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And so our journey would come to a close in Santiago De Chile, a city I knew very little about before visiting. I was amazed to find such a livable world city.
- Trip Motivation and Planning
- LAN Flight Experience
- Tambo Del Inka Resort
- Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley
- JW Marriott Lima
- Exploring Lima
- Exploring Easter Island and the Moai
- W Santiago
- Exploring Santiago De Chile
We took a similar strategy to exploring Santiago as we did with Lima. We decided to go with a personal driver to give us a tour of the city center the first day to get our bearings. The second day we booked a tour at a Chilean vineyard outside of town. As a rule of thumb, if a travel destination makes wine, I am going on a vineyard tour.
Santiago is a little different
Let me start by saying I love Latin culture. I have spent a fair amount of time in Central and South American city destinations such as Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico and Peru. I enjoy the grit and energy of the Latin cities though I recognize they tend to be a little rougher around the edges than say Western European city destinations. I think both are fantastic, but i do find a difference.
Interestingly enough, Santiago resembles more of the latter. The streets are incredibly clean, the city is very safe, the buildings are very modern and well kept, the city runs a clean and efficient metro system, and traffic laws are actually followed! It was interesting to contrast Lima to Santiago within the same week. As we traversed several neighborhoods from our hotel to the airport in Lima, the taxi driver advised my mother to hide her purse from the window and told us all to lock our doors. From the airport in Santiago we were driven in a spotless airport taxi on a modern well lit highway that transitioned into a tunnel built underneath the city center leading us directly to a neighborhood of glass skyscrapers. Santiago is the first Latin American city I can say I would be comfortable renting a car and driving in the city center. That is saying a lot.
The city tour
We arranged a city tour with a personal driver through the W’s concierge. A well dressed man picked us up in a Mercedes sedan outside the hotel. He drove us around for about 4 hours highlighting the history, diverse neighborhoods, and main attractions of the city. I can’t say any one stop stuck out as amazing, but the entire city came off as very livable. My parents got into a discussion with the guide about the price of condos in Santiago and low price triggered a conversation turn into retirement location plans. The beauty, weather, safety, cleanliness and cost of the city were very appealing to my parents. I wouldn’t mind visiting frequently!.
It is quite foggy during May in Santiago but there was enough visibility to make out the skyline set against the backdrop of the beautiful Andes mountains. Along with the natural beauty, there are several pieces of eye candy around the city including the historical architecture in the old part of town as well as the edgy modern style of buildings near the Bellavista neighborhood where Pablo Neruda had a home. If I had one regret, it would be that we didn’t have an extra day to visit Valparaiso. Everyone I talked to raved about the beauty of the city. The “San Francisco of South America” was quoted several times. Next time.
The wine tour
If a destination in which I travel makes wine, then taking a vineyard tour is my #1 priority. Again we arranged the tour through the W concierge. We were picked up by a bus that took us to a second bus meeting area at mall before our hour plus drive out to the vineyard. The tour bus was filled with people speaking English, Spanish and Portuguese. The tour guide gave very scripted information in each of the three languages though the transitions between languages were so unclear that we barely paid attention.
We arrived at Vina Undurraga winery and thankfully a tour guide from the facility replaced the tri-lingual guide on our bus. Apparently the English guide from the facility who was scheduled to give us the tour called out sick so instead we were lead by one of the apprentice winemakers. At first that seemed like a bad thing because he looked like he was 12 but it turned out to be amazing. This winemaker spoke perfect English and had a depth and breadth of wine knowledge that blew away any winery tour I have ever been on. Often times our simple questions resulted in very detailed explanations which I thoroughly enjoyed, granted the detail were WAY over my head.
After the walking tour, we were offered tastings of their wine. They had generous portions.
One last note about the food in Chile. The portions are WAY TOO BIG! Even as three ‘Big Fat Americans’ we couldn’t finish anything we ordered. On the second day we ordered one entrée for two people, and still couldn’t finish it.
Other than the large portions, the food was good not great. After eating our way through Peru and the incredible food in that country, the Chilean food was just average. Again, nothing terrible, Peruvian cuisine is just that good.
This small side Caesar salad could feed a family of four.
The bottom line
Santiago marked a wonderful end to a wonderful journey to Easter Island and through South America. Santiago is an incredibly livable city. If safety concerns are keeping you from traveling to South America, put Santiago at the top of your list. Here you can experience the amazing Latin culture in a modern, clean, safe and efficient city setting.