Latin American destinations are always vibrant and bursting with energy. Santiago, Chile, is no exception. It is the political, financial, and cultural center of Chile. It thus is very much on my travel radar (and should be on yours too).
Santiago de Chile is also the nation’s capital. Still, it does not get the same adulation as for instance, Rio de Janeiro. Likewise, a Santiago vs Buenos Aires comparison would probably have the latter winning a popularity contest. Well, for us avid travelers, perhaps that is a good thing.
Until such time that it remains a relative “secret,” then we can assume that hordes of tourists will not be crowding this beautiful Chilean city. Kidding aside, that might sound selfish, but in reality, its unassuming reputation might soon be changing. (Read What the Safest Countries in Central America for Travel)
It is a gem to visit with its indigenous culture and soaring Andes peaks. The many valleys have some of the finest vineyards and by themselves makes visiting Santiago Chile worth it.
Visit Santiago de Chile, and You Will Not Regret It
So Is Santiago Chile worth visiting? Yes, and I will identify some sights that you must make part of an itinerary. I assure you each one will pleasantly surprise you.
The Santiago Metropolis
The urban side of Santiago is comparable to any first-rate Metropolis in the world. Modern buildings line the skyline, and a network of intricate roads interconnects the city. If you still have an image in your mind of a Latin American country looking provincial, that is so wrong.
They Speak More English
I found Santiago quite westernized, in the sense that there was a vibe of it being more culturally open. For instance, I came across far more people that spoke English in Santiago than in other South American places. Less of a communication barrier is a plus on my rating scale with a capital P.
Skiing on the Andes is Just an Hour Away
Santiago’s unique location in the Southern hemisphere provides skiing activity even during the summer months. Travel time is just over an hour from the city. Visit one of the nearby valleys that consist of El Colorado, La Parva, or Valle Nevado. Travel a bit farther, and you will get to Portillos, the oldest ski area in South America.
The Wine Is Exquisite
Another short trip out and wine enthusiasts can be among some of the finest vineyards. Wine tours and tasting are first-rate here. You can visit a small family-run vineyard such as Viña Matetic or Viña Vik. If you fancy a larger operation, then the Concha Y Toro, the seventh-largest in the world, is also in the area.
Food is Glorious
Latin Americans are passionate folks, and this shows in their love for food. Chileans are bonafide foodies. If you are a “healthy” eater, prepare to abandon your rules for just a few days, or you will regret it. In Santiago, more sweet and fat is not frowned upon. Churrasco, empanaditas, or Chorrilana are just a few food items you should sample.
Since they seem more culturally open, other international cuisines are well represented here. The culinary scene is so diverse, and Thai, Chinese or continental styles are all accessible. To end any meal Chilean style, a South American classic cocktail called Pisco sour is a necessary drink.
Visit the Cerro San Cristobal
This is the famous hill south of Santiago. The physically inclined can climb it for an exciting experience or choose to mountain-bike the slope. More laidback visitors can take the cable-car as long as you have no height phobias.
Awaiting you at the top, are beautiful views of Santiago skyline’s glimmering buildings, as well as green valleys. If you are not in a rush, you can spend the entire day here.
Mirador San Carlos de Apoquindo
Care to see a sunset that approaches what you see in Manila bay? A Miradores is a location where the vantage point is ideal to see entire vistas. These are also great places to watch the sunset.
Mirador San Carlos de Apoquindo is such a place, but it can get crowded fast.
Cajón del Maipo
This is a canyon situated inside the metropolitan area of Santiago. Due to its proximity to the city, do not be fooled into thinking the experience is diminished. Expect the whole nine yards of canyon fun such as hiking hills and horseback riding.
It even has rivers where you can river raft and windsurf and relaxing thermal water baths. Visually the canyon is a beauty. There are cabins for rent in case you can spend a day or two there.
Santuario de la Naturaleza el Arrayan
The nature tripper will find this short trip out of the city well worth it. Santuario de la Naturaleza el Arrayan will satisfy the most outdoorsy types. The place has many picnic sites, quinchos for barbeques, and a hiking trail that follows the Mapocho river. This path goes an entire 10 kilometers deep into the mountains with a waterfall at the end.
There even is an abandoned castle, and riding expeditions on horseback are available if you want to rough it up.
Is A Santiago Visit for You?
Does it sound like Santiago de Chile does not get the attention it deserves? I think it should be more on the radar for any South American visit, and if you decide to go, take the time to explore the city at a relaxed pace. (Find the best books to read while traveling)
You will find the diverse cultural and historical points as well as wining and dining experiences very rewarding.