Monday, 14 October 2013

A long weekend in Santiago

After arriving on midday Saturday I have spent the last two days relaxing and wandering around Santiago, the capital of Chile. It was founded by Spanish Conquistador Pedro de Valdivia in1541, who chose the location because of its climate, abundant vegetation, and the ease with which it could be defended against the Incas - the Mapocho River then split into two branches and rejoined further downstream, forming an island.

This is my 3rd visit to Santiago, the last time being in 1997 for Minerals Engineering '97 and it is evident that its steady economic growth over the past few decades has transformed it into a modern metropolis, with a rising skyline, including the tallest building in Latin America, the 300m Gran Torre Santiago.

The cityscape is shaped by several stand-alone hills and the fast-flowing park-lined Mapocho River. Mountains of the Andes chain can be seen from most points in the city and they apparently contribute to a considerable smog problem, particularly during winter. The city outskirts are surrounded by vineyards, and Santiago is within a few hours of both the mountains and the Pacific Coast. During our previous visits Barbara and I skied in the nearby Andes and spent a pleasant week on the coast at Vina del Mar. All in all it is an ideal setting for next year's IMPC and the IMPC Council are here in force this week for their final site inspection. They will be impressed - it is a beautiful city ideally suited to exploring on foot.

I was up very early on Sunday morning and met John Herbst near reception. He represents USA on the IMPC and he had just arrived after an exhausting journey from his home in Hawaii. After breakfast I walked up Santiago's most famous hill, San Cristobel, light training for next month's assault on Table Mountain!

Santiago from San Cristobel Hill

At the summit

This morning I walked along the river bank to the city centre, its hustle and bustle in sharp contrast to the Sheraton's location at the foot of San Cristobel hill.

Approaching Downtown

Downtown Santiago

Sheraton (centre) at San Cristobel


  1. I will be at next year's IMPC, so thank you for your very useful notes on Santiago. It will be my first time to South America, so would you advise that I stay at the conference venue, the Sheraton Hotel?

    1. Yes, definitely. The Sheraton is under San Cristobel Hill and is a little remote from the downtown hotels and I saw no other hotels nearby. The area is quiet and tranquil, unlike downtown.

      Apart from the bedrooms, which are a little small and in need of refurbishment, the Sheraton will not disappoint you. It has excellent facilities, including indoor and outdoor pools, good restaurants and bars.

      Very few people in Chile speak English, and even at the Sheraton, an international hotel, very few of the staff speak more than a few words of English, so it might be wise to take a few keywords with you if you do not speak Spanish. I will definitely have 'Cerveza' on the back of my hand next year!

  2. I'm getting quite excited about visiting Chile for the IMPC next year too, after reading this! Only another year to wait :)


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