Due to our cancelled flight in Cusco, we ended up only having one full day to spend in Santiago. It left a lot more to be desired out of the city but we made the best of it by doing another walking tour to get a broad idea of what the city was all about.
I would compare the layout of Santiago to Los Angeles. The city is pretty large in size and driving is important to getting around. Fortunately, we read that Uber was present in the city and relied on it pretty heavily as taxis can try to charge you extra, and handling money and communication would be difficult for us.
We had such a positive experience with the tour in Valparaiso that we used the same tour company Tours 4 Tips in Santiago. The tour we took was called the Offbeat Tour as it focused more on an alternative local side of town compared to the main highlights tour which was more focused on tourist attractions.
First stop, Mercado Central, the fish market, it was a covered fish market where they sold a plethora of different types of fresh seafood. In addition, the other side of the market had a handful of seafood restaurants where they would cook up the daily catch.
The guide explained to us that there are two sides of Santiago, the side North of the river, where the modest families lived and shopped, and the South, where the more affluent side resides. The fish market was right below the river but once we crossed it to the north side, we immediately noticed a huge difference with the crowd of people.
We went to La Vega, a covered market where they sold vegetables, fruits, snacks, meats, and much more. The crowd was more modest and the vendors were shouting left and right once our tour group walked through. The La Vega market is also considered a place where the community comes together. No matter what side of the river you reside, you are welcome to shop amongst your peers with no judgement. If there is ever a disaster or huge earthquake where people need food, vendors from La Vega will come together and donate food to those in need. Thus, the phrase “Despues de dios esta La Vega” which translates to “After god, there’s La Vega”
Our tour guide mentioned he is actually a vegetarian and when he walked us through the meat market side it felt as through we were rushing through which was pretty understandable but also funny to think about.
He treated us out to some sopaipillas which are deep fried pastry bread where you would add different types of salsas and sauces to it. It was quite tasty.
The last stop of the tour was at the city cemetery, Cementerio General de Santiago. You might be wondering why a cemetery would be part of a city tour. It was to also to show the dividing classes within the city. The cemetery is one of the largest I’ve ever seen. He says it’s the size of 117 football fields. We visited all of the different types of graves where the more modest families were buried in “apartment” style graves which were stacked and packed, to the extremely affluent graves where the tombs and mausoleums were 2 to 3 stories tall.
A few special ones that were built just for the military and the police force of the city.
It’s fascinating to see all the different types of architecture people used to create their final resting place. Santiago is also extremely prone to earthquakes so we saw a few damaged mausoleums due to that.
Lastly, here are some of the largest graves we saw. They were almost 3 stories high and larger than a New York city apartment!
We completed the tour at a local bar next to the cemetery and finished off drinking terremotos. Literally translates to “earthquake”. It was an extremely sweet drink consisting of pineapple ice cream, white wine, and fernet, a weird Italian liquor.
The guide recommended a few restaurants for us to try at the fish market so immediately after the tour we headed there. We ran into another couple who was also part of the tour and decided we should all have lunch together so we can try out all the dishes the guide recommended.
Here are the 4 dishes that we ordered.
Our waiter was such a character and offered us more drinks to finish. He asked us to take a picture of him so we can remember him in our travels.
The couple mentioned to us that their luggage got delayed and they had to buy clothes to wear to the tour. They were from Ohio.
We finished off the day walking back to the Bellas de Arte Museum to check out the David LaChapelle exhibit. He’s known for photographing a handful of famous celebrities in really dramatic fashion.
For dinner we went to a local sushi restaurant. You might be wondering why sushi in South America? We heard that sushi is pretty popular in Santiago. Since we’ve been eating so much meat and potatoes, we decided to give sushi a try. It definitely did not disappoint as the fish was extremely fresh. They didn’t have any wild California rolls like back in Los Angeles though.
Since Chile has such an expansive coast line, the fish was pretty darn fresh. We would have not expected this to come out from South America but was pleasantly surprised.
The rolls were not overly salted and seasoned with sauce like in the States.
Even though our trip to Santiago was cut short, we had an incredible time with all that we saw. The city is definitely very vibrant, the people are friendly, and the seafood is amazing. Till next time Chile!