As I stand on top of the hill called Cerro San Cristobal, I realize how big Santiago really is. A sea of buildings stretch as far as the eye can see. The shiny Gran Torre Costanera, tallest building in South America, is covered in smog to a backdrop of the snow-clad Andes.

The city was founded in 1541 by Spanish conquistadors and today it’s a sprawling metropolis with five million souls. Santiago has a unique location, where it is possible to go skiing in the Andes and followup with surfing in the Pacific Ocean within a few hours.

View from Cerro San Cristobal, Santiago The view from Cerro San Cristobal.

After a short funicular ride back down, it’s time for lunch. A small worker place in Bellavista serves me a plate of Chorillana, which is a humongous pile of various meat. The waiter initially scoffed at the tall foreigner entering his dark lair, but instantly approved when I ordered the local greasy food.

After a trek across the hill of Cerro Santa Lucia, we arrive at the Plaza de la Constitucion with presidential palace La Moneta. I noticed the statue of Salvador Allende in the corner of the plaza, a remembrance of the events that transpired here during the military coup in 1973, as Allende allegedly committed suicide inside the palace and Chile entered a 40-year era of dictatorship under Pinochet.

Plaza de Armas, Santiago Plaza de Armas.

Plaza de Armas turns out to be more easy-going than the stern Plaza de la Constitucion, with a lot of people gathering in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral. The plaza was once the grand center of the old colonial city, and it still feels like the heart of Salvador.

Cementerio General, Santiago Cementerio General.

The vast complex Cementerio General is considerably more quiet. It’s like a city within a city. Two million people are buried at the cemetery, including Salvador Allende.

Lastarria, Santiago Night time in Lastarria.

The bohemian area of Lastarria wakes up at night. Artists sell paintings, seers are laying Tarot cards and people are having a good time. It’s been a long day, so we settle for sweets instead. Emporio La Rosa is said to have the best ice cream in South America, and when I try their lemon-basil flavor, it’s hard to disagree.


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