One of the biggest adjustments I had to make when I moved to Chile was the change in seasons. From December - March, Chile and the rest of South America enjoys its summer, with a range of activities to keep one busy. If you need a winter escape, hop over to Santiago and check out some of the best things to do while you’re there during the South American summer.
26 things to do in Santiago (and beyond) this summer
OUTDOORS & FITNESS
#1: Visit the pool on top of San Cristobal
While Cerro San Cristobal is a year-round tourist attraction, during the summer months the city opens up two of its pools, Piscina Tupahue and Piscina Antilen. It costs about $6.000 CLP ($10) to enter, but the views on top are unbeatable. I’d recommend pairing it with a hike through the hill and ending with a well-deserved dip in the pool. Best times to go on are on weekdays to avoid crowds.
#2: Go for a hike
Much like the rest of Chile, Santiago is an adventure nut’s paradise. The capital city is chock full of hiking options, from the relatively tame Cerro San Cristobal to the heart-pumping Manquehue and my favorite, Salto Apoquindo that ends in a waterfall. Most hikes are easily accessible via public transportation or a 30-minute Uber ride.
#3: Do a Sunday bike ride on the ciclorecreovia
Sundays have officially become my favorite day of the week. The city opens up 35 kilometers of certain main roads every Sunday between 9am and 2pm for bikers, runners, and skateboarders. The roads are completely closed off to traffic. It is my absolute favorite way to spend the day biking through different neighborhoods and exploring new spots along the way.
Note - Ciclorecreovia, as the initiative is called, is available year round. Check this link for more details (in Spanish): http://www.ciclorecreovia.cl/lo-que-es
#4: Explore new running routes
As you can probably already tell, Santiago appeals to outdoor enthusiasts. The city’s extensive parks system can inspire runners of all levels to find a running route suitable for them. My favorite route is the run from Baquedano all the way to Parque Bicintenario in the Vicacura neighborhood. Along the way, you’ll find wonderful graffiti, a dedicated running route and a view of the mountains.
#5: Find your favorite park
Speaking of parks, have you found your favorite? A quick scan on Google Maps will show you the number of parks that are yours to explore. Some of the big ones include Parque Met, Parque Bicintenario, Parque Forestal, Parque O’Higgins and Parque Bustamante. Throughout the week and weekend, each of them host summer activities and have tons of families spending quality time with their loved ones.
#6: Go surfing in Pichilemu
Pichilemu is Chile’s surfing capital. It is 3 hours from Santiago, and has a small-town feel to it. It boasts some famous beaches such as Punta de Lobos and has an endless supply of surf shops letting you rent equipment and purchase lessons. You’ll have to wear a wetsuit though, this is the Pacific Ocean after all.
ARTS & CULTURE
#7: Get cultured at Santiago a Mil
Santiago a Mil is an arts and cultural festival that Santiago has been hosting since 1994. The 3-week festival organizes several free and cheap events scattered throughout the city. For more details on what’s on offer in January, check their website here (in Spanish): https://www.santiagoamil.cl/programacion/programacion-completa/
#8: Free Activities from Soy Providencia
The neighborhood culture group called Soy Providencia organizes numerous events throughout the year, but summer is really where they shine. They host everything from free outdoor movies, dance classes, yoga in the park and even weekend ballet recitals. Almost all of them are hosted in neighborhood parks in the Providencia neighborhood.
For more information, check out: http://www.providencia.cl/agenda/
#9: Attend Fiesta de los Abrazos
This music, cultural and political festival is sponsored by Chile’s Communist Party and hosted in Parque O’Higgins. This weekend festival is made up of numerous musical performances, political discussions and good-spirited family fun. The cheap entrance fee ($3.000 CLP in 2019) makes it a budget-friendly destination for anyone looking for something to do.
#10: Visit a new museum
One of the most surprising aspects of Santiago was how many world-class museums they had in the heart of the city. My favorite is the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, where you can easily spend hours learning about Chile’s troubling recent history under Pinochet.
GET OUTTA TOWN
#11: Take a day trip from Santiago
While Santiago’s mild winters are no excuse to not leave your house, there’s something about the summer that encourages you to explore more. Take advantage of Santiago’s proximity to amazing destinations like Cajon del Maipo and Valparaiso.
Don’t have a car? No worries! Santiago’s bus system is pretty extensive, and can take you almost anywhere you would want to go.
#12: Take advantage of summer flight deals
Jet Smart is Chile’s budget airliner, and always has good deals to domestic and international destinations. It’s how I managed to find a $40 flight to La Serena in 2018! In addition to Jet Smart, Sky Airlines and sometimes Lat Am also run promotions. Subscribe to them for more details.
#13: Hit the Beach
With over 2,600 miles of coastline, Chile is defined by its access to beaches and water. Santiago is the hub that connects you to several beach towns such as Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, Zapallar and Pichilemu. Each one offers its own charms, so spend the summer checking them off your bucket list.
#14: Have an Asado
Asados are a popular past-time in Santiago, most commonly seen during the country’s dieciocho (Independence Day) holidays. But during the summer, there are numerous families taking advantage of Santiago’s extensive outdoor spaces to host their own BBQs with families and friends. Why not have one of your own?
#15: Visit Pablo Neruda’s house in Isla Negra (…or Valparaiso, or Santiago)
After visiting all three of Pablo Neruda’s houses in Chile, I can confidently say that the one in Isla Negra was my favorite. It is situation on the rocky ocean cliffs overlooking the beautiful Pacific coast. While open year-round, I find it’s best to visit during the summer when the weather is beautiful and you can feel the ocean breeze on your face.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
#16: Take a salsa class
While Chile isn’t exactly known for salsa dancing, the city is filled to the brim with salsa enthusiasts. If you’re interested in learning, summer is the perfect time to pick up some new skills. Stop by Club Orixas on Wednesdays from 7-8pm to take the Beginner’s (Principiante) dance class
#17: Attend a Language exchange
In the spirit of trying new things, why not brush up on your Spanish while you’re here? The expat bar, California Cantina, hosts weekly language exchange sessions on Tuesdays. For 2 hours from 8-10pm, you sit with a mixed group of native English and Spanish speakers. Every 10 minutes, you rotate between using one of the 2 languages. I find it to be the least intimidating way to immerse myself in the language - everyone is friendly and having a drink or two goes a long way in conjugating those verbs!
#18: Go horseback riding in Cajon del Maipo
While the cowboy culture is alive and well in the outskirts of Santiago, it’s easy to forget that when you live in such a cosmopolitan city. Take some time away from your computer and phones, and make your way to the numerous adventure outfitters who provide horseback riding opportunities. It’s a great way to appreciate a different side of the country.
#19: CHECK OUT POLO AT CLUB SAN CRISTOBAL
This suggestion comes directly from another Santiago expat! Word is that Club San Cristobal offers FREE polo, along with access to its beautiful restaurant and bar. Why not switch things up a bit and give polo a try?
#20: Check out Vendimia Wine Festival
Most wine enthusiasts will agree that the best time to visit Chile’s wineries is during the vendimia harvest festival in March. Each season, specific wineries or municipalities will host harvest festivals to entice visitors to explore their wineries, taste some wines and learn about the winemaking process. Each vendimia can be different, but they can have traditional Chilean foods as well as dancing (usually the cueca). The most fun are the grape crushing competitions!
They are mostly held in mid-March to mid-April, so keep an eye out or contact your local wineries to inquire about dates.
#21: Attend Semana Valdiviana
Valdivia is an important city in Chile’s South, well-known for the Kunstmann brewery as well as hosting a number of universities and academic institutions. It is rich with German history and influence, and was one of my favorite destinations to visit in Chile. Every year, the city celebrates its founding with a week-long celebration. There are concerts, water parades, fireworks and tons of local vendors selling crafts, jewelry and food. The week closes with their famous Noche Valdiviana to cap off the festivities.
To find out more information, please visit http://nochevaldiviana.cl/
#22: Listen to your favorite artists at Lollapalooza
I know what you’re thinking - Lollapalooza in Chile? Definitely unexpected, but it’s what anyone can talk about the weeks and months leading up to the 3 day event in Santiago. Each year, the lineup promises to be amazing, so definitely get your tickets for this festival at the end of March if you haven’t already!
EAT & DRINK
#23: Find a new favorite food in La Vega Market
La Vega Market is a great place to try out new foods as you walk through the (literally) hundreds of fruit and vegetable stands. I’ve found the best (and cheap) Peruvian food, and it’s also where I tried lucuma for the first time. It’s a sensory overload, but worth the trip to get a feel for a completely different side of Santiago.
#24: Try a mote con huesillo
Mote con huesillo is one of Chile’s strange drink concoctions that is oddly satisfying on a hot summer day. As Wikipedia describes it, It is a non-alcoholic beverage consisting of a sweet clear nectar like liquid made with dried peaches (huesillo) cooked in sugar, water and cinnamon, and then once cooled mixed with fresh cooked husked wheat(mote). The sweet clear nectar is usually made with sugar, but can also be supplemented or replaced with molasse.”
I look forward to it after a hike to the top of San Cristobal, an appropriate reward for my hard work!
#25: Take advantage of the outdoor seating
Santiago takes advantage of its outdoor sidewalk spaces like no other, which makes sense given that it’s sunny for most of the year. Get your summer tan in while enjoying a refreshing pisco sour or michelada.
#26: Visit a rooftop bar
While Santiago’s rooftop scene doesn’t compare to that of New York, they do have some stand-outs that I would recommend visiting during the summer months. Singular Hotel Rooftop is the most popular among visitors, but Hotel Luciano K has a funky, boutique vibe to it as well. The most common one is the W Hotel, with beautiful views of the Andes and a large bar and restaurant to keep your belly happy and senses buzzed for hours on end.
Did I miss anything? Tell me in the comments below!