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  • Writer's pictureKristen Taylor

Chile...You did not disappoint!



Everything happens for a reason. Words to live by and here is just another example of why this old adage rings true time and time again.


How do I tell you everything you want to know about visiting Chile without boring you with all our intricate travel details…I am not totally sure. Scan, skim, scour through this article to pick out what matters to you and ignore the rest. There is so much to see and do that I just don’t know how else to get it all down on paper without adding in a few things you might not really care about but maybe someone else will.


If you just want to be inspired by pictures, follow this link to a reel I created on my Instagram page.

To be honest, Chile was not our first choice for this year’s annual adventure. We originally planned to visit Portugal and Morocco, but skyrocketing airfare made us take a second look. Non-stop flights are our jam and when Kayak’s explore feature found us flights from MIA to SCL for close to $500, we rerouted to South America. This would be a first for both of us to set foot in the good ole S of A and we were excited!!


In planning this trip we used notes from multiple travel bloggers as well as suggestions from our personal “in-house” professional travel planner (AKA family friend who plans luxury travel for a living). From there we also made a few last-minute random reservations for tours to fill in any gaps. We have transitioned over the years from budget do-it-all-yourself to spending-a-little-more-for-less-stress travel and it has worked out great.


Luckily we traveled just before Chile’s tourism fully ramped up leaving us with plenty of availability for pretty much anything we wanted to add on last minute. When traveling “off-season” you risk the chance of inclement weather or limited access to everything you want to see and do but it worked out for us. The only thing not available to us was more time, and believe me, we pushed this envelope. We did consider rearranging our last night to stay longer in Patagonia but were restricted by the limited flights back to Santiago so we stayed the course. I can’t say that this did not work in our favor because our trip would not have been complete without visiting the wine region and the coast so, once again, everything happens for a reason.


What we had not bargained for was all there is to do and see in this extremely long country. Logistics quickly became a central focus of our planning. We had already locked in our round-trip flights before realizing we were going to need to jump on several more flights in order to visit all the regions we wanted to see.




Our professional travel planner “in the family” guided us toward focusing on Chile’s Lake Region and Patagonia. We knew Patagonia was definitely something we were going to see but it can quickly get overwhelming trying to figure out all the logistics that can easily be deterred due to the everchanging weather of the South.


So let’s get to it. Here is how we did Chile.


Santiago


Overnight flights from MIA to SCL. We left Miami on the 10:20pm LATAM flight and arrived at SCL at 7:20am the next morning. Easy taxi ride (flat fee from the airport) to the Ritz Carlton (P28K/$30USD) . My travel partner has the Platinum Amex so she got a great deal at the Ritz, $250 a night with $100 food and beverage credit, free breakfast, and a free bottle of wine. They offer an amazing buffet breakfast complete with a Bloody Mary bar. You will not be disappointed.


The locals call the area the Ritz is located in “San-hattan” (Santiago + Manhattan in case it eluded you). We found it to be incredibly clean and safe. Everyone we met here (well really everyone we met throughout Chile) was incredibly nice and helpful. We really felt welcomed in their country and they were excited to share all it had to offer.


We booked all our regional flights on SKY airlines. I would say they are akin to Jet Blue. Affordable, well-run, newer, clean planes. Great, helpful staff. All of our flights took off on time without a hitch. We did have to wait quite a while for our checked bags when we flew back up to Santiago but I would have taken that any day to a major delay or flight cancelation.


We arrived pretty early to Santiago so once we checked in and had breakfast, we had pretty much the whole day to explore. We had originally intended on taking the hop-on-hop-off bus to get our bearings but when we set out to find the bus stop we instead found a friendly local that had better plans for us. He wanted to save us the $40 per person fare and encouraged us to instead take the Santiago Metro a few stops to Los Dominicos Craft Village to explore. He also let us know that Santiago was extremely safe and we would have no issues just wandering around and taking it all in. We elected to take his suggestion and found the nearest substation. P3K/$3USD and we were on our way. Heads up, get CLP before you get to the station, they don’t accept cards or USD and the ATMs in their stations don’t always work.


Check out all there is to see at Los Dominicos. You can definitely walk around here for a couple of hours and we did. Alpaca, Lapis Lazuli, Copper, Leather goods, they are all there. It is all very authentic and it shows (not to say this isn’t a tourist attraction, it is for sure but you also feel very local at the same time).


After a couple of hours, we were ready for our first glass of wine for the day. We wandered locally to see what we could find but we realized we were in a pretty suburban neighborhood area so we grabbed an Uber (we still didn’t have any CLP so this was our best and quickest option) back to the hotel for a reboot. It was Sunday and the Ritz had a brunch underway so we grabbed a few drinks at their outside bar and laid low in preparation for the cooking class we had booked for the evening. Even though there was only a one-hour difference in time from home to Santiago, red-eye travel can be exhausting so we were anticipating a long day.


We booked the cooking class via Air B&B Experiences. Chef Cristian picked us up at our hotel and along with two Chilean ladies who are travel planners, and the 5 of us headed back to Cristian’s condo overlooking the Andes to cook up some local fare. We were greeted with fresh oysters and strawberries. We prepared ceviche and a local dish of Pastel de Choclo. Cristian also provided plenty of local wine and Pisco Sours. We really enjoyed Cristian’s stories and also being joined by our other two Chilean co-chefs. They gave us lots of tips for the next legs of our trip and really got our excitement going. If you plan on spending any time in Santiago, look up Cristian’s experiences. He offers daytime market and city tours (we had originally inquired about the availability of these tours) as well as the night-time cooking class. You will not be disappointed.


Next morning was the first of our 3 travel days during our trip. Initially, when we were planning this trip, travel days seemed like such a waste of time and a barrier to exploration. What we quickly figured out was that we needed these travel days to “rest.” Our non-travel days would be filled from morning to night with exploration we really needed our “downtime” to enjoy our constant moving on the days we weren’t, well, constantly moving.


Protip: If you don’t have CLP or want to conserve what you do have, you can use your handy dandy Uber app to catch a ride back to the airport however plain Ubers are not supposed to provide transportation to the airport, only taxis, but you can use your app to hail for and pay for a taxi by simply selecting “taxi” as your trip type.


The Lake Region — Puerto Varas




We flew into Puerto Montt and grabbed a taxi (P20K/$21USD). We stayed at the Hotel Cumbre which boasts an amazing view of two volcanos from pretty much every window. We were able to check in early however we found that they had assigned us to a room with a single king bed so we did have to wait quite a while for a new room but they awarded us with a delightful charcuterie tray for our trouble.


Puerto Varas was originally settled by the Germans and the downtown full of restaurants, bars, and shops is a quick 5-minute walk down a very nice footpath from the hotel.

There is even a Dreams casino if you like that kind of action.


The next day we hired a private tour with Andres via Tours by Locals ( link is in the paragraph below). He filled our heads with so many facts on the area that, had we not been on vacation, our heads would have been swimming but luckily for us, we let it roll right off.


We selected Andres’ tour titled “Shore excursion Osorno Volcano, Lake Todos Los Santos, Petrohue Waterfalls, Puerto Varas and Angelmo Art Craft Market.” It was non-stop eight hours whirlwind tour and we loved every minute of it. Andres was an amazing travel professional and was excited to share all he could about his country. We covered so much ground in the single day we had with Andres including Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, non-stop views of views of the Osorno and Calbuco Volcanoes, and Llanquihue Lake.


Andres did warn us to be ready with our cameras at any moment that the clouds might clear from the top of Osorno so as you will see if you check out my quick video on my website or Instagram, we did not get a clean shot during our afternoon but the next morning we had amazing views! I will admit right now, we have incredible luck when traveling for weather and views and this trip was no exception.


At the end of our day with Andres, he was kind enough to set us up with a great dinner reservation at a locally owned restaurant named Las Buenas Brasas Restaurant. Tucked into the corner of a square, if not for Andres’ recommendation, we would have never found this place and we were so glad we did. We shared an appetizer of Abalone and a dinner of Merluza. Delicious.


Fun fact: Known as the Chilean Seabass in the United States (or Merluza negra in Spanish-speaking countries), toothfish is not a relative of the Northern Seabass species, it is actually made up of two species, the Patagonian toothfish and the Antarctic toothfish.

I almost forgot to mention the wine. Carmenère is everywhere here in Chile and if your go-to is Cabernet, you will love this full-bodied red.

Aromas of black fruit, bell pepper, spice, subtle herbs and berries.

The next morning the volcanos finally presented themselves without a cloud in the sky and the sunrise was amazing!


Then it was off to the airport for a 3-hour flight down to Puerto Natales and our amazing stay at the Singular.


Patagonia — Puerto Natales


We decided to fly into the tiny airport of Puerto Natales (1 gate only) because it was 5 minutes from The Singular, our hotel for the next 3 nights. The other option is Punta Arenas which is about 4 hours away. Why even look at the other option, well because, and you will hear this time and time again in Patagonia, the weather can be fickle, and landing in Puerto Natales can be tricky, and sometimes not available, if winds kick up, rerouting you to Punta Arenas. We lucked out, the weather had just cleared days before our arrival so we were able to take advantage of its super convenient location and be all checked into our hotel with a drink in hand in under 30 minutes from our landing. The Singular offers transfer from the airport to the tune of $60 USD for two, a taxi from the airport will set you back (P8K, $8USD).


We can’t say enough about our stay at The Singular. Let me first disclose, it is located about an hour and a half outside of Torres del Paine National Park. It is amazing and definitely worth the stay. I mean, it is a former sheep processing facility and was featured in this article in Forbes. It is, if nothing else, an elegant facility that left no stone unturned when it comes to marrying the “cool” history of being a world-class sheep processing facility to the now elegant hotel with views from every room including the spa steam rooms that overlook the water and the indoor/outdoor pool. And let me not forget to boast about the swanky shared space of the dining room, bar, and lounge area. You just feel like you are somewhere special and to come “home” to this space after one of the many thoughtfully curated excursion offerings, is just priceless. We loved every minute of our time there and you will too if you get the chance to stay here.


Excursion 1 — Channel of Last Hope (Ultima Esperanza)




Our first excursion was through the fjords to the glaciers and a stop at a sheep farm for a lamb lunch and a horseback ride. After hiking back we were greeted on the boat with cocktails of Pisco Sours, beer, wine, meats, and cheeses. We stopped to visit seals nestled into the rough exterior.


Estancias Patagonia





The sheep farm, Estancias Patagonia, was amazing. After visiting the Last Hope Fjord we arrived at Estancias and were greeted with a glass of wine and a traditional Patagonian lamb barbeque followed by a demonstration by their herding dogs and sheep shearing. We were then given the option to choose between a horseback ride or trekking option (we chose the horseback ride) which lasted approximately two hours. These activities are accompanied by a thorough explanation of the history and work life of a Patagonian rancher.


After our afternoon at Estancia it was back on the boat for about an hour ride back to The Singular. After this day accompanied by our amazing guides, we were unsure how day 2 could possibly top this experience.


Excursion 2 — Torres del Paine National Park


Our second day was a guided trip through the Torres del Paine National Park. We had a great small group, just Tracy and myself and our new friends from Mexico City, Marta and Guillermo, who were celebrating their 10th anniversary with a 3-week trip. Our guides were Matia (local) and Marco (from Egypt).


The excursion consisted of a full tour and stops at all the scenic overviews for pictures and an amazing “box” lunch of seafood salads accompanied by wine and Pisco Sours.

Matia was friendly with the manager of the Explora and arranged for a stop to check out the facility which is located in the park. One thing I will say is this hotel has absolutely amazing views. It is very modern inside and has a minimalist feel. Although the views are amazing, I feel like we made the right choice with the Singular.


Casablanca Valley — Vin del Mar — Valparaíso


We flew back to Santiago to be closer to the airport for our 11:20pm departing flight back to MIA. We stayed at the Ritz again because it was really nice and a great deal.

We hired a guide from AirB&B Experiences, this time shared with our friend Geo, from New York traveling solo. Luis picked us up at our hotel and navigated the challenging city road closures that plague the city on the weekends to promote outdoor cycling/running. Apparently, they don’t post the routes so that leads a lot of the locals going in circles trying to find a path to the highway.


Our first stop was Casablanca Wine Valley and our guide had selected a location that features sparkling wines. Although that would not have been our first choice, I am glad it was his because it was a nice departure from the Caminere we had grown fond of and the location provided amazing views and great photo ops not to mention the wine was pretty nice too.


After our tasting our guide gave us the option to visit another winery or head on to Vin del Mar. We, with a fresh buzz in the air, decided to try another tasting. It did not disappoint.

Our next stop was the towns of Vin del Mar and Valparaíso. Valparaiso is known for its painted walls.


The Painted Walls of Valparaíso





After wandering the streets of Valparaiso we found that we were running behind schedule to make it back to Santiago for our flight back to MIA. We initially anticipated a chance to hit the pool at the Ritz and shower before we headed to the airport but we were short on time so it was a quick hit to grab our luggage and then off to SCL. We didn’t have an issue with getting through security but it was also late Sunday evening. There was only one line that wrapped around and around. I can only imagine what this might be like if it was peak time so I would plan on arriving with plenty of time to spare.


I feel like I am cutting this article short because we really saw and did so much in between but I am no travel blogger and you might be ready for this to be over. What I would like to say in closing is that Chile is absolutely amazing! If you get the chance to visit, jump on it! Also, plan on visiting the Argentina side of Patagonia if you can swing it. Pretty much everyone we ran into told us of it’s beauty and actually said it is nicer than the Chilean side which I cannot see how that could be possible.


If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line. I will probably come back here and add some additional pictures and commentary over time, but for now, I want to get this article published and spread the word about what an amazing place Chile is to visit.

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