I'm currently plotting my RTW trip. Will be heading from Peru to Easter Island, which goes through Santiago de Chile. My time is pretty much booked full for this trip (it's the main limiting factor), but I figure I could probably free up about two days to potentially see this city with.
Its location, surrounded by snowcapped mountains, sounds like the city might have some really nice views when you're just wandering around - but then I read that most of the time you can't really see the mountains due to smog.
I will almost certainly visit Chile properly (for at least a month, probably longer) within the next 3-4 years, so I'll get to see Santiago eventually, anyway.
Given that knowledge, any opinions on if it'd be worth taking those two days to wander around the city and sniff up a minimum of atmosphere, or is the city itself not all that worthwhile, and had I better spend the time seeing more of Peru, Tahiti or Thailand? (If the latter, it looks like I will still have a five hour gap between my arriving flight and departing flight, which'd probably translate to an hour and a half of effective time in the city... (?) Any recommendations for the one thing to do in that time?)
Santiago is alright, but nothing overly spectacular. I guess it would depend on how long you are allocating for Easter Island, because you should allow four days for there to see it properly (if you are having to rely on tours). I'd say use the two days elsewhere and then when you can allow a bit more time in Santiago to see it properly then. It is a bit like you said with the smog making it less photogenic than it probably would be if the smog wasn't there, but still if you had 4 days it would be worth stopping there.
As for one thing to see or do, get the cable car up the little mountin right in the main part of town. That would give you a brief overview of the city and would take every bit of your time up if you only had a couple of hours from leaving the airport to when you had to be back. If you check out http://www.funicular.cl that will give you a bit of an idea of the thing I am talking about.
[ Edit: Edited on Dec 26, 2007, at 12:04 AM by aharrold45 ]
I was living and learning Spanish in Santiago for 8 weeks around this time last year, and it's quite a mixed bag, but my general advice is nay - your time is better spent elsewhere (especially Peru - I wish I had had more time there). General travellers' advice from around South America was also that Santiago is little more than a glorified bus stop/ airport on the way to bigger and better things. My basic opinion of Santiago is that it is a collection of not very inspiring buildings dropped into the middle of the desert, with very little atmosphere or history (not to say that it doesn't, more that it is not immidiately present.). I found that there was very little to do as a standard tourist, aside from the cerros san cristobal and santa lucia, and the plaza del armas, and even they would take less than a day. If you want to see the mountains of Chile, or a better side of the country, I advise possibly going out of Santiago towards the coast; a 6 hour trip accross the border to Mendoza in Argentina; or travelling 8 - 15 hours North (San Pedro de Atacama) or South (Pucon). Given your two day time limit, I'd say skip Santiago, and enjoy somewhere else for longer. I hope this helped, and remember, you can always go back to Chile one day.
i´m currently on a rtw trip and arrived in santiago yesterday. i´m staying in the bella vista district and it os very cool and funky. tree lined streets, bars, cafes and shops. wortha couple of days if you have them spare. if not, head on.
all the best
Santiago Chile is like everyone else has reffered to it: Boring. I spent 6 months living there and I was pretty bored when I left! Go else where in Chile like Valparaiso or Curacavi!
Second that, Valparaiso is more attractive and lively. Santiago has its eternal smog problem (although the view on the Andes is beautiful on a clear day), and I have yet to find a nice hostel there. On the upside, the city has several good museums (much better than those in SA cities of comparable size) and breathes a sense of western sophistication, which may be a welcome change for a day or two.
Two to three days. Check.
If you don't get to any other Pablo Neruda homes, the one in Santiago is worth a visit.
Hostal. I stayed at La Casa Roja and enjoyed it. You can find and book it on hostalworld.com.