When I finally landed in Santiago seven months ago after an arduous, two-day, budget-oriented journey from Lima, Peru, I was surprised at how easy everything was here in Chile. After a bit of “returner’s shock” in my beloved Peruvian capital, I found that things flowed smoothly from my arrival to Chile’s capital. I stepped out of the airport with my three heavy backpacks and onto a bus that deposited me at a metro station on the line that runs through the heart of Santiago.
My manager had set me up at her friend’s bright, spacious apartment in trendy Barrio Lastarria, where public transportation was just a few blocks away. I was suddenly connected to anywhere I needed to go, easily determined by a glance at Google Maps, rather than puzzling out Lima’s confusing-but-amazing bus system. And it was the middle of summer, so walking through the many green parks was equally as appealing. Even though Santiago is actually a giant, sprawling city, it feels small for visitors like me who stay in the fairly compact downtown area.
During my week in Santiago back in January, I embraced my new life as best I could. By day, I experienced what it was like to be a digital nomad, working from home to make decisions on teacher training and cross-cultural sessions for the volunteers’ upcoming orientation, and teaching my last few online classes before moving to the Valle de Elqui.
In the afternoons and evenings, I caught up with my Chilean friends from my time in Boston and wandered around the city, embracing Santiago with a new perspective, that of someone who would be living in Chile rather than passing through.
Finally, it was time to move on to my new life in the Valle de Elqui. Like many Santiagans, I spent a leisurely Sunday afternoon in Parque Forestal, enjoying my time in the shade to read and write in my journal about all the emotions racing through me as I adjusted to my new life.
From there, I headed on to the Valle de Elqui to get acquainted with my new life. It was surprisingly challenging to leave Santiago, so I was happy to head back in early February to pick up the volunteers!
Learning about the Mapuche, Museo Precolombino, Santiago, Chile
My next trip to Santiago took place in May, when I returned for the long weekend for the Dia del Trabajador and to pick up a new volunteer. The chillier temperatures encouraged me to check out some museums I had yet to visit, such as the recently remodeled Museo de Arte Precolombino, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo. I enjoyed the chance to take in the inspiration of the city.
Appreciating the Lovely Ladies Holding up the Museo de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile
Of course, another advantage to the city lifestyle is being able to eat well on each of my visits, and spend some time lounging in a cafe with my book or my journal and a pot of tea.
Delicious Lunch at an Argentine Restaurant in Santiago, Chile
Even though I haven’t actually lived in Santiago, I feel like I’ve managed to get a good sense of life in the city on my sporadic visits, and as I finish up my year in the Valle de Elqui, I’m considering moving there. My winter visit last month to show Sara the sites was quite pleasant despite the cold and the rain, and I learned even more about hidden corners that give the city its personality, as you’ll see in a future post.
Santiago is an inviting capital city and a place that seems both easy to get to know but full of hidden surprises, and I am glad that my life here has included time there!
Recommendations for Santiago, Chile:
• If you are looking for a family-owned, welcoming hostel with super comfortable beds, look no further than Makus Hostel. Arturo and his wife have created a great atmosphere for the traveler and provide a solid breakfast and nice hot showers. The hostel is also located within walking distance of the downtown area as well as Providencia, so it is a good base for further explorations.
• The Museo de Arte Precolombino has an extensive collection of art from all over Latin America and it is well worth a wander. On the first Sunday of every month, the museum is free; otherwise entry costs $3500CLP. The Cafe del Museo offers delicious lunch options at affordable prices, as you can see here!
• The Museo de Bellas Artes is currently undergoing remodelation but always has interesting thematic exhibits. As with other national museums, entry is free as of July 2015.
• Next door, the Museo de Arte Contemporaro is also undergoing remodeling but is worth a look.
• Parque Forestal’s green spaces and wide paths are excellent for a stroll or bike ride. On Sundays, the CicloRecreoVia closes down major roads running along the Parque Forestal for bikers and pedestrians, which is a great experience to get out in the city without worrying about traffic.