Santiago (pop. 5 million) is an architectural collage of Spanish colonial charm, European elegance, and North American suburbia. Founded in 1541, it has become one of the most modern cities in all the Americas, and is gateway to Chile’s Central Valley and main hub for trips throughout the country. The cosmopolitan districts of Las Condes and Providencia, with their exclusive shopping galleries, international restaurants, and skyscrapers, stand in sharp contrast to cobblestone walkways and historic buildings that may still be appreciated downtown. Santiago maintains a tradition of intense activity in the arts. Lively nightlife may be best sampled in popular Bellavista. Visitors should not miss nearby Viña del Mar and Valparaiso. “Viña” is Chile’s most popular beach resort complete with its fashionable 1930s Municipal Casino (jacket & tie required), and “Valpo,” is Chile’s leading port often called “San Francisco South” complete with cable cars on steep hills overlooking the Pacific.
When to go
Santiago enjoys a pleasant Mediterranean-like climate year ‘round. Rainy season goes May-August.
• Wine tours: Renowned wineries and their adjacent vineyards can be toured in the nearby Maipo and Colchagua Valleys.
• Ski tours: Near Santiago, famous Portillo and Valle Nevado are recognized worldwide for their challenging runs and full winter sport facilities.
• Viña del Mar and Valparaiso: Chile’s famous seaside resort and leading port are a popular full-day excursion.