Although it’s probably on all of the Top 5 tourist sites of Santiago, Cerro San Cristóbal is not overrated in the least. This big hill in the middle of the city affords one of the most incredible Santiago panoramas available. Every time I head up, my knowledge of the city has increased, and thus I am able to point out more landmarks, distinguish different sectors, etc. For those unfamiliar to Santiago, the view from up here will let you orient the city in its surroundings: the Andes Mountains and the Cordillera de la Costa.
Whenever someone comes to visit me in Santiago, I take them up Cerro San Cristóbal, and even on foggy winter days, the view is still stunning. The last time I went up with a couple of friends from Buenos Aires, we climbed as it was getting late in the day and we got to see night fall over the city. Having an amazing panorama and watching it turn from day to night in the course of about a half an hour is a sight that shouldn’t be missed.
There are many different spots to view the city, so take some time to wander around and enjoy them all. Make sure to check out the statue of La Virgen, and the memorial for Pope John Paul II. There are also snack bars and tourist shops to visit, but even if you’re not shopping make you sure you have a little cash. If you need to visit the restroom it will cost you a few hundred pesos, cash only.
The Chilean National Zoo is also halfway up Cerro San Cristóbal and can be accessed by walking or from the Bellavista Funicular (Zoo hours: Tue-Sun 10am-7pm including holidays).
There are a few common ways to get to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal. You can either take the funicular that leaves from Bellavista, walk-able from Plaza Italia, or you can hike from any entrance up through the park.
- Bellavista Funicular: From Metro Baquedano (Plaza Italia), head towards the only big hill you see (to the north). The funicular station, which also provides zoo access, can be found at Calle Pio Nono 445 (map). Open Mon 2pm–7pm, Tue–Sun 10am–7pm.
- Hiking: If you’re looking to get some exercise while you enjoy the vistas of Santiago, you can hike to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal. The hike takes an average of 45 minutes up the mountain and about 30 minutes back down. When you enter the park, from Bellavista, walk up the sidewalk on the left of the road for about 5-10 minutes until you see the trailhead across the road on your right. The first part of the trail is pretty steep but it starts to level out after the first turn. Follow the signs to La Virgen, and after the second and third turn it’s quite an easy walk up to the top of the trail. There are plenty of benches along the way if you want to rest or just stop for a minute to take in the view. Where the trail meets the road there is a snack bar that is usually open on the weekends if you want a snack or drink. From there you just walk up the road to the right and in a few minutes you will have reached the top. Then when you’re ready you can just head back down the way you came, though you always have the option to take one of the taxis waiting around, back to Bellavista.
- Providencia Teleférico: Although still listed in many guidebooks and websites, the Teleférico (Gondola) which was accessed from the Pedro de Valdivia entrance, was closed indefinitely in 2011. We will advise if it ever reopens, although currently there are no plans to repair and restart the operations.
For the most up to date info on Cerro San Cristobal’s teleferico (funicular), swimming pool, zoo and more, visit the Parque Metropolitano de Santiago website (Spanish only).
View Parque Metropolitano, Santiago Chile in a larger map
Note: This article, originally written by AJ Block in 2007 and re-written by Beth Delthony in 2012 was accurate when published. Please be sure to confirm all details directly with the sites in question before planning your trip.
To learn more about Beth, read her bio!