Introduction to Santiago

To ski or swim. Why not both in Santiago? Few cities in the world can claim to offer the two with a day easily divided between a morning on the slopes and an evening on the beach. And therein lies the appeal of Chile's capital; a smorgasbord of holiday experiences rolled into one.

For the most part it's Santiago's spectacular location that attracts travellers - lying in the Santiago Basin with soaring snow-capped Andes mountain peaks surrounding the city to the east and a sprawling coastal range stretching to the west. A postcard view if ever there was one. But if you'd rather experience it than merely snap a photo, Santiago can happily oblige via surfing, skiing, trekking, horseback riding, climbing, kayaking and whatever else gets your blood pumping.

But for all its thrills, Santiago is also a city of great culture, history and culinary offerings. It's where freshly ground coffee cures hangovers in Bellavista, local art brightens up the underground at Centro Cultural Palacio de La Moneda, and history has all but stood still in the Downtown area since Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia founded the city in 1541.

While it's long been loved for its personality, unpretentiousness and delicious wine, Santiago's biggest complaint is its infamous smog - a blanket that tends to cover the city, particularly in winter. But there are ways to get around it. Skiing or swimming perhaps. Why not both?

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