Visiting historic Santiago, Chile

Posted by David Eicher
on Friday, May 23, 2014

Santiago, Chile, with the Andes Mountains to the east in the background, May 22, 2014. // David J. Eicher
On Thursday, May 22, Astronomy magazine’s tour group to Chile, consisting of some 30 travelers, reached the country’s capital, Santiago. Most of us flew in from Los Angeles before coming from a variety of places. When we arrived in Santiago, we were taken aback by not being able to check into our hotel, as we arrived early in the morning. We would have to wait some hours before coming back in midafternoon, and many of us had been traveling for an entire day. Needless to say, we were not in the best state. But the group determined to head off into the large and impressive city of 6 million, seeing some of its sites and enjoying a nice seafood lunch at the city’s market.

Santiago is really an amazing place, a huge metropolis tucked between the long ridge of Andes Mountains to the east and the falloff that leads down to the Pacific Ocean to the west. It was founded in 1541 by Spanish explorers and named for the biblical apostle James. The old city center, which we explored, contains beautiful and classical 19th-century architecture, including the impressive Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral, which dates to 1748. We also saw the Presidential Palace, La Moneda Palace, site of several dramatic episodes, such as the bombing and associated ouster of President Salvador Allende in 1973, when a military coup under Augusto Pinochet took control of the government.

The group also delighted in taking the city’s famous funicular to the top of San Cristóbal Hill to see a panoramic view of the city and the huge statue of the Vrgin Mary at the hill’s summit. Our seafood lunch exposed us to the fish market, and by the time we took a post-lunch walking tour through the city and returned to the hotel in midafternoon, most of us were in a zombie-like state. I had been going for more than 33 hours. So sleep would come easily on Thursday night.

On Friday we are back to the airport to fly north to Antofagasta to begin our explorations of Chile’s spectacular observatories.

For all images from this trip, visit the Online Reader Gallery.

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