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In One Week in Chile
Plenty of travelers head to Chile for 1 week only on a ski vacation, but it's a shame to come all this way and not experience anything other than the snowy Andean peaks. If you're not skiing and really only have 1 week to see Chile, your best bet is to pick one destination only: Patagonia, the Central Region, or San Pedro de Atacama. These three destinations offer the most "Chilean" experiences. For the Atacama or Patagonia, tailor your own journey to fit the confines of 1 week; it's very doable in this time frame, and you'll be able to fit a night in Santiago on your first or last night. The following itinerary is centered on the Central Region because here you'll be able to pack the most diverse activities possible into 7 days. You might consider renting a car and striking out on your own when itinerary.
Day 1: Santiago
Arrive and get settled in Santiago. Chances are your flight arrived early in the morning; once you've rested and freshened up, head to Cerro San Cristobal and its Metropolitan Park for sweeping views of the city and to get your bearings. Afterward, take a stroll around the bohemian Barrio Bellavista and pay a visit to La Chascona ★★★, the former home of Pablo Neruda and now a museum. Head to the Mercado Central for a typical Chilean seafood lunch and watch fishmongers shuck and fillet. Once refueled, walk to the Plaza de Armas to visit the city's best museum, the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino. Take a peek at the Palacio de la Moneda, at Plaza de la Constitución, before heading over to the streets of Bellavista, where you can peruse the artists' galleries and shops before enjoying an afternoon cocktail at one of the area's bars. Later that evening, order frosty pisco sour and dine on traditional Chilean bistro food at Bar Liguria.
Day 2: The Andes
During the summer, there's no shortage of adventurous activities, especially in the mountain valley Cajón de Maipo, located between 45 minutes and 2 hours (depending on how far up the valley you travel) from Santiago. Raft the Class III and IV rapids on the Maipo River; pretend you're Butch Cassidy or the Sundance Kid and horseback ride along Andean ridges that open out to sweeping views or put on a pair of hiking boots and trek to a glacier in El Morado National Park. Oenophiles will enjoy a scenic drive, perhaps stopping off at one of the region's gorgeous wineries. If it's winter, grab a shuttle and head high into the iconic Andes Mountains to one of the three ski resorts, for a day of skiing or snowboarding. Valle Nevado, La Parva, and El Colorado all lie within 1 to 1 1/2 hours from the city, and you can rent gear when you get there.
Whatever you decide to do during the day, head back to your hotel in Santiago to indulge in an exquisite dinner at one of the city's finest restaurants, such as Astrid y Gastón or Europeo.
Days 3 & 4: Wine Country
The Colchagua Valley is shaping up as Chile's version of Napa Valley, and what better way to get a taste of Chile than through its wine? Head out early from Santiago for the scenic 2 1/2-hour drive following the jagged Andes south. Before entering Santa Cruz, stop at one of the region's oldest wineries, Casa Silva, where you can sample excellent wines paired with a delicious lunch. Or, aspiring vintners can enroll in Viña Viu Manent's "Winemaker for a Day" program". Check into your room at the Hotel Santa Cruz Plaza ★★, and spend the afternoon strolling around the typical rural town of Santa Cruz; dine that night in the hotel. If you really want to splurge, stay at the luxurious Clos Apalta, one of the world's most talked-about wineries, and revel in the luxurious facilities and fabulous array of activities on offer. The next day, don't miss the breathtaking Clos Apalta, have lunch at Pan Pan Vino Vino, then visit Montes winery for a tour, tasting, and carriage ride.
Days 5 & 6: The Central Coast
This day involves driving north and then west from Santa Cruz to Valparaíso, a 3 1/2- to 4-hour drive. Along the way, you have the option of stopping just outside of San Fernando for a wine tasting at Casa Silva. Spend the afternoon getting lost along the kooky, twisty streets of Valparaíso, soaking up the old port town ambiance, and reveling in sublime views over a light lunch at Café Turri. Then visit La Sebastiana, the former home of Pablo Neruda. If it's the weekend, have dinner at the city's best restaurant, Pasta e Vino, or otherwise enjoy a romantic meal with dazzling panoramas at Montealegre. If you are enticed by the notion of a lively beach scene, you will want to spend your next day in Viña or even spend the night at the fabulous Hotel Del Mar.
Day 7: Valparaíso or Viña to the Airport
The last day, rest up for your flight back at the beach in Viña, take a scenic coastal drive, or, if you haven't already had your fill of Chilean wine, stop at the Viñedos Orgánicos Emiliana and House of Morandé wineries on the road back to the airport. Arrive in time for your evening flight out of Santiago.