I was fortunate to be able to spend this past weekend in Santiago Chile. It was my first trip back to visit since we moved back to the United States after spending three years living there. While most would not consider Santiago Chile a weekend getaway, it is actually a perfect spot for a short vacation. Here are my recommendations for a sophisticated weekend in the Chilean Capital.
LATAM airlines out of Miami (but also New York)
If you track fares, you might be able to get a good price on LATAM airlines flight from Miami or New York. I used frequent flyer miles (code share with American Airlines) and traveled first class. LATAM first class is a step above most other airlines - they have a particularly good wine program. The New York flight is actually a great length to enjoy the first-class experience and still get a good night's sleep in lay-flat beds. Delta Airlines also offers direct Atlanta - Santiago.
Same Time Zone, Opposite Seasons - Skiing in July or the Beach in January
Santiago Chile is the same timezone but southern hemisphere which means there is no jet lag and you can take advantage of the opposite season. This weekend I left 85 degree weather in Atlanta to find Ski season in Chile. Chile has had an incredible amount of early snow so the Ski resorts opened early. Ski resorts are 1 hour from downtown Santiago and a ski day is very easy to arrange. But even with winter, the sun is hot in the afternoon making for a very temperate climate.
Where to Stay
The W Hotel in Santiago is one of my all-time favorite hotels. It has a great vibe, an incredible rooftop pool and It is adjacent to a small park - Plaza Peru - very well located for business travelers. But in the last few years a number of new hotels have opened to compete with the W. One of the most beautiful, and with a great location in Barrio Lastarria, is The Singular Santiago. Singular is a luxury hotel chain that is very high on style and service. I've stayed at the Singular Patagonia and it was exceptional.
An Introduction to Casablanca Wine Valley
If you have at least three days in Santiago, absolutely use one day to go to the Casablanca Valley for a day of wine tasting (an hour from Santiago). But for our quick weekend, we were thrilled to see a new wine experience targeting the business traveler who wants to learn about Chilean wine but does not have time to go to the Vineyards. Vinolia offers introductions to two of the most famous Chilean Wine Valleys: Colchagua Valley famous for the great Chilean Red Carménère and Casablanca Valley that offers cool weather Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Through an hour-long experience, you explore an aroma room to learn about the flavor profiles of the grapes and then you watch a film introducing the valley and the winemakers who lead you on a tasting of wines. It is a terrific experience.
Dinner at La Mar
This famous restaurant that hails from the Peruvian Chef Gaston Acurio, La Mar is a perfect blend of great vibe, outstanding food and perfect location. Dining will start much later than it does in the US so if you arrive at 8 or 8:30 you can watch as the entire dining room fills up each and every night. They have a fantastic outside patio which is great all year long. The classic ceviche and the Super Saltado are my favorite menu items but I have honestly never had a bad meal. And you must begin with a Pisco Sour.
Within minutes from downtown Santiago are countless hikes into and around the beautiful Andes Mountains. The best insight on where to go is to talk to a local because most hikers know the routes and they are often unmarked. A good easy-to-find hike is Parque Natural San Carlos de Apoquindo. You could ask a driver to take you to the entrance of the park. Register and take a map that shows the many options - moderate to difficult. Friends in Chile this weekend told me Google now has a app that is the Waze of hiking. Everyone can add the trek they know.
Nobel Prize winning poet and beloved figure of Chile, Pablo Neruda is not only a quirky and fascinating individual but the story of his life is a story about a gifted poet living through the turbulant history of his country. Neruda has three famous homes - all worth visiting - but La Chascona in Santiago is a must see. The New York Times did a great piece on his houses that is worth a read. The tour will only take a few hours even with some lingering in the quaint cafe or the bookstore.
As you would imagine, the 17-year dictatorship of Pinochet had a direct impact on the art world in Santiago. However, today, Santiago is filled with many small art galleries. In fact, Chilean art is still very affordable because the market is still developing. Two small museums worth a look: Museum of Visual Arts (MAVI) in Barrio Lastarria and depending on the exhibit, Central Cultural Palacio La Moneda.
The Central Cultural Palacio La Moneda is also located directly under La Moneda which houses the office of the President and was also the famous backdrop of the 1973 Coup that killed then President Allende.
Lunch at Aquí Está Coco
Located in a historic neighborhood of Providencia, Aquí Está Coco is a very special restaurant to experience the best of Chilean food. It is one of those places that is a favorite of both tourists and Chilean families who come for a long lunch on the weekends. The Oysters and the Machas (a Chilean surf clam roasted with parmesan cheese) are great starters. Anything on the menu will be great.
The military coup that began on 11 September 1973 led by dictator Augusto Pinochet continued for 17 years. The Museo de la Memoria y Los Derechos Hermanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights) seeks to commemorate the human rights violations and helps provide context for why things in Chile may still be catching up. While painful, the museum is a must for anyone interested in history and how the United States was involved.
Chileans love shopping malls but if you have traveled thousands of miles you are likely looking for more artisan. While most tourists will direct you to Pueblito de Los Dominicos, an interesting experience but very touristy, take a cab instead to Barrio Italia, a small district of independent artist stores, restaurants and furniture restoration stores within a few blocks. Also notable is the Fundación Artesanías de Chile which operates a number of stores in Santiago and supports the Chilean craft-making traditions throughout the country. One location is in the Central Cultural Palacio la Moneda and the other is in the Airport.
Much more awaits but Santiago is a city worth a bit of curation. The known tourist attractions are a bit tired and, well, touristy. It took us living in the city to really start to see its potential. Better to read some articles written in the past few years to help you navigate the quickly developing city. Lots of great restaurants, art galleries, outside adventures, and the wine valleys to the south and west of Santiago are on offer. Valparaiso and Zapallar are just more than an hour drive and distinct experiences you will talk about forever and of course the opportunity to explore further to San Pedro de Atacama, the Lake Country or Patagonia.