Introduction to Santiago
To ski or swim. Why not both in Santiago? Few cities in the world can claim to offer the two, with a day easily divided between a morning on the slopes and an evening on the beach. And therein lies the appeal of Chile's capital; a smorgasbord of holiday experiences rolled into one. For the most part it's Santiago's spectacular location that attracts travellers, lying in the Santiago Basin with soaring snow capped Andean peaks surrounding the city to the east and a sprawling coastal range stretching to the west. A postcard view if ever there was one. But if you'd rather experience it than merely snap a photo, Santiago can happily oblige via surfing, skiing, trekking, horseback riding, climbing, kayaking and whatever else gets your blood pumping.
But for all its thrills, Santiago is also a city of great culture, history and culinary offerings. It's where freshly-ground coffee cures hangovers in Bellavista, local art brighten up the underground at Centro Cultural Palacio de La Moneda and history has all but stood still in the Downtown area since Spanish Conquistador Pedro de Valdivia founded the city in 1541. While it's long been loved for its personality, unpretentiousness and delicious wine, Santiago's biggest complaint is its infamous smog, a blanket that tends to cover the city, particularly in winter. But there are ways to get around it. Skiing or swimming perhaps. Why not both?
The best way to start your Santiago holiday is with a ride on the funicular up to San Cristóbal Hill. There, while soaking up the 300 metre high views, you can say hello to the Chilean capital and prepare yourself for a trip of a lifetime. Back amongst the thick of it, Santiago is a city where you can choose your own adventure. For people-watching action, wander the brightly coloured La Vega fruit and vegetable market or sit down to a meaty meal at a caf' in Bellas Arte and watch the world go by. History buffs can indulge in their share of exploring at Plaza de Armas or in the Downtown area where the Plaza Constitution and La Moneda palace can be found. And for party animals, you can easily make new friends over pisco sour enjoyed in the nightlife district of Bellavista.
Outside of the city the options are equally endless. An hour and a half drive outside of Santiago lies Valle Nevado, a popular ski field beloved for its scenic ski runs as well as snowboarding and heli-skiing. Another day trip worth taking is to the city' surrounding wineries scattered throughout the valleys of the coastline. It is here you can join a wine tour, meet the growers and enjoy a class of Sauvigon Blanc with a view. Even closer to the coastline, Santiago has a number of beaches within its grasp, a notable attraction being the seaside house of Pablo Neruda, found in a small beach town south of Valparaiso. The perfect place to watch the sunset and bid your Santiago holiday farewell.
For more must-dos in Santiago, check out our things to do page and start planning your Lima holiday.