VIDEO: Five Things to do in Santiago, Chile
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VIDEO: Five Things to do in Santiago, Chile

Santiago isn’t just a layover city for travelers en route to Patagonia or Easter Island. Chile’s capital is a destination in its own right, growing wildly in popularity over the last decade. So what to do in Santiago if it’s your first visit?

Start by visiting the Barrio Lastarria, the area where Santiago was first founded in 1541. Now, it’s home to the city’s trendiest cafes, boutique shops, bars, and restaurants.

Here, you can climb the stone steps of Cerro Santa Lucia—a hill crowned with beautiful, manicured gardens, churches, and a lookout tower that boasts some of the city’s best views. In the afternoon, you can even watch the daily cannon fire.

Another must-do item on your Santiago travel itinerary is Pablo Neruda’s house, the Nobel prize-winning poet. Today, locals and tourists alike can pay their respects to the literary genius at his home—known as La Chascona—in the boho neighborhood of Bellavista. Ship-like in design (and named after his secret lover, Matilde Urrutia) this was just one of Neruda’s three homes. If all the sightseeing works up your appetite, you can dine at the nearby El Mesón Nerudiano—a restaurant named after the wordsmith.

Don’t forget that Chile is punctuated by the Andes Mountains. Skiers and snowboarders flock here between June and September to enjoy the extraordinary slopes. Valle Nevado is only an hour and a half drive from downtown Santiago, and is known for perfect powder. Even heli-skiing is offered here for the most extreme sports enthusiasts.

Of course, skiing is just one of the fun things to do in Santiago to take advantage of the mountainous terrain. Modest cerros, or hills, serve as a constant reminder that the soaring Andes are just around the corner. Travelers can take the funicular up to Cerro San Cristobal—the city’s largest park—to experience botanical and Japanese gardens and twin outdoor pools.

Before you leave Santiago, sip a classic Pisco Sour: a favorite Chilean cocktail that originated in the 16th-century. The best ones are found at the speakeasy Room 09 (you’ll need a dinner reservation) or Chipe Libre. At the latter, imbibers can choose from an extensive Pisco menu.

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