The frenetic capital of the world’s longest and thinnest nation, Santiago is bustling metropolis that serves as the political, economic, social, and cultural hub of this fascinating country.
Located right in the center of the nation, it’s an excellent jumping off point to explore the rest of Chile and is equally interesting as a destination of its own.
Combining Latin flare with some continued Spanish traditions, the city has a diverse heritage and is rich in taunting the senses with irresistible smells, sounds, sites, and tastes. Indulge your senses and you’re sure to have an amazing time.
Though more conservative than Buenos Aires or Rio, Santiago is still home to an out and proud gay community. Dozens of gay venues are scattered all over the city, with the main clustered in Santiago’s “gayborhood” of Barrio Bellavista, near the Baquedano metro station in Plaza Italia.
While most of the scene-sters are locals, you’ll still find a smattering of international tourists and expats.
There are plenty of reasons to visit Chile as a tourist with a great variety of destinations. Imagine travelling from south to north in this very long and narrow country then you would start at Punta Arenas followed by Puerto Natales and see the nearby spectacular Torres del Paine National Park.
You could then travel by sea through the channels and fjords of Patagonia past the island of Chiloe and arrive at Puerto Montt. From there it is possible to tour round the beautiful lakes and volcanoes district near Osorno.
You could then be either skiing at one of the many ski resorts in the Andes like Valle Nevado or Termas de Chillan, or on a Pacific coast beach with Viña del Mar being the most well-known, or visiting the historic and picturesque port of Valparaiso. Much further north is the desert of Atacama – said to be the driest place on earth.
Then leaving mainland Chile entirely you could see the astonishing stone statues on Easter Island.
Wherever you go in Chile you will probably arrive and depart from the capital Santiago and you should certainly spend a few days in the city. Gay visitors to Santiago will find the scene fairly open although it is probably more conservative than Buenos Aires. Many of the gay discos and bars are located in the Barrio Bellavista at the foot of Cerro San Cristobal. The nearest Metro station is Baquedano in Plaza Italia from where you cross Av. Providencia then cross the bridge over the Rio Mapocho and you are in the Barrio.
Although bars and discos open mid-evening the night life in Santiago doesn’t really start until about 1:30 a.m. and then goes on very late indeed. Monday to Thursday are fairly quiet on the scene but Friday and Saturday are the nights when everything takes off (or cums off!).
We found Santiago to be a very safe city by day and by night and never felt worried about walking the streets of Bellavista in the wee small hours of the morning.
The gay scene in Santiago appears to be free of dress-code, uniforms, and clones; dress for all occasions and places is casual light-weight summer wear (although in the southern winter you will need a light sweater or casual jacket in the cool evenings). It does help to be able to speak some Spanish, but not speaking Spanish isn’t a bar to having a good time.
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