On a recent transfer flight between Argentina and Miami we scored an extra 36 hours or so on a flight change. Needless to say it was ideal! Santiago is an amazing city for food and culture and any trip to its otherworldly wilds begins through its gates. We wanted to take advantage of how narrow the country is and by that we mean that you can literally explore the capital, the shore and the Andean slopes all within a few hours drive of each other.
In order to maximize our daylight hours in the environs of nearby nature we chose a delightful hotel in the middle of the city’s swankiest (Las Condes) neighborhood. The Courtyard by Marriott (which is as lovely and bespoke as a good Marriott really) occupies a central spot around a hub of nightlife and shopping. The hotel is built in a modern skyscraper and service was impeccable. We took advantage of the hotel’s location to savor all that the Chilean goodness that comes out at dinnertime.
The best way to move around the city and into the mountains (we opted for the skiing portion) was to rent a car. This was our first experience doing so in Chile and it was more laid back than in other destinations. The price was good however there were some catches that were not explained at all. There is a toll going out of the airport and no one at the agency advised us that there is a transponder inside the car to clear it. Also that transponder works for all toll roads in and around the city but does not apply outside of it. Also be advised that the entire city has gone to a camera based fine system for speed, turns and most other routine checks.
Getting up quite early from our fantastic hotel stay we wanted to be front and center at the ski slopes in Portillo when they opened at 9am. The facilities are more simple than you modern mega resorts, but the place is fantastic. It has an intentional skiing as it used to be vibe with real aficionados and fans of the sport coming here who’ve dreamt of it over a lifetime. We found plenty of good runs at the intermediate level too and it had all the basics of food rentals and facilities which was really a feat when you realize how high and far you are up in a mountain pass.
Portillo is only a couple hours drive and as long as the weather is good it does not have the lines and delays that arriving to one of the courses closer to Santiago has. In the end it is more affordable too and the raw beauty of it makes the trip oh so worthwhile. We were able to easily plan our time up, the drive back and allow for stops, gassing up, returning the car and getting luggage sorted in time to enjoy the classy airport lounge and Business class flight back to Miami. All things considered this short but action packed trip was overwhelmingly easy and a testament to Chile’s infrastructure, beauty and culture.