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Then and Now: Santiago Holidays
Santiago, Chile’s capital, is one of Latin America’s modern cities, yet resonates with historic richness. Bustling ski resorts and quiescent traditional architecture stand side by side against snow-capped mountains, offering contemporary Santiago holidays with a dash of history.
Barrio Bellavista is a cultural hub in Santiago famous for its bohemian customs. During lazy weekdays the place is as quiet as a small village, but when the weekend comes, the barrio transforms into a rowdy party scene buzzing with night clubs, bars, and restaurants. Besides the Bohemian nightlife, tourists flock here to buy lapis lazuli, a semiprecious stone found only in Chile and Afghanistan. The renowned poet Pablo Neruda once considered Barrio Bellavista home.
Plaza de Armas is Santiago’s main square, and was once a settlement of Spanish colonial forces. Pedro de Valdivia, Chile’s first royal governor, founded the city in the 1500’s. Today, the plaza is noted for its attractions such as Santa Lucia Hill (Cerro Santa Lucia), which features elaborate fountains and stairways and a vista point atop the hill; Forestal Park (Parque Forestal), an urban park famous for its Oriental plane trees; and Parque Metropolitano, a park offering panoramic views of Santiago.
San Cristobal Hill (Cerro San Cristobal) stands 300 metres above Santiago and is a must-see for its numerous sights and the celebrated Statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, donated by France in the 1920s. The statue is 22 metres high, conveniently located in a spot overlooking the entire city, close to the church with an amphitheatre. Pope John Paul II celebrated mass in the area in 1987. Other attractions include the Metropolitan Zoo, the Japanese garden, and two municipal pools.