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Collage of Santiago, left to right, top to bottom: Cerro Santa Lucía, panoramic view of Santiago, La Moneda, Statue of the Immaculate Conception, Torre Entel, National Museum of Fine Arts and National Library of Chile, Torre Telefónica, San Francisco Church and Estación Central Santiago Metro station and Railway Station., is the capital and largest city of Chile. Santiago is located in the country's central valley, at an elevation of 520 m (1,706 ft) above mean sea level.
Santiago's cityscape is shaped by several stand-alone hills and the fast-flowing Mapocho River, lined by parks such as Parque Forestal.
The Andes Mountains can be seen from most points in the city.
These mountains contribute to a considerable smog problem, particularly during winter.
The city outskirts are surrounded by vineyards and Santiago is within a few hours of both the mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
Santiago is the cultural, political and financial center of Chile and is home to the regional headquarters of many multinational corporations. In Chile, there are several entities which bear the name of "Santiago" that are often confused.
The Incas settled in the valley of mitimaes, the main installation settled in the center of the present city, with strengths as Huaca de Chena and the sanctuary of El Plomo hill.
The area would have served as a basis for the failed Inca expeditions southward road junction as the Inca Trail.
Having been sent by Francisco Pizarro from Peru and having made the long journey from Cuzco, Extremadura conquistador Pedro de Valdivia reached the valley of the Mapocho on 13 December 1540.
The hosts of Valdivia camped by the river in the slopes of the Tupahue hill and slowly began to interact with the picunches natives who inhabited the area.
The Chilean executive and judicial powers are located in Santiago, but Congress meets mostly in nearby Valparaíso. The Commune of Santiago, sometimes referred to as "downtown" or "Central Santiago" (Santiago Centro), is an administrative division that comprises roughly the area occupied by the city during its colonial period.
The commune, administered by the Municipality of Santiago and headed by a mayor, is part of the Santiago Province headed by a provincial governor, which is in itself a subdivision of the Santiago Metropolitan Region headed by an intendant.
Despite these classifications, when the term "Santiago" is used without another descriptor, it usually refers to what is also known as Greater Santiago (Gran Santiago), a territorial extension defined by its urban continuity that includes the Commune of Santiago in addition to 36 other communes, which together comprise the majority of the Santiago Province and some areas of neighboring provinces (see Political divisions).