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Cooking Classes

Food and travel writer Liz Caskey (tel. 2/632-2015; www.lizcaskey.com) runs customized culinary programs that include tours to wineries, markets, and farms around Santiago. Day classes and weeklong courses are available.

Many tour operators run culinary tours through Santiago and the surrounding wine country that focus on visiting local farmers' markets, followed by a demonstration of the cooking techniques and discussion of the fresh produce that define Chilean gastronomy, all nicely rounded off with a gourmet lunch. Santiago Adventures (tel. 2/244-2750; www.santiagoadventures.com) charges $143 (£95) for such a trip, per person based on two people.

Language Classes

There is no shortage of Spanish language schools in Santiago and with the beach and mountains a short ride away, the city provides a great base for an active student life. Most of the city's reputable language schools are located in the residential areas of Providencia and Las Condes and offer total immersion programs with homestays that are usually a 20- to 30-minute journey on public transport from the school. Tuition and accommodations prices are considerably more expensive than other countries in Latin America; expect to pay between $2,500 and $3,000 (£1,667-£2,000) per month, including lessons (4-6 hr. per day) and accommodations in a private room with a host family, with two meals daily.

AmeriSpan (tel. 800/879-6640;www.amerispan.com) is well established in South America and takes the hassle out of planning; the school, lodging, airport pickup, and other services are all prearranged. Their Santiago school is located in a renovated 18th-century building in Providencia and group classes are limited to seven people. Prices also include organized activities per week. Another big player with a strong reputation is Spanish Abroad (tel. 888/722-7623; www.spanishabroad.com). Their school is also in the quiet neighborhood of Providencia, a few blocks from the Metro. Four classes are run daily, with a maximum of six students per class. Bridge Abroad (tel. 866/574-8606; www.bridgeabroad.com) offers 4 hours of group lessons and 2 hours of private lessons at their school in Providencia; they also host family accommodations and can arrange a number of activities and excursions.

Volunteer Opportunities

There are literally hundreds of volunteer organizations operating in Chile. Most opportunities are aimed at gap year students and young adults taking work sabbaticals. Opportunities range from teaching English in small towns (TEFL certificates are usually required) to working in orphanages, building schools, community development, environmental conservation, and wildlife and research programs. Accommodations and meals are usually included.

South American Explorers (www.saexplorers.cl) is a wonderful nonprofit organization that has earned cult status among seasoned backpackers, especially those traveling solo with its outreach community feel and volunteer programs. Offices throughout South America provide fact sheets (available online) detailing hotels, transport information, entry requirements, travel advisories, and tour ideas. You are required to become a member of the club ($60/£40 per year), but if you are a regular visitor to the continent or just an armchair travel junkie, it's well worth it.

Also check out the following websites for details on volunteer programs in Chile:

  • ELI (www.eliabroad.org)
  • Mondo Challenge (www.mondochallenge.org)
  • United Planet (www.unitedplanet.org)
  • VE Global (www.ve-global.org)
  • Volunteer Abroad (www.volunteerabroad.com)
  • Volunteer Adventures (www.volunteeradventures.com)

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.