Santiago - My favourite city in South America so far!
This is my favourite city in South America so far - Chile is currently the "best country" in terms of their economy and safety which obviously helps.
It's what I would call a 'liveable' city, there's not a huge amount to do in the way of touristic attractions but it's just beautiful. The weather was also beautiful and there are so many parks to walk/cycle and explore!
We did two half-day bike tours with La Bicicleta Verde which were fab and it's a great company too. Each tour lasts 3 hours, they're completely different and include a bottle of water and a snack. The first one we did was Local Life & Markets where we tried a Chilean delicacy made with flour and pumpkin which is made into a dough then deep fried. For me it was somewhere between a pita bread and a poppadom! We saw the local way of life and visited the main fruit and vegetable market followed by the fish market.
The next day we did the Parks and Politics Tour where we cycled through various parks in the city and learnt about Chile's very colourful political past. This tour included an ice cream of your choice from a local ice cream parlour - I chose Nutella flavour - naughty but nice!!
There are some lovely restaurants in Santiago and we went to Pub Doce Trece for a typical Chilean sandwich. The most typical is Churrasco, which is sliced meat, however Chile is also known for its fresh fish and seafood so I had a salmon sandwich.
We also took the funicular up to Cerro San Cristobal where there's a large figure of the Virgin Mary and various walking tracks, swimming pools, restaurants and so many other things! The park is GIGANTIC... We walked around the top and across working our way down which took around 2 hours. The way we came down we ended up very close to The Highest Building in Latin America which is linked to a massive, modern shopping mall. As we had just had beautiful views from Cerro San Cristobal and because entrance to the tower was expensive we passed on going up. However we walked around the mall which was nice and we went back later at night to go to the cinema!
Otherwise we didn't do much to write home about other than wandered around and filled in the gaps from the bike tours, visited the main square, the pedestrianised shopping streets and went back to The Presidential Palace which we saw on our tour.
We stayed in Che Lagarto Hostel which is more like a hotel but with dorm rooms. There's a lovely modern and spacious kitchen, lifts to take you up to the top of the 10 storey building, a rooftop terrace, hangout areas, daily maid service and key-card access. The only thing that was annoying is you can't use the kitchen to prepare your own breakfast (between 7am - 12pm) and to pay for their extensive buffet breakfast is quite expensive.