Santa Lucía Hill, A Place Full of History
By Brenda Nieto |
Cerro Santa Lucia is a natural attraction where architecture and sculpture create an idyllic setting.
TOURISM IN SANTIAGO
Chile is a very attractive destination due to the diversity of things it has to offer. Santiago, its capital, is one of the most visited places, especially for its famous Cerro Santa Lucía, located in the heart of the country.
This place has become an important part of Santiago´s history, since it was there where the Spaniards founded the main city after the conquest and named it Santa Lucía. Even so, some inhabitants still call it Huelén, a word from Mapudungun that means “melancholy”.
An interesting fact about the hill is that it worked as a key place to plan the design of what later became the city of Santiago. Also, a long time ago it was used as a cemetery for non-Catholic people, a jail, and towards the end of the nineteenth century, it was used as an astronomical observatory.
It is said that, as the hill was an uneven accumulation of rocks that were not easy to access, a man named Benjamín Vicuña made a donation to turn Cerro Santa Lucia into an architectonic complex with gardens, squares, and beautiful French-style buildings. After the promoter´s death, they built a Gothic chapel known as the Ermita Vicuña Mackenna on top of the hill in his memory. Nowadays, his remains together with his children´s lie there, along with a portrait of his wife and an image of Saint Lucia.
NEPTUNE TERRACE AT SANTA LUCIA
One of the most characteristic places on the hill is the Terraza Neptuno (Neptune Terrace). DINKtravelers recommends arriving early and going up the stairs, whose design was inspired by the Longchamp Palace, in Marseille. Once you get to the terrace, you will enjoy a view of an elegant fountain dedicated to the Roman god of the seas, Neptune, represented in a bronze statue. This structure is also known as a wishing fountain, so they have a tradition of asking the god to make wishes come true. If you want to participate in this ritual, stand with your back to the fountain and through a coin in it with your eyes close. At the same time, make your wish.
The sculpture of Neptune was made by the Val d’Osne foundry, a French company that is famous for its unique technique, and whose sculptures are found in many Latin American countries such as Argentina and Mexico. The statue was first located in the Alameda de las Delicias park, and then it was moved to a concave part of the hill but the foliage started to engulf the statue, so it was moved again to its current location at the Neptune Terrace. This sculpture is not the only one in the park inspired by the god of the seas since, at the entrance, there is another one that portrays Neptune and his wife Amphitrite, who appears showing him a seashell. Don’t forget to take a selfie in front of your favorite Neptune!
OVERVIEW OF THE CITY OF SANTIAGO
The National Park of Cerro Santa Lucia houses a fort known as Castillo Hidalgo (Hidalgo Castle), which has been used in many ways throughout time. It was once a surveillance point, a museum, a storehouse, and nowadays it is a reception hall.
At the square located in front of the castle you can enjoy a view of part of the city of Santiago together with the nearest hills. However, it’s not the only place where you can enjoy a nice view. Another option is to go to the overlook at the Tower of Santiago where you can even rent a pair of binoculars for approximately 100 Chilean pesos.
Cerro Santa Lucía is visited not only by tourists, but also by the inhabitants of Santiago, who enjoy its gardens, trails and architecture. They love spending an afternoon at the terraces of Neptune and Caupolican, the Vicuña Mackenna church, and the Museo Histórico de Santa Lucía (Historical Museum of Santa Lucía). Actually, the outdoor attractions you can find in Santa Lucia Hill add up to 31 statues, 416 vases, and gardens. They’re all treasures you’ll discover during this fantastic experience at this natural destination.
TIPS TO VISIT CERRO SANTA LUCIA
- Take your time to climb up the hill and pause to catch your breath at the square.
- Remember to stay hydrated to avoid fatigue
- Sometimes there’s a handcrafts fair in front of the Indigenous Historic Museum; it’s the perfect place to shop for artistic and original souvenirs
- Consider that the time you’ll take to go from the skirts of the hill to the top will be approximately 2 hours