Top things to do in Santiago, Valparaiso and the Central Valley
What to do in Santiago
Museums, markets and strolling neighborhoods. Here are overviews of Santiago most attractive neighborhoods (or barrios):
Lastarria - an historical and bohemian barrio with pedestrian cobblestone streets ideal for strolling. Home to many restaurants, cafes, bars, theaters and cinemas, shops, street vendors. There is a good selection of boutique hotels in Lastarria, making it popular with travelers.
Providencia - a more upscale neighborhood with residential areas and a fashionable shopping and restaurant district. Providencia is home to San Cristobal Hill and Metropolitan Park, boutique and high-rise hotels. Like Lastarria, Providencia is ideal for walking tours.
Las Condes - an upper-class neighborhood, modern and wealthy, with large shopping malls, office building and high-rise hotels. Las Condes has a good selection of 5-star hotels but lacks the character and local flavor of Lastarria and Providencia.
Centro Historico - the historical downtown area should be included on all city tours with stops at Plaza de Armas, Cathedral, National Historical Museum, La Moneda (the Presidential Palace), the bustling Mercado Central.
Read about our favorite restaurants in Santiago.
What to do in Valparaiso and Vina del Mar
Valparaiso, commonly referred to as Valpo, is a major seaport located on the Pacific coast of central Chile and is widely known for its bohemian culture, brightly colored houses, and beautiful seaside views.
It is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and proclaimed “Chile’s Cultural Capital” by the Chilean Congress. It is home to an active nightlife and many arts-related events. The terrain is very hilly so the city is best toured by taking ascensores or funiculars (cable cars) to the highest points.
Valparaiso can be visited on a day trip from Santiago or on an overnight trip, staying at one of the city's boutique hotels.
What to do in the Central Valley
Wine tours, hiking and horseback riding.
Primary wine-producing valleys outside of Santiago:
Maipo - closest to Santiago making it the best choice for shorter, half-day visits. Popular wineries include Santa Rita, Almaviva, Cousino Macul, Undurraga and Concha y Toro.
Colchagua - about 100 miles south of central Santiago including sections of Rapel Valley. Featured varietals include Carménère, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. Colchagua is home to Casa Lapostolle, Vina Vik, Emiliana, Veremonte and Montes
Casablanca/San Antonio - located between Santiago and Valparaiso, wineries in the Casablanca Valley can easily be included on a day trip to Valparaiso or on a transfer between Valparaiso and Santiago. Casablanca, closer to the cooler coast, produces Chile's best whites including Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Casona Matetic arranges overnight stays with meals and tours included. Other winery tours offered by Bodega Re, Casas del Bosque.
Aconcagua - located about an hour by car north of Santiago. Varietals include Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Featured wineries include Errázuriz, San Esteban, Von Siebenthal.
Day hikes from Santiago:
The Colorado River viewpoint is located in the Maipo Canyon, southeast of Santiago. The Maipo River that runs through the canyon is the third longest river in Chile. The hike to the viewpoint takes about 2 to 3 hours depending on your pace. From the viewpoint you will be able to see Tupungato Volcano. It will also be possible to enjoy the wonderful views of the Río Colorado Canyon, and if you’re lucky, you may catch sight of some condors.
El Morado National Park, also located in the Maipo Canyon, is a protected area in the heart of the Andes. It encompasses the Morales Stream and surrounding peaks, starring the magnificent El Morado, the highest mountain in the park at an altitude of 16,596 feet above sea level. The scenic trek (2 to 3 hours) begins from Cajón del Arenas reaching a lake at the base of the marvelous El Morado Hanging Glacier (Colgante Del Morado).
La Campana National Park is located about 100 miles northwest from Santiago in the central coast mountain range. The 8,000-hectare park was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1985. The park is home to one of the last remaining Chilean Palm forests. The 5-hour strenuous trek to the top of La Campana offers marvelous views of the Andes. On a clear day you will be able to see the Pacific Ocean as well as Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest mountain in the Americas at 22,851 feet above sea level.
Provincia Hill is the most visited summit of the Ramón Mountain Range, located immediately to the east of Santiago and visible from anywhere in the city. From the summit the entire Central Valley can be seen all the way to the Cordillera de la Costa (Coastal Mountain Range). To the east is a magnificent view of the Andes.
A menu of our Santiago and Central Valley tours and excursions can be found here.
Torres del Paine & Southern Patagonia
Deemed a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978, this park embraces an area of extreme beauty that renders most visitors speechless.
Thick magellanic forests, barren pampa, and turquoise lakes with huge glaciers and beautifully sculpted icebergs surround you. Soaring out of the earth are the majestic, granite Torres del Paine.
Unforgettable hikes can be made around the park, each offering fabulous views of this remote land that is home to guanacos, foxes, woodpeckers, austral parakeets and condors, amongst many other species of wildlife.
The Torres del Paine Circuit Trek and the W Trek are considered two of the world's classic treks.
Start planning your trip to Torres del Paine here.
The Chile Lake District
Northern Patagonia: lakes (lots of them), rivers, volcanoes and temperate rainforest.
Puerto Varas, located on the shore of Lake Llanquihue, is the ideal base for exploring the surrounding lakes, forests and fjords of the Lake District.
- Sea kayak the Reloncavi Fjord to Cochamo along side sea lions and dolphins.
- Bike the Los Enamorados Trail in Vicente Perez Rosales National Park through coigue forest and along the Petrohue River to Lake Todos Los Santos.
- Hike through the extensive larch forests of Alerce Andino National Park.
- Raft the whitewater of the Petrohue River.
Puerto Montt is the primary port and gateway for travel to southern Patagonia:
The Austral Highway heads south from Puerto Montt through the Aysen Region ending over 770 miles away in Villa O'Higgins.
The Navimag Ferries depart from Puerto Montt through the Patagonian fjords south to Puerto Natales.
Skorpios cruises sail from Puerto Montt to the northern and southern Ice Fields.
A menu of our Chile Lake District excursions can be found here.
The Atacama Desert
The driest non-polar desert on earth, the Atacama, was first inhabited by the Atacameño people.
From your San Pedro de Atacama lodge you will explore the high-altitude desert plateau on foot, mountain bike, horseback, all-terrain vehicle. Visit ancient towns, geysers and hot springs, climb volcanoes, gaze the unfiltered night sky.
The small town of San Pedro de Atacama takes you back in time with its beautiful adobe whitewashed buildings with interior patios. Crystal clear skies and brilliant stars have made the region one of the top destinations for astronomers and stargazers. Exotic wildlife like the camelid vicuñas, guanacos and flamingos roam the altiplano.
This small remnant of volcanic rock just 15 miles across and 2,500 miles from the coast of Chile was once one of the most isolated places on Earth.
Originally named "Te Pito O Te Henua" (Navel of The World), it is now also called Rapa Nui. Today Easter Island has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and it has a unique Polynesian culture that manifests in its art, archaeology, and traditions and a wonderful raw, unspoiled beauty of windswept coastlines, gentle, treeless hills, and a verdant interior.
Island explorations to Ahu Akivi, Orongo, Akahanga, Te Pito Kura, Rano Raraku and Anakena Beach, Akivi, Ana Te Pahu, Puna Pau, Vinapu, Anakai Tangata. Watch sunrise at Tongariki, sunset at Tahai. Horseback riding, trekking Volcan Terevaka, the Northloop Hike are just some of the possibilities.
Chile's Aysen Region is located in Patagonia, south of Puerto Montt and the Lakes District, north of Punta Arenas and Torres del Paine National Park.
This is a remote and off-the-beaten part of Patagonia. Most travelers will arrive by air at the airport in Balmaceda. The more intrepid can arrive overland along the Austral Highway. Other important cities in Aysen include Coyhaique (the most populous and capital of the region), Puerto Aysen, Cochrane, Chile Chico.
The Carretera Austral - the Austral Highway - snakes its way through the region. Mostly unpaved, but one of the most spectacular roads in the world. The Southern Highway stretches for around 770 miles between Puerto Montt in the north to Villa O'Higgins in the south, passing national parks and lakes along the way.
Features of Aysen include the Northern Patagonian Ice Field (contained entirely in Laguna San Rafael National Park) and Southern Patagonian Ice Field (partially in Aysen), Laguna San Rafael National Park, Queulat National Park, mountains, glaciers, lakes, rivers, numerous fjords and channels. Activities include hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, horseback riding, sea kayaking Patagonian fjords, river rafting the Baker River, photography, fly fishing. Remote lodges offer all-inclusive packages that include your transfers from/to the Balmaceda Airport, accommodations, meals and daily guided excursions.
Total Solar Eclipses in Chile - 2019 / 2020
There will be 2 total solar eclipses in Chile
2019 - La Serena, Coquimbo, Vicuña, Pisco Elqui and the Elqui Valley all lie along the path of eclipse totality.
The days leading up to the eclipse will be spent touring this beautiful part of Chile. Our 5-day program includes hotel accommodations, daily guided excursions around the Elqui Valley and a special Eclipse day celebration.
The Elqui Valley is a verdant landscape dotted with vineyards and charming small towns such as Pisco Elqui and Vicuña. Syrah and Carmenere are produced here as is most of Chile's pisco. The Elqui Valley is an ideal location for observing the night sky with an average of 360 clear nights a year and over a dozen observatories based in the valley.
The Eclipse observation will be at a outdoor site with tent, chairs and dining facilities situated at the foot of Mamalluca Hill. Lunch and beverages will be supplied.
2020 - Villarrica and Pucon lie along the path of totality
Deluxe tents at a glampsite
Overnight accommodations are in classic Sibley tents. From an original design dating back to 1856, the Sibley tents provide a luxurious stay in a comfortable environment, to revive the style of the camps that were mounted by European aristocratic travelers. The tents are 220 square feet in area. Made of 100% cotton canvas, they are waterproof with natural breathability.