I have been so caught up with school lately and did not have the time to post about this amazing trip. Well, here I am!
Back in August, Nick and I traveled to South America to visit my family in Brazil. We had issues with our flight on our way there, which resulted in the loss of an entire weekend. Due to ‘weather-related issues’ our flight from Washington, DC to Miami was delayed for 3 hours, and once we finally arrived in Miami, our connection flight had already left. Because of the Olympics, we could not get rebooked right away which made wait for three days until the next available flight. Anyway, it was a very ‘bumpy’ start but once we arrived in Brazil we had a good time. We spent a total of 21 days overseas – 16 days in Sao Paulo, Brazil and 5 days in Santiago, Chile.
Santiago is the biggest metropolitan city in Chile. The city is beautiful, very European like. Although it was winter season, Santiago felt warmer than Sao Paulo. The Andean mountains surrounding the city were breath taking. Everywhere you went in the city you could view the snow tops if you looked up. People were very friendly and welcoming. There was a lot of history, poetry, and street art all around the city. As one could expect, the Pisco and wine were amazing there! We rented a small apartment through Airbnb close to Santa Lucia metro station, to make the access easier.
Here is the itinerary we planned for the 5-day trip:
Day 1 – Santiago Highlights
We arrived in Santiago at 2:00am. So we took a taxi to the aprtment, rested, and left later in the afternoon to go on a free [tip based] tour in Santiago. This tour is called Santiago Highlights and it gave us an overview of the city as we walked around to explore. The tour requires booking online, but it is free and easy.
Day 2- Valparaiso + Grafitti Art + Pablo Neruda
Next morning we left early to go to the bus station and catch the bus to Valparaiso, at the coast of Chile. The bus station is metro accessible, the tickets cost about $15 dollars round trip for the two os us, and the ride took about 2 hours. The main purpose of this trip was to explore the grafitti street art on the hills of Valparaiso and visit La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s house. I strongly recommend booking the grafitti tour in advance for the morning time and leaving Neruda’s house for the afternoon. The tour has a lot of walking involved and the view from Neruda’s house is amazing after noon time.
The link for the graffitti tour is http://www.valpostreetart.com/walking-tours.html
The link for La Sebastiana is http://www.fundacionneruda.org/en/la-sebastiana/visitors-information ( Tour can be booked there, no need to be booked before hand)
Day 3- Santiago offbeat + San Cristoban Hill + Pablo Neruda’s house
Then again, we used Tour for Tips to take the Offbeat tour. It was really refreshing and we felt like we were exploring the town as locals. We learned some political history from the Pinochet’s era and visited a historic cemetery. The tour ended at a bar, with a drink called Terremoto. It was delish!
Later that day we headed to San Cristoban Hill where we took the tram up top and enjoyed the beauty of the city skyline. The panoramic view was breath taking! Pablo Neruda’s house is located by the foot of the hill and I strongly recommend combining the two once you go there.
Link to Santiago offbeat tour http://tours4tips.com/tour/santiago-offbeat-walk/
Link to San Cristoban http://santiagotourist.com/cerro-san-cristobal-spectacular-panoramic-view-of-santiago/
Day 4 – Concha y Toro + Souvenir shopping
We felt like visiting a winery was a must on this trip. We decided to visit Concha y Toro, probably the most popular winery in town. To save us from falling on a tourist trap, we did not book a paid tour for this. We planned to take public transportation to the last metro station of the blue line (Plaza de Puente Alto) and from there we took a taxi to Concha y Toro. This way is much more economic – the metro cost C$1600 pesos round trip for each of us and taxi came to C$13000 – 15000 pesos each way.
I am a souvenir junkie. I always reserve some time in my trips for souvenie shopping! Surprisingly, the best souvenir and handmade market was 5 minute walk from our apartment in a place called Santa Lucia Arts and Crafts Market. They have it all, go there! The best souvenir I got was a replica of an Alpaca with real fur. I come to find out that I am allergic to the fur, but I loved it anyway. Brought him home! Also, alcohol is relatively cheap there so we grabbed a couple of bottles of wine and Pisco to bring home.
Souvenir shopping ( By Santa Lucia metro) http://santiagochile.com/santa-lucia-arts-crafts-market/
Concha y Toro Vina http://www.conchaytoro.com/tour-wine-experience/reserva-tu-visita/
GraFREEtti art tour in Santiago (if time allows) http://www.stgostreetart.com/walking-tours.html
Day 5 – Cajon de Maipo
This trip took the entire day and it was booked through Viator.com. The tour company picks you up at the hotel, as long as you are staying in the metropolitan area, and they provide food and wine. We had a small group of tourists in a van, they were all from different countries – Italy, Spain, Brazil, US, England, and of course, Chile. We spent all day together so we had an opportunity to get to know each other and I got a chance to practice my Italian skills too, which was very nice! During the trip we went to Cajon de Maipo, by the snowy mountains. It was very cold there, appropriate attire is needed!
The trip cost $100 dollars for each person, but it was worth it. I don’t enjoy skiing but if you do, I’d take this day for a skii trip to the mountain. Cajon de Maipo was my next best alternative to snow fun!
Cajon de Maipo trip https://www.viator.com/updateShoppingCartItem.jspa?itemId=581787894
CURIOSITIES AND INTERESTING FACTS:
DOGS – There are a lot of dogs in Santiago. You will see that they seem to be all well fed and most wear clothes. People in Santiago care for their furry friends and help them survive during the cold weather by feeding them and providing them with both shelter and clothing. At parks, you can see little houses placed there for the doggies to sleep. Very cool!
MONEY CONVERSION – That took awhile. In Chile they use pesos and high numbers. While American dollar and Brazilian real can be comparable and easy to calculate at a rate of $1: R$3; converting dollar or real to pesos was hard to do so in the begining. I had to look up what they converted to and practice my math skills. At the stores, I calculated everything to make sure I was getting a good deal or not spending too much. Always took my time!
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION – Santiago has a very functional metro system. The price is the same all around. When choosing your hotel, choose to stay close to one. It will make your trip way more efficient!
FOOD – Santiago is a somewhat expensive city, and that was proven through the price of food. Don’t keep yourself from trying different restaurants, in fact, that helps make the experience richer. However, if you can, try balancing your expenses with food by buying items at the store too. We bought some things at the store to have breakfast at the apartment, and sometimes we would pack food for lunch too so that we could spend more at dinner. That will help you keep have the best for the least when you travel on a budget.
FOOD LABELS – One thing that I found very interesting was that at the grocery stores, most food packages had large labels in front indicating whether the product was Alto en Calorias (high in calories). I asked someone why and they said that Chile is a country with a high diabetic population and that the labeling was required to be displayed in order to help minimize the issue and help the ones who already suffer from it.
UBER – Uber was actually cheap to use, when you converted cost to dollars. It was also very easy to use and we had a good experience with it. On our way out, our flight left at 7am so we had to leave the apartment at a reasonable time to make it to the airport. I was nervous to rely on an Uber at 4 am, but I took a risk and it all worked out fine. I recommend!