The long and narrow country, on one side surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and on the other side by the high Andes Mountains, is a country of immense diversity. The capital, Santiago de Chile, roughly in the middle, is a natural point of arrival. From there we conveniently take the Centropuerto bus to Santiago city to reach our hostel, Hostal Yungay, in the old barrio of the same name. This will be our convenient base for discovering the city of Santiago.
Ainnelise Niyvold Liundbye UPDATED: 24 JAN 2020
Arriving at the airport of Santiago de Chile in the evening – after the 5-hour long flight from Easter Island in a Dreamliner, we need some transfer to Santiago city. We are now grateful that we beforehand did some online search on airport transfer and found a useful website of Santiago’s Centropuerto.
The Centropuerto bus takes us directly to Santiago city
Going from the airport to Santiago City, Centropuerto is a good option. It is a bus company serving passengers to and from the airport. With basic Spanish skills, their website is easy to use and very informative about prices, timetables and stops. We therefore know that this is one of the more budget-friendly and efficient ways to get into the centre of Santiago.
” The Centropuerto bus is easy to use from the airport.”
It goes all smoothly and very soon we find ourselves on a street corner within walking distance of our hostel in Santiago, the city Hostal Yungay, located in the quarter of the same name. We have looked for a city hostel near the historic Santiago, and we have ended up booking a room here.
Barrio Yungay is a neighbourhood in Santiago city
We immediately notice the difference between the northern Latin American countries and cities, we have visited on the first part of our trip, and this much richer, in some respects nearly European-looking, metropolis.
On the way we pass only a few people in the darkness. The street is surprisingly quiet at this time of the evening.
Barrio Yungay is a renovated quarter with houses from the 19th century. It became a prominent and fashionable residential quarter for the Santiago upper class.
What today makes Barrio Yungay stand out is that the houses are very well preserved. It is a historic neighbourhood where the houses to a great extent have remained intact or undergone renovation. Due to these comprehensive renovations during recent years, it today appears as a very attractive and popular part of the city, both among citizens and tourists.
The historic heritage has become the perfect frame for cultural activities, theatres and various other young initiatives. It obviously appeals to people with its charming architecture and green parks.
On the way to Santiago city
We enter our city hostel, Hostal Yungay which is one of these impressive, stylish buildings with amazingly high ceilings. An accommodating young staff receive us. We have chosen the hostel for mere practical reasons, but to my great astonishment I instantly feel at home in the common rooms.
Through an enormous entrance hall a young guy takes us to our private room on the first floor. Just outside our door, on a comfortable couch, a couple of not so young backpackers are deeply engaged in an intense discussion over a bottle of red wine.
Our room is huge, bright and even features a tiny bathroom below the loft.
Having travelled since noon we are drained of energy and on the verge of starving! We buy a few things for an improvised dinner at the grocery shop on the corner, just opposite our street, and take it to the hostel to eat.
Back in Hostal Yungay we join a few other people energetically cooking in the kitchen. A Swedish guy, the only other non-Latin American person we meet in the hostel, seems pleased to have some English-speaking people to talk to. He has arrived some weeks ago to study engineering at the university in Santiago. He discloses that so far he has had a hard time since the Spanish spoken here is not at all the Spanish he learned to understand at school in Sweden!
Next morning we are surprised to wake up to a generous, complimentary breakfast in the common room. It is notably off-season and we come across very few other people besides the considerate staff.
We were really tired on arrival in the evening after travelling 3,700 km (2,300 miles) from Easter Island to mainland Chile. There is a world of difference between the ancient Rapa Nui culture we saw there and modern Chilean life in Santiago de Chile. Nevertheless, a good night’s sleep has given us renewed energy to explore the capital. Soon we are off on foot in direction of Santiago’s central squares.
Plaza de Armas
The conventional historic center is the quarter around Plaza de Armas where we find Santiago City Hall, the Cathedral, the Court Houses as well as the National History Museum.
I cannot deny that I am fascinated by the lush main square, Plaza de Armas, which appears to be a welcome spot in the bustling city. Beautiful palm trees as well as a number of green beds dot the square to make it appear quite park-like.
On a sunny day like today, where we have no need for jackets or other warm clothing, we find it hard to believe that it is precisely now the coldest winter month here!
Sitting down on a bench for a while lets us contemplate the most varied life on the square. It is really all kinds of people who come here for some reason or another. Elegantly dressed business people on their way to work, elderly people coming to socialise mixed with the occasional tourists intrigued to experience the heart of the metropolis. A perfect spot to take in the busy life!
The plaza is neat, clean and orderly. A group of homeless people occupy a couple of benches and integrate with the multitude of other people on the square. Patrolling police officers seem to know them and have a friendly morning chat with them.
Continuing in a northerly direction of Santiago city we coincidentally arrive at the Mercado Central – a huge indoor market, primarily a fish market. This really comes as a surprise to us. We realise that something amazing has escaped our attention when we beforehand searched for what to see and do in the city of Santiago!
It is among the most impressive fish market halls I have ever seen. At this time of the day it is not even very crowded. Wet and shiny stone floors contribute to the genuine atmosphere inside the building.
The temperature inside the hall is now rather what we associate with winter in Europe. When taking a look around, wherever we turn, we see an abundance of beautiful fish and sense their delicate, subtle fresh seaside smell. It is one of the moments that we wish we had time to buy and prepare some of the absolutely delicious-looking fresh fish for dinner!
There is a good mixture of freshly caught fish and shellfish. We only know a few of them and walk around, speechless with surprise of the spectacular species. Reineta or queensfish which is endemic to Chile, the outlandish piure which is a marine animal with deep-red flesh. On the sea bottom it looks like a rock, but it reveals a colourful inside when it is opened.
Likewise, we come across tollo, a species of velvet catfish, also endemic to Chile together with the Falkland mullet, robalo. All these to us pretty exotic species are to be found among swordfish , hake and salmon – species that we are definitely more familiar with. Also octopus, clams and sea urchins are readily available at the Mercado Central.
To complement the sale of fish and shellfish, a number of restaurants are located inside the market hall, offering a wide selection of …. fish and shellfish! Also a few suppliers of Andean knitwear and woven tissues have found their way to the building and it is in fact already a busy place!
A stroll in the nearby Parque Forestal is quite spring-like. It is an urban park along the Mapocho River. The park structure allows for a longer walk since it at its eastern end is extended by a long narrow stretch of greenery, the Parque Balmaceda. We actually are able to continue several kilometres in green surroundings all along the river! It is an interesting and enjoyable angle to experience the capital from!
We are absolutely fascinated by the Andean metropolis. In some respects Santiago city is similar to bigger European cities, and in other respects it is absolutely in a class of its own. It is beautiful with the snowcapped high Andes Mountains in the background which can easily be seen from central Santiago.
From Santiago city to the airport by taxi or Centropuerto
In the evening we enjoy the relaxed atmosphere in our hostel Yungay. The spacious common room inside the impressive, historic top renovated house provides the perfect setting for processing all impressions from Santiago city.
Early next morning we leave our hostel as well as Santiago by taxi, which one of the staff members kindly has organised for us. Unfortunately, the Centropuerto Santiago – city bus does not have any service at this time of the day. Otherwise we would definitely again have taken the fast Centropuerto service back to the airport.
When we finally fly out of Santiago, we have an awesome flight over the Chilean Andes Mountains. Sunny, white mountain peaks are clearly visible from our plane window. In this way we really get to experience and get the feel of the grandeur of the Andes chain!
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