|Downtown Buenos Aires, as seen from the Palacio Barolo|
I have great affection for Buenos Aires – my wife is an Argentine and we own an apartment in the Palermo neighborhood – but Chile’s capital city of Santiago is an underrated city with one attribute that Argentina’s capital can’t match. From its highest points, Santiago’s rugged setting offers vast panoramas for which the endless plains of Argentina’s Pampas grasslands simply have no answer.
|The Río Mapocho winds towards downtown Santiago|
Buenos Aires has its tall buildings but, from the higher points with public access, you see mostly other tall buildings (as seen, at top, from downtown's landmark Palacio Barolo), and, through occasional gaps, the muddy waters of the Río de La Plata estuary. Santiago, though, provides a varied terrain where scattered hills rise sporadically above the meandering Río Mapocho (pictured above) and around the city’s edge. In recent decades, though, it’s has morphed from a low-slung conurbation to a densely built contemporary city whose eastern neighborhoods—sardonically christened “Sanhattan”—have sprouted architectural landmarks evoking the heights of the nearby Andes.
|The Costanera Center's Gran Torre Santiago is Latin America's single tallest building|
One of those landmarks is the Costanera Center, a combination shopping mall and office complex whose Gran Torre Santiago (pictured above) rises 300 meters above its surroundings—making it Latin America’s tallest single building. Personally I’m an anti-shopper, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to visit its 62nd-story observation deck for the sight of summits like Southern California’s—green at the end of winter, gradually drying out as summer progresses—and other skyscrapers that it simply dwarfs. Unfortunately, reflection from the glass that keeps visitors from tumbling into the street below interferes with photography, even though crews keep the windows spotless.
|View from the Gran Torre Santiago|
|The W Hotel Santiago from street level|
While the Gran Torre is a place to visit and enjoy the views, it’s not the place to relax and remain. For that, there’s the rooftop bar at the nearby W Hotel Santiago (pictured immediately above and below) which, even though it’s not so high as the Gran Torre, still provides plenty panorama for the price. If you’re a registered hotel guest, you can even take in the sunset from the rooftop pool.
|The W Hotel's rooftop features a bar and swimming pool|