Chile is a very long nation — over 4,000 kilometers in fact! This can make it a challenging place to travel or backpack, because of the long distance. But if you make Santiago your home base, there are some excellent excursions and places to visit within 2 hours driving distance. I would recommend three exciting day trips to — Valparaiso, Vina del Mar and Pomaire.
Valpariaso (2 Hours from Santiago)
Valparaiso remains one of the most active ports in Chile, so there are huge cranes and big freight liners that come in and out all day long. We took a tram up the hill to get a view of the port from above and see all the action. We also made a stop at the naval history museum to learn a little bit more about the founding of the city, and country as a whole.
While it wasn’t my favorite city in Chile, it was certainly an experience and I am happy that I went. It is a chaotic and busy city, and rather dirty. But it certainly has charm and is full of artistic expression. Known for street art, almost every corner and building has spray painted art or words. The roads wind up the hills and end randomly or turn into alleys and there are these little pedestrian walkways that climb in between houses or apartments. So its easy to get lost, but its a fun way to see the city. Just wandering around corners and stumbling upon little shops and cafes as well as beautiful murals.
Vina del Mar (1.5 Hours from Santiago)
Viña del Mar is a sister city to Valparaiso but it couldn’t be more different. It is a stark contrast! Known as the “garden city”, Viña del Mar is ritsy with has lots of manicured gardens and open parks. It reminds me of Naples, Florida actually! It has lots of beach access and palm trees lining the wide streets. The houses are all bright white with different painted window panels or bright accent colors on the porches. While it feels almost too pristine, it was a welcomed change from the dirty streets of Valparaiso.
Even though we only spent a day there, we wandered around checking out a few sites. One stop was the Archeological Museum. In front of the building, it features one of the famous statues from Easter Island. It was one of the small ones and it was still easily 10 feet tall! That was really neat to see. We also paid a visit to an old castle fortress that hangs out over the ocean from the 1600s (see photo above).