Travel can be an exhausting experience for an introvert. As much as I love being on the road, I also love my alone time at home, being in a familiar and safe environment where I can relax. It can be a challenge to find that while travelling. Latin America, especially, does not have the reputation of being a particularly quiet or introvert-friendly place. All that vivacity and energy can be great, but for an introvert, also kind of daunting. Thus, I was happy to discover that Santiago is in fact very well suited for introvert travellers, and offers plenty of spots to recharge your batteries and take time out from the stress of your trip.
These are the places I loved most in Santiago because they allowed me to relax even in the middle of a big city’s hustle!
The many parks of Santiago
Before I arrived in Chile, I read in a guidebook that Santiago does not have a lot of green. I’m happy to say that I can’t agree with this. My experience was that I came upon one park or another wherever I turned. In fact, when I look back on my three weeks in Santiago, I sometimes feel like I did nothing else but sit in a park, enjoy the sun and potentially have an ice-cream with that. What more do you need, really?
These were some of my favourite parks in Santiago:
It’s a huge park just south of the city centre. It features a theme park, a pool, an arena and a lake with paddle boats, among other things. You will have to pay for using those, but it’s definitely a change to the normal just-sit-in-the-park routine. Although you can obviously do that here, too.
There’s plenty of kiosks all around selling drinks, snacks, and ice-cream, so don’t worry about going hungry. Also, it was at the entrance to this park that I had my first, and still one of my best, Chilean empanadas. It was from a street seller who had a huge choice of sauces to go with it. I didn’t understand what any of them were, except that one half was spicy and the other one mild. I went with the one he recommended, and it was delicious!
This one is situated in the financial district of Santiago, often dubbed „Sanhattan” for its skyscrapers. It’s also a very big park, and there are lots of benches around to have a rest and just enjoy the peace. Or just sit in the grass. Your choice.
Right next to the park is the Araucano Shopping Mall, a huge shopping centre with all the international shops you can imagine, as well as restaurants and cafes. It’s good for catching some food or drink. The park itself also has a couple of restaurants at its centre, though they are rather pricey.
Parque Araucano is also a great spot for watching the sunset over the city. I happened to be there during the evening more by coincidence, and the view was stunning!
It goes along the Mapocho river that divides downtown Santiago from the Bellavista district. Thus, it is not very wide, but quite long. If you’re staying somewhere central, this is probably one of the closest parks to you.
At one corner of it, you find Emporio La Rosa, an ice-cream parlour that won some awards for its many flavours and prides itself to have the best ice-cream in Santiago. Make sure to try it, it’s delicious!
This is exactly what it sounds like: a small park full of sculpture art. It’s free, so just have a wander around and enjoy the many pieces of art on display.
The area in which the park is situated is also quite nice. It’s not far from the Costanera Center, the biggest shopping mall in Santiago. But I preferred to stay in the streets and try out the little independent ice-cream shops and cafes.
Cerro Santa Lucia
Santa Lucia Hill is right in the city centre. The hill is covered by a park, with an old fortress right at the top. Visiting it involves some walking up and down the hill, but because of this layered structure, you can easily get lost in some quiet corner just by yourself. Santa Lucia also offers great views of the city. Go all the way up to the top of the old fortress for an unobstructed panorama.
Cerro San Cristobal
One of the most famous tourist destinations in Santiago, San Cristobal is a big hill with a Marian statue at its top. You can either walk all the way up or take the historic funicular. I opted to get the funicular up and then walk down to get a little taste of both.
As San Cristobal is such a tourist place, it can be more crowded than other parks, especially at the funicular stop and the statue. However, even here you can still find quiet corners without people. It helps to go up early when it’s still relatively quiet. I took the first funicular at 10 am, and it was pretty empty at that time.
Not strictly speaking a park, but definitely a place where you can find peace and quiet. Santiago’s central cemetery is huge, so all the visitors spread out far and wide. That makes it easy to avoid people. Just go down a different path when you see someone approaching, and already you’re all by yourself again.
The huge monuments and gravestones don’t only serve to hide you from view (we introverts love being hidden sometimes), they also give the whole place a strange but comfortable atmosphere. It somehow manages to be both peaceful and eery. I don’t know if it’s weird to enjoy visiting a graveyard, but I certainly did like it.
Santiago’s many cute cafes and restaurants
Cafes are always good spots to spend some time in peace, and Santiago has some really adorable ones. Although the country is generally more into tea than coffee, and ordering the latter will often just get you hot water and instant coffee, there are some places that do much better. One of my favourite cafes was the Wonderland Cafe in Lastarria, a quarter that generally features some pretty nice restaurants and bars along with awesome street art.
Many good restaurants are also found in Bellavista, especially Bellavista square. This area can be crazy in the evening because it’s a major night-life district. However, if you go during the day it’s much quieter. They are not the cheapest, but they have a beautiful atmosphere and great food.
If you’ve had enough of the heat and are looking for a place to spend a few hours inside, why not try one of Santiago’s museums? Best thing, most of them are free!
I visited the National History Museum and the Human Rights and Remembrance Museum. Both are free to go in, although if you want an audio-guide you have to pay a small fee. As most of the descriptions are only in Spanish, an audio-guide can indeed be a good idea, depending on your language skills. I found both museums very interesting and well worth visiting.
Another museum that I’ve heard a lot of good things about, but that I haven’t yet managed to visit, is the Museum of Precolombian Art. This one does cost a small entry fee because it’s private. But from what I heard it’s absolutely worth it, and it’s top of my list for my next visit in Santiago.
Okay, I know, this isn’t a location. But it’s worth mentioning because it is what makes Santiago such a nice place to be. The people here are all very friendly and welcoming. And patient, especially when it comes to waiting for me to scramble my way through a Spanish sentence.
Moreover, the people of Santiago are not pushy or – for a lack of a better word – too energized. As I said in the beginning, people who are extremely outgoing can be somewhat daunting for introverts. At least, that’s how I feel. Chileans, however, are quite reserved, especially for Latin Americans. They are nice when you get to talk to them, but they don’t push themselves on you.
Even if you go to a street market, vendors will not bother you with their offerings. They call out their goods in general, but in most cases, they won’t approach you personally. In the few cases that they do, a simple no thank you is enough for them to leave you alone. This was very different in other places I’ve been to in the past, for example in Africa. Too persistent vendors could make going to a market or even just walk through town a rather unpleasant experience. Here, it’s not a problem at all. For that, I love the Chileans.
If you’re an introvert and are thinking about travelling to South America, definitely consider making Santiago one of your stops. Maybe even come here first, to ease into the Latin American culture without getting too overwhelmed. It’s such a relaxed place, you might just find yourself not wanting to leave!
What are your experiences with Santiago de Chile? Do you know of any other introvert-friendly spots? Share in the comments!