If I am being honest, which I tend to be…Santiago was not our favorite. However, I want you to make the decision for yourself based on ALL the information we share in this post.
After quite a bit of research, we decided on old Santiago for our first stop largely because it was named the most “Americanized” city in all of South America.
We stayed in Santiago for five weeks before moving on to Peru. This gave us plenty of time to see the ins and outs of the 7 million human-deep city. Including getting Nate’s wallet stolen on the subway.
For some background, Nate and I are from Portland, Oregon. This means we are spoiled with clean air, greenery, mountains, the beach, and a desert all within 2.5 hours of our home.
Upon arriving in Santiago, I had only seen google images of clear skies, and the andes mountain range as the backdrop to an Americanized City landscape, shiny skyscrapers and all.
That, was not the case. We rushed to the top of our apartment complex to see the mountains as soon as we checked in. What did we see?
The photos you see below were taken on ONE DAY during our time in Chile after there had been rainfall. We woke up, immediately went to get the roof key from the front desk so we could take photos before the glorious andes disappeared.
I wish I had a photo of the smog but at the time I didn’t think about getting a comparison photo. Please feel free to google “Santiago smog” for your own entertainment. To give you some perspective – on the AQI index the pollution for Santiago was a 152, 3x that of LA (which as a Porland-er, I even struggle with).
Also keep in mind that we were in Santiago during their winter. So these mountains would NOT be covered in snow at other times of the year. The smog also may actually be worse in the summer months as well.
Clearly the smog was off-putting to us, but that is not all there is to Santiago, Chile. Below you’ll find a breakdown of the food, the people, the lodging, the neighborhoods, and possible day trips.
Is not great. I know I sound like we hated Santiago. I am just keeping it real with you. Santiago’s food is lackluster, fairly tasteless, and not cheap. You’ll pay $5 for a corona and $3 for a glass of bottled water. Again, we come from Portland, Oregon where we can get literally any type of food we want, at any time for a reasonable price and the quality is amazing.
The best food in Chile:
A churrasco or lomito sandwich.
We didn’t take photos of them because they are not visually appealing and we were famished every time we got one. Fuente Alemana is hands down the best place to get one. These women make the sandwiches with all the love and care in the world.
The picture below was taken from good eats chile.
Indian food from Swagat or New Horizon Indian Restaurant.
Indian food may have been our favorite food in chile. Mainly because it had spice and FLAVOR. At Swagat, get the Tiki Masala and Butter Chicken with garlic naan. And savor it because you won’t have flavor like it again.
At New Horizon, get there 30 minutes before it opens. You get whatever they are serving that day and the line is a testament to how freaking amazing it is. This is also your cheaper option between the two.
For breakfast, lunch and/or coffee hit up Original Green Roasters
Put simply, quality food, quality coffee and great staff. If Josefa and David are still working there, tell them Nate and Annie say hello.
For pasta and pizza, head to Fabrica de Pizza. Not amazing but tasty and well made.
For Peruvian food, your soul needs to experience Mistura Del Peru.
We honestly just asked our waiter what to get and I suggest doing the same. You’re going to spend $100+ at this place if you do it right. But it was the BEST food we had in Chile.
All of these places were within 20 minutes (walking) from Plaza Baquedano. There is plenty of food and cafe’s in Santiago. Know that if you are in what looks like the “upscale” area, you’re going to pay more for your food…more than you’re already paying (which is too much).
You can do whatever your heart desires in Santiago. What you want to do will differ from whatever someone else may want to do. Below is a list of what we saw and did.
Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar
We rented a car and drove + stayed two nights in Vina Del Mar. You can take a bus daily or book with an actual tour company. You drive through wine country on the way so I highly suggest booking a tour that does both wine country + Vina Del Mar if you’re not brave enough to rent a car.
I do suggest seeing Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar. The coast is a great break from the big city. The colors, the people and the food will be refreshing. I will have a post about this specific portion of the trip soon enough.
For now, here are some teaser photos.
El Yeso Damn
For some mountains and pretty water head to El Yeso.
I imagine this being more enjoyable in the spring or summer perhaps. Again, we rented a car and drove ourselves. We prefer this because we enjoy the freedom of stopping when we want and having privacy to do our own thing without 30 other people.
We arrived and there were MAYBE 20 people at the top. On our way back down, about 200 people were walking up in massive groups. So I suggest going before 10am if you can help it. The drive is quite enjoyable from Santiago. But if you’re the tour type, there are plenty to choose from.
We vlogged in both El Yeso and Valparaiso/Vina Del Mar. So keep an eye out for individual posts on these.
We stayed at an Airbnb for 791.00/month. I am keeping this short and sweet. This ALL depends on how long you’re in Santiago and what your budget is. We needed somewhere with laundry, a comfy bed, and good wifi. Plus our apartment had a front desk person that had to ring you in so it felt very safe.
Santiago is MASSIVE. You can find what you need from luxury hotels to cheap hostels. Whatever your fancy, you can find it.
We stayed in the CENTER on Vicuna McKenna. We like to stay where the people of the city are. We want coffee shops and food close by. So, again, there are plenty of areas to choose from. See below. It’s pretty simple in Santiago…
The city of Santiago is very segregated into areas by class. The “most rich” are in the East. As you get closer to the center, the groomed sidewalks, gorgeous all glass apartments, and well dressed businessmen turn into, street vendors, run-down well-lived in buildings, and broken sidewalks and no shortage of stray dogs.
This is also where you’ll find the culture of Santiago…and our airbnb. As far as feeling safe, it’s a massive city with 7 million people…I felt as safe as I could feel in that scenario. I walked to a coffee shop about 15 minutes from our place alone several times and never felt threatened.
As I mentioned, Nate’s wallet was stolen on the subway. Wallets get stollen on subways all the time. Like I said, 7 million people in a packed city. Shit happens.
On that note, it is very easy to travel around Santiago. They have a great subway system, uber, and buses. We opted out of the buses because they just looked…too sketchy. But who knows? Not us. Give them a go and let me know. You can also walk most places, it just might take a while.
This ironically leads me to the best part of Santiago…
The people. The friends we met were easily the best part of Santiago. From our Friend Jexa, who found a friend to let us use his Chilean credit card so we could get a gym membership (over the course of four days and many other attempts), to our friends Josefa and David at Original Green Roasters.
Despite being “Americanized,” people do not speak English in Santiago. It was a rare find over the course of a MONTH to run into people who spoke English. And if they did, it was not fluent by any means. Google translate and charades are your friends.
The people are more than willing to play this game with you. In fact, many of them are eager to learn English. People in Santiago are hospitable and kind. We had great experiences and wish we would have been more forward with making friends earlier on in Santiago.
A city. It was a big city in a foreign country. You cannot compare it to Europe or North America. It is on it’s way up the food chain. The pollution was a big deal of us as we were coming for that daily backdrop of blue skies and snow-capped mountains. It’s overpriced, not that tasty, but has wifi, public transportation and nice humans.
We wouldn’t recommend it to someone, but if you’re in the neighborhood, you now have some pointers. That’s why traveling is great, you get to choose what you like, what you don’t, and the people you meet make it worthwhile. Perhaps you’d love Santiago. That’s ultimately for you to decide.
I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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