Though Chile’s central coast could keep travelers busy for days, visitors short on time can still experience all this historic port city has to offer in one day. Start at Plaza Sotomayor, then climb the Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion hills and marvel at the numerous artists’ shops, hip cafés, brightly-painted houses, and graffiti. Ride a funicular, like Ascensor Concepción, and check out one of the city’s best lookouts at Paseo Yugoslavo. Many of Valparaíso’s best bars and restaurants are within walking distance from this spot. Whether arriving by car or bus, the trip to Valparaíso or “Valpo” should take between 90 minutes and two hours.
Seventy kilometers southwest of Santiago, there’s Pomaire, a place emblematic of small-town Chilean culture and rural life. What makes Pomaire unique is the town’s earthenware traditions. Quaint pottery shops line the streets of Pomaire, where visitors can buy three-legged good luck “chanchitas” or little pigs, which are meant to bring money, love, and health. Pomaire is also known for serving some of Chile’s largest empanadas. If traveling via public transport, note that direct buses to Pomaire aren’t as frequent as buses to Melipilla, a nearby town. From Melipilla, it’s easy to take a taxi or local bus to Pomaire.
See the most impressive of poet Pablo Neruda’s three Chilean residences with a day trip to the coastal town of Isla Negra. With gorgeous views of the ocean waves crashing on the grey rocks and several charming cafés and restaurants, Isla Negra offers a quaint, poetic respite from Santiago’s hustle and bustle.
Wine tasting in the Central Valley
Chile’s most productive wine region, the Central Valley, encompasses four different wine growing sub-regions, including: the Rapel Valley, the Maipo Valley, the Curicó Valley and the Maule Valley. Within these valleys, numerous vineyards offer high-quality tours and wine tastings. On the outskirts of Santiago, Latin America’s largest wine producer Concha y Toro offers popular and affordable tours and tastings. Also close to Santiago, the Viña Aquitania provides a more boutique experience.
Cajón del Maipo
This gorge, located about an hour away from Santiago near San Jose del Maipo, has camping and picnic areas, hot springs, and spectacular hikes. A trip to the El Yeso reservoir also has numerous camping spaces and hiking trails nearby. Visit the Baños Morales for a peaceful afternoon or take a hike to the San Francisco Glacier for a glimpse of the area’s prized natural beauty.
Reñaca & Concón
For travelers who find big beach cities unappealing but still seek proximity to the ocean, visit Reñaca or Concón. These small beach towns are down the road from Viña del Mar, but offer a more relaxed environment. Sandboard affordably in Reñaca or have a beer and seafood empanada on the beach in Concón. The towns neighbor each other, and arriving to each is made easy by orange buses that drive along the coast. Take one from Viña or Valpo that say “Concón” or “Reñaca.”
Skiing at El Colorado or Valle Nevado
Travelers visiting during ski season (June through October) can scope the powder at El Colorado or Valle Nevado ski centers. Beginners should stick to El Colorado, as it has many easy slopes. Meanwhile Valle Nevado is great for advanced skiers. Both centers are located a couple hours’ drive from Santiago’s city center. Equipment rental and transportation from the city are available through numerous local tour companies.