7 Things You Need to Know About Santiago's Hills

Virgin Mary on Cerro San Cristobal © Kyle Pearce
Virgin Mary on Cerro San Cristobal © Kyle Pearce
Photo of Elizabeth Trovall
22 March 2017

Though Chile’s capital rests within the largely flat Santiago Basin, Santiago’s famous hills are the beautiful juxtaposition that characterize the city. Learn more about the city’s beloved hills or cerros, each offering unique attractions and a killer view of the city and nearby Andes mountains.

Two of Santiago’s hills are popular tourist spots: Cerro San Cristóbal and Cerro Santa Lucía

Both Cerro San Cristóbal and Cerro Santa Lucía offer beautiful views of the city and a reasonable city hike. Atop each hill vendors sell the local dish mote con huesillos as well as other treats like ice cream, coffee and chips. Plan your climb on a clear day for the best possible view.

Cerro San Cristobal | © Reindertot

Cerro San Cristóbal is home to Santiago’s largest park

The Santiago Metropolitan Park, located atop the Cerro San Cristóbal hill, expands some 1,780 acres. The hill is home to a zoo, Japanese garden, amphitheater and two pools.

There are five main hills in the Santiago Basin

The list includes Cerro San Cristóbal, Cerro Santa Lucía, Cero Renca, Cerro Manquehue and Cerro Blanco. While Cerro San Cristóbal and Cerro Santa Lucía are the city’s most touristy hills, the Cerro Blanco hill frequently hosts events dedicated to the cultures of Chile’s indigenous ancestors. Meanwhile, Cerro Manquehue offers one of Santiago’s best city hikes.

Santiago’s San Cristóbal and Santa Lucía hills were originally called Tupahue and Huelén before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Chile

Santiago was inhabited by various indigenous groups before the Spanish colonizers settled the area. San Cristóbal was named Tupahue in quechua, before receiving its Spanish name after Saint Cristopher during colonization, while the Santa Lucía hill got its current name because the day conquistador Pedro de Valdivia took the hill was December 13th, the day honoring the Christian martyr Saint Lucy.

La Virgen María on top of Cerro San Cristóbal has been a symbol of the city since 1908

The Virgen Mary statue dedicated to the Immaculate Conception overlooks Santiago by day and night, illuminated by lights after sunset. Though smaller than the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, the Virgin statue is similarly recognized as an important symbol of Santiago. The statue is next to an amphitheater where church services are held on Sundays and religious holidays.

Virgen de la Immaculada - Immaculate Virgin Statue - Cerro San Cristobal - Santiago, Chile | © David Berkowitz

Once a strategic Spanish lookout, Cerro Santa Lucía has its very own 17th-century forts

Some 15 million years ago Cerro Santa Lucía was actually a volcano. Then, during colonial times, the Spanish established Fort Hidalgo on one side of the hill, which you can still visit today. The other half of the hill was used as burial grounds for non-Catholics during colonial times.

Santa Lucía | © Jesús Dehesa

There are four different ways to arrive to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal

A hike beginning at the Pío Nono street entrance of the park takes approximately 45-minutes to climb up to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal. The same entrance also offers a ride up via funicular. Additionally, there’s a winding paved street that leads up the hill, allowing for car or bike access. Also, a cable car system takes people to the top of the hill from the Pedro de Valdivia entrance.

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