Flanked by the high-and-mighty Andes to the east and the Chilean Coastal Range to the west, Santiago sits in a bowl-like valley, surrounded by snowy-peaked mountains on either side. Balmy in winter and brisk in the summer, the city is a game of two halves; while spring attracts skiers and snowboarders to the mountainous fringes, December sees sun-seekers and culture lovers flock to the bustling urban centre. A metropolis populated by gleaming glass towers and cloud-poking skyscrapers, Santiago nevertheless has pockets of tranquility among its winding streets, made all the more enticing for their contrast against the built-up areas. Our favourite spot is Santa Lucía Hill, a verdant park dotted with lemon-yellow buildings and sparkling fountains. As you’d expect from its Latin American location, this is a city that parties hard; hit underground bars and pop-up joints for the best pisco sours and parilla-grilled tidbits.
When to go
Head to Santiago between December and February to make the most of the summer sun. Sightseers looking for slightly cooler temperatures will prefer September to November, while May is best for ski bums.
PlanesMost major European and US airlines (including British Airways; www.britishairways.com) operate flights to Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport, around a 15-minute drive from the centre of town
TrainsAlameda Station is the city’s main rail hub; however, trains in Chile are unreliable and only run the relatively short distance from Santiago to Talca. You’re better off driving or taking taxis.
AutomobilesA car will be useful if you plan on exploring Chile beyond Santiago. Hire one from a booth at the airport, then take the Costanera Norte to the hotel. Alternatively, pick up taxis and colectivos (group taxis) from metro stations in the city centre.