Nearly all visitors to Chile pass through Santiago at some point during their trip. The city’s reputation has improved dramatically in the last few years, and there are also some very worthwhile day trips that can be taken. Here are some of the top day trip options for those looking to get outside the hustle and bustle of Santiago itself for one day (or perhaps an overnight):
1. Cajon del Maipo – Within an hour of the city, this valley will take you deep into the mountains to really get back to nature. In the Cajon del Maipo, you can hike, go horseback riding, see natural waterfalls, visit hot springs, visit a glacier, and more. In fact, there is so much to do, that if you wish, you can stay a night or two to really relax and enjoy the naturalness of the area. The mountains in this area climb to elevations above 10,000 feet, and you can get a real sense of the magnificence of the Andes. While there, you may want to also enjoy some local empanadas, specifically pino empanadas which are made fresh daily by many local vendors.
2. Maipo Valley Wine Tour – Chile is internationally known for its great wines. One region where many of those wines come from is the Maipo Valley, just south of Santiago. The best way we know of to visit this wine region is on a bike tour that explores the extensive estate of the historic Santa Rita winery, along with some pedaling in the nearby village and surrounding roads. The reality is that many of the wineries close to Santiago, including the massive Concha y Toro, are relatively touristy and not the kind of places we like to send our travelers. A relatively easygoing bike tour around Santa Rita is a great way to get some exercise and fresh air, enjoy some top quality wines, and see some of the history of Chilean wine-making.
3. Valparaiso – While Valparaiso is a city, it is a coastal port city and has a very different feel than Santiago. It´s relaxed, bohemian atmosphere and beauty captivate a lot of travelers and the city has a relatively large expat population of people who have settled here to open hotels or restaurants. You can climb one of the many hills that face the ocean, each with a distinct style and feel or you can take one of the many old fashioned but still operational outdoor elevators that take you to the top of the hill. There are many sidewalk cafes and lots of galleries to browse. If time allows, try to catch a glimpse of the dazzling sunset out over the Pacific before returning back to Santiago. If interested, you can also combine your day trip to Valparaiso a visit to Pablo Neruda’s house at Isla Negra with a day trip to Valparaiso, or evan a stop for lunch and wine tasting in the Casablanca Valley. (With an early start and late return to Santiago you can even do all three!)