Three Must-Visit Cities – Santiago, Valparaiso and Viña del Mar
Best for: gastronomy, beaches, art and culture, history, parks
Route: Santiago – Casablanca Valley – Valparaiso – Viña del Mar
When to Go? November to May. Avoid Viñan del Mar between January and February – it’s packed
No matter where you go, be sure to stroll the capital and its two nearby coastal cities to gen up on Chilean history and indulge in some good food.
Santiago is now a serious rival to South America’s big capitals, with a slew of boutique hotels, fusion restaurants and craft ale bars found in its Lastarria and Bella vista areas. At its centre is La Moneda (presidential palace), which has a superb art gallery in its basement. And downtown lies Cerro Santa Lucia, the city’s green lung – although Metropolitan Park is the place to go for an urban hike.
Leaving the capital behind, take the Casablanca Valley route, stopping off at the (mainly white grape) wineries en route to Valparaiso, a wonderfully arty, colourful town with lots of seafood restaurants and fine views over the ocean. The last stop is Viña del Mar, a popular beach escape for residents of Santiago, which began its life as a vineyard – hence the name. Its palm-filled streets and parks earn it the moniker ‘The Garden City’; wander their lush paths before restoring on the sands of Caleta Abarca.