Life in Santiago
For me it was the first time that I lived in a city as big as Santiago. About a third of all Chileans live in the metropolis, with life mainly taking place in the center, where the campus is also located. Especially in the metro, which is quite crowded during rush hour, you should be careful with your valuables, as it is hardly possible to notice if someone is trying to steal something. The same applies to visits to restaurants and discos. Open bags and rucksacks should always be avoided.
Santiago shows its most beautiful side, especially in summer.There are numerous parks where you can enjoy the sun and relax from studying. The city is very lively and there is always something new to see. You can shop and shop for hours in the Costanera, as well as around the Plaza de Armas. In Barrio Lastarria there are restaurants, cafés and bars for every taste and not far away the Santa Lucia hill invites you to take a first look at the city. If you want to get an overview of the extent of Santiago, it is best to visit the higher viewpoint Cerro San Christobal, on top of which there is a statue of the Virgin Mary. You can either walk or take the historic elevator, which is a little adventure, especially downhill. The Bellavista nightlife district is right at the foot of the hill. There are not only countless restaurants and bars, but above all the nightlife takes place here. The low price for a taxi ride is practical. This should be used if possible after a long night, as you shouldn’t necessarily walk through the streets alone.
If you long for a little more nature, there are great regions not far outside the city such as Cajon del Maipo, where you can go hiking or rafting, among other things.
The apartment search in Santiago turned out to be very easy. On the one hand, the university provided information on apartment and room offers, and on the other, there are many websites with free rooms in the city. In the end, many of us helped each other. Within the first week that I spent in a hostel together with many other foreign students, I was able to find a room close to the campus without any problems. The prices are similar to those in Germany, even if you have to be prepared to receive a lower standard. For the winter you should be prepared for the fact that there is neither window insulation nor a fully-fledged heating system and therefore it is better to bring a few more warm sweaters or stock up on alpaca shirts at one of the traditional markets.
Just an hour away from Santiago, the two cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar are right on the coast. Each of the two has its advantages and you have the opportunity to enjoy the fresh sea air, be it on the beach of Vina del Mar or strolling through the alleys of Valparaiso, whose house facades are decorated with the most amazing graffiti. If you have the time, I can recommend a wine tasting in the Valle Casablanca at one of the wineries on the way from Santiago towards Valparaiso.
To travel the rest of the country, take your time. Excursions for a few days are worthwhile, for example in the south to Pucòn, which is known for the many outdoor activities such as rafting, horse riding or climbing the volcano Villarrica, or in the north to La Serena. There you can enjoy the beach or take a tour inland to get to know agriculture better and learn how pisco is made. Samples are of course always included.
For longer trips I can recommend the Atacama Desert. The driest desert on earth is impressive and there are lagoons and geysers to marvel at in addition to the famous valleys of Valle de la Muerte and Valle de la Luna. Another option is to take a multi-day tour in a jeep to Bolivia, where you pass countless lagoons and volcanoes and ultimately find yourself in the largest salt desert in the world.
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In the south of Chile there is a large proportion of the population of German descent, which is not only evident from the architectural style of the houses, but also from the quality of the beer. The distances should not be underestimated here. Especially on the Carretera Austral there are only irregular bus connections and you have to take a ferry again and again, as the mainland is criss-crossed by fjords. The landscape is sparsely populated and is often reminiscent of Austria or Switzerland. The further south you go, the fewer people and more wild animals you will encounter. The Torres del Paine National Park is a highlight, which offers various hiking routes. The nature is untouched and offers turquoise lakes, glaciers, rock formations and lush green forests. Just keep in mind that it gets very expensive during the summer and you should definitely take food with you for the entire hike. With each passing day the backpack becomes a little lighter and you keep passing small rivers to fill up your water bottles. Ultimately, the prospects reward every effort.