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Napa.41. Stroll through Santiago  For help on your planning contact my friends at

Santiago shimmers with so much green and reflected light from leafy parks and glass skyscrapers you need your sunglasses just to walk down the street. This city has the power to disorient you on every street corner; from the sky-scraper neighborhood nicknamed “Sanhattan” to the Bohemian Bella Vista neighborhood rich with artists, entertainers and small ethnic and local restaurants. Santiago surprises you with safe, clean streets and friendly citizens. Everywhere you see fashionable business people rushing about and feel the energy of the boomingly-strong economy. Chile, best known for its immense copper reserves, Chile has expanded into high tech industries, wine, fruit, and seafood exports. Chile has reined in corruption and become a beacon of prosperity in South America.

After a pisco sour and a King Crab or steak dinner, catch a cab to one of the boisterous bars or discos. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the cheerful driver who is an Elvis fan, and together you can croon “Love me Tender” as you zip through the tree-lined streets of Santiago.

2. Cycle the Country’s Wine Region  Click HERE.

Cycle, sip and spit your way through the peaceful, bucolic hills in Casablanca Valley, the country’s prime region for white wines where many vineyards—some of the best in the country—have begun opening their doors to tourists. Get picked up at your hotel after breakfast, ride and taste all day, and be back in Santiago for dinner. Cows cross the roads, roosters run between the grapevines and you can easily imagine you’re in Napa Valley in the 1970’s.

Book your cycle adventure from Santiago for a hotel pick-up and a professional driver, guide and bikes. Brian, at Santiago Adventures arranges private appointments at boutique vineyards like Kingston, or at the cutting-edge biodynamic vineyard of St. Emiliana. On a tour through the gorgeous grounds where peacocks, alpacas and geese wander through the rows of vines, you’ll learn the difference between organic vs. sustainable vs. biodynamic viticulture. Brian prepares a gourmet wine-pairing picnic and leads you along quiet, scenic back roads from vineyard to vineyard.

3. Off the Beat Path in Northern Patagonia

When you leave Santiago you begin to grasp one of Chile’s most salient characteristics: the enormity of contrasts between north and south and the interior and coastal areas. This tall, narrow country, approximately as long as the distance from Los Angeles to New York, is wedged between the snow-capped Andes and the frothing Pacific Ocean with a coastline that spans half the globe, mammoth mountain peaks and volcanoes higher than any in America.

An easy flight from Santiago to the modern airport near Coyahque drops you into the unspoiled Aysen region — a world of wide open spaces bordered by a horizon of clouds pierced by icy peaks. Business attire is left in the city and replaced by hiking boots, down jackets, and fishing hats.

The town of Coyhaique is a convenient base for adventures south and north through the least inhabited regions of Chile. The area, known as Asian, is the gateway to a wilderness area of lakes, glaciers and valleys. A five-hour drive south on a road completed in 1995 is a moving post card of jaw-dropping scenery. A natural wonderland of rolling hills and green meadows punctuated with yellow wildflowers morphs into thick forests, mountains, lakes and rivers. Watch the rocky promontories to catch a glimpse of soaring Condors with three-foot wingspans. After an hour the paved road ends and as you continue on a dirt road you feel like you are going to the end of the earth.

In Chile what can you expect at the end of the road? A glacier, a national park, a waterfall or a luxurious hand-crafted wooden lodge nestled on the shores of an emerald lake. The Hacienda Tres Lagos, or inn at three lakes, surprises guests with a spa, Jacuzzi, tastefully appointed suites with wood-burning fireplaces, cozy rooms filled with antiques, two restaurants and a sauna on the private beach. Horses graze on the grass between the Hacienda Tres Lagos and the shore. The multi-sport lodge offers superb fly-fishing. Or begin the day with a guided hike through dense forests, then horseback ride along the ridge and zip through the woods on six canopy rides. Lace up your hiking boots and trek on glaciers or enjoy the lakes by boat. End an active day with a spa treatment, a soak in the Jacuzzi and a four-course dinner with superb wines from an enviable wine list. The traditional lamb grilled on an open fire is ranked among the best bar-b-que in the country. From the moment you enter the hacienda and see the hat tree adorned with lovingly-worn fishing hats, you’ll feel like you’re visiting friends at their country home. The warm and welcoming staff make you feel like family too.

If you ask the lodge’s Chilean guide Camillo what the day’s weather will be, the response is often; four seasons; rain, hail, snow, sun and wind. At Tres Lagos you can begin your day in the sauna, fly fish for rainbow trout in the rain, hike on a glacier as the sun comes out, ride the zip line through the forest and end the day dining on fresh morel mushrooms and salmon in front of a blazing fire.

4. Home on the Ranch

Several estancias (ranches) have opened their doors to guests, offering lodging, horseback riding, and ranch activities including sheep-shearing, wool-packing and sheep round-ups.

Perhaps the most authentic and exclusive is the Estancia Cerro Guido, located 30 minutes from the main entrance to Torres del Paine National Park. At Cerro Guido you’ll meet ranch hands, visit the owners’ house, the organic covered-garden, the smoke house, the school and the cookhouse nearby in the self-contained town of ranch hands. Collect fresh eggs in the chicken house for your breakfast. The ranch is not run as a Disneyland showcase for tourism. The hotel business is a small part of the ranch operation, which manages 40-50,000 sheep, 300 horses, 2,500 cows and a farm staff of 40 people, including their families. Guests learn first-hand about cowboys, the settlers and how the ranch operates.

Estancia Cerro Guido is a well-known getaway for Chileans who appreciate a fine ranch experience as well as fine wines. They know that the ranch is owned by the Matetic Family who serve their vineyards’ highly-rated Syrah or Corralillo wines. The world-renown wine is included with dinner.

You won’t rough it on the ranch. After a three-course delectable dinner, linger by the blazing fire in the sitting room next to the antique Victrola. Wind up the arm, place the needle on the 1950’s vinyl record and relax to Tango music. Snuggle into your comfy bed in one of the eleven antique-filled rooms. Several are located in the original 1920’s manner home which was solidly built on a foundation of cement-filled whiskey-barrels.

Read on for more ways to chart the perfect Chilean adventure…