Visiting the southern hemisphere in December, January and February is a great way to get away from the colder temperatures (and snow) back home up in the United States. And while Patagonia generally has cool temperatures, and the coast is breezy and cool much of the year, it can get pretty warm in Santiago. Here are a few ways to cool off if the change proves to be a bit more than you expected.
Cerro San Cristobal, the large hill that overlooks much of Santiago, Chile, is many things to many people. It’s a spot for religious pilgrimage, visiting the 22-meter marble statue of Mary atop the hill, or the small chapel nearby. It’s a proving ground for cyclists and runners, who use the hill’s smooth asphalt to train. And it’s a spot for family outings and photo-ops, atop the hill at Plaza Tupahue, where several vendors sell mote con huesillo, a local (nonalcoholic) drink made of reconstituted peaches and wheat kernels.
How you get up the 300-meter hill is up to you. If you’ve got a bit of time and energy, maybe you’d like to walk. A little less time but more energy, maybe a bike rental is for you. Or if not, there are a couple of motorized options listed below.
Bringing your kids traveling is a great opportunity to spend some family time together. With schedules changed, the family in (usually) closer proximity, and favorite pastimes left at home, it’s the perfect time to explore the food and culture of a whole new place. And when that place is Santiago, Chile, there are many choices that are great for families. If you want to be nearly assured of a good day, make sure to pack in some kid-specific activities like those listed below.
Photo: Robert Couse-Baker
One of the joys of traveling is trying out local tastes and traditions. Chile has many main dishes and drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic that are part and parcel of summer. For example, the stewy potage of porotos granados, with corn, squash and beans is typical of summer, as those ingredients come in to season. Mote con huesillo, the sweet peach punch with wheat kernels and reconstituted, dried peaches, and cola de mono, a sweet café-con-leche concoction made with pisco are also popular at this time of year. But if you want to get a little more basic, head to the markets (or supermarket) and check out some of the fruit that comes into season as if to remind us that the long days of summer are just ahead.
Photo: Leandro's World Tour
One of the main reasons we travel is to try foods from other countries. Coincidentally, all that sight seeing, museum hopping, checking out parks, long walks, photography tours and all the rest can leave you hungry as well. The main meal in Chile is often eaten at lunchtime, and there’s no better place than the few blocks surrounding the Cal y Canto Metro/Estación Mapocho in Santiago to see what’s on people’s plates come noon (or two, the preferred lunchtime). If you’re feeling peckish, here are three markets, all within a few blocks of each other for you to try.
Puerto Montt, one of the most important ports in Chile, has a gorgeous coastline, and great access to both the lakes region and journeys through the fjords of Chile as well as the large island of Chiloé. As a port town, it’s mainly a workhorse for Chile, and you can see this reflected in some of the industrial areas, and even in the food offerings. Food is cooked traditionally (and plentifully), especially in the market area of Angelmó, where a set of restaurants on stilts lays down giant plates of fried reineta (pomfret), steaming bowls of caldillo de congrio (conger eel soup), and other Chilean specialties. But what might surprise you is that Puerto Montt also has a restaurant for those looking for a more delicate touch, foodies in search of what’s cool and new and traditional all at the same time.
Patagonia is an area extending down from about the Lakes Region in Chile (and Argentina) to the southernmost reaches of the continent. Most visits to Chilean Patagonia include a little bit of the Lakes Region (near Puerto Varas), and then a flight much further south to the area near Puerto Natales. From streaky sunrises to fiery sunsets, and all the hues of daytime blue from glaciers and lakes, it’s no surprise that the area packs a photographic punch. Here are some stunning views you can catch in Patagonia, though of course, there are many more spots to photograph and pick as your own favorite.
Chile, the long, skinny country that takes up much of the west coast of South America, is perfectly situated for wine. It’s the place of the rediscovery of the long-thought-lost Carmenere grape, and a country that bases much of its export economy on Chilean wine. Certainly no visit to Chile is complete without a vineyard visit, or at the very least, some wine tasting. But beer lovers need not fear, there is plenty of cerveza to go around.
Photo: Carlos Leiva
Every day traveling with kids is an adventure. But after a series of art and history museums, long walks in the hot sun and/or foreign foods, what every kid needs is an afternoon of free (or semi-structured) time in the park, where all you need is a ball, a blanket, or some imagination to wile away a few hours in the dappled shade of old trees. The city of Santiago has several parks to choose from, but perhaps none so varied and metro-accessible as Parque Quinta Normal, which is just east of downtown, and has its own metro stop.