When I first arrived in Santiago, Chile, I absolutely hated it.
True story. I called my sister and lamented how I wanted to quit right then and there.
To start with, Santiago was abnormally cold and rainy. It literally rained straight my first two days after everyone told me that it NEVER rains in Santiago. And then on my fourth day in the city, I actually broke my toe. At the same time, when I was wet and freezing, I couldn’t even buy a jacket because it was a national holiday, and everything was closed…
Obviously I didn’t start off on a great note with Chile. But something magical happened over the course of the next few months. By the time I had to leave, I was attached.
Santiago will be in my soul forever.
The vibrant city became my home, a haven of endless memories, extensive personal and professional growth, and a place of profound community. Words cannot even begin to describe my LOVE for captivating Santiago.
In large part, Chile will always hold a special place in my soul because my time there was synonymous with community.
Before Santiago, I had been traveling solo for two and a half years. I was growing a successful business, but I had no one to share the trials and triumphs with. I was missing my tribe.
But in Chile, I was living with 30 other entrepreneurs from around the world who had come to the country for the sole purpose of growing their businesses. To say that Chile has an amazing entrepreneur culture would be an understatement.
And it was here, with this newfound group of entrepreneurs from around the world, that I found my community and tribe. For this, I will be forever grateful.
I still get asked all the time about my time in Santiago, primarily from other entrepreneurs and digital nomads who want to experience the same groundbreaking community of trailblazers that I did. So finally, here you have it.
If you’re an entrepreneur thinking of living or traveling in Santiago, Chile, then this is my guide for you. Enjoy!
photo via Paula Soler-Moya on Flickr
Expats and Entrepreneurs in Chile
1. StartUp Chile
While I wasn’t a part of StartUp Chile myself, I did have the opportunity to network and mingle with many of the the amazing entrepreneurs in the program. This is an excellent way to get funding to live in Chile and work on building your business. Applications for 2016 are open from Jan 19 – Feb. 16th.
I got to be a part of the first Exosphere. Since then, the program has shifted and iterated, but I believe that they still have promising programming for budding entrepreneurs from around the world looking to make the leap of learning—and join a community that will take your entrepreneurship to the next level. I met and got to see + create daily with some of the most brilliant minds out there; these are contacts and friends I will have for life, not to mention meet up with all around the world! The program is no longer in Santiago, but I would recommend checking out what they have to offer.
3. Chile: The Expat’s Guide
This fantastic guide to Chile was written by my friend and mentor Nathan Lustig. I had the privilege of working with Nathan while in Chile, and I can guarantee that his book is a source of serious inspiration and resources. Use it to understand the neighborhoods in more detail, as well as to find housing. (Nathan might even help you with apartments and houses himself!)
photo via alobos life on Flickr
The Neighborhoods of Santiago
Santiago has many wonderful neighborhoods to explore or live in, each with their own distinct flavor and energy. Here were a few of my favorites:
Additional tips for choosing a neighborhood to live in:
photo via David Berkowitz via Flickr
The City of Parks and Hikes
Santiago is known as the “City of Parks,” which massively appealed to the wanderer in me who can walk and talk or walk and think for hours on end. Santiago is green all along the river, with beautiful sculptures and statues to stop and admire. Alternatively, the big main park is on San Cristobal Hill and the surrounding area. If you’re looking for a fantastic place to run and hike, then don’t miss Santiago Metropolitan Park.
Most weekends that I was in Santiago were spent hiking. This was primary because we worked like crazy on our businesses all week long, but also to get above the smog line. (Seriously, don’t visit Santiago during the hottest parts of the summer when you won’t even be able to breathe.)
Manequehue was easily one of my favorite hikes, consisting of two hills. Much of the hills are soft dirt, so we slid down on our butts more than we walked, but it was an incredible location. It’s located on the outskirts of the city with all the most swoon-worthy mansions, but it’s easy to arrive at Manequehue via bus.
The City of Love
If there was ever a city of love, it must be Santiago, Chile. I like to make jokes about it, but everyone in Chile loves LOVE. And they like making out all over the place—on the subway, on the grass, on the sidewalk… I thought it was charming and romantic, but if you’re not into PDAs, it might be a turn-off. I decided just to add a passionate make out session of my own to my Santiago to-do list!
photo via James on Flickr
The Food In Santiago
One of the primary reasons why I travel is for the food. Different tastes, flavors, textures…especially delicious new healthy options I can add to my own arsenal of at-home recipes.
photo via Adam Bailey on Flickr
Markets in Santiago
Markets are fantastic places to shop for fresh produce and seafood, flowers, household goods…the works! I even purchased a stunning second-hand sweater when I arrived because it was so abnormally chilly for a Santiago spring.
The primary market is Mercado Central. It’s admittedly a bit touristy, but still worth a look.
La Vega Market is intense but authentic. Lynan’s Insider Tip: Don’t miss the food stalls and restaurants upstairs of the market. They are fantastic homemade, local food. This is where I had the best Caldo de Pata (chicken soup) in all of Latin America. Seriously, it heals the soul.
There are additional local markets in the streets in many neighborhoods. I frequented a local market near my apartment every week to supplement the largest mega-grocery store staples like quinoa, frozen food, lucuma…
There are also a few health food stores in Santiago. I would stop by these every few weeks for specialty items like gluten-free pasta/crackers, coconut oil, etc.
Additional Tips To Exploring Santiago, Chile
Valparaiso: Don’t miss a trip to the magical town of Valpo, otherwise known as Valparaiso. Quaintly perched on a hill, this town boasts gorgeous street art, a funicular up the hill, cute cafes, restaurants and shops to explore. Buses regularly leave from the central bus station in Santiago about, about 1.5 hours away. Valparaiso is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the views out to the seaport as you meander through town are spectacular.
Vina del Mar: This gorgeous beach is a fun spot to drive around while savoring delicious seafood and soaking in the luxurious swims. Expect miles of beach.
Pichilemu: This cool surf town is an excellent spot for fresh caught local crabs and ceviche, both for cheap. It’s a local place and not too touristy though all the surf hotels right on the beach were incredible. I went when it was cold but it’s a hot spot for surf camps and weekending when it’s warm (in the winter months of the northern hemisphere) We had fun in the cafes and had delicious family style meals at mom + pop places—truly authentic Chile at its best.
Bolivia and Patagonia: It’s possible to travel to Bolivia and Patagonia via bus. For more epic adventures exploring the Salt Flats and serious hiking expeditions, there are short and inexpensive flights.
If you’re a trailblazing entrepreneur looking for a dynamic community to share in the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship, then you can’t go wrong with Santiago, Chile. This very special place will forever hold a place in my heart—and I know I’ll return again soon.
Have you visited Chile? What places have you found the best community for entrepreneurs?
Featured photo via Alobos life on Flickr.
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