We started planning this November trip to Chile back in March 2019. Our trip planner and this travel team did an excellent job listening to us, making recommendations, answering our many questions, and making changes as we learned more about the areas we would visit in northern Chile. (We have been to Patagonia and the Chilean fjords several years ago.) Overall, the hotels were very good to excellent. The logistics were very well handled (with the single exception of the Santa Cruz winery tour). The guides were good, enthusiastic, and helpful. We were contacted each evening with an email letting us know the pickup time and what to wear and bring. Our planner or someone also arranged for our internal flight from Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama as well as the boarding passes the day before each flight. Our guide was an excellent wine guide for our visits to Maipo and Colchagua Valleys, and we had a wonderfully enthusiastic astronomer in San Pedro. Wifi was everywhere and better than expected. (We half expected not to get wifi in San Pedro, for example.) It was not as cold as we anticipated on early days. For our early morning flight to the desert region, it was sensible to stay at the Santiago airport hotel instead of going into Santiago and out again for the early flight. The weather was warm and dry as we expected. The roads and streets were VERY dusty and dry. We liked being able to try Chilean dishes, even if the beef is tough and the corn soup was too sweetened. The wine tastings were memorable as was the “breakfast fox” at the Tatio geysers. Unfortunately, due to the constant protests, we did not get to do many of the tour and free time activities, especially in Santiago and Valparaiso. We completely missed out on using local transportation (even the Uber ride had to be abandoned), visiting any of Pablo Neruda's houses, or walking around parts of both cities on our own.
We are glad we did this trip, and found the travel team's arrangements to be very satisfactory. We would recommend them highly as Chilean travel agents.
Our Uncorked guide for our full day wine tours in Maipo and Colchagua valleys, and we were pleased with the vineyards he had selected. In the Maipo Valley, we visited a very large winery with an unusual architecture, including big arcs. The tasting room was small and we tried three different red wines. The second visit to a winery in Providencia was led by an energetic and enthusiastic host. He had set up a table along the path leading to the winery with a vase of flowers, bottle of chardonnay, and two glasses. We proceeded to try wines from the tanks, two from barrels, and three reds with some cheese and crackers. (At the end of the day, our guide gave us the opened bottle from the tasting, which was a very nice touch.) The last “tasting” was at the restaurant in a Pirque vineyard where we had a fixed lunch of shrimp with tomatoes, salmon with potatoes Anna and some sort of custard. The “pairing” was a glass of chardonnay and a glass of their red wine. The restaurant overlooked part of the vineyard. It was not really a tasting.Our guide into the Colchagua Valley where we first stopped at the winery, owned by a History professor (PhD from UCDavis) and his wife. The winery is tiny, but they are clearly passionate about their hobby, most of which is in a sort of garage with a single bottle bottling machine! We had a lovely time with the host and tried three of their wines. She had a plate with olives and crackers. The second winery was in Colchagua Valley where we could see vines growing up into the hills of the valley. A young lady walked us and another tour group into the vineyard and explained how the vine stems were made to root on either side of the “mother” vine for cloning. Then we tried three of their wines. This was definitely a premium (or, as they tend to describe them in Chile, "iconic") wine, and very good. The last vineyard, also in Colchagua Valley, where we first had lunch of grilled tenderloin (not too tender) with two wines. After the lunch, we went across the road to the tasting room to taste seven (!) different wines! On Sunday, the 17th, we went on the Astronomy tour given by the enthusiastic!!! This is definitely an exceptional tour, if only because our guide is so energized and excited about astronomy. First he pointed out Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter in the sky, and then he gave us a brief history of astronomy which was followed by our looking through one of his many telescopes at Jupiter. We then took a break for “snacks” which were more than snacks – hot soup, beverages, cheeses, meats, etc. It was starting to get cool so we bundled into provided blankets. Our guide then proceeded to focus his many telescopes on stars, constellations, galaxies, double stars, and the like. We would follow his voice in the dark to view the findings. He could just not stop!!! Kid in a candy store!! We got back to the hotel around 1:30 am and fortunately, did not have an early start on Monday. We HIGHLY recommend this tour and our guide. On Wednesday, the 20th, we had a very early 5:00 am start to the Tatio Geysers. While it was booked as “regular half day tour,” we were by ourselves with the guide and driver. This was probably the best tour of San Pedro after the Astronomy evening. It is clearly a VERY popular tour as we could see many cars and buses in the darkness on our two-hour ride there. The steam from the geysers (pronounced gee-zers in Chile) is impressive in the morning, but the geysers themselves cannot compare to Yellowstone for colors, contrasts, and activity. (What can, after all?) We had a cooked breakfast courtesy of our driver/cook and to our extreme surprise, who should show up but a desert fox! What a thrill to see her approaching us. She looked straight at us and then walked off to survey the rest of the tourists having their breakfasts. This was a wonderful morning. Geyser steam and a desert fox!
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