Quite possibly the most underrated destinations in South America, both the Chilean capital of Santiago and the relaxed coastal city of Valparaíso offer plenty of pleasures. Valparaíso itself can fill an entire day of excursions, but you can also head out to the city of Santiago and the vacation haven of Viña del Mar, both within 90 minutes’ drive of the cruise ship terminal.
What We Love
La Sebastiana: Even if you aren’t a Pablo Neruda fan, this house in the poet's hometown of Valparaíso, where he lived and wrote, is worth a significant look.
Wine: This is the heart of Chile’s grape-growing areas. The Casablanca and Colchagua Valleys are within spitting distance, and the coastal wine-centric town of Viña del Mar has managed to find a formula for tasty wines with minimal downsides.
Best Known For
Mercado Central: Santiago’s main farmers market spans many city blocks and is still the go-to for local hot shot chefs planning their days’ menus.
Colorful Architecture: The best way to spend time in Valparaíso is simply to get lost and wander the old city streets, with the option of taking a funicular back from the base of the city’s steep hills.
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Who It's Best For
Patient Culture Aficionados: This is not Buenos Aires or Rio. Chile’s charms will take longer to win you over. Give them time.
Curious Gourmands: This part of Chile grows a staggering amount of produce that’s exported to North America. (Remember those blueberries you ate in February?) But it's better sampling it all locally. This is a country whose citizens can name more than a dozen types of avocado. What’s not to love?
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Santiago Tends to Be Hazy: The city essentially sits in a bowl between mountains, so auto pollution gets trapped. Don’t count on getting pictures of the city with clear blue skies and snowcapped mountains in the distance.
Traffic in Santiago Can Be Slow: Word on the street is that the Waze app works pretty well here.
Ann Abel is a Brooklyn-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Departures.