3 Exciting Day Trips from Santiago, Chile

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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)

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Valparaiso is a port city that sits perched high up on the hills. The city was founded as a naval base in the 1800s and has expanded up the mountains since then.
This town is reminiscent of San Francisco — nearly vertical hills, ocean views and creative street art. Some of the mountains are so steep that the city has built little trams to take people up the hill rather than walking or driving.
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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.

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Vina del Mar (1.5 Hours from Santiago)

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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).

Pomaire (1 Hour Outside Santiago)

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Only an hour outside of the city, Pomaire is the perfect place to spend a sunny, warm Chilean afternoon.A small city of only a few thousand, it teems with tourists during the weekend, but in the most pleasant way. This city is known for its clay pottery and ceramics, all handmade by local artisans, as well as traditional family cooked Chilean dishes.
With only one main road, there are tons of shops and restaurants to visit all with artisans giving demonstrations of working on their pieces. I spoke with one artisan who specialized in hand painted plates and ceramics. The local shops include everything from lawn ornaments, to cookware to Chanchitos and traditional Chilean goods, all made out of locally harvested clay.
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I even tried my hand at the pottery wheel! This was my favorite part of the day. There are artisans all along the street that will let you try spinning pottery for a small fee. My teacher helped me to make an ashtray, which apparently is quite a simply thing to make. Well, maybe for him but not for me!
They will teach you how to spin the wheel with your foot and form the clay on top using clay from surrounding mountains. Even though I wasn’t very good and the artisan laughed at my attempt at pottery making, it was great fun and definitely an experience.
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Author: Megan Arz

I am a travel and food obsessed Midwesterner living in Chicago and dreaming of the world. I work as a full-time program manager for Greenheart Travel, but I am also committed to integrating the travel lifestyle into my every day routines. I am passionate about ethical travel, meeting new people, creating unique memories and eating local cuisine!

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