How to experience the best of central Chile in just one week

When it comes to visiting Chile, it’s hard to know where to start. With so many different things to do and places to see, it can be hard to plan a trip that fits in all the highlights of a specific region or area, like the central valleys. Home to the capital city of Santiago, the Andean Cordillera mountains, vineyards, and miles of scenic oceanfront and port towns, just trying to pack all that into a short trip can be difficult. But there is an easy way to see and experience all the best activities and sights in just one week!. Our 7 Day Ski Portillo, Santiago, and Valparaiso tour hits all the highlights without feeling overwhelming or rushed, giving you a chance to truly get to know central Chile. Here’s how we do it!

 

Start by exploring the historic barrios and modern marvels of Santiago – Founded in 1541 by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia, Santiago is one of the most historic cities in South America, and in recent years has turned into a booming center for IT and technology innovation, art, gastronomy, culture, nightlife, and shopping. To really get to know Santiago, start by exploring the center of the city, where the La Moneda Presidential Palace, Plaza de Armas, and National Cathedrals are located and where you can see classic examples of Santiago architecture and learn about the foundations of the city. Santiago is a great city for walking, so after spending time in the city center, branch outward to other neighborhoods like the bohemian Bellavista, home to street art, quirky cafes, and Pablo Neruda’s Santiago home; or Lastarria, with its European-inspired buildings, art galleries, and fine dining. Every neighborhood reveals something different about the city’s character, from the business district Las Condes (also known as “Sanhattan”) to the artsy vibes of Bellavista or Barrio Italia. Then, stop for a bite of lunch at the Central and La Vega markets with their wealth of fresh seafood and produce, and afterward take a funicular up San Cristobal Hill to see the city from above, as well as get a better view of the Andean Cordillera. If you want to go even higher, head to the Gran Torre, the tallest building in South America, and take the elevator to the top floors for jaw dropping views.

 

Then head out of town to go wine tasting at one of central Chile’s top organic vineyards – Now that you’ve gotten to know the capital of Chile, it’s time to see what else the central valleys have to offer. Santiago is located roughly an hour and a half from the coast, and en route to the Pacific Ocean, the road passes through the beautiful Casablanca Valley, home to some of Chile’s most prestigious and high-end wineries. Chile is famous for its dark reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, crisp whites like Sauvignon Blancs, and blends, and most vineyards allow you to drop by for tours to see the grounds, learn about the process, and taste their different varietals. One must-visit vineyard in the Casablanca Valley is Emiliana, an organic vineyard that foregoes the use of pesticides, plants, and harvests by the biodynamic calendar, and uses animals like chickens to get rid of pests and provide manure for fertilizer. After touring the vineyard and learning all about the amazing ways the vineyard operates sustainably and in harmony with nature, you’ll be able to have tastings of the vineyard’s best wines.

 

Spend a day getting to know the quirky port city of Valparaiso – Then, after the wine tour and tasting, drive just a bit further to reach the Pacific Ocean and the city of Valparaiso. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Valparaiso is affectionately known as the San Francisco of South America or the Jewel of the Pacific because of its vibrant street art, colorfully painted houses, rolling coastal hills, steep stairways, and fascinating history as one of South America’s most important ports. Hop on a trolleybus streetcar to see the historic port neighborhood and other landmarks like the Turri Clock and Plaza Victoria before getting on a funicular to see what Valpo’s famous hills look like. The most popular ones to visit are Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion, as they feature the best street art and murals, some of the best-preserved examples of classic Valparaiso houses, which are covered with corrugated iron that’s been painted bright colors, stunning views of the ocean and the other hills of the city, and endless stairways and alleys down which you can find stores, art galleries, cafes, restaurants, and so much more. Then, be sure to finish the day with a meal of fresh seafood at a local restaurant!

 

Finish with a few days skiing in the Andes mountains – Now that you’ve gotten to know the cultural and culinary treasures of the central valleys, it’s time to experience some of the adrenaline-pumping action to be found in the Andes mountains just outside of Santiago. There are several top ski resorts that can be reached within an hour or so from the capital, but one of the best is Ski Portillo. Perched on the edge of a high-altitude lake and surrounded by towering peaks, Portillo is world-renowned for its downhill skiing, with 35 runs, 14 lifts, off-and-groomed pistes, hills ranging in difficulty from beginner to advanced, ski-in-ski-out, and plenty of other activities and services to keep you occupied when you’re not hitting the slopes like spa packages, heated outdoor pool, jacuzzis, saunas, yoga, gym, entertainment center, restaurant, and more. You can even go heli-skiing! With ski rental options and classes available, Portillo has everything you need to spend a few days enjoying the fresh powder and spending hours skiing down the Andes, before retiring for apres-ski drinks and food in the cozy lodge.

Photography of Portillo ski Resort

 

So with exploring Santiago, going wine tasting, visiting Valparaiso, and then skiing in the Andes, you’ve now seen and experienced the best of central Chile in just a week! Learn more about our 7 Day Ski Portillo, Santiago, and Valparaiso tour here!

 

 

The top 6 things to do while spending a day in Valparaiso

Sprawled over coastal hills just an hour and a half from Santiago, the city of Valparaiso is known as the San Francisco of South America thanks to its colorful houses, bohemian lifestyle, world-class street art, and steep, winding roads and stairways that lead up into the hills. Its past as an important port city, unique culture, and architecture, and reputation as a haven for visual and performing artists earned it the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, and it’s one of the top places to visit in Chile. Although it’s recommended to stay for a few days to allow you plenty of time to explore the city at your leisure, with our Valparaiso and Wines Day Tour it’s easy to see the best of this Jewel of the Pacific in just a day!

 

1. Go for a ride on a trolley bus – While wandering the streets of the city, you’re bound to see these low-slung, cream and green electric cable cars lumbering along as their connector cables crackle and twang with electricity, the interior of the cars lined with worn leather seats and lit by warm, amber lights. They look like something straight out of the 1950s, a relic of a bygone time. They’re Valparaiso’s famous troles (trolleybuses). The second oldest streetcar system in South America, the majority of the streetcars were made by the Pullman-Standard Company and their historical significance helped gain the city its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. Hop on board at the bus depot on Avenida Alemania, pay 270 pesos (about 50 cents USD), and then enjoy the ride through the streets, passing by city landmarks like the Turri Clock, Plaza Victoria, and Plaza Sotomayor with the Naval Building.

 

2. Walk around to see the street art – Valparaiso is the capital of Chilean street art, and the best examples can be found covering the walls of Cerros Alegre and Concepcion. Wander along the cobblestone streets for an afternoon and you’ll see everything from giant hummingbirds, to a staircase, painted like piano keys, to the famous “We are not hippies, we are happies” mural, to a stylistic tribute to Vincent Van Gogh. Artists come from all over Chile and the world to contribute murals in a wide variety of styles done with bright, exuberant colors, and there are always new pieces to discover. You can also go explore the Open Air Museum of Cerro Bellavista, just down the hill from Pablo Neruda’s house, where you can see 20 outsize and vibrant murals created by artists from Chile and other countries in South America.

 

3. Explore Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion – These two hills are the most popular to visit in Valparaiso because they’re home to some of the best examples of Valparaiso architecture. The houses – which are covered in corrugated iron that’s been painted in bright colors – are built in a German/European style that becomes popular in the city after the huge influx of immigrants from Europe in the 1800s. All the houses are intersected by hidden alleyways and staircases full of cafes, galleries, shops, and street art, and you can wander the hills for hours and still not see every part of them. From the lookouts at Paseo Gervasoni and Paseo Atkinson, you can also see stunning views of the ocean and the surrounding hills. If you are looking for a place to experience every part of Valparaiso – the art, the bohemian culture, the colorful houses – this is the place to explore.

 

4. Ride up and down the hills on a funicular – One of the icons of Valparaiso are its funicular elevators. The cars, which are pulled up and down the hills on their tracks by pulleys, are often painted in flashy colors to match the houses of the city, or done up with street art instead. For about 100 pesos (16 cents USD), you can take the short ride up or down one of the hills, with the elevation opening up beautiful views of the surroundings. In the past, the city has had as many as 26 working funiculars operating throughout the city, but nowadays, only the ones on the most popular hills are maintained. Two of the most popular, La Reina and La Peral, can be found on Cerro Alegre.

 

5. Visit Pablo Neruda’s house – “Valparaiso, what nonsense you are, what a crazy, insane port.” Thus starts Pablo Neruda’s ode to his beloved port city, where he chose to keep one of his three homes. Known as La Sebastiana, the multi-story house teeters on Cerro Florida overlooking the bay, its many floors chock-full of whimsical items Neruda acquired during his travels, like a wooden horse taken from a carousel in Paris and an ancient map of the world. You can wander from floor to floor learning about the different artifacts and how Neruda lived, seeing his bedroom, living room, and writing study, all of which offer expansive views of the ocean and city. Each room and item offers insight into the unique life of one of Chile’s foremost writers, who, in addition to his poetry, had an impressive career as a diplomat.

 

6. Enjoy some fresh Chilean seafood in the port district – With more than 4,300 kilometers of coastline, Chileans know how to do seafood especially well. As a famous historic port city, Valparaiso is chock-full of restaurants and diners – many dating back to the city’s heyday in the late 1800s and early 1900s like Bar Cizano – that serve up fresh, delicious Chilean classics year-round: machas con parmesan (clams with parmesan); chupe con centolla (savory crab pie, made with crab, cheese, cream, and bread); paila marina (Chilean seafood stew); sea urchins, and catch of the day fish prepared every which way. Just into any restaurant in the port neighborhood and pair your meal with a glass of white wine: you won’t be disappointed.

 

6 Days trips you can do from Santiago

With its museums, parks, restaurants, and shopping, Santiago has plenty to keep visitors occupied during their stay. But everyone likes to get out of the city once in a while, and Santiago’s prime location close to the Andes mountains, Chilean wine country, and the ocean, makes it easy to escape for a day. Whether your pleasure is hiking, spending a day at the beach, going wine-tasting, or exploring abandoned mining towns (a niche interest, to be sure, but a worthwhile one!), these six easy day trips from Santiago are great ways to get to know the landscapes, culture, gastronomy, and history of central Chile.

 

1. Valparaiso and Vina del Mar – The Pacific Ocean is a convenient hour and a half from the capital, so if you’re looking for fresh seafood, beautiful harbor views, and a chance to mix beach fun with learning about Chile’s history, check out these two seaside towns. In Vina, one of central Chile’s most famous resort towns, it’s all about the party: spend the day sunning at the beach, visiting the famous Flower Clock, exploring museums like Castillo Wulff and the Fonck Museum, or trying your luck at the casino. Then, grab a colectivo (local taxi) to go ten minutes away to Valparaiso, the jewel of the Pacific and Vina’s gritty, bohemian counterpart. Here, historic funicular elevators carry you up the hills to see the city’s famous houses, which are painted vibrant colors and splashed with some of South America’s best street art. A great city for meandering, explore Cerro Alegre and Concepcion for the best examples of classic Valpo architecture and street art, as well as cafes and shops, and then head to La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s quirky home on Cerro Florida. Then finish the day with a meal at one of the city’s many excellent seafood restaurants; the paila marina (seafood stew), chupe de jaiba (crab pie), or the fresh catch of the day (fish or otherwise) are always great picks.

 

2. Chilean wine country – If you’re a wine lover, lucky you: Santiago is just a quick drive from several of Chile’s finest wine valleys, namely Casablanca and Colchagua. Here, surrounded by undulating mountains and valley floors covered in row upon row of bounteous grapevines, some of the country’s finest wines are grown and made, such as Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. Spend a leisurely day visiting local wineries like Clos de Apalta in Colchagua or Bodegas RE in Casablanca, where you’ll learn about the history of winemaking in Chile, as well as each vineyard’s unique wine-making processes, explained on behind-the-scenes tours led by expert vintners. Each tour is then followed by tastings of some of the vineyard’s most exemplary vinos. Salud!

Photography Ski Portillo Center

 

3. Skiing in the Andes – With epic pistes and stunning views across the rooftop of South America, some of the world’s best downhill skiing is found right outside Santiago in the Andes Mountains at Valle Nevado and Portillo ski resorts. Although both resorts have great onsite accommodations and amenities like restaurants and ski in/ski out service, their proximity to Santiago (Portillo is located about 2 hours away, Valle Nevado roughly 90 minutes) makes it super easy for you to stay in the city but spend your days hitting the slopes. Both resorts annually get around 24 inches of snow and have a combined total of 79 runs (groomed and off-piste), as well as lifts, a variety of slopes suited to everyone from beginners to advanced, rental stores, and sites for heli-skiing, snowboarding, and freestyle.

 

4. Cajon de Maipo – Where can you go hiking, rafting, fly-fishing, rock climbing, horseback riding, or just enjoy pure nature within an hour’s drive of Santiago? The answer is Cajon de Maipo. This mountainous valley to the southeast of the city is a paradise of peaks, rivers, lakes, forests, volcanoes, and glaciers, making it the ultimate outdoor adventure playground. Popular activities include treks to the El Morado and San Franciso glaciers, visiting the El Yeso reservoir, relaxing at the Plomo or Morales natural hot springs, rafting on the Maipo river, hiking to the Yeso waterfall, and exploring small towns like Pirque, where some of Chile’s best Cabernet Sauvignon is grown and produced. The area is also famous for its homemade goods, like chocolates, pastries, and empanadas, and is a great place for souvenir shopping thanks to its fine artisan shops.

 

5.La Campana National Park – For an easy day trek near Santiago that isn’t in the Cordillera, La Campana is the best option for its epic views and wealth of flora and fauna, like the Chilean Wine Palm, an endangered species of palm tree that used to grown all over the country but now only exists in small pockets. Famous for being the site of Cerro La Campana (Bell Mountain) which was scaled by Charles Darwin in 1834, this national park and UNESCO Biosphere is flush with local wildlife including foxes, pumas, birds, chingues (skunks), and butterflies. The hike up features beautiful views of the countryside, plus a chance to visit a nearly hundred-foot tall waterfall and a plaque dedicated to Darwin’s hike. If you want to make it to the summit at more than 6,000 feet above sea level, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys and mountains, and on clear days, you can see as far as the Pacific Ocean in one direction and Aconcagua Mountain in Argentina in the other.

Photography Gabriel Britto

 

6. Sewell Mining Town – Known as the City of Stairs, this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a fascinating glimpse into Chile’s long-standing tradition of copper mining. Founded in 1905 by the Braden Copper Company which owned and operated the El Teniente Copper Mine (the largest in the world), this city, which at its peak housed 15,000 mine workers and their families, was built into the steep slopes of the Andes at more than 7,000 feet above sea level. This made it inaccessible by vehicles, and so the brightly painted buildings of the town, terraced up and down the rugged slope, are all connected via stairways. Closed in the 1970s, it was saved from demolition by the Chilean government and then UNESCO, and now can only be visited on private tours. Located about two and a half hours from Santiago, it’s a bit more of a hike than most other day trips, but is well worth it for the fascinating glimpse it offers into historic Chilean mining towns.

 

 

 

4 Trail you can do in Patagonia that arent the W

If you love trekking and want to visit Patagonia someday, chances are that high on your list of to-do hikes is the W Trek in Torres del Paine. But in recent years, as more and more people come to Chile and Patagonia for its world-class trails and trekking opportunities, the W trek has become overcrowded and far too busy during the high season months of December through February. For people traveling to Patagonia looking to escape into nature and get away from the crowds, that experience of being secluded and alone in the wilderness can be ruined. Luckily, there are plenty of other trails all over Patagonia, ranging from the northern area in the Lakes District to the far reaches of Tierra del Fuego, that can satisfy your appetite for adventure.

 

1.Dientes de Navarino – The Dientes Circuit, located on far-flung Navarino Island in Tierra del Fuego and so-named for the jagged, tooth-like appearance of the island’s mountain chain, is about as different from the W as you can get. With virtually no trail infrastructure save for markers, hikers need to bring all their own camping and hiking equipment, making it the perfect multi-day trek for true outdoor aficionados. Lasting four days and covering 53 kilometers of rugged, isolated backcountry, the trail passes through valleys, Magellanic subpolar forests, peat bogs, lakes and rivers, and finally peaks at the Virginia Step with otherworldly views of the Beagle Channel and the mountains and fjords of Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn. For hikers who enjoy escaping into pure, untrammelled nature and tackling treks that few people have done before, the Dientes Trek is a welcome challenge.

The Facts

Where: Navarino Island, Chilean Tierra del Fuego

How long: Roughly 53 kilometers (roughly 4 days)

When to go: November through March

Difficulty Level: Advanced

Why make the trip: Beautiful vistas of fjords and mountains, untouched nature, isolated and unknown to most Patagonia visitors

 

2.Cerro Castillo – Fans of the Dientes Trek and undeveloped hiking trails will love this lesser-known but spectacular four-day trek in the Aysen region. Cerro Castillo, named for the battlement-like pinnacles of the rock formation that marks the highest peak in the Central Andean range (2,320 meters)  this newly-appointed national park has all the attractions of Torres del Paine — towering peaks, sprawling glaciers, and beautiful views over lakes and mountainous passes — but without the crowds. The trail can be accessed from different trailheads, allowing for day hikes, but the standard multi-day hiking route is roughly 62 kilometers (38.5 miles) long, with the highlight of the trail being the view of the mountain over the brilliant turquoise waters of Laguna Cerro Castillo. Isolated and with very basic infrastructure at the campsites and along the trail, the hike is definitely recommended for expert hikers who are comfortable spending many days alone in remote territory. But the views, peaceful atmosphere, and chance to see elusive wildlife like huemul deer and pumas make this hike well worth the effort.

The Facts

Where: Aysen Region, Chile

How long: 62 kilometers (roughly 4 days)

When to go: November through February for summer (high season)

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to advanced

Why make the trip: Beautiful views of jagged mountains and lakes, great opportunities for wildlife viewing, uncrowded.

Photography @chile_magico

3.Darwin’s Trail – This trail, which spans both land and sea, retraces the route of famed naturalist Charles Darwin through the Fuegian Archipelago when he first sailed here in 1832 aboard the Beagle on its second voyage and came into contact with the Yaghan tribe. Enamored of the region’s wealth of biodiversity — which you can observe for yourself thanks to the abundance of marine wildlife, seabirds, and the miniature forests of mosses and lichens — the observations Darwin made on his voyage through Tierra del Fuego helped shape his ideas on evolution, making this route a great destination for hikers with an interest in botany, biology, and history. The path, which passes through various waterways like the Beagle and Murray channels, also includes short and relatively easy hikes to inland lookouts from which Darwin could observe the landscapes, such as the trail leading to a lookout over the historic and beautiful Wulaia Bay, landing site of the Beagle and of bloody conflicts between the Europeans and the native Yaghan.

The Facts

Where: Tierra del Fuego, Chile, and Navarino Island

How long: 2-3 days

When to go: November through March

Difficulty Level: Easy to intermediate

Why make the trip: Remote islands, marine wildlife, stunning flora

Photography Daniel Osorio

4.Cochamo Valley – When most people think of hiking in Chile’s beautiful Lakes District, they think of Huilo Huilo. But this valley, located roughly two hours from Puerto Montt, is home of the region’s most thrilling and beautiful trails. Cochamo Valley, known as the ‘Yosemite of Chile’, is only accessible via a 4-to-6 hour hike that leads you into the heart of this granite-domed paradise, filled with old-growth forests, pristine rivers, and grassy pampas. The valley’s shape doesn’t lend itself to circuitous trails; rather, people hike into the valley, stay at a number of campsites and go on day hikes to different areas and lookouts, like the Arcoiris trail, a five hour to summit push that rewards those who tackle it with astonishing views. Due to the remote location of the valley, the trails and campsites are very rudimentary, making it a great destination for people who love roughing it outdoors and taking on more challenging trails. The sheer granite cliffs, which can rise up to 1,000 meters high, have also turned the valley into an international destination for rock climbers.

The Facts

Where: Los Lagos Region, Chile

How long: 4-6 hours (10 kilometers) to La Junta campground in the valley

When to go: November to mid-April

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to advanced

Why make the trip: Remote, pristine trails, great rock climbing, secluded wilderness, granite dome mountains.

 

 

The Charm of Valvidia, the pearl of the river

The city of Valdivia is one of the oldest cities in Chile (founded in 1552) and it is sometimes known as “the pearl of the south”.  But what makes of Valdivia a unique place like a “pearl”? Is the charm of Valdivia something that we could put in word? Probably not, but if you go to these places, you can figure out why they call it like that.

valdivia kayaking

Rivers:

Valdivia is a river city, so, to understand the magic of the place, you should visit its rivers. You can walk along the river bank by “Costanera Arturo Prat” and see there are a lot of gardens and benches just to contemplate it… because it is not just a river!  it is the place where the city takes its life (for example, where people practice rowing and the sea lions take a nap).

valdivia city

Teja Island and botanical garden:

One of the most amazing things in Valdivia is its connection with a little island called “Isla Teja”. This place (formerly belonged to a single person) is the home of one of the most important universities in Chile (Universidad Austral), some museums and a beautiful botanical garden with around 950 different plant species. You can spend an entire day exploring the gardens!

valdivia market

River Market:

One of the characteristic attributes of the city of Valdivia is its river market, which is in the river bank near the “Pedro de Valdivia Bridge” that connects Valdivia with Teja Island. In this market (opened early in the morning) you could buy different types of foods, like vegetables, cheese, fish or seafood in general. Also, you can find typical crafts. However, is the smoked fish, especially smoked salmon, the main attraction for the tourist.

3397_104977915

Valdivian Fort System:

Valdivia, as I said, is an old city. Long time ago, it was a strategical place for Spanish colonization as you can see for its fortresses located in Cruces River, Corral Bay and Valdivia itself. If you want to explore this side of the history of the city, you will have a lot of fun because there are at least 10 different locations related to Spanish fortifications.

Valdivia_Cecinas Artesanales

And finally, food and drink:

(This is not a specific place, but it is directly related with the charm of Valdivia!) This city is a rich gastronomical place with some roots in German cuisine and Spanish cuisine, but most important, it has a strong influence from the river and the sea (you can eat different types of fish, but Salmon it is one of the best options here). Also, you can delight your taste drinking different types of craft beers. All you must do is to come and enjoy the charm of Valdivia!