Many people fly into Santiago with the desire to see more of Chile than just the city. However, Chile is quite a long country (4,270 kilometers or 2,670 miles long, to be exact), so this tends to present problems for tourists who are short on time and want to see the extreme North or South of the country. Don’t worry, while Patagonia and San Pedro de Atacama may be difficult trips to fit into just a week in Chile, you still have many options to see the nation’s main attractions! In this article, I’d like to present you with three easy day trips from Santiago.
If you’re coming to Santiago and only have time for one day trip, I fully recommend Valparaíso as your destination. Valparaíso (or “Valpo”, for short) is an interesting place to visit because of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Moreover, this port town is covered in amazing displays of street art. Artists from all over the world come to this city to leave their marks on buildings, steps, walls, roofs, and anything else that they can find. This display of color creates an interesting sensation for those exploring the Valpo’s corners.
You’ll notice that Santiago and Valparaíso are almost complete opposites although they are both very large cities. While Santiago’s buildings are quite modern and grey, Valparaíso holds on to its antique structures and bright-colored houses. The people in each of these cities are quite different as well, which may be due to Valpo’s proximity to the beach and ocean. The average Chilean holds a certain cariño (affection) towards Valpo because of its importance in the nation’s history as well as its natural charm.
How to get there:
Buses from Santiago to Valparaíso run every 10-30 minutes, so don’t worry about buying your tickets ahead of time. To get to the bus terminal, take the metro to the Universidad de Santiago de Chile station (the red line) and exit the metro station following the signs pointing to the “terminal de buses. As far as which bus company to take, I personally always use Turbus. The ride should take around 2 hours and tickets are typically around $2,500-3,000 CLP, so this trip is quite low-cost.
Cajón del Maipo
Wanting to get outside of the city and feel a bit of fresh air? Cajón del Maipo is the place for you. Located a mere hour drive from most parts of Santiago, Santiaguinos frequently escape for the weekend to this hotspot for rafting, camping, trekking, and cycling. The little town of San José del Maipo is very quaint and is full of ferias (markets) and restaurant options offering home-cooked Chilean meals.
My favorite part of Cajón del Maipo? Easily the Embalse el Yeso, a reservoir deep in the Andes mountains that is responsible for providing a majority of the drinking water in Santiago. The water in the reservoir is a bright turquoise color, creating a beautiful contrast between the water, the Andes mountains, and the blue sky. I went during the summertime; however, I suspect that the mountains would be even more breathtaking when covered in snow.
How to get there:
While it is possible to reach Cajón del Maipo using public transportation, I recommend renting a car for the day. In the summertime, any car can make the trek on the unpaved roads (believe me, we went in a Toyota Yaris). In the winter, the roads are more difficult to navigate, making it necessary to have a 4×4. If you’re set on using the buses, take the metro to Bellavista de la Florida (green line). From there, you can catch buses to the town of San José del Maipo. For those who aren’t afraid to hitchhike, this may be a cheaper way to do the trip. You’ll find that places such as Embalse el Yeso are almost impossible to reach on foot.
If you’re in Santiago during the winter, you’re in for a treat. Flying into Santiago over the Andes when they’re covered in snow really makes you appreciate the beauty of nature. If you want to take advantage of the weather for winter sports, Santiago is the perfect location for you. The drive to El Colorado or Valle Nevado, both well-known Ski resorts, is only about an hour and a half, depending on traffic. A word to those who easily suffer from car sickness: make sure to drive slowly. The route up to the top of the Andes is quite curvy.
Both resorts are beautiful, and if you have the extra cash, stay the night in one of the luxury hotels. From spas to pricey restaurants, this is the perfect place for indulgence. If you want to ski or snowboard but don’t have much experience, I recommend starting at El Colorado. For those who are more advanced, Valle Nevado is more up your alley.
How to get there:
For travelers who don’t plan on renting a car, this day trip won’t present any problems for you. There are various tour companies offering transport, lunch, and ski/snowboard lesson packages (for example, here or here). Keep in mind that the best time to go skiing in Santiago is from around June to August.
Have you taken any day trip from Santiago?