist destination throughout the World. In fact, in mid-2016 Chile was recognized for the second consecutive year as Leader in Adventure Tourism within South America by the World Travel Awards, known as the "Oscars of Tourism". Based on these achievements, this 2016 and for the first time, the country has been nominated to receive the same award but this time recognized worldwide, not only among the South American countries.
In relation to this issue and to the direct flight announced by an important British Airline which will connect London and Santiago 4 times a week from 2017, "The Telegraph" published a list of 21 reasons to vacation in Chile (and there are more than 21), but to split hairs, here is a list of my 5 most recommended places to visit in Chile, the classification is random.

Santiago de Chile

Plaza de Armas (Main Square), downtown Santiago
Plaza de Armas (Main Square), downtown Santiago
The proximity of Santiago with the Andes Mountain Range causes a beautiful contrast
The proximity of Santiago with the Andes Mountain Range
 causes a beautiful contrast - Source: pinterest.com

     It can be said that the modern Chilean capital is a privileged city, located in the middle of a fertile valley surrounded by vineyards and where there are wonderful places to visit. Santiago, with the exception of the National Congress, concentrates most of public bodies and is the cultural, economic and financial center of the country. In winter the population suffers the ravages of the lack of winds that clean the air, however it can also be said that its location is advantageous because it is less than 2 hours from the coast and even closer to the Andes, so you can enjoy either the beaches in Summer or the snow during the Winter without having to travel long distances. In recent years Santiago de Chile, owner of a booming economy, has created cutting edge museums, elegant hotels, sophisticated restaurants, modern residential neighborhoods and business centers.
     Among the must-see places to visit in Santiago can be mentioned Palacio de la Moneda (Government Palace), full of historical-political events today known throughout the World; the Centro Cultural Palacio de la Moneda, located under the Plaza de la Ciudadania, opposite the south facade of the Government Palace; the Plaza de Armas, surrounded by ancient buildings like the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Municipality of Santiago, the Museo Historico Nacional; very close is also the Casa Colorada, today converted into one of the numerous museums of the city. Other renowned galleries are the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts), Museum of Memory and Human Rights, the Pre-Columbian Art Museum, Natural History Museum, La Chascona House- Museum (former house in Santiago of the Nobel Prize for Literature Pablo Neruda), Museo de la Moda (Fashion Museum), and many others.
     A few kilometers East of the city in the mountainous region are the most important Ski Centers of Santiago that are the best in the country. These winter sports complexes are internationally renowned not only because of the quality of the snow, but also due to their modern infrastructure and comprehensive services provided to the visitors. We are talking about the Winter Resorts of Farellones, El Colorado, La Parva and Valle Nevado, not to mention a little further North Portillo Ski Center. Other visits that can not be missed are to the Mercado Central, one of the typical places of Santiago, mostly frequented by tourists, where you can taste typical dishes especially from the vast Chilean sea; Cerro Santa Lucia, which provides one of the most beautiful views of Santiago and Cerro San Cristobal, nestled within the Parque Metropolitano, the largest in Latin America. I can not fail to mention Barrio Lastarria, a place unique for its green areas and beautiful mansions of the nineteenth century, now restored and used mostly as theaters, cafes, restaurants, bookstores and museums. favorite of artists and intellectuals; Barrio Bellavista, one of the main bohemian neighborhoods in Santiago. A great option for the children and also the adults is a trip to the Zoo, one of them is the Zoologico Nacional, in an unique environment at the foot of Cerro San Cristobal. In the commune of Buin, you can visit BuinZoo, the largest in Chile with over 12 hectares and more than 2,000 animals in a specially adapted habitat, according to their characteristics.
     The Chilean wines are famous throughout the World, and the Metropolitan Region is one of the most important wine-making regions of Chile. There are several tours, generally known as the "Wine Route" touring ancient vineyards, its facilities and manor houses. In summary, in Santiago de Chile not only you can explore its ancient buildings of the old town, craft centers, beautiful parks and plazas, museums, shopping malls which are among the most sophisticated in the World but also in the surrounding area there is a huge variety of places such as the Ski Resorts listed above, Nature Reserves and National Parks. Most of these and other places can be discovered through the many tours offered locally and over the Internet.

Easter Island, or "The Navel of the World"

Typical view of Easter Island with group of Moai in the foreground
Typical view of Easter Island with group of Moai in the foreground

     Located in a remote area of the Pacific Ocean, the Province and Commune of Easter Island is considered one of the most interesting tourist sites in Chile, for the enigmatic stone sculptures known as Moai and the mysterious legends and traditions of the ancient Rapanui culture that, until now, it is not known exactly how it almost disappeared. Nowadays the small population of just over 5000 inhabitants is composed of approximately 60% of Chileans coming from the continent while a 40% are of Polynesian origin. Easter Island or Rapa Nui in native language, has dozens of attractions, the time needed to visit all the places is around 3 or 4 days, but if you want to explore the volcanic caves you can spend a longer time on the island. Without a doubt, the main attraction to visit around Easter Island are its more than 900 stone statues called Moai, many of them grouped in a sort of altars known as Ahu.
     But there are other amazing places to explore as the impressive volcano Rano Kau with its crater of 1600 meters in diameter; the ceremonial center and archeological site of Orongo; Rano Raraku volcano, known as the "quarry of the Moai", another impressive place of Easter Island; Te Pito o Te Henua, a large round stone representing "The Navel of the World", name given by the natives to their land; the dormant volcano Maunga Terevaka, with 512 meters high, the highest elevation of Rapa Nui, from where you can see almost the entire island; Ahu Tongariki, one of the most impressive ceremonial platforms throughout Easter Island; the spectacular beach of Anakena and Ahu Nau Nau, two of the most beautiful and emblematic places of "The Navel of the World".

Patagonia, Chilean Side

Hanging Glacier, Queulat National Park, Chilean Patagonia
Hanging Glacier, Queulat National Park, Chilean Patagonia

     Patagonia is a binational region, shared between Chile and Argentina, in the South American southern cone. Not for nothing Forbes Magazine, highlighted this part of Chile as one of the top 10 destinations in the World for nature and photography lovers during the year 2016. In addition, Lonely Planet, the World´s largest travel guide book publisher chose Aysen, in the northern part of the Chilean Patagonia as the sixth best region of the World to visit in 2017. Many are the stunning places that could be mentioned, however among the most emblematic are Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, declared by VirtualTourist in 2013 "The Eighth Wonder of the World" with million votes through an online poll; the Carretera Austral (Southern Highway), a road of a little more than 1,200 km. considered one of the most interesting, attractive and beautiful routes of the Americas; a visit to Punta Arenas, the southernmost continental city in the world, on the shores of the Strait of Magellan, full of a rich history of immigrants, nowadays gateway to the Chilean Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego Island and the Antarctic Continent.


Atacama Desert
     The Atacama Desert, in the extreme north of Chile stands out for being the most arid of the planet and one of the most famous tourist destinations for its salt flats, geyser fields, hot springs, beautiful landscapes and its immense archaeological wealth. The region of Atacama has a great number of magical places to visit, among the must-see spots are Geysers del Tatio (El Tatio Geyser Field), the largest group of geysers in the southern hemisphere and the third largest in the World. Another attraction is Valley of the Moon, located 13 km. of San Pedro de Atacama, small village considered the archaeological capital of Chile. Valley of the Moon is famous for its conformation similar to the lunar surface. It should be noted that Atacama has been a testing ground for NASA to check some of its robotic exploration vehicles. Other places of tourist attraction of the area include Laguna Cejar, sinkhole lake famous for its great concentration of salt which allows to float effortless; The Salar de Atacama (Atacama Salt Flat), of 100 km long and 80 km wide, is one of the main attractions of Los Flamencos National Reserve, the Flamingos arrive from the most remote places to nest and feed in their "eyes of water", such as the Chaxa lagoon. The Atacama region is also known for having the cleanest sky in the world, unpolluted and generally free of clouds. Not for nothing the main astronomical observatories of the World are installed in the North of Chile. For this reason, in San Pedro there are many agencies offering the already famous Astronomical Tours, which consist of taking you to the Desert, (away from the lights of the town), to observe the firmament with powerful telescopes. Another great attraction of Northern Chile is Father Gustavo Le Paige Archaeological Museum of San Pedro de Atacama, an extraordinary exhibition that summarizes 11 thousand years of the local culture. Among the interesting pieces, there is a mummy popularly known as the Miss Chile, with well-preserved hair and eyelashes, about 4,000 skulls, innumerable other mummies, weapons and valuable objects on display.

Southern Chile
Puerto Varas, Llanquihue Lake and Osorno Volcano
Puerto Varas, Llanquihue Lake and Osorno Volcano

     Southern Chile (region located immediately north of Patagonia) is one of the favorite destinations of travelers from Chile and abroad, endowed with fantastic landscapes composed of mountains, snow, lakes, lush forests, and a profuse variety of flora and fauna. The nerve center is the "Región de Los Lagos" (Region of Lakes) or Chile's Tenth Region, although the bordering Regions of "La Araucania" (or Ninth Region of Chile), Los Rios (Region of Rivers) and Archipelago of Chiloe highlight locations of exceptional beauty as well. Without a doubt, the city and commune of Pucón is one of the most important tourist destinations in the South of Chile, where you can find travelers from all over the World, attracted by the lake and the ascent to the top of Villarrica Volcano, historically one of the most active volcanoes in South America. In the foothills of Villarrica Volcano, is located Pucon Ski Center, considered by many as one the most beautiful places to practice Winter Sports in Chile. You can also visit dozens of small villages founded by German settlers on the shores of so many beautiful lakes among which can be mentioned Puerto Varas, Frutillar, Puerto Octay, further North the town and resort of Lican Ray and many others. A special mention deserves Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, a huge 100,000 Hs. private park on the shores of Pirihueico Lake, several times awarded by international institutions due to its sustainable tourism practices. Needless to say that the facilities of the Reserve as well as the landscapes of this part of Southern Chile are magnificent. Another of the must-see places in the South is the Chiloé Archipelago, group of islands of great attraction for having its own culture, full of myths, legends, traditions, folk music, gastronomy and beautiful landscapes. Further North, in the Region of Bio Bio is located Nevados de Chillan Mountain Resort, with the longest piste in South America (14 Kms.) Hotels and Thermal Baths nestled in the mountains.

Monday, October 17, 2016

* Reasons to Go on Vacation to Chile

Laguna San Rafael, Region of Aysen, Chilean Patagonia.
Photo: www.turismoayacara.cl - Laguna San Rafael, Chilean Patagonia.
        British Airways has announced that since January 2017 will resume flights between London and Santiago, the decision considers a direct air travel Santiago-London with four frequencies a week, the departures from Chile will be on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with a Boeing 787-9, capacity for 216 passengers. It is expected that weekly 864 passengers are transported from Santiago to London. On occasion of this announcement, "The Telegraph" has published a list enumerating 21 reasons for the British to visit Chile:

1.- The Atacama Desert

Atacama Desert, Northern Chile
Atacama Desert - Photo: imagenesdeluniverso.com


       One of the driest places on Earth, although there are parts where every few years takes place the strange but beautiful phenomenon known as "The Flowering Desert". In parts the landscape is unreal, to the point that NASA has used in a practical way the similarity of this area with the surface of Mars. In addition to the geysers, salt flats, volcanoes and lakes of the Andean plateau, Atacama is also archaeologically one of the richest places in South America. Equally, the Astronomical Tours are a good choice, as the clear skies of the Chilean desert make it a perfect location to scan the Universe. In fact, Atacama is considered the best place on Earth to observe the firmament and to the date there are about fifty operators who offer tours related to the topic.

2.- Visiting the "Palafitos" (Houses on Stilts) of Chiloe Island

     Chiloe Archipelago is a group of islands full of traditions and mysteries. One of its charms are the typical "palafitos". These stilt houses are constructions on wooden pillars in the water which are not native to Chiloé architecture, but were adopted in some coastal towns of the Archipelago for a better use of the coastline during the trade expansion in the nineteenth century and continued to be built until the middle of the last century. Today, along with the Churches of Chiloe, the "palafitos" are among the most representative postcards of the main and adjacent islands.

3.- Traveling to Patagonia

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile.
View of Torres del Paine and Salto Chico Hotel, Explora Patagonia


   One of the emblematic tourist places throughout the World. Located at the southern tip of South America, it is shared between Chile and Argentina. The Chilean side is smaller and less promoted than the Argentine Patagonia, however has a great diversity of spectacular landscapes,  not only Torres del Paine National Park, recently recognized as the Eighth Wonder of the World by VirtualTourist.com.

     Notable places to visit in the Chilean Patagonia are also the Carretera Austral, a new tourist destination where you can travel more than 1,200 kilometers through a route of asphalt and gravel starting in Puerto Montt and whose end is in Villa O' Higgins. The Carretera Austral is considered one of the most interesting and beautiful routes throughout the Americas, although sometimes you can find little difficulties, since tourism is just taking off in this region and not always all the required services are available in the area. Among its main attractions can be highlighted Pumalin Private Nature Reserve; Queulat National Park; Puyuhuapi Fjord with cozy facilities amidst lush nature; San Rafael Glacier; the beautiful mineral formations known as The Marble Cathedral, Marble Chapel and Marble Caves at General Carrera Lake, shared with Argentina, the second largest in South America, etc, etc. Further south is located Punta Arenas, known as "the capital of Patagonia", starting point of many tours that travel the South American southern cone. Punta Arenas offers countless tourist and cultural alternatives starting from the center of the city to its nearby natural attractions such as the navigation through the Strait of Magellan and Southern channels, excursions to the amazing Tierra de Fuego Island, the Antarctic Province, Torres del Paine, etc, etc...   

4.- Chile's Ski Resorts 

     For its geographical location and the presence of the Andes Mountains along most of its length, Chile is a privileged country in terms of ski hills (among other things). Depending on the meteorological trend of every year, the season can last from June to September, even some resorts are equipped with snowmaking machines. There is a long list of places to ski in Chile. The best known and best equipped in Central Chile are Portillo, La Parva, El Colorado, Farellones, and Valle Nevado. In the South stand out Nevados de Chillan and the newly created Corralco Mountain and Ski Resort.

5.- The colourful houses of Valparaiso 

     Valparaiso, 119 km. of the capital Santiago, is the main military and commercial seaport of Chile and the second largest city in the country. One of the features that most attracts the attention of visitors are the colorful houses that sometimes seem to be hanging of its intricate geography, full of hills, each with a different name. Striking are also its funiculars, historical means of transportation used by the inhabitants of the hills, given that the first dates from 1883, born on the initiative of European immigrants. Next to Valparaiso you can visit the beautiful city of Vina del Mar, the main tourist center of Central Chile.

6.- It is the narrowest country in the World
      I would rather say: according to its length Chile is the narrowest country in the World, with a maximum width of 445 km. and an average of 177 km. But opossite to this condition it is also one of the longest countries on Earth because without considering its Antarctic territory on which claims sovereignty, Chile has a length of 4270 km.

7.-  You can spot a Puma by visiting the Torres del Paine

     If you visit Torres del Paine, National Park of exceptiomal scenic beauty in Patagonia, you can see a Puma. The population of this protected species in the natural area is app. of 50 specimens, but if you are lucky, you will be able to see them in their natural habitat. The Pumas of this part of the World are among the largest of its kind. 

8.- Stay at " La Montaña Magica" Eco- Lodge

Montaña Magica Hotel, southern Chile.
Montaña Magica Eco- Lodge - Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve

     This mountain-shaped hotel is covered with vegetation, everything is made of wood and has a permanent waterfall on the outside. Better connection with nature is difficult to find elsewhere. "La Montaña Magica" is one of several eco- friendly hotels located in Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, one of the best natural destinations in southern Chile, year after year visited by thousands of people who are looking for to escape the city and get connected with nature.

9.-  Discover "The "end of the World" by visiting Cape Horn

     Cabo de Hornos (Cape Horn) is the name that receives the most southerly headland of the island of Hornos, belonging to the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, traditionally considered the southernmost point of the  Americas.

10.-  "Reaching the Stars" by visiting the Observatories in Atacama

    The skies in the Atacama Desert are privileged because of its zero pollution and cloud-free conditions almost all year round, which makes them the cleanest in the world. For this reason, the Chilean desert concentrates 40% of the largest telescopes on the planet and today, Astronomical Tours are one of the many tourist activities carried out in the North of Chile. 

11.-  Rafting in "Cajon del Maipo"  

    Known as one of the best rivers in Chile for rafting and located just an hour East of Santiago, going down the Maipo River is one of the most incredible and entertaining experiences you can do in central Chile. In Rio Maipo, with sections of rapids II, III and IV there are several companies that offer their services to enjoy this sensation in a truly unforgettable panorama at the foothills of The Andes.

12.- Visiting Easter Island

     Together with Patagonia and the Atacama Desert, Easter Island forms the tourist trilogy of Chile. Although geographically it belongs to the Polynesia, administratively depends on the Chilean Region of Valparaiso, under the regime of "Special Territory". For its remote location, traveling to Rapa Nui, one of the most mysterious places on the planet, is like a dream that perhaps can be performed once in a lifetime.

13.- You can visit the largest Glacier in South America

     Unlike most ice masses all over the world, Pio XI Glacier, also known as Brüggen Glacier, has undergone significant progress in recent decades.  Its approximate surface is of 1300 km2., with a length of 64 kilometers, front of 6 kilometers and ice towers surpassing 75 meters of height. Pio XI is one of 48 glaciers that come from the Southern Ice Field, a great glacial mass of 350 km. long located in the Patagonian Andes, of which about an 85% belongs to Chile and the rest to Argentina.

14.- The ghost mining town of Humberstone

     Humberstone is an old mining town in the Atacama Desert, named after James Humberstone, a British chemical engineer who emigrated to South America in 1875 and made a fortune with saltpeter. Nowadays, far from its flourishing past lived between the end of the 1800s and the early decades of the 1900s,  the town that housed more than 3,700 people is just a legend, considered one of the ten most ghostly places on the planet, what has encouraged tourist agencies to perform different tours through its dusty streets and corners. Humberstone and the neighboring Santa Laura Salpeter Work are a National Monument of Chile and were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

15.-  A swimming pool of colossal dimensions

     In the commune of Algarrobo, within the "San Alfonso del Mar" Hotel Complex on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, you can visit the World's largest swimming pool, recognized by the Guinness Book of Records. To give us an idea, this is an artificial lagoon of more than one kilometer in length, covering an area of about 8 hectares and of more than 250,000 cubic meters of seawater. All equivalent to about 6,000 "normal" swimming pools.

16.- Trekking around Villarrica Volcano 

     In Winter, its snowy slopes are an invitation to visit the Ski Center, but guided trekking around Villarrica Volcano is carried out all year round, starting from the tourist agencies of Villarrica and Pucon. This trekking is one of the main adventure activities for tourist since it is said that Villarrica is the most spectacular volcano of Northern Patagonia besides being one of the most active in South America and the World. At the summit of 2847 mts. you can enjoy a panoramic view of the lakes and other mountains of the region.

17.-  Taking a bike tour through the Carretera Austral

     The Carretera Austral is one of the most spectacular roads in South America, the ideal setting for adventure tourism as it is a journey through the most attractive landscapes of Patagonia. Although the route is quite demanding in effort (mostly of gravel), more and more people choose the option to tour it by bicycle.

18.-  A Paradise for Surf Lovers

     Pichilemu had until now been a little-known town, nevertheless it is becoming one of the best tourist places of the Central Chile. It has many attractions but by far the most outstanding are its beaches, which today are already known worldwide for being among the best for surfing. It is located on the coast of O'Higgins, Sixth Region of Chile,  227 km. SW of Santiago.  For those who want to surf, the best place in Pichilemu is Punta de Lobos, 6 km. to the South where the crests of up to 8 meters have turned this place into a dream beach for all lovers of waves and adrenaline.

19.-  The peculiar houses of  poet Pablo Neruda

     Pablo Neruda, one of the two Chilean Nobel Prizes for Literature, had 3 residences, named by himself as "La Chascona" in Santiago, "La Sebastiana" in Valparaiso and the third one, which today is its own mausoleum in the village of Isla Negra. The Bard's houses are now Museums open to the public and can be visited without prior booking. Each residence is like a Neruda's poem but without words, full of stories, souvenirs, documents, secrets and magic, that will surprise and amaze the visitors.

20.-  A Tour around Cerro Santa Lucia

Cerro Santa Lucia (Santa Lucia Hill, Santiago, Chile)
Photo: radioagricultura.cl

     Cerro Santa Lucía is one of the most accessible tourist attractions in Santiago since it is located in the heart of the Chilean capital. It is a small hill (69 mts.) that was remodeled in 1872 but today, it has become an important tourist center because of its fountains, gardens, terraces and balconies, it is also a historical place, in its hillsides the conquistador Pedro de Valdivia established his camp before founding Santiago in 1541. 

21.- Chilean Cuisine

     Until a few decades ago, the gastronomy in Chile was rather modest in variety, especially in restaurants. Along with the country's economic growth, the number of good restaurants has grown significantly and the quality and variety of food has evolved to unexpected levels. The Barrio Bellavista (Bellavista Neighborhood), one of the bohemian centers of Santiago, also stands out for presenting one of the best gastronomic offerings in the capital of Chile. In this neighborhood, as well as in Santiago in general, there is certainly a large number of restaurants that could be named, but The Telegraph makes special mention of "Peumayen Ancestral Food", specialized in a menu that combines products and original techniques of the main cultures of pre-Hispanic Chile.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

* Celebrating Chile's National Day

The "Cueca", National Dance of Chile.
The "Cueca", Chile's National Dance - Photo: lasegunda.com 
     Fiestas Patrias, popularly known as "el Dieciocho", is the National Day which takes place in Chile every 18 September, depending on what day of the week the date falls, the celebrations can also include from 17 to 20 September. What it is actually commemorated is the creation of the First Government Junta on September 18, 1810, the first autonomous form of government emerged in Chile. The next day (19th) is celebrated "The Day of the Glories of the Army", with a Military Parade that takes place every year in the O'Higgins Park of Santiago, in the presence of the highest authorities of the country and people in general.

"Ramadas" and "Fondas"

Celebration of "Fiestas Patrias" (National Day) in Chile.
Celebration of the National Day with typical garments, Chile- Photo: 24horas.cl
   Without a doubt, the Fondas and Ramadas are the most popular meeting places to commemorate
 Fiestas Patrias. These venues are a kind of improvised restaurants, especially decorated for the occasion, usually with branches or leaves of typical trees and where the birthday of the country is celebrated enthusiastically. The "Cueca Chilena" is the main protagonist of all celebrations, since it is the National Dance. 

     Besides the typical Cueca of the central zone of the country, there are other variants such as the "Cueca Chilota", "Cueca Nortina", "Cueca Brava", "Cueca Chora" which is especially identified with the seaports of Central Chile, etc. But all have the common feature of being very lively and festive. During these parties as well as in all the folklore presentations you can see many people dressed as "Huasos" (countryman of the Central Zone) and "Chinas" (female Huaso) with their typical dresses dancing the Cueca. Also in these celebrations other dances are also popular such as the Cumbia ("imported" from Colombia, Panama, etc.) and other tropical sounds like the Salsa and even Mexican "Rancheras", very popular in Chile as well. As for gastronomy, the Chilean "Empanadas" are the most famous and traditional food. It consists of a dough either fried or baked stuffed with ground beef, onion, raisins, boiled egg and an olive. Also famous are the "Cazuela de Ave", a very filling chicken or hen soup, the "Anticuchos" ( Chilean style Brochettes) with beef, chicken, sausage, chorizo, onions, peppers besides the Chilean Roasts, Barbecues and the Choripan, a combined word to describe a chorizo in a piece of bread. Apart from the different types of wine, of which Chile is a major producer, the most requested drinks by those attending the Fondas and Ramadas are the Chicha, the Vino Pipeño (special kind of wine fermented in barrels), the Terremoto (Earthquake) a drink prepared from Pipeño wine, pineapple ice cream and grenadine, invented shortly after the earthquake in Chile in 1985. Its name refers to the effect produced after drinking it...., even another drink is the "Replica" (afterschock).  Another activity within the National Day (18 September) is the Te Deum, liturgy of Thanksgiving which takes place at 11.00 AM at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, with the presence of the highest authorities of the country, led by the President of the Republic.

Other activities

Military Parade, Santiago de Chile.
Military Parade at Parque O'Higgins - Photo: 24horas.cl
       On September 19th is celebrated the Day of the Glories of the Army, with a great Military Parade in the Ellipse of O 'Higgins Park. Chile is a country that stands out for having very disciplined and professional Armed Forces, and although this day was established in 1915 to commemorate the glories of the Army, military parades in Chile have been a tradition since 1832. That day (19th), the Army receives the homage of the rest of the armed institutions: Fuerza Aerea, Armada and Carabineros de Chile, with the presence of invited delegations of neighbors and friendly countries.   

     There is also fun for the family, in many schools are organized fund-raising events known as the Kermeses, in Parks and Avenues you can also you see the children raising their kites, taking advantage of the spring breeze that is already coming. Another traditional activity of this period, which for decades has been considered the National Sport, is the Chilean Rodeo (although lately has been questioned by the animal abuse that this sport might imply). This traditional activity is practiced in Chile since colonial times, so it is considered among the most typical Chilean festivities, at least of the Central part of the country. Another Chilean typical game, especially at this time of year, is the "Rayuela", which consists of throwing metal circular discs towards a stringline placed across the width of a small clay square.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

* Tourist attractions in Santiago de Chile

Monument to General Baquedano in Santiago, Chile.
Monument to General Baquedano, Santiago - Photo: Pixabay
      Santiago,  also known as Santiago de Chile to distinguish it from other cities of the same nameis the capital of the country. The population in 2014 reached just over 7 million.  Although founded in 1541 by Pedro de Valdivia, it was not until the late 18th. century that Santiago acquired the category of major city and especially the last few decades, have marked a great period of expansion. Today, Santiago is considered the most sustainable city in Latin America, -said by the Inter- American Development Bank-, and one of the most important tourist destinations in the South American Continent. 

    "Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez" is the International Airport of Santiago, also connected to the major cities of the country, meets the highest safety standards and is the most important point of arrival of international passengers. By land, there are  many border crossings connecting Chile  to the neighboring countriesthe most important and closest to Santiago being "Paso Los Libertadores", also known as "Cristo Redentor", 153 km from Santiago, in the Cordillera de Los Andes (Andes Mountain Range), altitude of 3,200 Mts., connects with the province of Mendoza, Argentina.

Santiago, Chile's capital city.
Santiago, the most sustainable city in Latin America according to the Inter- American Development Bank
     The Metropolitan Subway, known as Metro de Santiago, is recognized for its efficiency, advanced technology, cleanliness and safety for users. For the price of one ticket (about U.S. $ 1.2), you can do all the combinations you need through its 5 underground lines that go through the city. The surface transportation system known as "Transantiago" is constituted by a fleet of thousand buses, and has been slowly overcoming serious shortcomings from its start in 2007. It is expected that in the near term, it can meet  the expectations that were set from the beginning. On the other hand, the railway system, that in past decades played a great role  in the transport of passengers and cargo, today focuses its departures and arrivals only from Estacion Central of Santiago, covering the stretch to the city of Chillan by the South. From the bus terminals, which have now almost completely replaced the trains, there are departures and arrivals to/from almost all cities of the country and neighboring nations. Below I give you a list of places to visit in Santiago.

Places to visit in Santiago

 Palacio de La Moneda  

"La Moneda", Chile's Presidential Palace.
"La Moneda" Presidential Palace, Chile - Photo: Pixabay
 Seat of the Presidency of the Republic of Chile, building that marks the civic heart of the city of Santiago, normally open to pedestrian traffic through an inner alleyway that runs between Bernardo O'Higgins Av. and Moneda street.  The palace is much visited by national and foreign travellers, not only by virtue of being the seat of  Government but also due to the historical events it has witnessed.  It was bombed and partially burned in 1973, being promptly rebuilt with the same exterior architectural characteristics with which it was created, only modifying certain interior rooms. This Italian neoclassical palace, is also known as La Casa de Toesca (The Home of Toesca) recalling its designer Joaquin Toesca. It was inaugurated in 1805, this was the building where the coins ("monedas") were minted, hence its name. The Palacio de La Moneda can be internally visited each year for the "Dia del Patrimonio Cultural", celebrated every last Sunday of May when the most significant buildings for the country's history and culture are opened to visitors.

Plaza de la Constitucion

     The Plaza de la Constitucion is located in the Barrio Civico of Santiago, surrounded mostly by buildings intended for government offices, and a minority for trade. Until the early 1900s the place was a residential area, in 1925 began the construction of two large buildings, which until today belong to Ministries. Other buildings around the Plaza belong to "Palacio de la Moneda" (the Government Palace), the Municipality of Santiago, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, the Central Bank of Chile and the Minister of Labour. It is located within walking distance of the Metro Stations Universidad de Chile and La Moneda.

Catedral Metropolitana

     The Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago is the main Catholic temple in Chile. Its current building dates back to 1748, but before this church there were other edifices, destroyed by fires or earthquakes. In fact, the current building is the fifth erected on the site for the same purpose. The Cathedral is located in the heart of Santiago, on one side of the Plaza de Armas, place today known as the "Km. 0 of Chile". Since 1952 the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago de Chile is a National Monument, it also has an incalculable historical value for the country because here lie the remains of many bishops of the Chilean Catholic Church, other great personalities and is the place to celebrate the most important commemorative ceremonies of the Nation, as the "Te Deum Ecumenico" of the Independence Day.

Mercado Central  

         One of the most traditional places to eat in Santiago, declared Historical Monument, 3 blocks away from Plaza de Armas, much visited by tourists. This is one of the most representative places of Chilean popular culture, you can go to many typical restaurants that specialize in serving both national and international travellers, with rich gastronomy based on fish and seafood. There is also a large variety of handicraft stores, meat, fish and vegetable stands, etc.

San Cristobal Hill and Metropolitan Park 

Metropolitan Park, Santiago de Chile.
San Cristobal Hill - Photo: Pixabay
      Parque Metropolitano de Santiago i
s a large urban green space, under the jurisdiction of the Ministerio de la Vivienda y Urbanismo, with more than 720 hectares that make it the largest in Chile and also in Latin America. Made up by hills San Cristobal, Chacarillas, Los Gemelos and intermediate sectors, the heart of this urban park is Cerro San Cristobal, on whose summit can be seen from any point of  the city the image of the Inmaculada Concepcion, huge statue of Virgin Mary brought from Paris in the early twentieth century. At its base is the Sanctuary from where Pope John Paul II blessed the city and the country during his visit to Chile in 1987. Near is located the Terraza Bellavista (Bellavista Terrace),  viewpoint  from where you have a good panoramic of Santiago  and where  is also located the Estacion Cumbre (Summit Station of the Funicular). Further down the hill, the Funicular also stops at the Zoo Station, where visitors to the National Zoological Park get down to visit   a wide variety of native and exotic fauna. There is also the Cable Car, currently undergoing repairs, but it is expected that by the 2016 it will start functioning again.

A relic and Historical Monument of the Metropolitan Park is the  "Manuel Foster" Astronomical Observatory, more than 100 years of existence (since 1903) with its almost original equipment. Other attractions in the park are the Tupahue and Antilen swimming pools, Restaurants, Convention Centers, Anfiteatro de las Naciones y las Artes "Pablo Neruda", Plaza de Juegos de Niños "Gabriela Mistral", botanical gardens, lookouts,  numerous trails frequented by sportsmen, etc. 

Cerro Santa Lucia  (Santa Lucia Hill) 

      Situated at the center of the city, very close to the metro station of the same name. It is a small hill (69 mts. height) called Huelén by the pre- Columbian natives, the History of Santiago is reflected here from its birth until now. Its main importance lies in the fact  that precisely here, under the shelter of the hillock, was founded the city of Santiago on February 12, 1541. On the southern slope of the hill, carved in stoneis the reproduction of the letter sent by Pedro de Valdiviafounder of the city to the Emperor Carlos V, reporting enthusiastically about the new conquered lands  and the advantages of settling in Chile. During the colonial period, the hill served as a watchtower and fortifications with their defense batteries were built atop the summit. In 1872, on the initiative of the Mayor of Santiago, Benjamin Vicuña Mackenna, begins a complete remodeling plan to transform the area into a public promenadeFrom then until today, the Santa Lucia Hill is one of the most visited places in Santiago for its easy access, exceptional location and beautiful environment. An old tradition is the  cannon shot  fired daily exactly at twelve o'clock to announce noon.

Parque Forestal

     This urban park has to date over one hundred years of existence since it was created in the early twentieth century, however it continues to be one of the main green lungs of Chile´s capital. It is located in the northern area of the commune of Santiago, flanked on the North side by the Mapocho River. On the south sidewalk of the park there is a continuous facade of elegant buildings, these residences of the fifties and sixties are today highly prized for its view of the park and its central location. Along the park, from the Pio Nono Bridge on the East to the Mapocho Cultural Center, you can tour significant and emblematic places such as Lastarria and Bellas Artes Quarters, the Centro Historico, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Fuente Alemana (German Fountain) and other important monuments of the city. One of the biggest attractions during the tour through the Parque Forestal is the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts). The neoclassical building designed by the Chilean- French architect Emile Jequier displays an interesting sculpture collection made by Chilean artists. Behind the Museum is located one of the sites of the Santiago Museum of Contemporary Art.

Barrio Bellavista

Barrio Bellavista (Bellavista neighborhood), Santiago de Chile.
Loreto St. in Barrio Bellavista - Photo: latercera.com
     Barrio Bellavista, created in 1920 as a residential area, nowadays has become the bohemian and artistic neighborhood of Santiago par excellence. Currently, pubs and clubs abound which liven up the capital's nightlife, as well as theaters, art galleries, craft shops and a variety of international restaurants. Famous places are the Patio Bellavista, ideal site to buy gifts and souvenirs of Chile as it has a wide range of fine handicraft shops, textiles, jewelry, copperware, books and other souvenirs of Santiago, and very especially "La Chascona", one of the houses belonging to Pablo Neruda, Chilean Nobel Prize for Literature.

Museums, Culture in Santiago 

  The Chilean Capital is not just a busy city, of great economic dynamism but there is also a good space for a diversity of Museums and cultural activities. Santiago offers a wide variety of galleries to learn more about the culture of the country, its people, history, art and natural wonders. For information about culture in Santiago visit my page Museums and Culture in Santiago.

Chilean National Zoo  

     Occupying an area of 4.8 hectares on the SE slope of Cerro San Cristobal (San Cristobal Hill), Metropolitan Park of Santiago. It is the main Zoo in Chile, with more than a thousand animals.  For almost a century, since 1925, it has been a traditional place to visit, among others, for its beautiful natural surroundings and prime location within the city. It is worth mentioning that the complete tour of the Zoo is quite tiring, as the hill has many different levels and one is going up and down continuosly. In summer you should be prepared to beat the heat (in my first visit when I was a child I suffered severe sunstroke).  
Summer Hours: 10:00 to 18:00 Hrs.
Winter hours: 10:00 to 17:00 Hrs.

 Buinzoo Zoological Park   

Zoo near Santiago, Chile.
Buinzoo, near Santiago - Photo: Pixabay
      Address: Km 32 of the Panamericana Sur, commune of Buin. 12 hectares with over 2000 specimens belonging to 400 species, separated according to their places of origin make up the largest Chilean Zoo. Shows and spectacles that delight both children and adults are often offered.  This zoo was created almost unintentionally, for the dedication of the Veterinarian Ignacio Idalsoaga who owned a pig farm in the place and spent part of his time healing sick or injured animals which were brought from the surroundings. After decades, BuinZoo has achieved great reputation for its conservation initiative, care of endangered species and improvement programs for optimal animal health. In fact, in April 2016, the Zoo celebrated the birth of its first baby giraffe, 1.70 mts. in height, in a completely natural birth and under the watchful eye of the veterinary team of the park that did not need to intervene.
Hours: Monday to Friday: 9:00 to 18:00 hrs.
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays: 10:00 to 19:00 hrs.

Parque O'Higgins  

     76 Hectares urban park in Santiago's downtown, with picnic areas and artificial ponds, formerly called Parque Cousiño. Here each September 19 are commemorated the Glories of the Army  with a large military parade in the "ellipse" of the park. During the days of Fiestas Patrias (Independence Days) September 17, 18 and 19  many popular celebrations  are held in dozens of venues that open especially for the occasion, called "fondas" and "ramadas". This area of the Park is known as the "Pueblito del Parque O'Higgins". The gastronomic offer here is varied, although the most representative product is the "Chilean empanada", either fried or oven, of meat, shellfish and other varieties, also the different types of wine, "chicha" and prepared drinks, some of them wittily called according to the national idiosyncrasy as the "Terremoto" ("Earthquake"), the "Replica"  ("Aftershock") or "Tsunami". Other attractions of what was the "Pueblito" (Little Village) are the Feria y Plaza de Artesanias (Crafts Fair), the "Museo del Huaso", a complete  exhibition dedicated to the countryside man of Central Chile and his environment, the Aquarium (Acuario del Parque O'Higgins), showing the underwater world with more than 1,000 specimens of over 70 species. There is also the Museo de Paleontologia (Paleontology Museum of Chile) to learn from the past of life on earth through a fascinating display with replicas of dinosaurs, fossils of leaves, stems and marine life, a small sample of amber, resins into which there are insects of forty million years, remains of bones and dinosaur eggs, part  of a meteorite that fell in Russia in 1933, etc. A few meters away  is the Museo de Insectos y Caracolas  (Museum of Insects and Conches) that offers a very interesting exhibit of the entomological diversity throughout Chile and other parts of the World, with more than 1,500 native and exotic species like giant Butterflies, Rhinoceros Beetles, large Phasmatodeas from India and many others, all with didactic explanations and where one can appreciate the complete metamorphosis process.

     Another icon of Parque O'Higgins is the multipurpose events center "Movistar Arena",  a World class facility, famous for the artistic shows, Rock festivals and all kinds of Cultural and Sport activities that are performed there.  Also a great attraction in Parque O'Higgins is "Fantasilandia" Amusement Park,  just in front of the "Movistar Arena", with its 7.5 Hs. and more than one million visits a  year is the largest in Chile and one of the most important in Latin America. 
     There  is also the "Centro Deportivo y Recreativo" (Sports and Recreation Center), with excellent facilities for the practice of various sports and the recently inaugurated heated Olympic Swimming Pool, with a really wonderful infrastructure, this being the first of many  innovations expected for the coming years.

Parque Bicentenario 

Parque Bicentenario (Bicentenario Park, Santiago, Chile).
Parque Bicentenario at sunset - Photo: radiozero.cl
     30 Hs. green belt, located in Vitacura Commune, one of the areas known as the "Barrio Alto" (district of the wealthiest people), north east of Greater Santiago. This park is of very recent creation, its maintenance and facilities are excellent, in its central part is located the local government building. It has grown into one of the attractions of Santiago since it is a very good option to enjoy nature, it is like an oasis in the big city. Though still young, there are over 4,000 trees, many of which are native species, there are two artificial ponds, in one of which live flamingos, black-necked swans, ducks, herons and fishes, in the other pond exotic aquatic plants are cultivated. Parque Bicentenario de Santiago is exceptional for relaxing, picnicking, doing sports, with places for pets and for the little ones to have fun, music, movie and theater performances, on the northeastern end of the park there is a restaurant called El Mestizo,  which provides an amazing natural sight.

Parque Padre Hurtado 

     Address: 8105, Francisco Bilbao Av., Santiago de Chile. Formerly called Parque Intercomunal de La Reina, with its 500,000 m2 is one of the largest recreational green areas existing in Santiago, capital of Chile. It was renamed in memory of Father Alberto Hurtado, Chilean saint of the Catholic Church. Currently, the park is divided between the communes of Las Condes and La Reina, separated by Padre Hurtado Avenue, so its sectors are called "Parque Poniente" and "Parque Oriente". In the West (Poniente) sector there is a picnic area, "Quinchos" (sheds to prepare and enjoy the Roasts), playgrounds, bike rental and paths, pony horses, mini golf, a little wheeled train that runs through the park, a "Medialuna" ("half- moon" to practice the Chilean Rodeos), a skating rink, a cafe, fitness trail, an amphitheater for 10,000 persons approx. which is used during the year for various events, a 1700 m2 artificial lake and bathrooms in different parts of the park. The eastern part of the park has 14 football fields, dressing rooms and toilets, besides a space dedicated to sports, recreation and health known as the "Ciudad Deportiva", a license in the same park given to the famous Chilean footballer Ivan Zamorano; Anakenna II beach with 4 swimming pools for children and an area for entertainment. Access is controlled and the prices are affordable, within the park is located the Administration, with permanent attention from Monday to Friday from 8:30 to 18:00 hrs.  
Park Hours: Tuesday to Sunday and Holidays from 8:30 to 18:00  -  Mondays closed for maintenance.

Parque Ines de Suarez  

     Address:  1510 Antonio Varas St., Providencia Commune, the name Ines de Suarez reminds the companion and mistress of Pedro de Valdivia, conqueror of Chile, and with whom he founded the city of Santiago in 1541. It is a 5 Hs. enclosed green area, considered a very safe place for visitors, small Park but very entertaining, of very easy access, special for doing sports, picnics, with playgrounds, hiking and biking trails. This part of Santiago is also famous for the "Fondas"  and "Ramadas", venues where Chile's National Days are celebrated every year on September 17, 18 and 19th. 

Fantasilandia Amusement Park    


Fantasilandia Amusement Park, Santiago, Chile.
Photo: latercera.com
   This recreational area of about 8 hectares was opened on January 1978, situated in the famous Parque O'Higgins, just at the back of the Movistar Arena, not far away from Parque O'Higgins Metro Station. Today Fantasilandia is one of the most important amusement parks in Latin America, receiving annually more than one million visits. The park has fun for all ages, even for the little ones, because apart from having the thrilling Suspended Looping Coaster known as Raptor, the Boomerang Roller Coaster, the Kamikaze Ride, the Evolution Ride, the Tsunami and many others, there is also an area specially equipped for children called Fantasilandia Kids, with more than 14 children and family games, so that kids either alone or accompanied by their parents can enjoy a healthy and exciting fun adapted to their age.  
Location: 938 Beaucheff Av., Santiago.

Ski Centers in Chile 

    The Andes Mountain Range has been generous  to provide fantastic natural settings for the practice of winter sportsand the Chilean Ski Centers have taken advantage of this opportunity provided by Nature.  The season begins in mid-June and extends to mid-October. High season usually runs from early July until the end of August. In the south of the country there are also other important ski fields and resorts mentioned in post Southern Chile.  The most important Ski Fields near Santiago are:

* La Parva Ski Center
* Farellones Ski Center
* Valle Nevado Ski Center           
* El Colorado Ski Center
* Portillo Ski Center (Province of Los Andes, Region of Valparaiso)
* Lagunillas Ski Center