Cerro San Cristobal
There are two really nice hills in the city, which probably every travel book would recommend, and we visit both. I always like to say that we find our own unique places and that they are always better than any guidebook crap, but sometimes Lonely Planet found the good stuff before you and it’s not like there’re many uncharted hills in downtown Santiago, waiting for you to stumble across and hike up. At a certain point, you just have to give in.
Cerro Santa Lucía is a quick walk from our room and a very short stroll up some stairs to see this beautiful Romanesque style palace (a former convent, so I’m told) flanked by some nice greenery and gorgeous fountains.
The best view of the city, though, is definitely from Cerro San Cristobal, a much higher hill a bit farther out. We catch the metro closer and then pay to ride the funicular, which is this funny old tram thing that shudders up the side of the hill.
Through some idiotic miscalculation of funds, we buy only a one-way ticket and then don’t have enough money to ride down. This seems like no big deal, plenty of people bike up the hill, so we enjoy several hours at the top snapping photos as the sun comes down and wandering up to see the giant white statue, presumably of San Cristobal?
The large white statue seems to be a popular trend in South America, but we’ve yet to see Christ the Redeemer in Rio, so I suspect the best is yet to come.
It’s past 8pm at this point, so we wisely decide it’s probably time to leave and start for the road down. This proves a more challenging task than expected. An hour elapses before we finally find what appears to be the bike path down the hill, which should, we reason, get us down to the entrance. Once again, we are gravely mistaken and spend the next two hours winding down the steep hill in a maze of switchbacks, only to pop out on some freeway on the complete opposite side of the mountain. It’s now fully dark, we have no idea where we are, and this seems a likely place to be clubbed over the head and mugged.
Ingeniously, I deduce our whereabouts from a street sign (who would have guessed?!) and navigate us home using the statue of San Cristobal as a makeshift north star. Never leave home without your wits.