Despite its location in South America, Santiago has a distinctly European feel, from its neoclassical architecture to its efficient metro system, Santiago is one of South America’s most sophisticated cities and a must-see if you are visiting Chile, even for a short while.
A great way to get acquainted with Santiago is to take a city tour. Cruising through the city streets, you’ll notice the varied architectural designs—Santiago’s buildings and monuments are a cavalcade of European styles, especially the Parque Forestal, which is based upon Paris’ Champs-Elysees. The tour finishes up at Los Graneros del Alba, a handicraft village located near the famous church of Los Dominicos. Here you can browse handmade sundries and souvenirs as well as sample Chilean cuisine. As the tour is about 3 ½ hours long, the village is a great stop for a late lunch or early dinner. Either way, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the Chilean capitol’s sights.
On your second day, experience another side of Chile with a private tour of the Cousino Macul and Concha y Toro wineries. Here, you’ll get to sample some of the top vintages from two of Chile’s most famous producers against the serene backdrop of Chile’s rural countryside. This day trip is a wonderful and relaxing outing, especially after exploring and sightseeing the day before.
However, if you should happen to visit Santiago during the ski season (June through August), on your second day, skip the wineries and hit the slopes. Portillo is one of the top ski resorts in Chile and short trek from Santiago. If you book a tour, you’ll learn the history of the mountain, as well as that of the adventurers and explorers who climbed the Andes and explored the region. Ski rentals are available at the resort.
Your last day in Santiago should include a trip to the Valle Nevado Ski Resort. June through August, Valle Nevado offers some of the best runs in the southern hemisphere, and during the rest of the year, the mountain scenery makes for great backpacking. The trip to the resort from Santiago takes you past a number of quaint mountain villages, and the views of the Andes are bar none.
Of course, mountain villages and racing through fresh powder are not for everyone; if you fall under this category, then spend the third day of your trip taking a tour of Isla Negra, the former home of Nobel Prize winning author Pablo Neruda. This charming beach-side village features eccentric architecture and a museum to Neruda’s life and works, and the tour makes a stop at the village of Pomaire, known for its fantastic clay pottery.