If you are flying into Chile, you will probably arrive in Santiago. No one can deny that the Chilean capital has an impressive setting, in a hollow surrounded by mountains, with peaks over 5000 m visible on clear days. They are most dramatic just after rainfall in winter, when the smog clears and the new snows glisten.
Situated in the Central Valley and with a population of six million, Santiago has grown to become the sixth largest city in South America, as well as the political, economic and cultural capital of Chile. The city is crossed from east to west by the long-suffering Río Mapocho, into which most of the city’s sewage is dumped; however, the magnificent chain of the Andes provides a more appropriate natural landmark.
Santiago is a vibrant, progressive city. With its many parks, interesting museums, glittering high-rises and boutiques, it bursts with possibilities. As far as entertainment goes, there are popular scenes in everything from techno and progressive rock to Bohemian hang-outs and most of the bits in between. Certainly, those who spend an extended period of time in Santiago soon find plenty of things to do at night and at the weekends.
The region around the capital encompasses several of the country’s highlights. The resorts on the coast are less than two hours away and also within easy reach are the best ski resorts in South America, which are great spots for weekend hikes in summer. Meanwhile, the area south of Santiago is perhaps the best wine-producing area in Chile. Autumn, when the grapes are being harvested, is a particularly good time to visit the vineyards.