With the Andes as a backdrop, with architecture ranging from fine old sixteenth century churches to sleek modern commercial centres, with stunning squares, gardens and monuments and with a vibrant indigenous culture as well as a dozen different European representations, Santiago, the capital of Chile, is one of South America’s most fascinating cities.
The first settlement, Santiago de la Nueva Extremadura, was established on February 12, 1541, by the Spanish Conquistador, Pedro de Valdivia, at the foot of the Huelen Hill. Now known as Santa Lucia, this hill is one of the city’s most significant and most visited sites.
The neo-classical monumental entrance at the foot of Santa Lucia was completed in 1902. It reflects a city which, at the time, enjoyed considerable wealth and liked to flaunt it. At the centre is a statue of Neptune, god of the sea, surrounded by fountains and flanked by curving staircases which lead up to a terrace with a triumphal arch topped with a dome. The hill is threaded with winding, and somewhat challenging, paths which lead through pretty, sheltered little gardens and rest areas.
The views over Santiago from all sides of Santa Lucia, and most particularly from the summit, are spectacular.