A day in Santiago

San Cristóbal hill: three ways to enjoy the outdoors in the city

The star attraction of the capital’s largest metropolitan park, this cerro offers a quick and easy escape from the big city. Take a look around.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011  
The top of San Cristóbal offers great views of the city. (Photo by ksbuehler/Flickr) The top of San Cristóbal offers great views of the city. (Photo by ksbuehler/Flickr)

Designate a day to stroll through the city’s most famous cerro, where you can meet Chile’s native critters, hike or bike up the hill, and enjoy the best views of the capital. This Is Chile offers three ways to enjoy Santiago’s metropolitan park - one of the largest in the world.

Take in the view, Valparaíso-style

Most tourists will recognize San Cristóbal’s funicular cable railway system since it is also an icon of Valparaíso, where it is known as an ascensor. The current cars were inaugurated in 1925, and park authorities are looking at how to update the technology without detracting from the historic look and feel of the cars.

“The current cars have been in operation for 60 years and while we believe they could keep functioning in their current state, we want to take extra precaution with the safety and appearance of the cars,” said Park Director Bernardo Küpfer to Chilean daily La Tercera.

The funicular leaves every 15 minutes from near the corner of Constitución and Manzur. The 5-minute ride takes you to the statue of the Virgin Mary at the peak of San Cristóbal. Make sure to try a glass of mote con huesillo while you enjoy the view at the top!

Meet the poet, meet the animals

Local legend has it that poet Pablo Neruda chose to build his famous Santiago house, La Chascona, near the zoo so that he could wake to the sounds of lions roaring every morning. The two attractions are so close that you could easily double-dip, attending an English-language tour at La Chascona in the morning and explore the 12-acre zoo in the afternoon.

The National Zoo, located near the base of the funicular, not only has lions and other exotic animals but also a population of indigenous Chilean species, such as the pudú, a native Chilean deer. The entrance to the zoo is located at the end of Pio Nono street. For information on hours and tours, see the official website.

Enjoy the great outdoors... in the great metropolis

Take a stroll up Cerro San Cristóbal any Sunday afternoon, and you will see athletes cruising up the steep hill on bikes; groups of joggers; and many a family enjoying an asado on the public picnic benches and barbecues. For residents of Santiago, San Cristóbal offers a convenient escape-valve for a city weekend, where you can get outside and forget the hustle-and-bustle of urban life for an afternoon.

What’s the teleférico?

Visitors will notice that one of the hill’s star attractions, the teleférico, is currently out of commission, with the little gondola cabins strung motionless over the hill. The teleférico is expected back in action for Independence Day celebrations in September 2012. The 25-minute ride takes visitors over sweeping panoramas of the capital and the hill’s forested landscape, offering views of such landmarks as downtown Santiago’s skyscrapers, the Mapocho River, and the Andean peaks that tower over the the capital’s east.