Our journey from Mendoza to Santiago was incredibly simple. As with the border crossing from Bolivia to Argentina we had read nightmare stories about crossing into Chile and were fully anticipating a long wait at the border, but as it happened there were no other buses there at the time we arrived so we whizzed through in under an hour. We then arrived in Santiago bang on time (something that has basically never happened to us on this trip) and from the bus terminal it was just a short walk to our Airbnb. Strolling through the evening twilight in Santiago was surreal – it had been so long since we’d been in a city anywhere near that size. The closest we had come was probably Medellin or Lima, but neither of those cities matched the sheer magnitude and westernised feel of Santiago. The streets were alive and buzzing with people out and about getting food, drinks, or just relaxing in one of the many parks, and we were both really excited to explore this vibrant city.
Even more exciting was the fact that we got to explore it with Jane and Steve! After having a few quiet days on our own in an Airbnb we went to meet them at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where we would all be staying over the weekend. They arrived first thing Saturday morning after a very long overnight journey, so naturally the first thing we had to do was take them out for some much needed caffeine! We went to Cafe Mosqueto, a cute little cafe close to the centre of town that Dan and I had visited a couple of days before. As well as great coffee and cakes, they also serve English breakfast tea – the perfect recovery after a long night of plane travel! We stayed there for a little while chatting and catching up, before heading back to the hotel to check in.
Afterwards we went out for lunch at Como Agua Para Chocolate, where we shared some lovely Chilean wine and delicious food – we were all so impressed that as a surprise Dan and I booked a table there for dinner on the night we returned to Santiago before Jane and Steve flew home. Afterwards, to try and put off the jet lag for as long as possible, we visited Chipe Libre where Jane and Steve got to try their very first pisco sours. A signature cocktail in both Chile and Peru (the Peruvians claim to have invented it, but no one really knows who did it first) made up of pisco liqueur, lemon juice and an egg white, Dan and I had both developed a taste for pisco sours in Peru and had been looking forward to trying them again in Chile. Fortunately the cocktails in Chipe Libre did not disappoint!
The next morning we all got up and went on a DIY walking tour of the city centre, visiting the Plaza de Armas, Corte Supreme, Palacio de la Moneda, Teatro Municipal and the Antiguio Congreso. As well as getting to admire all of this stunning architecture we were also lucky enough to stumble upon a military procession, as well as a Day of the Dead parade that was winding its way through the streets. Afterwards we took Jane and Steve for their first Latin American menu del dia at a small restaurant off the square, then we all climbed up Santa Lucia Hill to admire the view over the city. That evening we went out for an incredible dinner at Bocanariz, complete with a paired wine menu that let us sample a whole range of Chilean wines.
After our day touring around Santiago it was time for us to head up to the desert and visit San Pedro de Atacama, but we were lucky enough to return to Santiago for one more day at the end of our Chile adventure. Jane and Steve spent the day exploring and shopping for souvenirs, while Dan and I went to visit the Museo de la Memoria. This museum gives a powerful and sobering insight into the 1973 coup and subsequent Pinochet dictatorship in Chile that lasted until 1990. Exploring the mass scale human rights violations, murders, disappearances, poverty and overwhelming sense of fear of the period, going around the museum is a very emotional experience – but ultimately what this beautiful and poignant exhibition demonstrates is the strength, resilience and determination of the Chilean people. It is well worth a visit if you’re ever in Santiago, and fortunately they offer audio guides in a number of languages for visitors who don’t speak Spanish.
Overall we really enjoyed our time in Santiago and would love to go back again, and we would recommend anyone paying Chile a visit to allow themselves a good few days there to explore.