Wedged between the Andes mountain ranges and the glistening Pacific Coast, Santiago has sun-kissed plazas, cobbled streets and excellent restaurants to try, while wine regions and beach escapes are an easy daytrip away. We asked three Qantas Frequent Flyers to share what they did when they touched down in Santiago recently – take notes for your own visit.
“I quit my job to backpack around South America”
– Lauren Williamson, Bronze Frequent Flyer
“It had been three years since I’d travelled internationally. My brother, his girlfriend and I began discussing a trip and I ended up quitting my job to spend a few months in South America – a ‘third-life crisis’ of sorts.
“I love flying with Qantas for international trips; the staff are always so kind and the snacks are next-level. We flew into Santiago from Sydney. It’s a really amazing city – beautiful, safe and really walkable, too. We stayed at an Airbnb in Bellas Artes, a cool neighbourhood in the city close to museums, parks, restaurants and markets.
“We spent days wandering around, dropping into museums like The Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art and the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. We also hiked up San Cristóbal Hill, took the cable car through the park and had a picnic overlooking the city.
Throughout the days, we’d stop in at bars and cafes for beer (I definitely rate Chile's Cerveza Austral) and coffee or we’d just sit street-side with a Pisco Sour.
“While we were there, we ate a lot of street food: definitely try empanadas and sopaipillas, a kind of corn pastry that you put salsa on. There are plenty of fancier dining options too. We had excellent fish, gnocchi and cheese at Bocanáriz in the Lastarria neighbourhood – it’s a wine bar and restaurant with a huge wine list and you can even order flights of Chilean wine. Try a spicy carménère – Chile is famous for this red.
“A highlight was a daytrip to Valparaíso, a beautiful coastal city about two hours from Santiago. We walked around looking at the brightly coloured houses and incredible street art before an amazing lunch at Fauna, a restaurant with views over the city where we had tuna ceviche. After that, we went for a swim in the ocean. A perfect day.”
“At night-time the stars are incredibly bright”
– Alana Mai Mitchell, Bronze Frequent Flyer
“I flew through Santiago with my Chilean fiancé, Hector, to meet his family for the first time. The plan was to see San Pedro de Atacama before our engagement party with Hector’s extended family.
“From Santiago, we hopped on another flight to Calama in the Atacama Desert before picking up a hire car to drive to San Pedro. Our accommodation, an Airbnb, was in the middle of the desert. There wasn’t even a road!
“From there we explored Moon Valley, which is full of craters, and Mars Valley, which is red. We also went to the Tatio Geysers, with steaming air coming out of them. At night-time the stars are incredibly bright because there’s no cloud cover or humidity, but to see them you need to travel when there is no full moon. In the Meteorite Museum, you can see well-preserved meteorites that have crashed into the desert.
“We drove back down to Santiago and on to coastal El Quisco, where we saw the Pacific Ocean from the other side.
“Chile is a really narrow country running perpendicular down from the equator and the scenery changes quickly. On the drive down to Temuco, where my fiance’s family is from, you see the diversity of the landscape from the coast to the Andes. It’s spectacular.
“We flew Qantas on the way back and were so well looked after. The seats were comfortable and the flight attendant was able to switch between English and Spanish seamlessly. It was the best flight I’ve done in a long time. We can’t wait to go back and visit Torres del Paine in the South on our next trip.”
“The food stalls in Santiago are excellent”
- Karen Bradley, Silver Frequent Flyer
“My husband Craig and I made a brief but memorable stopover in Santiago en route to Antarctica. We flew with Qantas and the staff were, as always, fantastic. We had a recommendation to stay in the Barrio Lastarria, which is an historical neighbourhood in the centre of the city. There are winding cobbled streets and neoclassical architecture, lots of arty cafes and bars and some of the city’s best museums, including the fantastic Museo Arqueológico de Santiago and Museo de Artes Visuales.
“We stayed at the Singular Hotel, a really lovely boutique hotel that has a sensational rooftop bar and restaurant where you can have a drink and spot the 14-metre tall Virgin Mary statue that’s at the top of San Cristóbal Hill.
“We actually went to the top of the hill, too. You can take a cable car up there, but we walked from the hotel through the university, checking out the cool uni students and appreciating the local vibe.
“We were lucky to be in Santiago on a Sunday when a street market takes over the Calle José Victorino Lastarria. Local artisans sell art, crafts, clothes and jewellery, and there’s excellent food stalls too. The flea market goes well into the night.”