Santiago de Chile
At the foot of the majestic Andes, we find the valley of Santiago, the most important urban capital and center in Chile. Protected by the hills of low height, cement and gardens, Santiago seems to contrast in the chaos of a huge city and the peacefulness of province. In the friendly flirtation between tradition and modernity, we find the fertile areas like the Forestal And Bicentenario Parks, panoramic hills like the San Cristobal and Santa Lucía, the historic Mapocho River and of course, the ancient central area of facades and churches that date from the XVI century and that gratify the soul of this city, The voracious growth in these last few years has added the business districts, that outstand for their wide range of banks, restaurants and strip centers.
Chile is no newcomer to winemaking. Wine grapes are not native to the Americas, but because wine was a major component of the Spanish diet at the time of the conquest, the earliest settlers were anxious to produce their favorite beverage in the New World. After many failed attempts in more northerly climes, they discovered that Chile offered what the gold –and silver- rich territories to the north did not: the perfect conditions for grapes and wine. Spanish vines, especially those now called País (Mission in California), were planted and their fruit turned into the New World’s earliest wines in the 1550s.
After Chile’s independence from Spain in the early 19th century, well-heeled travelers (most of whom had earned their fortunes in the mining industry) sailed to Europe. France was the destination of choice and became Chile’s international role model. New French influences appeared in Chile’s architecture, arts, cuisine, and dress. Luxurious mansions rose on the outskirts of Santiago, Aconcagua, and Curicó. The new lifestyle called for fine wines made from noble French varieties, and by the mid-19st century, new vineyards, modern wineries, and the latest European technologies raised the standard-and quality- of Chilean wine to new heights.
New world travelers were not the only ones to cross the Atlantic in the 19st century. Phylloxera, a tiny louse native to North America, also made the journey and quickly became the Old World wine industry’s greatest enemy. Fortunately for Europe, the vines that withered as the insect marcher through its vineyards thrived in Chile by mid-century, or the visitor of wine may have come to an end. Once the technique of grafting vitis vinifera onto American rootstocks was discovered to control the louse, Chile – which remains phylloxera –free to this day – was ready to return vines to the motherland and help rebuild the European wine industry.
No one is sure why Chile has never been affected by phylloxera – it may be its geographic isolation, perhaps its particular soil and/or climatic conditions – but the result is that Chilean vines, unlike others around the world, need not be grafted. Their own roots grow deep into the earth, unhindered by intermediary rootstock, enabling their vines to produce fruit with the most faithful expression of its terroir.
Clean, Green, and Sustainable
Vines that are well-suited to their environment produce naturally healthy, very high quality fruit, and Chile’s Mediterranean climate, with its cold, rainy winters and warm, dry summers, broad fluctuations between daytime and night time temperatures, and rain-free harvest seasons limit the need for chemical intervention in the vineyard. In fact, eco-friendly winegrowing has long been the norm. Organic farming is increasingly common, biodynamic practices are on the rise, and the country’s wineries strongly back sustainable practices. The industry’s interest in environmental protection and social responsibility led it to develop and implement the Chilean Code for Sustainable Wine Production, which establishes a series of practices to guide wineries toward an energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, socially, equitable and economically viable production system. Those who meet the rigorous standards will earn the right to use a special seal to indicate their status to consumers.
Diversity and Quality
Standard geography would suggest that Chile’s long, narrow; chili pepper shape should display the greatest variation in growing conditions from north to south. But Chile is no standard country. In fact, proximity to the Andes or the Pacific Ocean result in more pronounced climate and soil variations along the east-west. Wine regions have expanded in every direction over the past two decades as winemakers scour the countryside, hills, and coastline for new vine-friendly areas that will make better matches for the wide range of red and white grape varieties grown in Chile. Vines bask in the sun more than 2.000m (6.600 ft) above sea level under the crystal clear skies of the Elqui Valley, as well as just 4 km (2.4mi) from the sea itself in San Antonio. The hunt for new terroir has also rediscovered nearly forgotten dry-farmed bush vines planted half a century ago that now produce unique Carignan that has turned the heads of some of the world’s most demanding critics and speak of terroir in a way that young vineyards simply cannot.
Just 120 kilometers away from Santiago, we find the V Region and the splendid Chilean maritime coast. The city of Valparaíso, port, city and capital of the region was in its awakenings a commercial paradise destined to the open interchange between Chile and the world. A vigorous cultural activity and the particular geographical distribution of its hills like “La Cárcel” or “Cerro Alegre” turn this port into a visual jewel, without mentioning that it has been the cradle of important local artists. Continuing with the route around the coast we arrive to Viña del Mar, beach known for its generous gastronomic offer, a Gambling Casino and a wide range of hotels facing the Ocean. Finally, you cannot miss the seafronts, around Viña del Mar and Reñaca that are the main objective for summer vacationers each year.
FESTIVAL DE VIÑA DEL MAR
The Viña del Mar Festival is considered worldwide as the most relevant music festival in Latin America. Scheduled for the 21st to the 26st of February, it has already confirmed as part of its program the participation of the Spanish artist Alejandro Sanz, Chayanne, Marco Antonio Solis, Yuri and Roberto Carlos among others, a select group of artists that continue with conversations with the aims of expansion. Simultaneously and in front of the enormous media coverage, the comedy shows and the music awards corresponding to the countries in contest have already been negotiated. This year, the Festival awaits its usual 15.000 spectators, for which the organizers have provided all the necessary conditions of security and hygiene in the amphitheater “La Quinta Vergara”, the annual site for the Festival de la Canción.
One kilometer and a half of sand and ocean have transformed the area of Reñaca into one of the most required places in the north coast of Viña del Mar. The terraced multiplication of buildings that leap up the hillsides constitute the undefined architecture of this beach. People’s favorite, the Paseo Marítimo of Reñaca a fresh and aromatic place to walk along at any moment of the day. The abundant commercial stands, the seafood empanadas just taken from the oven and surfers of all ages, turn this beach into a colorful avenue. With suitable waters for swimming, recreational activities and a series of well studied services for vacationers to enjoy it’s marked an original features.
La Sebastiana is one of the emblematic residences of the well known national poet Pablo Neruda. Closed down after the death of this Nobel Prize, it opened its doors again with the return of democracy in the year 1992 and it turned into a magnificent museum that recalls the life and work of the Chilean troubadour. Located in the gardens next to La Sebastiana is the homonym Cultural Center that counts with a suitable exposition room, conferences, stained-glass windows, seasons and readings of poetry that tale place year after year. At the moment, Neruda House Museum offers for public disposal a modern audio system in four languages and splendid guided visits around the building, everything restored just like the old days.
CERRO ALEGRE - Valparaíso Tours
Walking around the little roads of Cerro Alegre, in Valparaíso, is one of the most significant touristic experiences in the V Region. Ceded by Pedro de Valdivia in the XVII century, urbanized during the XIX Century, devastated by an earthquake in the XX century and reoccupied by elegant colonial homes, this hill is one of the centers of Valparaíso. The Paseo Yugoslavom and its spectacular viewpoint to the bay, the Aníbal Pinto Plaza and its Pérgola de las Flores, the El Peral elevator and the Palacio Baburizza with its Art Nouveau styles and the Bellas Artes Museum, are the places you can find around this neighborhood blending architecture, nature and tradition. We recommend trying an exquisite homemade beer for this patrimonial hill, easy to find at the traditional “Bar Cinzano”, Apolo 77, Pasta e Vino, Vinilo coffe house and “El Samsara” among others.
We recommend Lan Chile, rated Latin America’s best airline. The airport designator for Santiago is SCL. American Airlines and Delta also have flights to Santiago. We recommend spending at least one day in Santiago to rest and catch your breath before traveling further. It is a great city to explore too. When traveling to Patagonia, the flight from Santiago to Puerto Montt (PMC) takes about one-and-a-half hours, and from Santiago to Coyhaique (BBA) or Punta Arenas (PUQ) takes about three hours.
Arriving in Santiago
Getting through customs is usually a very fast experience and you will have no problem bringing all the personal items you need. There is a $131 charge to US citizens for a 90-day tourist visa. This needs to be paid in cash in US dollars before you pass through Immigration so be sure to have this with you.
ATMs, which are all over Santiago, operate in English. The exchange rate varies from day to day but a good rule of thumb is 500 Chilean pesos to the dollar.
Food and Water
No worries about eating the fruits and vegetables in Chile. The food you will be served on our trips is absolutely delicious and safe. The water in Chile is also clean and safe to drink. In Santiago, you will have to adjust to the stronger chlorine taste. For your convenience, we provide bottled water on our trips.
The most modern hotels, shops and restaurants are in Providencia and Las Condes where we recommend you to stay. We can make your reservation in recommended hotels at very competitive rates. Getting around Santiago is safe and easy on the Metro. You can safely visit and walk around downtown (El Centro), Bellavista, Providencia and Las Condes during the day without worries. As always, keep valuables in your hotel and do not let your handbag/backpack out of your site.
Taxis are also convenient and inexpensive. The vast majority of drivers are honest, bringing you directly to your destination. Hail the cabs that look newer and you should not have problems. Most hotels also offer car service.
→ Chile Outdoor Activities
Excursions into the mountains should be undertaken with serious consideration of extreme weather conditions. For all of our trekking and horseback riding excursions, we recommend that our clients be prepared for extreme weather conditions with a Gore-Tex shell, fleece, hat and gloves. Also, efforts to minimize sun exposure are important as the ultraviolet rays in the southern hemisphere are much stronger than those in the northern. Always use SPF-30 or higher in Chile. In Patagonia, things are more extreme and throughout the year it is possible to experience all four seasons within a few hours! You should bring: Rain Jacket, Rain Pants, stout waterproof hiking boots, hat, polypro underwear, gloves, warm jacket such as polar fleece, several spare pairs of socks, and sunglasses.
GMT-4 (1st Sunday after March 9)
GMT-3 (1st Sunday after October 9)
220V 50Hz You will require an adapter for the round pin plug
Spanish; Rapa Nui and Spanish on Easter Island; English in tourist areas
Mon-Fri, 9am to 2pm
Mon-Fri 9am to 6pm, Sat. 9am to 2pm. ATMs in Chile are called “Redbanc”.
US Embassy: Av. Andrés Bello 2800, Las Condes, Santiago; Tel: 232-2600
LAN Airlines (in Chile): 600/526-2000
It’s all here waiting for you. Why wait to enjoy it? Your vacation time is limited. Go ahead, explore Chile Wine Country, we’ll have your room waiting !!
Mendoza Holidays Wine Tours has once again received an International ¨Best of Wine Tourism Award¨ (2010/2011/2012 & 2013) thanks to the exceptional and memorable wine tourism experience offered to clients. Great Wine Capitals Global Network. www.greatwinecapitals.com