The dynamic and modern Chilean capital, Santiago remains a key stop on any route around South America. A day or two is enough for a whistle-stop tour of La Moneda, Plaza de Armas and a short hike up Cerro San Cristóbal, but those traveling at a more leisurely pace might be inspired to explore beyond the city’s central districts. Prepare to be surprised by the number of enticing Chile activities that are just a hop, skip and a jump away, and which prove why Santiago has so much to offer as a top tourist destination.
Chile activities accessible from Santiago
1. Soak up the sunshine in Viña del Mar
Follow the local’s lead and head over to gorgeous beachside Viña del Mar, one of Chile’s most popular coastal locations. Although it’s only a short bus journey from Santiago, it feels a whole world away from the traffic and slick city buildings of the capital and is the ideal place for a weekend escape during the long, balmy days of summer.
The main beaches are Playa Acapulco, Playa El Sol and Playa Los Marineros; all are welcoming stretches of sand that are located so close to Viña’s main avenue that you can walk directly from the sea to any one of its trendy bars and restaurants.
These beaches can get pretty packed in January and February thanks to glorious sunshine and scorching temperatures along this part of the Chilean coast, but even during spring and fall the Mediterranean climate of the central valley in which Viña is located means this beautiful seaside getaway never disappoints.
2. Hike up for magnificent views of the city
The towering cordillera that flanks the eastern edge of the city isn’t just an impressive backdrop of snowy peaks. No, strap your hiking boots on and prepare for a near bird’s eye view of Santiago’s precise grid of streets and sun-licked skyscrapers by taking a day trek into the surrounding mountains.
The most well-known and frequented of the trails around Santiago is the trek to the summit of Manquehue. Expect one to two hours of ascent on this rewarding but short afternoon hike with breathtaking views of the whole city.
3. Ski in any one of Santiago’s accessible ski centers
One of the highlights of visiting Chile is that you can quite literally be skiing in the mountains in the morning and relaxing beachside in the afternoon. Whether ski or snowboard is your style of hitting the slopes, then look no further than Santiago’s three nearby ski centers, El Colorado, Valle Nevado and La Parva.
It’s best to organize a tour or hire your own vehicle as all three are accessible by a two-hour drive from the center of the city. As the ski centers are not interconnected, you will need to choose which most strikes your fancy, but given that each includes pistes perfect for beginners up to advanced skiers, you’ll have little problem finding the right level for every member of your party.
4. Tour Chile’s impressive portfolio of wine
The Casablanca Valley along the fertile coastal plains toward Valparaíso and Viña del Mar is best known for its award-winning Sauvignon Blanc. Local winemakers claim that it’s the delicate balance of clay and sand in the soil that accounts for why the wine is so delicious. But don’t take their word for it; try it yourself at Casas del Bosque, a family-run, boutique winery, where wine tasting and lunch at their Tanino Restaurant is an ideal introduction to the region.
A little further afield, the Colchagua Valley is another highlight of Chile’s diverse and distinctive wine tradition. Better known for its palate of red wines (most notably Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and, Chile’s most emblematic, Carmenere), Colchagua is where visitors can drive through a patchwork of vineyards and grandiose wineries and pop in for a tour and tasting along the way.
Casa Silva might have the oldest wine cellar in the valley, but it’s their modern restaurant and luxurious setting that are the real reason to visit. Dine on the terrace overlooking the acres of vineyards that encircle the main house as you watch a game of polo on the field below.