When 1870s mayor Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna envisioned Santiago’s beautification, he thought of Cerro San Cristóbal as well as Cerro Santa Lucía, but he lacked the means to implement his plans for the much larger hill.
The idea resurfaced around 1909, when Mayor Pablo Urzúa began a modest afforestation program; widespread support developed shortly thereafter under Ramón Subercaseaux’s administration, which expropriated property and built roads and canals. Despite the infrastructural improvements, it did not officially become the 722-hectare Parque Metropolitano until 1966.
From Plaza Caupolicán, the Funicular San Cristóbal, built with support from Santiago’s Italian community 1922–1925, gains 240 meters in elevation en route to its upper terminal at Terraza Bellavista; its grade is almost exactly 45 degrees. At the midway point, there’s a stop at the improved Jardín Zoológico (zoo, tel. 02/7776666), which opened about the same time as the funicular. Now emphasizing native fauna such as puma, pudú, and ñandú, it’s open 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily except Monday; admission costs US$3 for adults, US$1 for children.
Above Terraza Bellavista, a 14-meter statue of the Virgin Mary with a 10-meter armspan, atop an eight-meter pedestal, towers over the amphitheater of the Santuario Inmaculada Concepción—which owes its own conception to the 50th anniversary of the papal declaration of that particular dogma. Workers placed the cornerstone for the Paris-built statue, designed by Italian sculptor Jacometti and based on a similar work in Rome’s Plaza de España, in 1904. After the 1906 earthquake, though, they altered plans to anchor the 36,000-plus kilogram monument to bedrock, and it was finally inaugurated in 1908.
The Funicular San Cristóbal (www.funicular.cl) operates 1–8 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m.–8 p.m. on other weekdays, and stays open half an hour longer on weekends; the teleférico operates 2:30–7:30 p.m. Monday, 10:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m. other weekdays, and closes half an hour later on weekends.
Both have slightly reduced winter hours. The funicular-teleférico combination costs about US$4 for adults, US$2.25 for children. The funicular alone costs US$1.50 to Estación Cumbre, US$2.25 for a round-trip, again with discounts for children; the teleférico costs US$3 round-trip, US$1.50 for children. Buses from Plaza Caupolicán also make the loop to Avenida Pedro de Valdivia Norte.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition