Santiago is sitting kind of proudly right about now. 2010 was a doozy of a year for this long and skinny republic. In the past year, Chile has had a punishing earthquake, the rescue of 33 miners from the very belly of the earth, a new president coming to power, a bid for the world cup and much more.
I think we’re all poised for 2011 to be fantastic, in terms of local news and the international draw the city has for visitors. Chile has long attracted visitors with wine tours, Patagonia, hiking options, killer ski resorts for winter and the choose-your-own adventure outpost of San Pedro de Atacama in the bone-dry north (geysers, volcanoes, salt flats and flamingoes, oh my!). Easter Island deserves a sentence of its own, with Polynesian weather meets Latin American culture, and the giant stone sentinel moai that dot the island.
But Santiago has long been a stopover, a blink of the eye. A place to do laundry and check internet and go on your merry way. Well, if the New York Times or I have anything to say about it, you’ll be looking at Santiago in a diferent light this year. Gastronomy is on the rise with several accoladed restaurants, a recent visit from Anthony Bourdain eating the more traditional food of Chile. Posh boutique hotels open, see-and-be-seen watering holes gain more followers, a gleaming metro whisks you through the city, major efforts are afoot to revamp tourism including the recent launch of free, bilingual walking tours in the city, the fruits and vegetables are top notch, the excellent seafood makes countries around the world jealous, and neither the mountains nor the beach are ever more than about an hour or so away, which makes Santiago the perfect base for day trips after you’ve gotten to know the city.
Nonstop service from Miami, New York, LA, Dallas, Atlanta and a couple of other cities on the way. Many are overnight, so you can get to the airport, take a lengthy nap and find yourself in Santiago come morning. Upon arival you want a cortado. No trust me. It’s the world’s tiniest latte. Okay, maybe you want two.