Where to go in and around Santiago depends very much on the time of year you visit. Generally speaking Santiago has four distinct seasons:
Spring begins around October and lasts through November; Summer begins in December lasting through January and February, whilst Autumn starts in March through April to May with Winter stretching from June and July to August and September.
The Chilean Winter has many warm days in Santiago and further North, apart from the rainy season and colder nights, it is Summer all year round. The hottest months are December, January and February and are perfect for those who want to visit the Lake District around Temuco down to Puerto Montt and the extremely beautiful far south. The ski season is during July and August and the slopes can be reached easily from Santiago. Santiago has an old colonial centre dominated by the Cathedral, Post Office and the historic Moneda Palace.
The old centre of the city is pedestrianised and there are various art galleries and museums and parks as well as interesting areas like around the central Vega market, Bella Vista, where ‘La Chascona’ , one of the houses of Chile’s great poet Pablo Neruda, is found.
More and more the centre of Santiago is moving towards the area around Providencia where all the coffee bars, night clubs and restaurants are. There are many small restaurants and bars in this area. For example, uptown Providencia has many hip bars and places to eat as does Nuñoa and other areas of the city. For nightclubs and live music go to Providencia’s Calle Suiza and Bellavista.
All the banks and travel agents have moved their central offices to this area which can be reached easily by metro.
From the refugio you can make some incredible hikes. As a rule we advise you to go with someone from the refugio or at least explain to them exactly where you want to go. After only a couple of hours of hiking up behind the refugio you will reach the agua del virgin which is the water source for the whole community. Even if you are planning only a short walk, always take some water with you, especially during the Summer months. The path from the refugio takes a clear route walking across our water pipes to agua del virgin. Basically walk for about an hour and a half until you reach the top. There you can follow a path to the right for another half hour or so where you will find the spring. There you can refill your water bottles, rest a little and then return to the refugio. Alternatively you can continue up to what is known as Ramon mountain, or go down from the lower path which will take you to the quebrada de Macul. If you go this way then you will need to get a taxi to get back to the refugio. There are various websites and apps which cover all of these routes for further information. Also in Chile all national parks have clearly organised and well marked walks and hikes with maps and information.
At certain times of the year, due to it being surrounded by mountains, Santiago can become extremely polluted. Traffic jams are notorious, especially between 7-9 am and 6-8pm. There is, however, an extremely fast, clean and cheap metro system linking various parts of the city, as well as a good bus system and taxis. The metro system has 3 main lines connecting the whole of Santiago including the new link to Las Condes and Providencia. The nearest metro to us is Paradero 14 de La Florida. There is no metro to Cajon Del Maipo but tourist train is being introduced to the area. For all information do visit different websites and Chile is very good in internet communication.
One particular place of interest in Santiago itself is the Mercado Central, designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, who is most famous for designing the Eiffel Tower. The nearest metro is Plaza de Armas where you can have fish dishes and walk around the extensive fresh fish market. If you cross by foot the main road and river Mapocho you will discover the large fresh fruit and vegetable market.
Santiago is not known for its generous green area and yet it has a number of parks and green-spaces such as the central Cerro Santa Lucia. To reach any of these central destinations, take a tube train from Station 14 in Florida to Plaza de Armas station. A number of new galleries are well worth a visit, particularly the downtown Matucana 100 and the Salvador Allende Museum (both near the Plaza Brazil area), which is filled with art from all over the world created by famous artists from Miro onwards in memory of the deposed Popular Unity President Salvador Allende.
The Victor Jara Foundation in the Plaza Brasil is well worth a visit as is their recently opened small theatre.
In order to get to Station 14 in Florida, you can either drive from Fini Chico and park your car in the Mall’s parking (free after 11 am), or Alternatively you can catch a collectivo taxi from Santa Sofia gates (taxis normally take four people and charge 300 pesos) which would leave you close to the metro. El Arrayan park up in Las Condes is worth visiting but there is a high entry charge.
Whether or not you are a wine connoisseur, unless you are tee-total you will enjoy savouring some of the most delicious wines in the world in Chile. One of Chile’s oldest and most famous vineyards, Cousiño Macul lies just below Fini Chico (a 15 minute drive from the top). Here you can visit the old vineyard and taste the wine tasting session.
Sadly, much of the vineyard has been sold in recent years for rather ugly housing developments with supermarkets and each day sees less of the vineyard surviving. I recall when we first created Refugio Fini Chico, we used to look down vertically from the balcony over the mountain to the vineyard, then a solid black area at night with no lights. Now that same area is lit with the lights of new homes, symbolic of the rapid march of Chileans out of the centre of the city into the mountains.
Another excellent vineyard in Santiago is the famous Concha y Toro, located in Pirque (near Puente Alto). Here too you can enjoy a guided tour, visiting both vineyard and warehouse and tasting the wine. Concha y Toro is approximately 40 minutes from Fini Chico.
Santiago is now famous as a ski resort and places to ski include Las Condes Valle Nevado, El Colorado and Farellones. Those with more time might visit Portillo which is en route to Mendoza just over the border with Argentina