Santiago lies in the centre of the Santiago Basin. This is a large bowl-shaped valley consisting of broad and fertile lands surrounded by mountains. Flanked by the main chain of the Andes to the east and the Chilean Coastal Range to the west. It is bounded on the North by the Cordon de Chacabuco which is a mountain range of the Andes. Cerro El Plomo is the highest mountain that can be seen from Santiago’s urban area and the Mapocho River flows through the city.
The climate of Santiago is relatively cool with quite hot, dry summers during the months from November to March. These periods can see temperatures reaching up to 35 degrees Celsius. Winters which are from June to August are more humid with cold mornings and an average daily temperature of 13 degrees Celsius.
The national cuisine in Santiago is based very much so on the fruits of the ocean and logically so. Chilean sea bass, clams, mussels, sea urchins and abalone are dominant components to most meals along with rice. Meat dishes are of strong Spanish influence but with local modifications. Empanadas, which are cheese, meat or seafood turnovers, are popular and so are ‘humitas’ – grated fresh corn pudding with basil. Another popular dish is Pastel de Choclo – a beef and chicken pie topped with a sweet corn mixture. Semi-ripe beans cooked with green beans (porotos), corn, squash, basil and cazuela (chicken or beef Chilean stew) are all popular national foods in Santiago. Bread is eaten with every meal, and lots of it.
Etiquette in Santiago: It is customary to tip 10% in a restaurant of establishment of service or people helping you out with trolleys and the like. Taxi drivers are not usually tipped but one might round the amount off in their favour. Most restaurants will automatically add a 12% to your bill which you can ask them to remove if you do not feel that the service warranted a tip of this amount or any at all.
Some interesting facts: There is a lot of PDA (public displays of affection) and it’s not just hugging and innocent kissing! Dogs are everywhere and they’re not apparently all with owners either although they appear to be mostly looked after and well fed. Streets are generally pretty messy and that includes dog mess which makes walking around quite labour-intensive as you avoid stepping in dog mess. Everybody seems to be a smoker and smokers smoke everywhere. Lemons are adored by everyone (in dressings/on vegetables/in drinks), even as snacks on their own.
Popular things to do in Santiago: The Museum of Memory and Human Rights – a top-notch presentation of the history and suffering of the Pinochet years, opened in 2010; Casablanca – vineyards and beautiful eateries; Andes Explora – excursions into the heights of the Andes; Barrio Lastarria – a bohemian neighborhood with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars; Museo Interactivo Mirador – an interactive museum with loads of educational activities for children and San Cristobal Hill, just to name a few.