Santiago is the sprawling capital city of Chile. It is divided into 'comunas' which are similar to large suburbs, each with their own city council.
Santiago is located in the country's central valley, at an elevation of 520 metres (1,706 feet) above sea level. Founded in 1541, Santiago has been the capital city of Chile since colonial times. The city has a downtown core of 19th century neoclassical architecture and winding side streets, dotted by art deco, neo-gothic and other styles. Santiago's cityscape is shaped by several stand-alone hills and the fast-flowing Mapocho River, lined by parks such as Parque Forestal. Mountains of the Andes chain can be seen from most points in the city.
The city outskirts are surrounded by vineyards and Santiago is within a few hours of both the mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
Since Santiago is such a big city, travelling from one side to the other means using the very efficient Metro (the underground/subway system) which is known to be one of the most efficient, cleanest and safest systems in the world.
Many national monuments in Santiago are open to the public, free of charge on the last Sunday of May.
Santiago can be visited comfortably any time of the year. In the winter it can be rainy and cloudy but the snow covered mountains of the nearby Andes are popular to skiers. Summer is really hot which is why most people leave Santiago in February to go to the beach. The city is amazingly quiet and peaceful during this holiday month. It almost never rains in Summer, making it easy to plan outdoor activities. The weather is just beautiful though in early autumn or late spring.
Santiago has a cool semi-arid climate with Mediterranean patterns: warm, dry summers (November to March) with temperatures reaching up to 35 Â°C (95 Â°F) on the hottest days; winters (June to August) are more humid with cold mornings; typical daily maximum temperatures of 13 Â°C (55 Â°F), and minimums of a few degrees above freezing. Rainfall is 282 mm (11.10 in) per year, about 80% of which occurs during the winter months (May to September).
There is plenty to do in Santiago with wonderful nightlife and many restaurants serving different types of local cuisine.
Major cruise lines visit this continent between September and March. For cruises that sail round Cape Horn this is the southern summer and in general cruise ships that do South American itineraries return to Europe or Alaska for the northern summer cruise season. Cruises that go round Cape Horn experience a much larger change in weather and temperature. Santiago and Buenos Aires are Mediterranean in climate and enjoy warm summers with mild winters.