Travelers who consider Santiago little more than a place to fly in and out of while en route to more exotic locations would be missing out. Both the capital city and its nearby destinations are worth figuring into your itinerary. Below, how to make the most of your visit to South America’s hippest destination.
Chile’s capital city is rich in culture, food, and fun—the founders of Lollapalooza chose Santiago as its inaugural international destination, and this is the festival’s fourth year in town—thanks, in large part, to the government’s investment in the arts in recent years. Two notable additions: the Centro Gabriela Mistral, a 200,000-square-foot performance and exhibit space and fashion museum Museo del la Moda, which houses nearly 10,000 pieces of couture inside a revamped 1960s Modernist mansion.
Where to Stay: The Aubrey
Chic and intimate and immaculately turned out with a mix of vintage and new furniture, the 15-room boutique hotel in the artsy Bellavista neighborhood of Santiago is an ideal alternative to the big box hotels: friendly but private, with an excellent in house restaurant and back patio ideal for sipping Pisco sours by moonlight. theaubrey.com
Halfway between Santiago and Valparaiso, Chile’s Casablanca Valley boasts dramatic swaths of vineyards and architecturally bold wineries in the shadow of the Andes. Grapes grow in a pre-coastal climate tempered by the brisk winds coming off of the Pacific, resulting in excellent whites but also worthy reds: Pinot Noir, Merlot, and cool-climate Syrah. Notable stops include the 300-acre Kingston Family Vineyards, known for its small production, artisan-style Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc, and friendly family ranch vibe.
The San Antonio Valley is the newest—and most talked-about—wine destinations in Chile. Founded by Chile’s first female vineyard owner, the intimate Casa Marin Winery is the country’s most coastal vineyard, and it’s just two and a half miles from the Pacific shoreline. Enjoy a tour of the vines followed by a private tasting and cozy lunch in the main house, or stay the night at the on-grounds guest casita.
The historic port city along the Pacific coast was in crumbles just a decade ago, but thanks to a city wide renovation funded by the government and private donors, it’s now a vibrant destination for art, culture, food and history. Government-funded graffiti street art has helped makeover many neighborhoods, turning shabby buildings into works to admire, while a former prison that housed Pinochet dissidents is now a cultural center with dance performances and art hanging in former cellblocks.
Where to Stay: Hotel Palacio Astoreca
A two year renovation of a national monument, originally built as a residence by one of Chile’s most important early 20th century families, produced this meticulously designed 23-room boutique hotel with art and furnishings by local artists, views of Valparaiso Bay and the in-house Alegre restaurant, already considered one of the best in Latin America. hotelpalacioastoreca.com.
How to Do It: Upscape
Run by ex-pats Brian Pearson and Sira Berté, Upscape is a full service tour operator leading guided walking, driving, or helicopter day trips—or longer—through Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Sustainable tours are customized to travelers’ interests and abilities and although most are crafted with a focus on some combination of skiing, cycling, rafting and drinking wine, the operators can also put together a highly specific afternoon of Valparaiso’s most spectacular public art, say, or a culinary-and-Pisco Sour tour through Santiago. upscapetravel.com
(All photos by Robert Parsons/Seven Elm)