Sorry Santiago

Oh Santiago, it wasn’t (completely) your fault.

I really wanted to like you. You seemed like the sleeker, moderner cousin to Buenos Aires. Chile has the best economy in South America, and you struck me as a city that really had itself together. Something about the name, Santiago, is so beautiful to me. If we’d really hit it off maybe I would have named a cat after you someday.

It wasn’t to be though.

Some cities you immediately connect with. You’re taken by their beauty, or energy or even their unique grittiness. Santiago wasn’t one of those cities. Not for me, and not for Mike. Try as I might I couldn’t get a handle on this enormous city (population 5.5 million, nearly twice as many people as in Buenos Aires).

It was mostly our fault. We had ten whole days to spend in Santiago, a huge amount of time to really get to know the city, and we completely squandered it. April is mid-fall in Chile and the weather was cold and damp. First Mike got a terrible cold, then I did. We spent the majority of those ten days huddled in our rental apartment, sniffling and shotgunning orange juice.

Cold, sick and more than ready to go home after over six months abroad, it was hard to get enthusiastic about sightseeing. Still, Santiago, when we did manage to pull ourselves out and explore you didn’t do much to sell yourself. It was still cold and now a thick brown smug hung in the air that gave me flashbacks to my constant cough in China. The Mapocho river trickled through the city, a sluggish brown color. All around was gray and gritty. I went back to our apartment and my new hobby of sniffling under the covers.


Things did improve from there though. We had a couple of really nice, sunny days where we wandered the city without much of an agenda. We ate brilliant yellow paella at the fish market and twice visited the most delicious sushi restaurant of my life (more on that later). We shopped in the crafts market for lapis lazuli (only mined in Chile and Afghanistan). We took a day trip to pretty Valparaiso. We even climbed St. Lucia hill for a sparkling view of the Andes which tower over the city.

Clearly Santiago, you have a lot to offer which I completely missed out on. I don’t feel nearly as bad about it as I probably should though.


In the past I would have beat myself up over screwing up a city like this. On my trip through Asia last year I was constantly worried that I wasn’t taking advantage of my travels to the fullest. I guilted myself quite a lot when I wasn’t feeling enthusiastic. Things have changed since then, I am much more forgiving now. Sometimes you just can’t connect with a city and that’s okay. Sometimes you just don’t have the energy, and that’s not your fault.

I know I will return to Chile someday. I want to see the Atacama Desert, Easter Island, the lake district and, of course, Patagonia. I’m sure between all that I’ll get another stab at Santiago. When I do I’ll be sure to pop a lot of vitamin C beforehand.

Have you ever visited somewhere you just couldn’t connect with?


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28 thoughts on “Sorry Santiago”

  1. At the risk of getting ostracised by the entire travel community, I didn’t connect with Buenos Aires. I desperately tried to like it, I really did, but it just didn’t do it for me. Possibly, it was weather-related, it was cold most of the time we were there. But on the whole I just thought it was overpriced and pretentious. I liked Santiago though, but the weather was gorgeous when I was there.

  2. I just visited Chaing Mai recently and I just did not get all the fuss. I had pretty personal reasons for being biased against it but I tried to keep an open mind and was not impressed! I would much prefer to spend time in Bangkok if I was going to live in a Thai city rather than on a Thai island.

  3. I didn’t connect so much with Shanghai when I was there- too many people, too much pushing (it is China, after all). I didn’t get to take full advantage of what San Francisco offered either– I was staying an hour away from the city and I only did a one day tour and on that day, it rained heavily. Timing is a huge factor.

    What are the things you did in Valparaiso?

    1. We actually stumbled across a local food expo and spent most of our time sampling different jellies, olive oils and beers from the region. Really nice afternoon :).

  4. It’s a shame you didn’t like Santiago as much as you wanted to! Santiago is such a great city and has so much to offer- but then again I may be biased since I was born in Chile haha! Regardless, next time you go to Chile, make sure you go to Pucon it’s a small resort/desitination town near Temuco- great for extreme outdoor sports!

  5. I am sorry you didn’t connect with Santiago. It’s a city that I’ve always wanted to visit because of some old ties I had there. Maybe the timing wasn’t right and it is just one of those places you need to give it another shot.

    As for not connecting with a place, I would have to say Venice. I had some nice moments there but the city was touristy and expensive. I guess I had a more romantic image of the city in mind when I went and it just didn’t click with me. Maybe I will give it another shot some day.

  6. I agree with you. I couldn’t connect there either. I don’t know if it was because the city was foggy and smoggy and rainy when I was there, or if I couldn’t wrap my head around the city’s layout. But I also felt disconnected.

    And we spent alot of timing with people who were living there. Still never ‘felt’ it.

  7. Prague, I felt that everywhere I go to, I am surrounded by tour guides and tourists, hardly able to spot any locals (or may be they are among the crowds, just not sure how a regular Czech should look like?). The monuments & architectures are definitely amazing, though I don’t quite fancy the food. But I think every city deserves a second chance, I will definitely return to Prague and explore the city with a pair of different eyes, and perhaps travel buddies 🙂
    Also, I am traveling to Santiago for a 3-month work! Hopefully the city connects with me *crosses fingers*

  8. I agree with Emily, I think that Santiago is a hard city for tourists. I love living here, but if you don’t know where to look, I can see how it might not be super obvious where the good places are.

    I’m suprised that you found Santiago bigger than BA. I think it’s actually the reverse! BA has a population of like 12 million and Santiago almost 7 million. (I´m talking metro regions here).

    I’m going to BA for the first time soon. It will be interesting to see how it compares!

  9. I just spent a week in Panama City and was less than enamoured by it. We have friends who live there and LOVE it, and I think they hyped it up way too much for us. Our expectations were rather high, and the city really disappointed. We had some great moments, but overall, I felt pretty similar to you. I even started the week off with a cold and ended up giving it to my bf. Brutal, eh!? But instead of grey gloom we had 45 degree heat…not the best for a cold. Ah well. Not going to love everywhere, are we!?

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