With our deep local connections in the region, VBT brings you hard-to-find boutique vineyards, distinctive hotels, and the sultry seaside paradise—the pure azure waters of the Chilean coast.
How to Get More from Your Trip to Chile
Posted on Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022
Story by: Molly Waldstein | Travel Writer
How to Get More from Your Trip to Chile
See the Best Chile has to Offer—and Avoid the Tourist Traps
Chile’s wine region is world-renowned—and a must-see for wine lovers traveling to this vibrant South American nation. But the unwitting traveler can easily find themselves on a wine route suffocated by crowded bus tours and kitschy tourist traps. That’s why VBT’s Chile: Coastal Vistas & Vineyards takes an off-the-beaten-path approach to this cycling tour of Chile. With our deep local connections in the region, VBT brings you hard-to-find boutique vineyards, distinctive hotels, and the sultry seaside paradise so many run-of-the-mill wine tours miss—the pure azure waters of the Chilean coast.
Chile’s Perfect Pairing: Wine and the Sea
Speaking with VBT Tour Director Kevin Wilks, it’s hard to believe anyone would travel to Chile and miss out on its expansive coastline of sandy beaches, adorable fishing villages, and chic seaside restaurants. “People fly from the US to Santiago to see Chile’s wine country, which is truly among the best in the world,” says Kevin. “But travelers may not realize that some of the best beaches in the Southern Hemisphere are just a short drive from Santiago—it’s a shame to miss it!” Following several days of spectacular coastal cycling, we’ll explore the best of Chile’s vineyards, pedaling beneath stately palm trees, sipping Petite Sirah and Carménère—and perhaps even learning something new about ourselves in the process.
Cycling the Coastal Route
A short drive from Santiago brings us to the chic coastal town of Zapallar—one of Chile’s best-kept secrets. “I’ve been traveling to Chile since the mid-90s, and I have lots of friends there,” says Kevin. “My Chilean friends told me about the gorgeous hidden gem at Zapallar. This charming beach town doesn’t get many tourists and my friends were a little reluctant to tell me about it—because they want to keep it that way!” Zapallar’s sandy beach lies in the cradle of a small, rocky lagoon where local Chileans go to swim and paddleboard in its warm azure waters. As you cycle along this cerulean coastline, you may stop to purchase local fruits and vegetables from a roadside stand—or take photos of local sea lions, sunning themselves on the rocky shore.
But life on the Chilean coast is more than just fun in the sun. An excursion on a local fishing boat gives us an authentic glimpse into the coastal Chilean way of life. As the boat’s captain shows you how to pull up traps teeming with tangles of spiny crabs, he spins tales of the local fishery and its impact on daily life. When you get back to shore with shellfish on your mind, perhaps you’ll be inspired to order a plate of Chilean crab or fresh rock shrimp from one of the quaint local restaurants along the shore.
The Opulence of Chilean Wine Country
In many ways, Chile is a nation of contrasts—where affluence meets salt-of-the-earth, where ancient estates meet nouveau riche, and where the lush valleys meet the high Andes mountains. As we head inland towards wine country, we pause in the cool Casablanca Valley—perfectly suited to growing white grape varietals such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. We stop at modern, innovative Kingston Winery, where you’ll have the opportunity to sample unique artisanal and organic vintages.
By contrast, when we arrive in the Maipo Valley, the old-world opulence of Viña Santa Rita is positively jaw-dropping. “We felt like royalty while we were there,” says Mike Stancliffe, VBT’s Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer, having returned from Chile: Coastal Vistas and Vineyards. “When you first walk in, there’s a butler in a tuxedo waiting to greet you with a glass of red wine. Dinner is served in a sumptuous dining room hung with crystal chandeliers. They took such great care of us during our entire stay and made us feel like we were at the pinnacle of Chilean society.” For two nights, this luxurious vineyard and adjoining Hotel Casa Real will be your home—with its gardens, fountains, reflecting pools, and all the magnificence of this luxurious estate.
But… we’ve saved the best for last. On the final night of your stay at Viña Santa Rita, the resident sommelier takes you on a tour of the estate’s ancient wine cellar—and of your own palate. Descending into the dimly-lit stone wine cave, you’ll notice caverns lined with bottles of fine vintages—some over 100 years old. Your distinguished host gives you a brief introduction to the art of viniculture, and then invites you to try your hand at creating a unique vintage blended to your own palate. Several carafes of red wine are laid out before you—none are labeled. Through the process of blending and tasting, you develop a blended wine that suits your palate perfectly. At the end of the workshop, the sommelier reveals the varietals you selected—and the results may surprise you! The sommelier presents you with a bottle of your perfect vintage to enjoy when you return home. Your new vinicultural expertise will continue to refine your palate—and could change the way you purchase wine forever!
If cycling in Chile is on your bucket list of Big Trip destinations, our VBT Tour Consultants are eager to help! We’ll answer questions, point you in the right direction with optional activities, sight-seeing, or trip extensions that will help you reach your goals. Just a quick call to 800.245.3868 will put you in touch with an expert Tour Consultant who will be happy to help you build a plan that ticks every box.