Santiago #1 on New York Time’s Places to Visit in 2011

So Santiago made the top spot in the New York Time’s “Place to Go in 2011

There have been a few expat responses to this honor/curse. You can find two of them at Bearshapedsphere’s blog and Titleless Sara’s blog. Though I won’t give an in depth analysis of the decision, I’ll throw out some of my opinions.

Let me start by saying, I don’t believe Santiago deserves that spot. Yes, Santiago is safe, economically thriving, and cultural, but I don’t think it should have been #1. Why? First of all, Santiago is just another bustling metropolitan city and for travelers coming from the US, it’s not practical to fly half way across the world to visit it. For me, there is nothing special enough here to pay for a 1000USD flight from the US. Secondly, Santiago is not Chile. Chile has beautiful desserts, islands, and glaciers, therefore why is Santiago on the list and not San Pedro de Atacama or Pucon? If they had listed Chile as a country on the list, I wouldn’t have contested one bit.

Then comes my ideas of what travel means to me. I prefer to travel somewhere exotic (different from the US) or, if I want a city with museums, art, and history, I’ve got a list of ones in the US I still need to see. I also like to travel cheap. Santiago is not exotic. Like I’ve said before, it’s probably the least exotic place in all of South America. It’s also not cheap at all. Not what you would expect. One of my gringa friends went back the US for the holidays and confirmed everything in the supermarket in California was cheaper than in Santiago except for milk and fruit/veggies. A Chilean commented on another gringa’s response to this article and seems to have agreed with me. He said,

“If you want something metropolitan, go to Europe!, if you want some exotic and cultural infused place, go to Cuba, Dominican Republic, Perú or Bolivia. And if you want to know the end of the continent, Argentina is just fine, and have better costumer service and food.”

What he says is true and he even offers options to replace other destination within Chile (which is possible too, though I think Chilean Patagonia is worth seeing). I’m not saying this just because I have lived here for 5 months and have gotten used to it’s “exotic-ness”. After living in San Diego for 3 years, I would recommend it as a travel destination over and over, but Santiago is just “normal” to me. Yes I like living here and there are cool things to do and places to see, but not a #1 type place.

Check out the rest of the destinations that made the list, pretty random, no? Maybe they were just trying to be the most unique list of the year or maybe they were catering to a different type of traveler than myself.

Now… Am I happy it made the top spot? Yes. I’d like to see more tourism here. I would like people to get to know what it is like here. To realize it’s not some third world country. Or even to realize Chile is in South America, not Europe.

Do you agree? Does the city of Santiago deserve the #1 spot in all of the world? Would you recommend the city you live in as a top travel destination?

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January 10, 2011 - 4:51 pm

Sara Beck - Thanks for the shout out, even though we don’t see eye to eye 😉

That is a good point on the “Santiago is not Chile” argument. The country itself remains rather isolated and the city is different than the rest of the country in so many ways. I do like the city, although I complain anywhere from “time to time” to “quite frequently” about some aspect of life there ranging from smog to rude people to expensive something or other.

I do think that Santiago has a lot to offer the world. It may not be the overt, showy culture of other countries, but it has its own uniqueness.

January 10, 2011 - 8:49 pm

Patty - I agree.. Ditto Lana

January 22, 2011 - 3:08 am

Signe - Hi! I randomly just found your blog here. You take really beautiful pictures! I’m a gringa planning on moving to Chile in 2 years or so. How is the job market down there? Obviously you’re doing well with photography, I’m a teacher. Do you have any idea of where I could start? Do you enjoy living there as a whole? Sorry for all the questions…=)

Anyways, hope all’s well south of the equator!

February 12, 2011 - 10:19 pm

Juls - Well, I live in London and that’s probably why I hate big cities. But I would love see Santiago again. At least there you can catch a glimpse of magnificent Andes. Here in London you can’t see anything for the crowds and traffic; it’s suffocating. And if Santiago is expensive, come and compare it with London.

February 12, 2011 - 10:25 pm

LanaRenee - Ha! Yeah, I’ve been to London.. not a fan of it because of it’s high prices… However, I didn’t see as much of it as I would like to…

February 13, 2011 - 2:51 pm

futurofreak - I decided to comment in your blog in spanish from now on, so you can get a little practice. So, here I go…
Siempre me ha llamado la atención de que haya gente que pague tanto dinero por venir a Santiago, cuando a mi parecer como destino turístico tiene poco que ofrecer, comparado con otras zonas del país, como las que tú mencionas. Cuando pequeño, viajé a Iquique en el Norte, y era genial por todos los museos y esas cosas. También recomiendo Viña del Mar, donde estuve hace poco con mi hermano.

February 14, 2011 - 12:32 am

plumerainbow - Hi Lana,

Incidentally, I just posted some belated photos of my trip there last year. I read the NYT list before; such top destination ranking lists are quite subjective to begin with. In any event, the list seems to focus on highlighting less obvious destinations.

Even though I have doubts in my mind about whether Santiago should be #1, it is certainly worthy of being mentioned and brought to people’s attention. Sure, there are other interesting places in Chile such as San Pedro de Atacama (as you’ve quite rightly pointed out) and Valparaiso. But Santiago is unique in its own way – plus you get the view of the mighty Andes! In all likelihood, people won’t fly there purposely just to see the city as they would to New York or London or Paris, but I didn’t regret spending some time in Santiago as part of my trip around South America.

Happy travels! Hope to see more commentary from you on Chiloe (plan to visit there some day).

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