Just a short 20-minute drive away from Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCL), it makes sense to start your adventure in the exciting and intoxicating melting pop of Chilean culture: Santiago.
Surrounded by the magnificent sight of the snow-capped Andes, the nation’s capital - and Chile’s largest city - is a dream destination. Well-known for its vibrant nightlife and spectacular street dancing (the national dance here is the Cueca), these historic squares and avenues reveal a little more about this alluring city around every turn. Explore Centro Histórico and tick off unmissable landmarks like Plaza de Armas, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the monumental La Moneda Palace; this is the home of the Chilean. However, it’s by visiting Santaigo’s colourful neighbourhoods that travellers will start to get a sense of the city’s unique character. So take some time exploring the bohemian lanes of Bellavista - the street art pops off the walls here - and be sure to check out the charming nooks and crannies of Barrio Italia and Lastarria, too.
Worked up a bit of an appetite yet? There's no better place to satisfy your stomach than Santiago. You’ll find traditional Chilean dishes such as empanadas (filled pastries), pastel de choclo (beef and corn casserole), and Cazuela de Ave (Chilean chicken stew) all over the city. But for some of the freshest seafood in town, head over to local markets like Mercado Central and La Vega; polbo á feira (or pulpo a la gallega) is a traditional Galician dish of octopus, potatoes and paprika. For seafood lovers, this local favourite is not to be missed.
Ready to explore a little further afield? Just 72 miles (116 km) away is the kaleidoscopic coastal town of Valparaiso. If snapping endless photos of its colourfully eye-catching buildings wasn't fun enough, take some time to ride the funiculars, explore the UNESCO-listed historic quarter and enjoy some of the most breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.
Not far from Valparaiso is La Campana National Park (under an hour and a half’s drive away). There are some great hiking trails where adventurers can work up a sweat whilst enjoying the sights of these vast and bountiful forests. Light-footed explorers might even spot a huemul or two; this south Andean deer has been part of the Chilean coat of arms since 2006. Along with big cats like pumas and an abundance of birds, wildlife species are abundant here. Fitting, considering its iconic Cerro La Campana, is where Charles Darwin famously hiked.
Just as stunning but offering some entirely different vistas is Cajón del Maipo. Just over an hour's drive from Santago, this wild and mountainous area is perfect for hiking and horseback riding. It also has some sumptuously steamy hot springs, whilst the picture-perfect Embalse El Yeso reservoir is a must-visit in the area.
Sporty travellers can reinvigorate their senses with a spot of surfing in the laidback coastal town of Pichilemu before toasting their adventures with a refreshing glass of Carmenere from the Colchagua Valley; this is Chile’s lesser-known but exceptional wine-producing region. But it’s not just the wine that feels full-bodied and intoxicating. Central Chile will whet your appetite for adventure, leaving you thirsty for more.