Chile: A Spicy, Spontaneous, Seafood-filled Adventure

By Ria

Why Chile?

This trip was one that was random and one of my least planned trips I have ever taken! During my study abroad semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2018, I was able to travel all across South America. Making a stop to Argentina’s neighboring country was surely a plan of mine while I was abroad, and I luckily had a friend who was ready to go on this adventure with me! 

After sitting in a coffee shop late at night contemplating where we wanted to go with our limited time left abroad, we quickly booked a flight to Santiago! No regrets yall! 

Fun Facts About Chile

  • Chile is home to the driest place on Earth: the Atacama desert. 
  • Chile has one of the longest coastlines in the world.
  • It is one of the top wine producers in the world.
  • The Andes mountains are home to the world’s highest volcano and highest lake. 
  • This country is home to the world’s largest swimming pool! 

My Memories of the Capital

I think before you begin to book any trip, it is necessary to evaluate where you are going and why because it helps decide a time frame. My friend and I went to Santiago and Valparaiso for 4 days, and that is plenty of time if you only want to see the most basic tourist attractions in central Chile. 

***I, of course, always recommend spending more time if you have the time! Chile has so many wonderful attractions and nature even if the country seems small. 

When we first arrived, we were surrounded by a number of buildings, busy people going back and forth on the streets, and the Mapocho River diving Santiago into two sides. We went in November, which is an ideal time to enjoy hot weather because this is South America’s spring/summer time. 

I am definitely someone who loves observing modern architecture with older architecture, and Santiago is surely a city that has the perfect mix of this. On top of that, the most beautiful mountains are in the background almost like a shield between Argentina and Chile: the Andes! 🙂 

Taking a ride up to see the “sky point” of Santiago was easily one of my favorite things to do. My friend and I hopped into a cart that took us far up to a point where we could see the mountains and a birds-eye view of the whole city. It was spectacular especially because the sun was setting. 

Another memorable and MUST DO if you decide to take a trip to Chile’s capital is seeing the Virgin Mary statue on San Cristobal Hill. It is quite hilly so no matter what you might be wearing…wear tennis shoes! There are lots of stairs, but on the bright side you will get your exercise in for the day and the view is sooo totally worth the hike! 

La Moneda Palace is quite central to much of the city life and is home to Chile’s president along with the main cabinet members/groups. It is a large white building, and going at night made the experience better because there are a bunch of lights at night that spice up this area of the city and make the palace glow. Central Market was easy for us to visit as well because it is close to the palace. The market is incredible yall! You can find all the fish, veggies, and cakes you could ever want in the world! YUMMY! 

Cementerio General de Santiago

One of my favorite parts of South America was the availability of free public tours. You decide how much the tour is worth, so you don’t necessarily need to pay, but it is common and courteous to pay the guide (especially because they do an incredible job!). 

Most cemeteries are rather dull and associated with grief, but this cemetery felt the exact opposite of that! People don’t go to the cemetery to grieve their loved ones, but instead they have an attitude that is so positive it seems like they are having a mini party. The flowers and gifts that are left for the people buried in the large cemetery are just as colorful as the rest of the city. I have never seen a cemetery so pretty before. 

I learned so much about Chilean politics and history on my tour. I love that these expert tour guides can give you all the scoop and specifics on different sites. We learned about Pinochet’s reign and the Chilean coup, which was awesome. It was perfect timing because my friend and I were learning the same things in our classes in Buenos Aires at uni. Another important political figure buried in this cemetery is Salvador Allende: one of the first Chilean socialist leaders.

Valpo!

Valparaiso is easily the MOST hilly town I ever have explored! I regret not wearing tennis shoes that day, but spending a whole day walking up and down hills will give you the most perfect views of the south Pacific.

We were lucky and got amazing sunshine the day we ventured to Valpo. You can make a day trip like we did. Use the bus system to get affordable tickets and the ride from Santiago to Valparaiso is about 2 hours. 

The most evident thing to do is walk through and explore the colorful streets of the town. There is so much wall art, and you are bound to find a picture perfect scenery to capture the perfect picture.

My favorite was finding the wall with the cute turtle. If you know me, you know I loveee reptiles! Especially turtles! 

We spent the whole day walking through narrow streets that took us higher and higher in the city until we were able to get all these different views of the ocean. The viewpoints within the city are endless! Aside from weaving in and out of the maze of a city, we obviously stopped for yummy food and wine before heading back to the big city. 

If you all have more time than we did, definitely take a tour and spend the day at the beach! Although you can explore the city with or without a proper tour. It totally depends on you! 

Food

Side Note: Don’t worry yall I was still pescetarian back then before I went vegan ;P, so I was able to try the amazing seafood here! Yay! 

Chile is home to some of the best seafood I have tried! The Central Market was a really great spot to look for fresh produce (there are lots of lil farmer’s market type options around here, too!) and smoothies. If you spend a hot day touring the city, you might be like me and need a freshly made smoothie or two! 

When we went to Valparaiso, we were able to eat in a fancier restaurant that served amazing seafood. I tried the most delicious trout in the world, ceviche, and eel soup! I know, I thought it would be kinda crazy….but don’t knock it til ya try it yall. DELICIOSO! If you are one who likes to treat yourself to a drink during dinner, definitely try Chilean Pisco Sours. This lemony drink first originated in Peru, but Chile has adopted its own version, too. Again, this is surely worth trying! 

And if you are a wine lover like me, Chilean wine is to die for! (especially red…:)) 

Some more common foods there include empanadas, carne asada, and pastel de choclo. Empanadas are pastries filled with meats, cheese, and/or veggies. Carne asada is simply grilled meat. Pastel de choclo is a corn casserole that generally has meat as a stuffing. If you eat meat other than fish, then I’d try more of these typical dishes! 

Advice!

  1. Try all the local foods if you can!
  2. Take advantage of free tours 
  3. If you have loads of time, visit Chilean Patagonia National Park and/or the Atacama desert. Those are on my list! 
  4. If you can speak some Spanish, try to speak to locals! It is easier to try out language skills when immersed in the local culture.
  5. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF NATURE! There is too much natural beauty to see, so definitely do it. 

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, I feel my friend and I got to explore and take advantage of the most beautiful parts of Chilean culture even though we only had 4 days. If we can do this in 4 days, so can you! I’d go back to Chile any day because there is so much history and information you can absorb while you enjoy literally every and all types of weather in the country. 

What are you waiting for?! Vamos a Chile!  

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