Mountains, snow and some of the world’s best wines
Surrounded by the mighty snow-capped Andes to the east and coastal mountains to the west, Chile’s capital Santiago enjoys one of the most spectacular settings of any world city. And it is well served by international and domestic transport services.
Where to stay
There is very good HI Youth Hostel® accommodation in the city. The HI Hostel in Santiago is a great place to stay – it is well served by public transport and close to the top visitor sights and nightlife!
Santiago city highlights
Santiago has been shaped by a succession of earthquakes and sprawling construction. It is cultured, quirky and friendly – making it the perfect introduction to this long slender country and an ideal base for exploring the surrounding region.
Do not miss the compact historic centre, lively Plaza de Armas and Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino for a taste of pre-Hispanic Chile. Explore the cabarets, cafés and delightful Parque Forestal of traditional Barrio Lastarria. Hip Barrio Brasil features quaint cobbled streets, impressive mansions, bars and restaurants. The malls of Las Condes (Boulevard del Parque Arauco, Mirador del Alto) are ideal for dining, entertainment and shopping. Enjoy the lively restaurants and bars of Borde Río in Vitacura!
For relaxation, head to the Bellavista district. This traditional Bohemian quarter is the place to find great theatres, mouth-watering restaurants, and some eclectic art in the former home of poet Pablo Neruda. Check out the Mercado Central for lunch – this busy marketplace is a wonderful place to sample fresh fish or seafood. Ride the elevator to the top of steep Cerro San Cristóbal for fabulous views of the towering Andes.
Around Santiago: world-class skiing is just a couple of hours away
The ski season runs from mid-June to mid-October, with equipment rentals easily arranged. The most economical option is to stay at the HI Santiago Hostel and use the excellent public transport network to reach the slopes. Choose from:
- Farellones and El Colorado 40km from Santiago, 3,333 metres above sea level, 22 trails.
- La Parva. 50km from Santiago, 2,650 metres above sea level. This area has 30 slopes covering 30km of skiable piste and 14 lifts. It is very close to Farellones and El Colorado.
- Valle Nevado. 60km from Santiago, mountain tops reach over 5,000 metres above sea level. This area has 107km of slopes and 41 lifts. It is also close to Farellones and El Colorado.
- Portillo. 164km from Santiago 2,800 metres above sea level. Close to the Argentinian border, this area is one of the oldest and most beautiful in Chile. It offers 23 trails – including the famous Roca Jack ‘experts-only’ trail.
Around Santiago: world-class wine in the Central Valley
The long, narrow plain of the Central Valley stretches a few hundred kilometres south from Santiago and is the most fertile land in Chile. Here you can find historic vineyards, traditional estancias and even cowboys and rodeos! Closest to Santiago is Valle de Maipo, with Valle de Casablanca and Valle San Antonio a little further toward the Pacific coast. Many vineyards welcome visitors on guided tours and include tasty wine sampling (adults only). If you get the wine bug, keep heading south – you’ll find more great accommodation at the HI Hostel in Chillán, ideally located for exploring the Valle del Itata and Valle del Maule.
Food, drink and nightlife
Do not miss traditional dishes such as humitas (mashed corn steamed in corn husks), pastel de choclo (meat and sweetcorn pie), empanada (a sweet or savoury pastry), tasty broths or potatoes. Enjoy the great wines – or try Pisco, an aromatic brandy that is the national drink (adults only!).
Festivals and events
- August: Santiago International Film Festival
- September: Fiestas Patrias – independence celebrations in Plaza de Armas
- October: Columbus Day – traditionally dressed Mapuche people celebrate Columbus’ arrival in 1492
- November: Open-Air Documentaries – explore history and culture beneath the stars
- January: Santiago a Mil theatre festival
Recommended trips from Santiago
- Easter Island: stop at the HIEaster Island Hostel to explore the mysterious gigantic statues (moai) and prehistoric culture.
- The Lakes District: this stunning region of volcanoes, lakes, rolling farmland and native forests is easily explored from the HI Hostel in Pucón.
- Atacama Desert: the HI San Pedro de Atacama Hostel is perfect for exploring the vast barren desert and enjoying spectacular scenery.
- Torres del Paine: just 112km north of the HI Hostel in Puerto Natales, the magnificent granite spires of this national park offer some of the finest trekking in South America.
- Tierra del Fuego: stay at the HIHostel in Punta Arenas to explore the land of fire at the end of the Americas!