santiago & valparaíso

Set on a spectacular plain at the foot of the Andes, Chile’s capital city of Santiago is one of the most dramatic in South America.

Home to almost half of the country’s population, it’s a bustling metropolis that has seen some charismatic boutique hotels and restaurants spring up in recent years. Santiago is also a great base to the visit what was known by sailors as the Jewel of the Pacific, Valparaíso. It’s a colourful coastal city with a strong European heritage. The city that inspired legendary poet Pablo Neruda, the maze of cerros (hills) that make up this charming city are lined with some of the most impressive street art on the continent, and is nowadays a hive of artistic expression.

things to do

  • The views from the top of Cerro San Cristóbal are particularly special. The largest green space in Santiago, it makes for a pleasant change of pace from the city centre.
  • As impressive from outside as it is within, Catedral Metropolitana is a wonderfully preserved example of colonial architecture.
  • Even if you know little of his work, it’s worth climbing the stairs of Pablo Neruda’s former home La Sebastiana offers incredible views of the city below.
  • Neighbouring Valparaiso is the coastal resort of Viña del Mar. With some of the country’s finest beaches, it’s fondly known by the locals as Ciudad Jardín (Garden City).
  • Treat yourself and spend a few nights at the superb Vina Vik in rural MIllahue.

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best time to visit

September-April

September is springtime in Santiago, and daytime temperatures should often be at a comfortable 20°C. It does get quite busy from December, and that’s usually the time of year Chileans head for the Pacific beaches. New Year’s Eve is a major celebration in Valparaíso, with impressive firework displays over the coast.

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