Sunday, July 31, 2011

Santiago: Encounter Chile's Dynamic Capital City

By Enid Glasgow

Why would anyone want to visit Santiago? It is dirty, polluted, and loud. The stunning views of the city, surrounded by dramatic snow-peaked mountains, are most always blocked by a murky haze. You may hear this from people who have been disappointed in their Chilean travels or from those who think your vacation would be better spent elsewhere. But while it's true that clear days are few and far between, even this doesn't detract from the unique charm of Chile's capital. For the traveler who is willing to look a little deeper, Santiago offers an interesting and incomparable experience that will more than reward your efforts.
Your dream view of the Andes may not greet you from your hotel window but that doesn't mean you can't take in their beauty. Within easy distance from the city, there are a host of outdoor activities to enjoy. Hike, bike, horseback ride, kayak, climb, ski, and more that will put you right in the middle of the postcard view you've been wanting. A particular highlight for many travelers is a visit to one of the many wineries in the region - and a sample or two of their best vintages. You can opt to visit these on your own, have a guided tour, or try a "bike and wine" tour. We promise there is nothing murky, hazy, or loud about the wine you will taste or the hospitality you will encounter.
Santiago's geography places it in the center of the Santiago Basin, a valley that is surrounded by the Andes on one side and the Chilean Coastal Range on the other. To the north is the Cordon de Chacabuco mountain range, and to the south the Angostura de Paine. The city is positioned to maximize your enjoyment of the natural beauty that surrounds it, but there is plenty of manmade fun to enjoy as well. Stroll through the Plaza de Armas, a pedestrian venue full of art, music, and street entertainment. Visit Mercado Central for the best seafood in town and a trip to the La Vega Central, the biggest fruit market in the country.
Listen to jazz, see dance performances, take in a futbol game, visit the Sculpture Garden...the list goes on and on. Santiago has something to offer virtually everyone - and certainly anyone who can see past a little haze to get to the heart of this vibrant city.

Enid Glasgow is a travel writer who recently visited Chile.
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