Santiago Outdoors

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Santiago Outdoors
Santiago’s location between the Andes and coastal mountains makes it an ideal base from which to enjoy the outdoors. You can ski in the Andes, hike in the coastal hills, or head out for a day trip to the Pacific or to wine country.
By Liz Caskey, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Eileen Smith
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    Biking around Town
    Santiago is ideal for cycling, thanks to a generally flat landscape, bike lanes, respect for cyclists, and a mild climate. It's a great way to see historical attractions around town and to cover ground easily. Bike from the Andean foothills to downtown, through lush parks, along the Mapocho River, through the turn-of-the-century neighborhoods of Barrio Yungay, or past the skyscrapers of the financial district. Either rent a bike—Bikesantiago has numerous rental stations around the city—or sign up for a tour with La Bicicleta Verde, which can even deliver bikes, helmets, and maps to your hotel.
    Photo by Eileen Smith
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    Hiking in the Hills
    No matter where you are in Santiago, you can always see the towering Andes. But more than a backdrop to the sprawling city, the mountains are best enjoyed up close. For a good hike to the top, with views of the city and valley below, head to the highest point in the city itself, Cerro San Cristobal. You can spend the afternoon relaxing in the Japanese botanical garden before heading down. Farther out in the foothills, near El Arrayán, Santuario de la Naturaleza is a peaceful spot for short hikes and picnics. For a full day of hiking, head to Yerba Loca National Park in the central Andes. The park has stunning mountain vistas, crystalline streams, and condors soaring overhead.
    Photo by Walter Bibikow/age fotostock
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    Explore Chilean Wines
    Six wine valleys are within day-trip distance of the city. The closest is Casablanca Valley, only 45 minutes northwest and specializing in white wines and cooler reds like pinot noir. Stop off Route 68 for a tasting lunch at Casas del Bosque or House of Morande. Due south of Santiago is the Maipo Valley, where large Chilean producers like Concha y Toro, Santa Rita, and Cousiño Macul have their stately wineries. Further south is Colchagua, home to many huasos (Chilean cowboys) and award-winning syrahs and carmeneres. This valley is home to Montes Winery, a pioneer in premium Chilean wines sold abroad, and the stunning Lapostolle Winery, whose Clos Apalta wine is world-renowned.
    Photo by Susie Hill
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    Tee off in Santiago
    Santiago has several excellent golf courses that can be played while in town. Many courses have gorgeous Andean vistas in addition to well-maintained greens. The classic Los Leones was established more than a century ago and is the city’s most exclusive golfing spot. The city’s first public course, Club Mapocho, has open, well-watered greens popular with local golfers. To the north of town, Hacienda Chicureo was designed by American Mike Asmundson and is laid out in two contrasting loops. The 18 holes of Hacienda Santa Martina, located in the foothills of the Andes, win the prize for most picturesque with their stunning setting among native flora, fauna, and majestic peaks.
    Photo by Franco Barbagallo/age fotostock
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    Cool Off in the Summer
    From December to February, when the mercury soars, cool off in one of the city’s pools—many of which have a spectacular view. In Parque Metropolitano, public pools Piscina Tupahue and Piscina Antilén are clean and attractively landscaped with good infrastructure. Piscina Antilén sits higher up the hill, with sweeping views of the city below. For more lavish surroundings, pay for a day at Balthus Spa, with its spa and gym in the eastern area of Vitacura. With both a lap pool inside and a sparkling outdoor pool, complete with mountain views, it is an ideal way to beat the heat. Of course, if you are slumbering at hotels like W Santiago or Noi Vitacura, they have fabulous rooftop pools with a view—and a cocktail menu.
    Photo by Erin Nave
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    Horseback Riding and Rodeos
    Horseback riding is another ideal way to take in the astounding nature around Santiago. South of the city in Maipo Canyon you can ride trails around Maipo River and the Las Ánimas waterfall, exploring beautiful valleys, crystal clear lakes, glaciers, and snow-capped mountains. Only 90 minutes north is La Campana National Park, with over 60,000 Chilean palms (some 400 years old). Contact outfitter Chile Off Track to saddle up with a local huaso (cowboy) and ride through palm forests and streams. During Independence Day celebrations in September, Parque Padre Hurtado hosts traditional Chilean rodeos most weekends where attendees dress up in their ponchos, boots, and spurs and strut their stuff.
    Photo by Liz Caskey
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    Fresh Andean Powder
    Snow falls in the Andes from June to September. Skiers can easily head up to the mountain resorts, only an hour or two from Santiago; Valle Nevado is only 35 miles away. This resort has the country's first gondola and acres of skiable terrain. Along the way, you'll pass other ski resorts, including Farellones, La Parva, and El Colorado. Portillo sits in the high Andes aside a sapphire-colored lagoon under the watch of Mount Aconcagua; its steep, short runs are perfect for thrill seekers. During the season, Ski Arpa runs off-trail downhill skiing, using snowcats. Its vertical runs near San Esteban are sometimes over 3,000-feet, offering tons of untracked powder.
    Photo courtesy of Valle Nevado
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    Charming Beach Towns
    Chile’s coastline consists of jagged rocks, white-sand beaches, and spectacular views of crashing waves. Anchored by the resort city Viña del Mar and the historic port of Valparaíso, charming beach towns spread to the north and south. A must-visit is Isla Negra, Pablo Neruda’s former home overlooking the sea, which provides a snapshot into the life of Chile’s beloved poet. Further north, Zapallar, a popular summer getaway for Chile’s upper class, has elegant homes nestled into the hills, beautiful gardens, a breathtaking rocky coast, and the clear waters of the Pacific Ocean. Seaside paths invite you to walk off your seafood lunch of local delicacies like conger eel, abalones, or native razor clams on the water at El Chiringuito.
    Photo by Liz Caskey