Santiago is the capital of Chile, a hustling and bustling city filled with a collection of diverse people from all around the world. In my opinion, a weekend visit to the capital of any country is a must! Santiago is a huge city with a lot to offer from free museums to a vibrant night life, it has a little something for everyone.
Navigating Santiago can slightly overwhelming but if you follow the link it will tell you just about everything to do and just how you can get there! I spent my weekend visiting the Villa Grimaldi Museum, Pablo Neruda's home, La Cahscona, attending a soccer game, The Human Rights Museum , and shopping around the largest mall in South America! It was a weekend filled with a lot of learning and fun.
2. Leave your mark in Valparaíso
Valparaíso is, in my opinion, a hipster town filled with a ton of character. There are surplus of coffee shops, a mix of restaurants, and hills everywhere. You could spend an entire semester studying abroad in Valparaíso exploring the graffiti of the Valparaíso cerros. If you want a reference guide: start here and visit as many as your heart desired to see different perspectives of a city that was built upon hills.
Fun Fact: the hills have no street names so if you ever wanted to improve your navigating skills this would be the perfect opportunity!
3. See all three of Pablo Neruda's homes
Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto was an incredibly gifted poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971 and went by his pen name, Pablo Neruda. He contributed a great deal of literature in his lifetime and accomplished a countless number of things while serving as a french ambassador. He was truly an inspiring man and one who deserves to be kept alive though history. So go check out his houses and see just what this man was all about!
4. Watch the sunset from the Con Con Dunes
The dunes are simply a short 20 minute bus ride away from Viña and are worth a trip or two. On weekends it's possible to rent equipment to sled down the dunes... but trust me you will only want to do this once unless you want a REALLY good workout! Just snag any bus that says Con Con and hop off once you get to the dunes. If you don't scurry away right after, the sunsets the most beautiful night skyline falls onto the streets of Viña and Valpo. It's truly mesmerizing but I'll let you experience that yourself!
5. Eat as many empanadas as you can
Empanadas are a Chilean novelty. If you do not have an allergy to cheese and leave this country without consuming an empanada, I will be astonished. The empanadas can be stuffed with just about everything imaginable: crab, onion, cheese, shrimp, fish, clams, beef, chicken. The most popular empanadas are pino (beef, an olive, part of a hard boiled egg) and cheese. Empanadas are the most filling snack or maybe even dinner if you order two!
6. Give surfing a whirl
Hop on any micro that says "Con Con" and tell the driver you want to go to Playa la Boca. There are other places to surf in Con Con but this beach is less crowded and if you've never surfed a day in your life, like me, then you will appreciate more room to practice. You need to spend around $15,000 CLP ($30 USD) to do a lesson and rent a board/wet suit. It's possible to get a discount if you do a group lesson instead of going solo. Without a doubt surfing was by far one of the most fun things I attempted in Chile! So what are you waiting for? GO! After you're done surfing head on over to Las Deliciosas for a tasty empanada and beverage.
7. Dance the cueca
You should learn the cueca at a UVM activity and after you've got the footwork down, it'll be so much fun you'll want to dance the night away. I know of a bar called Victoria in Santiago, Chile that has pretty good Chilean music for you to practice the Cueca. If that's not your scene or you just don't want to make the trip to Santiago, then explore some local venues around Valparaíso and find one you love!
8. Share a terrmoto pitcher or buy a pisco sour for yourself
Terrmotos are fantastic in Chile! They are a combination of wine and ice cream (sounds gross but it's actually pretty good) and are something to defiantly try before you leave. There are a ton of different flavors so find your favorite and enjoy! If terrmotos turn out to be a 'NO' for you than give a pisco sour a chance! There is this big debacle on who invented the pisco sour first: Chile or Peru... but in my opinion its just a really good margarita!
9. Hike La Campana
La Campana is a mountain located about an hour away from Viña. It's a short metro and bus ride to about eight different hiking trails. In order to hike the longest one (about seven hours) with the best view you need to arrive before 9:00 a.m. Make sure to bring water, pack a lunch, and have at least $2,500 CLP with your Chilean identity card. It's truly breathtaking and it's even possible to see Viña from the tip of the peak on a clear day! Click Here for More Information
10. Visit a Casa Blanca winery
We visited two wineries, sampled eight different wines, and had a relaxing day enjoying each others friendships. Even if you're not a big fan of wine it was still interesting to see how it was grown, produced and then shipped. Worth the time and worth the money! It's also a great place to purchase some Chilean presents because you'll be able to buy a $2,000 CLP ($4USD) bottle in Chile that would be $20 in the states!
¡Salud! Danielle Banks is the Fall 2013 CEA MOJO in Viña Del Mar, Chile. She is currently a senior at Texas A&M University.
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