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Escaping the northern hemisphere winter in the Santiago area?

Escaping the northern hemisphere winter in the Santiago area?

Feb 15th, 2017, 10:49 AM
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Escaping the northern hemisphere winter in the Santiago area?

I am hoping to use this very informative forum as a sounding board, if I may, on the thoughts below. My apologies if this is a little long, I sometimes tend to overthink things

I am looking at spending a part of our winter (say 4 - 7 weeks or so) in warmer climes next year, specifically as to partially escape the harsh climate we suffer in Jan/Feb/March where I live. I have never been to Chile but from what I can gather so far, the Santiago area seems to be an attractive option (on paper at least).

A few quick facts about us: Fluent in Spanish, we seek to immerse ourselves in the language, and more importantly the associated culture as we always try and integrate ourselves as much as possible wherever we go. We are city persons, highly interested in culture (museums, fine art, music, etc.), great food, wine and meeting local people through group activities, for instance. While we do not mind 2-3 hours at the beach, we are not beach persons although some outdoors activities such as light/easy hiking is of interest (which is why a holiday at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean for example is absolutely a non starter - apart from the weather of course. However we LOVE Mexico City, southern Spain, etc. I’m sure you get the idea by now).

What makes Santiago appealing right now is all based on my perceptions only:
Santiago and Chile as a whole appears to be more well organized (good infrastructure, less corruption, reasonable personal safety) and economically developed than its neighbours.
As a large city, Santiago has great public transport network, museums, parks, shops, fine dining, some interesting architecture.
It also offers easy access to great day trips or short overnight ones, Valpo/Viña/Concón, vineyards in the countryside, parks in the Andes, …

However some of the concerns I have at this point are:
A number of trip reports I have seen on this or other forums often talk about 2 or 3 days to be more than sufficient for Santiago, or even to give it a miss altogether. I then wonder why …
I am fully aware that peak holiday time is Jan/Feb in Chile. While there would be undoubtedly huge crowds on the Pacific coast, does this mean that daily life is somewhat on pause in Santiago… To put things in another perspective, I was once in Paris during the peak holiday month of August. While many Big Box places were open (large stores, large museums, restaurants), many of the smaller and often more family-operated places were all closed (small museums, quaint shops, intimate fine restaurants, etc.) We sadly had more than one disappointment on that trip. I then similarly wonder about Santiago, as it empties of its residents in high season.
I also wonder if there would be other (smaller cities) we should be considering instead of, or in addition to Santiago. We would prefer to stay in central Chile, say no further than Santa Cruz in the south and La Serena in the north.

One thought I have would be to stay about 4 weeks in Santiago, possibly February, with some day trips, and then as the crowds start to thin out in early March spend one or 2 weeks for example to explore La Serena and the Elquí Valle, and/or somewhere else.

If you are still reading me by now, thank you I would be highly interested in reactions to the above and if I make any sense. In particular, for those who have been to Santiago I wonder what were the things about the city that surprised you the most/were most unexpected, whether in the positive or negative sense.

Muchísimas gracias de antemano.
kanadajin is offline  
Feb 15th, 2017, 12:30 PM
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>>A number of trip reports I have seen on this or other forums often talk about 2 or 3 days to be more than sufficient for Santiago, or even to give it a miss altogether. I then wonder why <<

There are a couple of reasons. Some come just for the outdoor activities and that is where they want to spend their time. So they advise limiting the time in the major city.

Another reason is the lack of research people do. They will research other destinations like Buenos Aires but treat Santiago as an add-on. They remark on the modernity of the city and never discover its wonderful old neighbourhoods (barrios) like Barrio Yungay, Barrio Italia, Barrio Brasil etc.

>>I then similarly wonder about Santiago, as it empties of its residents in high season.<<

Less empty in January than February, especially the second half of February….which is bliss for those of us who live here. Some small shops close for the second half of February due to lack of clients but most stay open, more than Paris, certainly.

In summer the city becomes a city of restaurant terraces. This has been a particularly hot summer but it always cools down in the evening. If you eat in a restaurant before 9 pm when it gets dark you won't need a reservation. Then any restaurant with a terrace fills up.

In January our #1 visitors arrive, the Argentines. So you do need to book lodging on the coast or on the lakes.

>>I also wonder if there would be other (smaller cities) we should be considering instead of, or in addition to Santiago. We would prefer to stay in central Chile, say no further than Santa Cruz in the south and La Serena in the north.<<

Definitely Santa Cruz. Choose somewhere with a pool as it is hot in central Chile in summer. La Serena will be fairly crowded in January and fuller in February, but a good destination if combined with the Elqui Valley.

Further north or further south there are lots of places to visit but your holiday has to suit you and what you want to do. However, do buy a guide book. They still have their value in planning a trip. The internet is good for filling in details. You might have a look at Easter Island.

Hope that helps.
Huentetu is offline  
Feb 16th, 2017, 10:04 AM
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Huentetu, you are a great ambassador for your country, thank you so much for your comments!!!!

I did purchase a guide book on Chile a few months ago and have been studying it quite a bit, which has contributed to raising my interest in this country.


This is very reassuring, it does then seem as if it would not be a major problem. I simply have no awareness of the Santiago summer holiday habits. It does sound quite different than the Parisian habits. We are "slow travelers" now and it indeed does sound like the Santiago area has more than enough to keep us busy for say 3-4 weeks with day trips.


Appreciate the advice. By curiosity, I had a cursory look in my guide book and Santa Cruz seems to have a few very nice hotels listed, with prices often in the 120K-150K CLP range (Casa Silva, Hotel Plaza Santa Cruz, ...) While we may consider such as an occasional splurge, this is likely more than we would be normally comfortable paying. I have not looked further, but I would expect that it is possible to also find lodging at a slightly lower price point. I wonder if the Valle de Maule/Talca slightly further might also be a worthwhile alternative ... Is La Serena lodging just as pricy? (Again I have not specifically searched just yet, but just want to get a first hand idea)


I hear what you are saying. To put things into context, we recently sold our family cottage after over 40 years ownership, which is up on a lake in the mountains with a lot a pristine nature surrounding it. All of my life I was able to hike/ski (water and snow)/explore nature/boating, etc. So for example,when I read up on Puerto Varas/Puerto Montt, my first reaction is to think that, while the setting of the Andes would indeed be beautiful and I am certainly not downplaying it, I am not sure that this would be as a novelty for me (apart from the volcanoes). Perhaps I am missing something here?

Things that I would look for are: sunshine, blue skies (both in maddeningly short supply where I live), and real live palm trees (a very rare sight for me!). Hence my propensity not to go south from Santiago more than absolutely necessary

Thanks again so much for your valuable information, and I hope this is not too imposing
kanadajin is offline  
Feb 16th, 2017, 10:48 AM
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I don't remember palm trees? Maybe I just don't notice them.
mlgb is offline  
Feb 16th, 2017, 02:12 PM
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Chile does not have a tropical climate but it does have a native palm tree - the Chilean wine palm. Perfect name for a Chilean palm tree. They are not in the south, however, but in central Chile.
In the south the araucaria tree - monkey puzzle - is prevalent.
Disguised mobile phone towers in central Chile are palm trees and araucaria trees in the south!

Yes, the south might look familiar, minus the volcanoes, but those also create hot springs. Very prevalent around Pucon. Some are simple pools and others quite luxurious. Weather is mostly sunny and hot in summer but rain is not unknown. But we will leave the south unless you get interested later.

There is lodging to fit all pockets in Santa Cruz and around. There are B&Bs as well as hotels. Look online for reviews of hotels in the area. It is easy to get to Pichilemu on the coast from there if you want a bit of beach.

It might be more difficult to find such a wide spread on prices in La Serena. The coast is very popular both with locals and the landlocked Argentines who love to come in January to sit by the sea. The water is always cold, btw. In March prices will drop as kids go back to school.

I am going to plug Easter Island again just in case. It has the blue skies and palm trees. It is a 5 hour + flight from the mainland which makes it an expensive destination, though if you buy it as part of an international ticket it can be reasonable. The only airline which goes there is LATAM, so the idea would be to choose a partner airline for the international portion. OK, I'll stop now.

For lodging in Santiago, start looking at aparthotels with some sort of kitchen facility. Much cheaper than a hotel or B&B. Really start looking at these options. I have only been in a couple of them, one in Bellavista (across the river from a metro station) and one in Bellas Artes. The Andes Hostal in Bellas Artes (across the road from a metro station) has apartments as well as the hostal options. I believe the owners are connected to the well respected Orly Hotel (which also has apartments in Providencia).

Lodging anywhere else: book everything for February, especially anywhere on the coast.

Keep reading the guide books!
Huentetu is offline  
Feb 17th, 2017, 09:05 AM
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Re. Palm trees - There certainly are plenty in the pictures that I have come across of Santiago, Viña, wine estates in various valleys, etc. I can appreciate that not everyone would necessarily notice. My eyes somehow immediately jump and focus wherever there are some. I'll never forget the very first time I saw one ... it was so exotic to me!!! I must have been 20 or 21 years old and went to see relatives in distant Florida (in winter of course)... These trees made a very strong and lasting impression on me as they incarnate in my eyes the bliss of endless glorious summers (i.e. no winters, in my definition of the season at least) ...

Huentetu, you have provided many significant lodging leads, thanks so much again. I now have some homework to do! Your enthusiasm for Isla de Pascua comes through loud and clear; I had not really considered it for distance/cost reasons but I will now certainly have a second look just in case, especially if as you say the flights can be combined with inbound international flights to Chile.

Lodging options in Santiago is something I was just starting to research, so your kind suggestions are very timely! I was also starting to look at some apartments in Providencia and Las Condes through the VRBO/HomeAway site as they seem to have quite a few, even though I am perhaps a little unsure of the reliability of such sites. In any case I would try to come up with a few specific options for WAF reasons (Wife Acceptance Factor) and hopeful subsequent approval

Back to reading guide books !
kanadajin is offline  
Jul 4th, 2017, 09:53 AM
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Hola ! Getting back on this thread after a few months hiatus (and trip research tasks) ! I thought I would append to it rather than start a new thread.

I have made significant progress (as well as some accommodation reservations!) for this extended trip which makes my plans feel more and more real I am struggling a little bit with one itinerary related issue and thought I would come back here for possible ideas.

I am planning to visit the Elqui Valley for a few days (observatories, pisco vineyards, solar cuisine, etc.) and already have lodging reservations in Vicuña. At this time, there is a gap of 4 or 5 days between leaving Santiago and arriving in the Elqui Valley in mid February. This would then provide an opportunity to stop somewhere along the way. I am wondering about thoughts on what could constitute options in this regard.

I suppose La Serena would be an obvious choice - some thoughts :

1- Easy to get to by bus, but already very close to Vicuña. Is there somewhere earlier along the way that could be an alternative? Ovalle?
2 - Looking at lodging options in La Serena, nothing actually "clicked" so far (maybe I have not looked long enough yet). I do get the (possibly false) impression that it is primarily a high-rise lined beach town (another Viña?) Is Coquimbo slightly to the south interesting as an alternative? Or another town?

We do not need to be on or near the beach, although it might be nice to have a view towards the Pacific, for example from atop of a hill, or cliff, etc.

I also have the option to adjust my existing reservations as to close this gap of a few days. Highly interested in any reactions Gracias de antemano.
kanadajin is offline  
Jul 4th, 2017, 03:19 PM
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La Serena is indeed similar to Viña in some ways but has more beach and an actual attractive small city attached. Viña lost its personality years ago. Aside from the beach, you could go on a day trip to Punto Choros and Isla Damas to see the penguins and there is a Japanese garden in La Serena. Good restaurants in town and on the beach. I think if you stay there you want something on the ocean. No cliffs. Coquimbo is right next door but offers less, slightly cheaper restaurants perhaps.

There isn't much else between Santiago and La Serena, although there are smaller places on the coast. They would be heaving with people in summer and some would require your own transport to get to.
Huentetu is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2019, 12:16 PM
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Hello kanadajin! Did you already go on your Chile trip? I would love to know what your itinerary ended up looking like as your posting sounds very similar to what I'm doing for an upcoming Jan/Feb trip. Specifically I'm interested in how many days you stayed in different places and which hotels/apartments you used. You don't need to do a full trip report (and I apologize if I failed to find one that you may have written) but I too am finding my tentative itinerary isn't flowing as I'd like - also looking at La Serena and somewhere else between it and Atacama. Thanks in advance!
AtlTravelr is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2019, 08:01 PM
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Hi AtlTravelr, what a surprise to see my 2 year old posts appear again near the top of the listing Yes that Chile trip did indeed take place and in fact we enjoyed the country so much we have already been back!

Our itinerary on that trip worked out beautifully for us as we fled our depressingly long deep freeze climate. In the end, this is roughly what we did:

- 2 weeks in Santiago and vicinity, staying in the Santa Lucia area (central) in a rented apartment. (Tons to do and see in and around this metropolis, the 2 weeks flew right by - certainly not too long for us) We then picked up a rental car.
- Drove up north to Ovalle and stayed at the Hacienda Santa Cristina a little outside town. It is a very charming property with spectacular gardens and highly recommended on-site restaurant. The rooms are nicely done, if perhaps a little on the simple side, but with a very nice private veranda. If I recall correctly, we were there for 2 nights.
- Drove to Vicuña in the Elqui valley, with a half day in La Serena on the way. The latter was a zoo (height of holiday season in February) which probably did not help with our general impression of a just OK town. Also, being on the coast meant that there was a lot of camanchaca (fog/overcast/grey) well into the afternoon. As we drove the highway into the Elqui Valley, things changed for the better really quick and we were awed at the scenery (suddenly pure blue skies and stunning mountain scapes). This valley was most certainly one of the highlights of our self drive itinerary. We stayed 3 or 4 nights in Vicuña at a very beautiful property a few blocks from Plaza de Armas which has sadly closed since - a moot point but it was called the Zaguan. We were very happy not to have stayed longer in La Serena this time around. We may give it another chance in the future, YMMV.
- Drove back southward to Concon (just north of Vina del mar) where we spent a few days at a rented condo with killer views of the Pacific. Lots of people here as well (high season) but things generally seemed to be not as crazy as in La Serena from our perspective.
- Back to Santiago where we stayed this time in Barrio Italia for the last few nights.

Hope this helps, saludos !
kanadajin is offline  
Jul 24th, 2019, 04:46 AM
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Oh thank you! It is very helpful. We also have a longer time to visit Chile and some of Argentina but its still been difficult for me to figure out a plan that satisfies me - the long distances between places are throwing me for a loop. So - can I also ask - did you ever get to the lake district? Either on that trip or your other one? I am trying to figure out where/how long to stay in various places - Puerto Varas, Pucon, Chiloe, Bariloche, etc. I seem to be duplicating too much and we are more city and ocean people than lake people. Anyway - appreciate any other input!
AtlTravelr is offline  
Jul 24th, 2019, 05:22 PM
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I am happy to hear that my comments were of use to you. I hear what you are saying about figuring out a plan for your upcoming trip. I also initially found that planning for Chile to be a bit of a challenge, particularly for that first foray. Now I am slowly starting to have a better idea of things which is hugely beneficial.

No, we have not made it to the lake district as it is a fair distance south from Santiago (read several degrees of latitude away from the equator), given my reluctance to go as little south as absolutely necessary. You have to understand that coming from where I live, having virtually guaranteed great weather and heat is paramount in my trip planning. Here in my neck of the woods, we typically have to heat our homes from September to June, seeing green leaves on trees is always such a novelty as they are not in that state for most of the calendar year, sunny days and lack of precipitation are often in short supply, etc. but I digress. And we already have gorgeous lakes and mountains with pristine nature, so nothing really new to me. Of course I am aware that the lake district is not Patagonia, and I am certainly not downplaying either area. I suspect we will eventually make it down, but it is a question of priorities and preferences. (I always joke that we already live in the "Patagonia del norte", which is exactly what we are seeking to flee!!!)

We are however seriously looking at making it down to at least the Colchagua valley, more specifically to the Santa Cruz area, for which I have heard many great things, and possibly also the Maule valley just a little further.

I am thinking that perhaps a regular poster on this site, Huentetu, may chime in for your lake district dilemma. He/she resides in Chile and regularly offers advice which is usually spot on.

Sorry I cannot be of more help for this portion of your query.
kanadajin is offline  
Jul 28th, 2019, 03:25 AM
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Couldn’t agree more

i know I’m rather late to this but cane across your posts whilst planning a trip to chile. We seem to be in much the same mind set as you. We live somewhere wet and miserable in jan feb especially- we are not sunbathers but love being able to sit outdoors fir a coffee or a drink / seems like such a luxury in feb. We like art ,cities and eating and drinking plus scenery. We went to Argentina this year and loved it hence trying the other side of the Andes next year!!
its overwhelming but we seem to be of the same mind as you.
Can I run by what we have arranged ?
fly to Santiago stay for 2 nights
fky to Pucón ( yes I know it’s south but one of our party was insistent) 2 days there
then drive ourselves back to Santiago over 4 days (nights)
we have booked two of those nights to stay in Santa Cruz- so looking fir advice on the bit from Pucón to Santa Cruz . Was thinking may a night in lid Angeles to visit the national park and waterfalls then where??? Chill Ian?
or try fir a beach place?
we have another 4 nights after that and would like a seaside place nice hotel good restaurants no driving!
was thinking Viña del mar with a day trip to Valparaiso- or should we stay a night in Valparaiso?
Lots of packing and unpacking though which I’m not overly keen on.
Any ideas recommendations for places to stay
we can change most of the accommodations but the flights are paid for
look forward to any response although I do appreciate it’s been a while .
londonbug is offline  
Jul 28th, 2019, 07:50 PM
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Hi londonbug, comforting to see that we seem to have at least some thoughts in common I was hoping I did not come across as being too negative in my earlier post, I was just trying to make a point lol !

My off the cuff thoughts on your itinerary:
- Good idea to stay in Stgo for first 2 nights, this also allows for a buffer for late flights/missed connections/jet lag (if applicable). My recommendation for this first short stay would be to base yourself centrally as to limit daily transit time as much as possible for such a brief stay. Without knowing if you already have booked a place, I would suggest the Santa Lucia or Lastarria neighbourhoods (next to each other) since you are walking distance to many attractions (Museo de arte precolumbino, Museo de Bellas Artes, MAVI, Plaza de armas, Bellavista, Cerro San Cristobal, ....). Easy to really fill up your first days.
- Sorry I am unable to help with Pucon, Santa Cruz, etc as I have no off hand experience. If you are a surfer, I hear that Pichilemu is a surfer's mecca, attracting people from very far away.
- I respect that we all have different tastes and what we each like/dislike is very subjective (and I will probably get blasted for the following lines!), but ourselves we are not big fans of Valparaiso, so I would personally not base myself there. For us, it is just too gritty, poor, a little dicey in some areas (safety) and not very clean and mostly we are not aficionados of street art (graffiti), but I can certainly appreciate that this would be a draw for others as it is certainly very atmospheric. To each his/her own, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. (I would not stay in the Bellavista neighbourhood of Stgo for similar reasons, but can see that many people would like it as it is indeed a very lively place, it's just not for us). If it were me (and it is not), I would take the metro or bus from Vina del mar for a day trip to Valpo (a car is a hindrance there anyways).
- As you are probably aware, it will be high season on the coast at that time. Vina will likely be packed wall-to-wall. I am not sure how you plan to get there, but wherever you stay make triple sure that you have a parking spot included if you arrive by car. As you have seen from above, we were in Concon, just a little to the North, it is smaller than Vina and there are collectivos (buses) that run up and down the coast all day.

I realize this is a little thin for what you were asking, but perhaps others may chime in. Some final remarks, as you stated that you like cities, art etc. I know Santiago does not generally get a lot of love on travel forums, but IMHO I find that 2 days seems a little on the short side. We actually found it to be a surprisingly dynamic city and liked it a lot more than we thought we would. When we went back to Chile earlier this year, we actually based ourselves there for an entire month and there was never a lack of things to see and do in and around the city including a number of day trips (although it is true that nowadays we are more slow travellers).

In any case, it would be interesting to hear your impressions of Stgo/comparisons with Buenos Aires once you are back (no obligation of course!).
Saludos !
kanadajin is offline  
Jul 29th, 2019, 06:33 AM
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Really appreciate any and all new responses to what was initially an older threat - it is really helping me in my planning.

londonbug - on your planning, I can pass along some recommendations from friends of mine on beach towns north of Santiago. Both of my friends REALLY liked Zapallar and also suggested Maitencillo. Neither was taken with Valparaiso and I'm still trying to decide if I'm committed to that city or not. If its gritty like Lisbon, I think we'll like it. They also suggest more flying that we normally do on a trip and don't understand why we want to drive long distances. Perhaps I'm over ambitious and I am taking to heart the warnings about not letting your gas tank get too low. If its any help, here is our tentative itinerary:
Jan 1- Feb 25
Santiago - 6 nights
Valparaiso - 3 nights
Pick up car and drive to: Zapallar (3), Caldera (1), San Pedro de Atacama (5 nights but 2 hotels)
Fly back to SCL, pick up car and drive to: Santa Cruz (3), Pucon (1), San Martin de los Andes (3), Villa la Angostura (2), Chiloe (3), Puerto Varas (3)
Fly to Punta Arenas (3), transfer to Torres del Paine (3), transfer to El Calafate (3)
Fly to Buenos Aires (7), drive/ferry to Montevideo, Colonia, Wine country? (6 days in Uruguay)

As you can see, we like cities and are staying longer in Santiago than most people have recommended to us. We're still moving around too much for my ideal trip but I'm having a hard time deciding between different cities or making more 1 night stops. I'm fine tuning and am also making decisions (and changes) based on flight info.

kanadajin - would be VERY interested if you have any specific restaurant suggestions for Santiago. A month in one city is really ideal for getting a better feel. We did that in Lyon and I thought we found many more "neighborhood" spots than we would have on just a 1 week visit. Would welcome any other responses - it has been fascinating to me to read the different opinions of some of the places we are considering as well as the ones we have chose to miss!
AtlTravelr is offline  
Jul 30th, 2019, 09:50 AM
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How interesting, AtlTravelr! We also went through Zapallar and were quite impressed with what we saw. I am not sure that there are much lodging options that I could see, but I would also be highly interested in any recommendations that your friends might have. It is truly a spectacular area (views, architectural homes, less overcrowding ...) I could certainly see ourselves spending time in that area at some point in the future.

I can certainly relate to your month stay in Lyon - it makes all the difference, doesn't it? Next time we may stay in Stgo for even longer as we have made several Chilean friends there (small social circle already !) due to our extended sojourns. (Most are unilingual Spanish, so fluency in that language is a big big plus). As a result we felt less as tourists and a little more as residents. For us, this is something that we value (subjectively) YMMV.

I also kept hearing that the food in Chile tended to be simple and bland, was nothing to write home about and that it was difficult to eat well there. As epicureans and reasonably knowledgeable wine enthusiasts, we were indeed a little concerned about this. But now I can emphatically state that we most certainly beg to differ ! There is a large variety of cuisine, particularly around Stgo, be it Indian, Peruvian, Italian, Argentinian, and yes, even Chilean that is worthy of mention.

I do of course have some dining recommendations to offer, and I am sure that you understand that it can be a very subjective and personal thing (just like our impression of Valpo !!!) So I will go out on a limb and from memory list at least a few of the places we happened to particularly like. I will do this with 2 separate forum entries - one for restaurants, and a separate one for ice cream which is a very serious matter in Chile (just like wine!).

Stay tuned.
kanadajin is offline  
Jul 30th, 2019, 11:22 AM
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Here I list (from memory only) some of the places that we particularly liked. As epicureans, keep in mind that food and drink are a big part of our travel experiences, and that the following is based on our experience only. I will try to list them by geographical areas. I am sure that I will forget many, but I may add them later as they pop into my head.

El Centro :

Cafe del Opera, Merced 391 (near the intersection with Jose Miguel de la Barra, just next to their sister establishment Restaurant Opera Catedral - do not confuse them!!!)
This place was a great spot to hang out and we became regulars in no time. We often went early afternoons as they serve light fare (btw they do have artesanal ice cream), often we would have a salad or pastry, beer, light dessert, etc. Their coffee is excellent - try their macchiato and you will swear you are back in Italy. Very reasonably priced.

Castillo Forestal, Cardenal José María Caro 390 (sitting pretty squarely in front of the Museo de Bellas Artes across the wide boulevard)
As its name suggest, this is a small castle/fortress type building converted into a restaurant, beautiful setting in the Parque Forestal. You can sit indoors on the main floor or outside on the roof top terrace. We had dinner there on a w-e and were very pleased, I forget what we had but do keep a very positive memory. Wide variety on the menu, and while not inexpensive the prices were actually quite reasonable for what we had.

Before anybody asks, yes we did eat at some of the establishments on Lastarria - we tried at least 3 that I remember - Liguria, Bocanariz and ChipeLibre. I am sure I will get flamed for this, but sadly we were quite underwhelmed with all 3 ... Do not get me wrong, they are not bad places it's just that none of them really had the WOW factor for us, and thus not particularly memorable. Perhaps our expectations were too high, but they all felt somewhat touristy to us. We felt that one could eat/drink better elsewhere in Stgo, and often for less pesos. Again, YMMV.

Providencia :

Baco, Nueva de Lyon 113, Metro station: Los Leones
We were here at least twice and were extremely pleased all times. Nice selection of wines, many by the glass, and excellent food beautifully presented. The place is open to outside (at the back) and does have a nice small quiet terrace. VERY happy with this place.

El Arbol, Huelén 74, between the Salvador and Manuel Montt metro stations.
This is a somewhat smaller establishment, and one of the few all vegetarian restaurants in the city. We sat at one of the outside tables on this quieter side street and enjoyed a lovely meal. If they happen to have the mushroom empanadas on the menu when you go, do not miss !

Tio Tomate, Av. Italia 975, Metro: Parque Bustamante
It is in the Barrio Italia​​ part of Providencia​. ​​​​Charming neighbourhood with several gorgeous inner courtyards, easy to spend many hours exploring here. This is a great place for pizza and great big salads, beautiful courtyard. They also have another location in Vitacura which we have not tried.

Barrio Brasil/Yungay

Peluqueria Francesa/Boulevard Lavaud, Compania de Jesus 2789, Metro station: Quinta Normal
A little further out, best combined with a visit of the Quinta Normal park and the Museo de la Memoria, this place really WOWED us. My partner still raves to this day about their ceviche. Housed in an old building (1868) and a former beauty salon/barber shop opened by a lady from France (hence the name), they serve very innovative cuisine in an extravagant setting full of ancient objects. Absolutely charming and unforgettable, pretty popular with locals, should reserve ahead particularly on w-e as it is an "in" place.

Las Condes/El Golf

Tiramisu, Isidora Goyenechea 3141, Metro: El Golf
Possibly our favourite Italian place in Santiago. Very potent Pisco Sours, lots of pizza on the menu but they also have a variety of Italian fare and everything we had here was excellent (been many times).

Hotel W, Isidora Goyenechea 3000, near Tiramisu (above)
We are not American hotel chain type people at all, but what stands out here is their rooftop bar on the 25th (???) floor which opens to the public from 7 PM (guest access only before then, outdoor pool located there). Worthwhile to go up a little before sunset and watch the city slowly lighting up among the Andes mountains. Unforgettable views. You will feel like in the USA more than in Chile (not a judgement, just an observation) with USA prices (read expensive) on drinks, snacks and English everywhere.

We also had lunch on their 4th floor outdoor terrace one day, which overlooks the charming Plaza Peru. It was quite good, but very expensive for what we had by Chilean standards. We enjoyed it nonetheless and would consider going back.

I'll stop here for now. My mind needs a break
Next up: the amazing ice cream culture in Chile !
kanadajin is offline  
Aug 6th, 2019, 02:46 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 247
Back after a small hiatus - life kind of got in the way

AtlTravelr, would it be possible that the Hotel Casa Zapallar might be one which your friends particularly enjoyed? I would also be interested in their Maitencillo suggestions for future reference if it is not asking too much.

Anyways, here is my promised missing instalment.


I read somewhere that Chileans are the biggest per capita ice cream consumers in Latin America. Without being an expert on the subject, based on what we observed it is certainly a VERY popular treat with the locals in Santiago (a lot more than where I live - though our climate may have something to do with it). When in Santiago, do as the Santiaguinos do! So without wanting to overindulge (!), we set out in good stride to try and blend in.

The first observation is that there is an absolutely humongous variety of ice cream flavours to be found! My suggestion would then be to be a little bold and not stick with the usual vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, banana, pear etc. flavours which are more and more ubiquitous these days and instead experiment a different sampling with which one is not as familiar - you will never have a better opportunity! For example, there are manjar (dulce de leche), chirimoya, copao (which is the fruit of the cactus - delicious!!!) and many other flavours which are all beckoning for you to try. There are also some eyebrow raising combinations which are surprisingly good such as black pepper and strawberry ice cream!

I list below (again from memory) some of the places we tried along with our personal impressions of each one. It is not an exhaustive survey, just our highly subjective assessment as extended vacationers, and others may feel differently which is perfectly all right.

Emporio La Rosa, various locations in the city, including in some shopping malls.
We tried this one a few times, in the centro, in the Arauco mall, etc. It is reasonably good, and certainly a very popular venue but we were somewhat underwhelmed each time as, while quite nice we did not find it particularly special, despite all their marketing efforts, mentions in travel guide books, ... We were left to wonder whether it could still be considered "artesanal" or not. We speculated that perhaps years ago at the outset, there was indeed only one or maybe two small outlets and that the owners were in fact able to make all their own ice cream by hand, but with the large volume they now sell, we are suspecting that maybe they have a semi-industrial production chain ... If someone has the inside story, I would be highly interested.

Tavelli, various locations, we tried the one at Manuel Montt 1806 (Drugstore mini mall)
Similar impressions as Emporio La Rosa (above), although we did prefer some of their flavours, such as maracuya (passion fruit) to the equivalent ones at Emporio La Rosa. Rather unmemorable but YMMV.

Gelateria Mo, Monjitas 484 (in the centro) Metro: Bellas Artes
We felt this one was up a notch over the previous two (above). It is located right across the street as one emerges from the stairs of the Bellas Artes metro station. As a result it always quite busy (strategic location!). The quality seemed better at this one, although their shop appeared a little dingy inside. (As an aside, I later came across an article in the Santiago daily -El Mercurio- stating that the city Health Department closed them down for 2 weeks last year due to hygienic issues. Apparently they have since cleaned up their act, pun intended!) However, with the Cafe del Opera just 2 blocks away, I would gladly walk down the street instead for something even better !

Cafe del Opera, Merced 391 (reviewed in the restaurant section of the previous post)
Here is where things start to get serious! We tried their ice cream offering on a few occasions with "oooohs" and "aaaawwws" often involuntarily manifesting themselves We also observed a steady stream of local customers coming in specifically for this (you may purchase for take out, or eat in). Definitely must be on your to-do list. In our limited experience, this was the best we encountered in the centro as far as our taste buds are concerned.

All this being said and done, there is one establishment which we came across which absolutely gets our gold olympic medal of ice cream shops in Santiago, though a little out of the way. There is only ONE location. Once we tried this one, all the others seemed to quickly start to fade in the background ... and I name ...

EL TOLDO AZUL, Isidora Goyenechea 3200 B, Las Condes, Metro: El Golf
This place sits diagonally across the street from the Italian restaurant Tiramisu mentioned in the previous post. Just look for literally "the blue awning" stretching over part of the sidewalk. There is often a lineup but do not let that deter you, the wait is never long as the staff is quite efficient. We have even witnessed a vehicle pulling up to the sidewalk in dense rush hour traffic, with the passenger coming right out and making a mad dash into the shop and coming right back out with the loot in a beautiful blue (what else?) bag as they then speed away - Bonnie and Clyde anyone? (it almost looks as if one can phone order ahead? I did not check). Their offering of flavours changes daily, depending on their ice cream maker's whim and/or fresh ingredients on hand. Their product is dangerously addictive (our own statement). They usually have some very innovative flavours and combinations I have never seen nor tasted in ice cream land. For instance, have you ever had yogurt and cilantro ice cream? Or a favourite of mine, avocado and condensed milk ice cream !!!! I know it sounds very strange, but believe me it actually works beautifully If you do go, be bold - you are on vacation - surprise yourself!!! What we usually do is to slip inside first to have a look at their offering of the day, then when we know what we want we go back outside to cue in the line. Moments later we emerge with "frozen manna from heaven"

So there you have it, I hope my comments will be useful to at least some of you. Gracias por leerme y hasta pronto !
kanadajin is offline  
Aug 9th, 2019, 01:53 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 535
Thank you again kanadajin for all your information! This is really so helpful. I'll check with my friends about hotel recs in Maitencillo but for our trip this next January, I have booked our 3 nights at in Zapallar at Hotel Casa Zapallar. Still tinkering with most of the details. But again, really appreciate the extra info you've given me and I'll put these restaurant (and ice cream!) recs in my notes!
AtlTravelr is offline  
Nov 13th, 2019, 10:58 AM
Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 8
Hi there our trip is looming now - was just re reading this for info , looking forward to trying the ice cream recommendations.
bit concerned about recent events in Chile but seem to be peaceful .
we have finalised our trip now 2 nights Santiago fly to temuca 3 nights pucon then drive up through the Central Valley stopping for one night en route then 2 nights Santa Cruz.
after this we have booked 4 nights in vina del mar then home.
all our accommodations except pucon are possible to alter cancel.
if you have any views would be very glad to hear them.
hope you are all keeping well, especially those of us where the days are short and the nights long
londonbug is offline  

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