parque metropolitano

Take a ride on the San Cristobal cable car. (Photo: Getty Images)


Santiago’s Parque Metropolitano: Getting There and What to See

Santiago’s Parque Metropolitano, more commonly known as San Cristobal Hill, is a park covering nearly 1,800 acres, making it Latin America’s largest urban park. It was created in 1921, the result of a long-term project to turn the area into the gorgeous green space that it is today.

If you want to enjoy this large open space in Chile’s capital, you need to know how to get there (tl;dr: It’s a climb!), and what to see once you’re there.

So… how do you get there?

It’s one thing to admire the park and hill from below — climbing it is another thing entirely. There are many ways of getting to its two main entrances, via Pio Nono (Bellavista) and Pedro de Valdivia (Providencia). One option is to take a taxi, which will generally take the Pio Nono route. You can then come back down into Pedro de Valdivia.

parque metropolitano
Get your camera ready for the funicular ride. (Photo: Getty Images)

The other option is the funicular, in operation since 1925 and declared a historic national monument of Chile in 2000. There are three stops, including the zoo and Plaza México, where visitors like to try a mote con huesillo, a local specialty made with dried peaches that are rehydrated to make a nectar by cooking them in water with cinnamon and cloves. The drink is served in a glass with husked wheat and the fruit itself. You can sip it or use a spoon, but it’s sweet and refreshing either way.

Another good option, which came back into operation in 2016, is the cable car, with large cabins (for 4-6 people). The cable car departs from the Pedro de Valdivia entrance and takes you high up for some stunning views.

Cycling is another possibility, pedaling up Pio Nono or Pedro de Valdivia, which is a slightly gentler slope. Regardless of the one you choose, though, you’re in for a climb of around 3 miles. Many elite cyclists repeat the circuit as part of their training regimen. Be careful: the route is also used by cars.

The last option is to walk up, taking either of the two main routes, or following the El Zorro Vidal path, which starts around 700 meters from the Pio Nono entrance. The climb is of average difficulty and takes around 30-40 minutes, depending on your fitness level.

What to visit on The Hill

Once on the hill and in the park, there are various attractions to explore, including the square with its appetizing mote con huesillo. Further up, you’ll find the statue of the Virgin Mary and the church of the Immaculate Conception. The statue stands some 46 feet tall and was erected in 1908. This area is generally a place of quiet contemplation, with its busiest day being 8 December (the Feast of The Immaculate Conception). You can enjoy wonderful views of the city from the top.

parque metropolitano
Be sure to bring your bathing suit. (Photo: Getty Images)

There are other attractions up on the hill, including the Mapulemu Botanical Garden, which features almost 10 acres of endemic flora, both flowers and trees. There’s also a zoo that has more than 50 animals species, including the adorable Magellanic penguins from southern Chile.

And for kids of all ages, a summer visit to the park has to include a splash in one of the park’s pools, which are open from the end of November through March. In front of the Tupahue pool, you’ll find Gabriela Mistral Plaza, where there are games for kids, mosaics, and a fountain.

Regardless of the path you take to the top, there are many trails you can explore. Though the park is open seven days a week, the pool and the zoo are closed on Mondays (as are museums throughout Santiago).