After 10+ hours in the air (with a layover in Lima), we finally got into Santiago at 6am! Our arrival was greeted by mountains…and the sun.
We met up with C’s roomate J’s mom at the airport, who helped us get a taxi to our hotel/apartment (Infinity Suites by Ameristar in downtown Santiago). We forgot that check-in is usually in the afternoon and were worried we would be stuck with our bags, but thankfully, Infinity Suites allowed us to check in on arrival. Hooray!
Infinite Suites offers apartments in a residential complex for travelers to stay in. For ~$60 USD/person/day we got a comfortable 2 bedroom, 3 bed apartment with a kitchen and living room (and wifi!)–not bad at all. We proceeded to take pictures of our home for the next 3 days:
…before making a unanimous decision to take a nap to recover from our flight. Since we arrived so early, and since it was also summer in Chile, suddenly daylight was 14hours again, giving us plenty of time to explore the city after a 3 hour nap :).
Our first stop was to exchange $$. Per recommendations by our hotel, there were a number of banks and money exchange counters available on Estado, between the streets of San Antonio and Bandera and perpendicular to Bernado O’Higgins (which is a major road in Santiago). We soon found out that Saturday = most banks close in the early afternoon (like the US!), but found two money counters with comparable rates. Since our Spanish still quite poor, we decided to exchange a small amount first to make sure we weren’t getting scammed. We also decided to spend some right away at Sandwicheria Vivi (thank you Foursquare!), chosen because it was nearby, cheap, and advertised wifi, though we couldn’t get it to work on our cell phones . Not Chilean food yet, but it satisfied our appetites (and confirmed our money was real! yay!).
After lunch, more wandering on Estado…
Which led straight to the first tourist spot on our list, Plaza de Armas
Next stop, a hike up Cerro Santa Lucia. Apparently, Pedro de Valdivia founded the city of Santiago on February 12th, 1541 at the foot of this hill! Now, it is a popular tourist spot for panoramic view of the city. Admission is free, but everyone has to sign a guest registry when entering (I found this out after the fact, and was relieved we weren’t signing some random notebook :P). For future travelers, entrances are at Avenida Alameda and St. Lucía, or St. Lucía and Merced; alternatively, you could take the elevator to the top on St. Lucía Street at Agustinas.
On the way down, we encountered another palatial structure– the fountain of Neptune. This was built by Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna in 1872 as part of his efforts to beautify the city
Then, we took a quick metro ride to the Los Leones stop in the Providencia District of Santiago, where we planned to grab dinner. We were happy to find the subway system in Santiago very modern, quite convienient, and pretty much the same system as in New York or DC in the US. Each station can be found on the streets under huge signs with 3 diamonds, and colored according to whatever line you are traveling (aka, 3 red diamonds for the red line). There are different rates for off peak and on peak, and you buy a metrocard (‘called ‘Bip!’) that you can reload with $$ at machines within the station. A one way trip is about 600 chilean pesos, but varies depending on the time you are traveling.
We closed off the day with dinner at El Giratorio, a revolving restaurant on the top floor of a building in the more modernized part of Santiago. As reviews stated, the food was on the pricey side, but the views made it worth it 🙂 If you plan on checking this out, the best time is definitely around sunset, to catch both day and night views of the city!
And that ends our first day in Santiago. Tomorrow (what I’ve been looking forward to all year): hiking in the Andes!!