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Cerro San Cristóbal: Santiago’s Nature in the City

One of the best things about Santiago is the access to outdoor activity. As the city sits in a valley amidst the Andes, the surrounding geography offers plenty of chances for adventure year round, whether it’s hiking in the summer or skiing in the winter. And these lucky city dwellers don’t even have to go that far to enjoy the former. Cerro San Cristobal is a hill officially, but it appears as a sort of mini-mountain that juts into the center of the city. Surprisingly, there’s quite a bit to do here besides hiking. A zoo, a Japanese styled garden area and two pools with killer views offer a great range of activities for a weekend centered around cerro San Cristóbal.

The popular thing to do, however, is to head to the top. If you’re in Santiago for a bit of time and have the luxury of being flexible with your schedule, try to go the day after a rain. Since the city sits in a valley, the smog can get stuck until a good rain comes and washes the city back to its normal beautiful state. There are three ways up to the top – by foot, car or funicular. The funicular is a cable car of sorts that’s been hauling riders up since 1925. Think of it as a little mountain train. It’s super adorable and a great option for those short on time or energy.

Driving is self explanatory, so we’ll move on to the hiking bit. This was my route of choice. Though I just told you to wait for a clear day, I didn’t. This in itself proved to be an interesting choice, though. As you slowly ascend the hill, you can see actual layers of smog. It’s fascinating in a slightly disturbing way. When you get to the top, you’ll be well above the cloud, which provides another interesting perspective. Now, you’ll see the city almost as if a city underwater. Still, it’s a beautiful view of Santiago and the surrounding Andes. At the peak, there’s a small chapel and a larger amphitheater space where they still hold regular services. A 22 meter statue of the Virgin Mary tops everything. She can be seen from all around the city, keeping watch. Her vantage point is an enviable bit of real estate, to be sure. Cerro San Cristobal is a definite to add to your list on your visit to Santiago.

The summit, with the chapel in the background and Mrs. Mary up top.

Really beautiful sunset

Don’t it look like a city underwater?

If you’d like to include Santiago in your South America vacation, CAT Travel can build you a custom tour that fits your travel style!