A ghostly monk takes a break from his ghoulish duty of haunting the cemetery to show our group of intrepid visitors through its dark passageways and past the tombs of some of the country’s best known sons and daughters. The apparition — an actor in full dress and makeup — leads us through shadowy paths and between burial grounds, our breath held as we take in the spooky surroundings when, suddenly, BOOM — the sound of his staff hitting the curb causes us to jump and scream with shock.
This is not your average tour guide, and it is not your average tour. Instead, it is the nighttime tour of Santiago’s Cementerio General, one of the largest cemeteries in Latin America.
More than theatrics, however, the tour is fascinating learning experience, weaving us through the rows of beautifully crafted mausoleums and statues in memory of some of the most important and interesting people in Chile’s history.
The cemetery dates all the way back to Chile’s independence, and all but one of the country’s presidents are interned there. Alongside spooky stories and urban legends, our ghostly guide shares with us the stories of famous politicians like Orlando Letelier and President Arturo Alessandri, iconic artists and musicians like folk singers Violeta Parra and Victor Jara.
In addition to the history lesson, we are also treated to an art tour, with our guide pointing out impressive architecture and sculpture throughout the cemetery. One mausoleum was commissioned to mirror the grand Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain, another to be a miniature of the Egyptian pyramids.
The night time tours are two hours long and take you through the entire cemetery. They are offered Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights for everyone over 18 and cost just US $5.00 ($2.500 pesos). It is a good idea to reserve them ahead of time, however, because the tour is very popular with locals and tourists alike.
The Cementerio General is located on Avenida La Paz Santiago and is accessible via the metro. Take Line 2 (yellow line) to the Cementerios stop and it is about a 10 minute walk.