Ahh, Chile! Like a breath of fresh air. Roads are paved, there are multi-laned highways, awesome grocery stores, friendly people, and they even put garbage bags in their trashcans! The landscape reminds us so much of California, only what I’d imagine California was like 50 years ago without all the people and traffic. And we were super excited to get to share this amazing place with two groups of friends who were coming to visit us for the holidays!
But before we were due to pick up our first set of friends, Dennis and Namrita, we had to book the 1000 miles from Northern border town of San Pedro de Atacama, a touristy but cute desert village, all the way down to the capital Santiago. Chile is a very long country, and we had some things to see before guests arrived, so we hit the glorious paved highway with Titus. Bolivia you were spectacular, but we are ready for some modern comforts, the ocean, and fresh PRODUCE!
Two weeks on the Coast – Waiting for Dennis and Namrita to Arrive!
The northern part of Chile is remote and deserty with most of the people living up there seemly involved in mining operations of some sort, but we didn’t take too much time to explore. George was dying to get to the famous surfing and kiting towns of central chile. We were blown away by how beautiful the coastline is… and how familiar feeling was to California.
We ended up stumbling upon two great places based on word of mouth. One is Matanzas, which we liked so much we decided to bring our friends to this same town the following weekend (more on that later), and the other was Puertocillo. We heard about these places from other kiters and surfers, which is always the best way to find local gems. Puertocillo in particular was interesting because its literally in the middle of nowhere along dirt roads, and has the most quaint town, but an amazing wave (for George) and endless miles of beach to explore/do yoga on (for me), almost all of which was pretty empty. This place isn’t going to last though…unfortunately a big development agency bought up most the land, and there is a huge uproar in town over the hundreds of condos they plan to build right along the beach…essentially blocking easy beach access for most.
The last stop in our quest to explore the coast before friends arrived is the famed surf towns of Pichilemu and Punta de Lobos. We decided to sign up for another week of spanish lessons in Pichilemu and settled in to a nice campsite near the water. George found a great nearby wave to surf, and even tried his hat at the most famous wave in chile, Punta de Lobos. This wave is known for getting massive and is pretty hard to reach – George had to hop skip and jump over rocks to get to the break!
Dennis and Namrita Arrive in a New York Minute!
We were so excited to have visitors come for the month of December. Not only were we having Christmas company later in the month (Sanjay and Colleen), but our good friends Dennis and Namrita decided to visit us from New York! We were super excited to host them on our trip and honored that they chose to visit us with their time off, and put full faith in our planning efforts.
We spent the next week exploring Santiago, wine country, and the coast of Chile. Its always hard to plan ahead for friends when you get so used to being able to pull into a place, get the feel, and then decide you’d like to stay or not. But we got super lucky and the places we visited were fantastic. But first, a few hours in Santiago to kill while Titus gets new kicks (thanks Monster 4×4 for all the help!)
After picking up Titus the four of us hit the road to our first destination, the fabulous Maipo Valley Wine region, which is an astonishing 20 minutes right outside Santiago. Immediately you feel like you are in wine country, but also surrounded by snow capped mountains! Rolling vineyards and green farms are everywhere, but if that wasn’t enough, we also booked a stay at an awesome little B&B Calma de Rita where you get to sleep in a huge wine barrel! Actually, everything was wine-barrel themed, and I do mean EVERTYING. Wine-barel hot tub, sauna, lounge chairs, basketball net, and even …the death-slide.
This place was so helpful and even arrange a wine tour for us at a small winery down the road – William Fevre. I have to say that this was one of the most informative wine tours the four of us had ever been on. The winemaker gave the tour himself and we learned so much about the Chilean and international wine markets. For example, we learned that 80% of Chilean wine is exported because there just isn’t a big market in Chile for wine (or wine tourism). Compare that to Argentina which has the exact opposite ratio – they drink about 80% of their wine and only export 20%. But these facts were just fine with us – the more wine for us to drink! And the price was right too. A descent bottle of wine costs about $5 here in Chile. Salud!
After recharging all our batteries in wine country for a few days, it was time to head to the beach! Matanzas is a really special place and we were excited to share it with Nams and Dennis. We rounded the corner to the beach and were all just stunned at the beautiful coastline.
We checked Dennis and Namrita into this swanky boutique hotel on the water, Surazo, while we settled into our free camping spot in the beach parking lot. The next few days would be filled with great meals, lounging in the hotel hot tub with wine in-hand, long beach walks and hikes up to the dunes, and lots of laughter by beach bonfires. George even managed to get some kiting and surfing in. I’m not sure what exactly makes Matanzas such a standout for us against other beach towns. Maybe its the quaint street with its few boutique hotels boasting great food, or the amazing locals that welcomed us with open arms to camp in their beach parking lot, the family-friendly vibes and new friends we met there (Martin, Joy and their baby girl), or the wind-swept dunes, but this place captured our hearts and we were so happy that it captured Dennis and Namrita’s as well. Oh, Matanzas…
It was tough to pull ourselves away, but we managed to leave the southern coast for the port-town of Valparaiso. Valparaiso is known for many things. A few come to mind….seedy port-town with graffiti art everywhere, UNESCO heritage site with its cobblestoned alleys and colorful buildings, hilled streets with funicular lifts, the famous poet Pablo Nerudo, and great seafood. Oh, and did I mention grafiti art?? Everywhere! So much in fact, that even the New Yorkers were impressed…
We rented an AirB&B in one of the neighborhoods close to historic section, and thoroughly enjoyed the views and our awesome breakfasts on the porch, complete with a now-famous George smoothie. Can’t beat this view…
After 2 days in Valparaiso we were ready to head back to Santiago and meet up with our next guests, Sanjay and Colleen! And to welcome them, and also say goodbye to Dennis and Namrita, the six of us when to one of the top restaurants in south america, Restaurant 99, where true to its number, we completed a 9 course tasting menu. Our most delicious meal in Chile to-date!
I just want to sincerely thank Dennis and Namrita for coming and spending some of their holiday time-off exploring Chile with us. You guys, we loved our chats, all the amazing meals (don’t think I need to eat for the next month!) and all the laughter. And I’m certain we will do it again someday! Wishing you both an awesome and exciting year.
More pics of our first 3 weeks in Chile and our time with Dennis and Namrita: