© Jorge Sanchez
Latin America’s comeback kid has plenty of new museums and ancient vines
Chile’s capital might make you think of the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked the country’s central coast in February 2010. It was, after all, the world’s sixth largest quake of all time, felt at an intensity of VII out of XII on the MM scale in Santiago. Latin America’s most modern metropolis might also make you think of the Los 33 miners. They were trapped 670 metres underground for 69 days in Copiapó, Chile beginning in August 2010. When they were finally freed, they met with President Sebastián Piñera, who executed their rescue, at the Palacio de La Moneda (or Presidential Palace) in Santiago. The city of almost six million should also make you think, however, of The New York Times’ The 41 Places to Go in 2011 list. Santiago was number one. It should also make you think of Lonely Planet’s recently released Top 10 Cities for 2012. Santiago is number seven. The hype isn’t without warrant.
Chic new hotels, restaurants and museums abound — as are plenty of green entrepreneurs. At a glance, it seems like the Chilean government hit the nail on the head with its Santiago-headquartered Start-Up Chile (startupchile.org), a 2010 accelerator program that grants early-stage, high-potential businesses a one-year work visa and US$40,000 equity-free capital to grow their projects before going global. Since its first application process in early 2011, Start-Up Chile has received 1500 submissions from companies worldwide. Only a quarter of those have been approved. The country’s goal is to attract 1000 businesses by 2014, a US$40 million investment. Its bigger goal, some suggest? To become the Silicon Valley of the South.
The W Santiago (Isidora Goyenechea 3000, Las Condes; starwoodhotels.com/whotels) in the budding Las Condes neighbourhood, was far from a start-up when it opened in 2009, but it is the hotel chain’s first in South America. What an entrance it’s made. Designed by NYC’s Tony Chi, the chic glass-and-steel tower hosts a lobby wall made of 1600 wine bottles and a tea library featuring leaves native to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Its NoSo and Osaka restaurants are as noteworthy. Jean-Paul Bondoux’s French culinary skills meet Chilean seafood at NoSo, while the food traditions of China, Japan and Thailand go head-to-head with those of Peru’s in chef Ciro Watanabe’s Osaka kitchen. Delicious duels, surely. What’s even more delish is that the W is one of 12 hotels offering reduced rates for congress participants. At US$299 a night, it isn’t the most affordable option, but it is indeed the coolest.
The city’s cultural institutions are thriving too. The colossal, almost 19,000 square-metre Gabriela Mistral Center (Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins 227, Santiago Centro; www.gam.cl) for music, dance and theatre opened in 2010, the year of Chile’s bicentennial, as did the Chilenidad Museum (Padre Hurtado Sur 1155, Las Condes; lascondes.cl; admission free) and the Memory and Human Rights Museum (Matucana 501, Santiago Centro; museodelamemoria.cl; admission free). The Chilenidad focuses on 19th- and 20th-century Chilean works, while the Human Rights Museum is dedicated to the 17 years (1973 to 1990) that Chile was ruled by general Augusto Pinochet. 3197 people died on the dictator’s watch, 29,000 were tortured and 80,000 more were interned. The $20-million museum features a wall of photos of people who disappeared or were killed; many of the letters, drawings made for imprisoned parents and items crafted by political prisoners were donated so Chile’s future generations could learn about their country under military rule.
Also new is Latin America’s first Fashion Museum (Avenida Vitacura 4562, Vitacura; museodelamoda.cl; admission about $7) in 2007. Housed in what used to be his parents’ 1962 modernist glass mansion, it’s now home to 10,000 pieces of couture and memorabilia spanning four centuries: there are 19th-century ballgowns and 1920s Chanel dresses to a light-blue jacket worn by John Lennon in 1966, a conical bra designed by Jean Paul Gaultier for Madonna, and a black strapless gown worn in 1981 by Princess Diana. Bascuñána’s most recent purchase is the white chiffon dress that Amy Winehouse wore on the cover of her last album, Back to Black.
By bip, by bus, by metro
The cheapest way to the convention centre in the northern Huechuraba neighbourhood, one of 32 in Santiago, is by bus. Introduced in 2007, the Transantiago (transantiago.cl) bus-and-metro network was the most ambitious of any developing nation. It was implemented in one overwhelming sweep and was initially plagued with problems, but recent reforms have improved the system. You’ll need a Bip! smart card to fill with fare. The amount of each ride depends on when and how you’re travelling. A max of three bus transfers in peak hours (7 to 8:59am and 6 to 7:59pm) costs 580 in Chilean pesos (CH$), or about $1.18; a max of three bus and metro transfers will run you CH$660, about $1.34.
The Transantiago site is easy to use: just fill in the address of, say, the W and of the convention centre, and it’ll generate route options. It won’t, however, tell you how long each route will take. If you return for conference in 2018, you’ll be able to take the new, 18-station metro line 3 to Huechuraba. A 10-station line 6 connecting Cerrillos (in the west) and Providencia (east) is scheduled to open in 2016.
Some of Chile’s best-known wineries are an hour’s drive south of Santiago in the Maipo Valley (chile.travel/en/where-to-go). Viñas Concha Y Toro (Avenida Virginia Subercaseaux 210, Pirque; conchaytoro.com) is the oldest, founded in 1883, and largest, exporting 20 million cases in 2011. It offers three different English and Spanish tours several times a day (from $16 a person) at its showcase winery in Pirque, each beginning with a walk-by of the founder’s summer house and then a visit to its century-old, French-inspired gardens and then the vineyards. The winery, located at the base of the Andes, can be reached via metro line 4 followed by a bus or taxi.
Viñas Undurraga (Camino a Melipilla, Km. 34, Talagante; undurraga.cl) is another nearby option. Founded in 1885, its tour ($16 per person) includes a visit to its underground cellar which boasts a capacity of 20 million litres. Or, consider visiting Viñas Santa Rita (Camino Padre Hurtado 0695, Alto Jahuel; santarita.com). Its cellars were built by French engineers in 1875 and its fan-vaulted ceilings are a national monument. Its tours (vineyard, cellars and bottling facilities) are offered in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and start at $20 a person. Camille Chin
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