While some may think it’s morbid, I love walking through cemeteries in other countries. I really learn a lot about a country and its culture by doing this. I also think it’s interesting to see how cultures pay tribute to their dead.
The most historic cemetery in Santiago is Cementerio General, and I visited it twice over the past two months. It was founded in 1821 and almost every leader of Chile is buried there along with lots of famous Chileans. I think it’s definitely worth visiting once you finish with the main attractions in town.
The cemetery is very well signposted with each “street” named after an important figure buried on it, making it very easy to find certain graves. Most of the famous Chileans are buried pretty close to the main entrance.
Walking through the cemetery, the graves of the wealthy citizens are incredible, many built in the style of Greek, Roman, or Egyptian temples. I even found some in the Moorish style. Some of the graves had creepy statues on them.
The most famous person to be buried in the cemetery is Salvador Allende. He was the president of Chile at the time of the 1973 Military Coup and committed suicide at Palacio de La Moneda. His remains were moved here in 1990 after the end of the Pinochet military dictatorship. It’s the most visited tomb in the entire cemetery and features a slab of granite with an excerpt of his farewell speech etched into it.
There are several pantheons dedicated to certain groups of Chilean society, such as military leaders, firefighters, police officers, and even football players.
Among the famous Chileans buried in Cementerio General are several presidents, generals, authors, and more. The presidents include Manuel Montt, Pedro Montt, José Manuel Balmaceda, and Manuel Baquedano.
While it’s great to see the tombs of the elite, it’s important to see how normal citizens are buried. They really make good use of limited space. It looks like they are buried in multi-level apartment blocks, and some of the graves are beautifully decorated.
Reading the names on the headstones throughout the cemetery is also interesting. It shows how cosmopolitan Chile is.
One monument not to be missed is the memorial to those who lost their lives during the military coup and dictatorship, and those who were executed for political reasons. It’s closest to the Cementerios metro stop entrance.
To reach the cemetery, you have two options via metro, both on the Yellow Line. One of them, Cementerios, drops you off at an entrance, but not the main entrance. If you want to enter through the main entrance, you can get off at either Cementerios or Cerro Blanco and walk about 15 minutes.