With so many places around the world to travel to, how do you decide where to take your upcoming vacation? To help, every year the New York Times announces the top 41 travel destinations around the world. This year, the New York Times named the number one place to go in 2011 to be Santiago, Chile – also known as Santiago de Chile. Santiago is not just any city in South America; it is a city offering a rich cultural and historical experience as you meander through the streets of the city.
Santiago de Chile is densely populated, home to over 36% of the population in Chile. With such a large population, you can truly find a wealth of tradition as many residents have come from all different parts of Chile to find opportunity in the city.
Things to Do
Santiago has a growing art scene that you’ll notice as you explore the streets, entering the many art galleries or admiring the architecture downtown. Whether you are in Bellavista, Ñuñoa or Vitacura, you will find busy streets lined with art galleries and modernly decorated boutiques and restaurants.
If you are in downtown Santiago, you will notice that the architecture varies greatly depending on where you are. Most buildings, however, are built in a neoclassical style, as the city’s history was plagued by earthquakes that destroyed many of the older buildings. Plaza de Armas, Palacio de La Moneda, Casa Colorada, and Teatro Municipal are just a few of these buildings that can be admired as you stroll through the streets.
You also may find yourself curious to venture into a museum, or two. The Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights) is a recent memorial that opened in the past year. This Museum explains the history of the former dictator Pinochet and the missing 3,000 people who disappeared during his reign. There is also the Museo de Arte Precolombino (Museum of Pre-Columbian Art) that collects artifacts and paintings from Latin America or a Chilean art museum called Museo de la Chilenidad. If you are looking for Pablo Neruda’s home, La Chascona is one of his three homes located in the Bellavista neighborhood.
If you are still itching to do more exploring, the Cerro San Cristobal is a natural foot hit located in the center of the city offering a beautiful panorama view. You can also enjoy the Parque Metropolitano that has well maintained paths for both walkers and cyclists. Visitors can bring along food and stop for a barbecue or picnic. If this has you intrigued, you can also explore the other hills of the city including Cerro Renca, Cerro Blanco, and Cerro Santa Lucia.
Things to Eat
While Chilean cuisine may not be easily found around the world, you will soon find that it is a traveler’s secret. The traditional South American specialty – the Empanada – has been improved beyond recognition. The empanada de pino is the most traditional of all the different types and is a baked dough stuffed with diced meat, onions, raisins, hard-boiled egg and an olive – usually with a pit so be careful!
Another traditional dish is pastel de choclo – choclo meaning corn in Chilean Spanish – which is a summer dish made from ground corn and meat. Similar to a shepherds pie, it has cut up pieces of onions, chicken, egg, olives and raisins. This is usually served in a clay dish that is extremely hot – watch your hands!
If you are in the mood to try something new without any concern for your waistline, then bistec a lo pobre could be your favorite. Translated into English as Beef for the Poor – don’t be deceived into thinking that there is not going to be a whole lot of food. This dish has French fries, fried onions, beefsteak, and last but not least, a fried egg.
For dessert there is much to choose, one of the all time favorites that can easily be found on street corners is Mote con Huesillo which is served as a drink with stewed corn and cooked dried peaches. These are just some of the foods you will have to try, along with the many varieties of seafood the country is famous for including salmon, clams, eel, and scallops.
As you enjoy the combination of flavors and textures, you will be able to try many of the local Chilean wines and perhaps a pisco sour – one of the more traditional drinks. Pisco Sour is the local pisco alcohol mixed with lemon or lime juice, egg whites, syrup and bitters. Cheers!
When to Go
Santiago has a cooler Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summers between November to March that get as high as 95° F or 35º C. The winter period goes from June until August which have daily temperatures around 56º F or 13º C. Most of the rain occurs in the winter usually from May to September. The best time to visit is between March and May where you can avoid the extremes – and perhaps the rain!
Santiago, Chile is highly developed and offers safe and clean facilities including its portable water safe enough to drink.
The city also offers both private and public medical facilities, although the private facilities are considered to have better care. While public facilities are free, “postas” are older and bureaucratic.
Private facilities are called “clinicas” which are typically quite reasonable in costs and offer higher quality care. You should not have too much trouble locating a provider who speaks at least a basic level of English. There are also many pharmacies scattered through the city, many of which are open 24 hours a day. While many of the drugs that you could get over the counter in your home country may not be as easily accessible, you should be able to talk to the pharmacist who can get you what you need.
In terms of conditions, diarrhea happens to be the most common travel-related health issue. Santiago also has a high level of air pollution that might affect those with respiratory or cardiac health conditions. The air pollution is typically worse in the winter as the pollution stays within the city as it is a valley trapping the air between the mountain range on the outskirts of the city.
You may want to also consider Santiago Chile Travel Insurance to cover you overseas outside your home country, including in Chile. Not only does this health insurance cover you for emergencies and non-emergencies, but the plan will also cover you for doctor visits, hospitalization, emergency medical evacuation, and prescriptions. You will also be able to choose the doctor and hospital of your choice – even in private facilities. Additionally, Santiago Chile travel insurance also offers 24 hour travel assistance that includes translation services as well.
If you have any questions about your Santiago Chile travel insurance, contact one of our licensed insurance agents who will help you find a suitable international health plan for your upcoming trip.