When I planned my recent trip to Chile, my heart was set on the wine country and the coast. I wasn’t too excited about visiting Santiago. But because I was paying for most of the trip using points, I decided to stay in Santiago for a few nights as the rates were lower and I could maximize my points. The city really surprised me and I left wanting to lure all fellow wine lovers south.
Here are a few of the reasons why wine lovers will fall hard for the city:
The View at this Winery Within City Limits.
I’ve been to wineries all over the world, places as stunning as Santorini and the Douro Valley. My jaw dropped when I walked through the gates of Viña Aqutania. There is truly nothing quite like sitting among the wines and gazing up at the massive Andes mountains towering over the vineyards in the distance. I was surprised how close the mountains seemed, like you could just reach out and touch them, a glass of wine in hand.
Viña Aquitania, in the heart of the Maipo Valley wine region, is only about a 25-minute drive from the center of the city but feels worlds away. If you don't want to take a cab, you can even take the metro if you’re willing to walk about 45 minutes. Their tour guide, Barbara, is extremely knowledgeable and seems to do just about everything at the vineyard, from arranging and giving tours to working in the production. After a quick tour of the barrel and tank rooms, we tasted a handful of wines, all of which we enjoyed. When the tasting was over, we couldn't bear the thought of leaving, so we asked Barbara if we could purchase glasses of wine to enjoy on the benches outside. While they don’t sell glasses of wine, Barbara was nice enough to open a bottle of the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon for us to enjoy. We had the best time relaxing and savoring a couple of glasses of wine as we soaked in the views, something that we didn't get the chance to do at many of the other wineries we visited in Chile. There is also a great observation deck that you can climb up for a 360-degree view of the city and mountains. I took some incredible pictures, and we eventually had to force ourselves to leave so that we could make our dinner reservation. If only we could have stayed forever!
If you do have more time, you can also visit the larger production winery, Viña Cousino Macul, that is only a mile from Viña Aquitania, or you can take the metro to Viña Santa Carolina a few miles away (and a much shorter walk from the metro compared to Viña Aquitania).
Six Wine Regions Are Within a Two-Hour Drive
As if the wineries of the Maipo Valley aren’t enough, Santiago is a two-hour drive from the Aconcagua Valley, Casablanca Valley, San Antonio Valley, Cachapoal Valley, and Colchagua Valley. On my trip, my husband and I visited four wine regions in just a few days. While I think I left my heart in the Colchagua Valley, it’s hard to pick a favorite region as they were all so beautiful and different. Santiago makes a perfect base for exploring Chile’s wine regions, even as day trips.
A Great Food & Wine Scene
Most good wines are best sipped with good food, and while there were a few places in Chile that did not shine in the culinary scene, Santiago was not one of them. I loved how many restaurants showcased Chilean wine. Two restaurants that particularly stood out were Bocanariz and Peumayan Ancestral Food. Bocanariz is a wine bar that serves over 400 Chilean wines. Many of them you can get by the glass and tasting, with the opportunity to make your own custom wine flight. My husband and I really enjoyed sampling a variety of Chilean wines, especially from the regions we were not able to visit on the trip. They also have many tasty and unique small plates.
Peumayen Ancestral Food was probably our favorite meal from the whole trip. They showcase native cuisines from all over Chile, such as the Mapuche, Aymará and Rapa Nui, and serve Chilean wine to pair and complete the experience. Even one of the complimentary dishes, the bread plate, was incredible. It had six different pieces of bread from the different regions of Chile, arranged from North to South. The texture and flavor of each were radically different. The staff is well versed in explaining all of the unique dishes to help you understand the history and culture behind everything. If you dine there, make a reservation well in advance. And definitely go on an empty stomach as we were too full for the tantalizing dessert menu!
A European Feel Infused with Local Culture
Walking through the streets of Santiago, I was surprised at how European it felt at times. There’s European architecture at every corner, neighborhoods lined with cobblestone streets, century-old churches, an abundance of parks, and even a castle on Santa Lucia Hill. Then on the flip side, you see Chile’s identity really shine in places like the Los Dominicos Handicraft Market, an artisan market that feels like an old Chilean village frozen in time. For those wine lovers that flock to Europe for its charm, Santiago has its own allure that will leave you wanting more.
If you want to plan a trip to the Santiago area, keep in mind that the seasons are opposite. Spring and fall are the best times to go, though if you go in their winter (our summer), you can add in a ski trip!