Chile – Enchantment on the Other Side of the World
By Lisa France
There are very few places left on the planet where we can travel and feel as if we are truly far away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, while also feeling the ease and comfort of our own homes. The Chiloé Archipelago, a group of islands off the coast of southern Chile, is a destination to quench the thirst for this particular pleasure. This area is rightly described as enchanting, special and magical.
There are no lack of activities in the city. The trouble is choosing which of them to enjoy. To see an expansive view of the city, trek out to the second highest point in the metropolis, Cerro San Cristobal. Atop the famous hill sits a 22-meter high statue of the Virgin Mary. The view of the city is spectacular from this vantage point. In addition, the park is lovely for hiking and drinking a distinctive Chilean beverage called mote con huesillo, which is a non-alcoholic drink made of dried peach liquid mixed with wheat. It is a summertime staple of Chile, so much so that there is a well-known saying, “It’s more Chilean than a mote con huesillo.”
A visit to Santiago would not be complete without a visit to the capital square, La Mondea Presidential Palace. It feels more like a village center where anyone can visit and not feel the concern of secret service personnel. Just a small stroll away from “Chile’s White House” as it were, is one of Santiago’s current claims to fame, the Metropolitan Cathedral, where Pope Francis did his Jesuitical Studies. In and around Plaza de Armas, there are many cosmopolitan shops and cafes among a plethora of street vendors.
Where to Stay
Torremayor Providencia Hotel
The rooms are large with picture windows affording an expansive view of the city. Many of the rooms have a view of Coastanera Center which is the tallest building in Latin America and the second tallest building in the southern hemisphere. The hotel has a rooftop pool, a cozy bar and a solid breakfast which comes complimentary with room bookings. Located in central Santiago.
The architecture is stunning with a delightful combination of modern speckled with hints of the old world. Vaulted ceilings, mood lighting and fireplaces are comforting while also hip. Dine at Terraza for a melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon or smoky, spicy, short ribs paired with Casa Lapostolle Cabernet Sauvignon.
Where to Eat
Enjoy the ceviche with a lovely Chilean Sauvignon Gris from Leyda with enough fruit and mineral to create a burst of new flavor. For a main course try the Antarctic Hake paired with Chardonnay from De Martino. Alone they are amazing, but paired, divine.
Over 30 wines by the glass and 300 different bottles are available
The Chiloé Archipelago is composed of 30 islands, which can be accessed from Santiago by air. LAN now has flights to Chiloé with a quick stop in Puerto Montt. This part of Patagonia, with rolling hillsides and lush green pastures, is reminiscent of the United Kingdom. As in the countryside of England, there are farms, sheep, horses and cattle roaming around the Chiloten roadways.
In general, the island is quite colorful. From the unique cemeteries, where the Huillinco people bury their beloved dead in bright small homes after passing, to the 18th and early 19th century churches, the array of colors light up the partly cloudy skies while also aiding water navigators to locate their ports.
Where to Stay
Hotel Parque Quilquico
This is an eco-friendly hotel that promotes sustainability — there are even goats on the grass-covered roof. These folks mean business when it comes to using every single resource on the property. Most of the vegetables served are from the garden out back. Decorations, furniture, carpets and other furnishings for the hotel were chosen for their cultural significance. The landscape is stunning. The buildings are embraced by trees, which are sacred to the indigenous Mapuche people. It was paramount to architect Edward Rojasa to incorporate as many native constructs into the hotel as he could, as well as to protect the land. The view of Dalchanue Channel can be seen from nearly every room. The rooms vary in size, but the cottages are a favorite. They are perfect for families or friends traveling together — spacious yet homey.
For dining at Quilquico, order the pulmay, which is one of the native dishes of Chiloé. Each area of Chile has a variation on this dish, but the one at Quilquico is out of this world. The broth! It’s a wonderful combination of salty chunks of pork, clams, mussels, chicken and potato accents that gave rise to a delightful soup.
Tierra Hotel Chiloé
At first glance one may think the structure of the hotel doesn’t quite fit in with the Chilote culture. The hotel could resemble some sort of hip, celebrity owned Malibu home, but upon closer evaluation, it’s evident this hotel was built on the banks of the Rilán Peninsula with great care and consideration for the cultural history. In addition to paying tribute to the rich culture, Tierra takes it a step further by creating a space which is not only visually stunning, but it manages to be contemporary comingled with rustic. There is not an angle on the property that isn’t photogenic.
Dining at Tierra — Curanto!
Curanto is a traditional method of cooking where a fire is made in a pit with large stones. Once all of the wood has burned, the stones are akin to coals. Layers of food are placed atop the stones with mussels, clams, crabs and lobsters placed first. The nalca leaves separate all layers. Foods that require the most time to cook are on the lower levels, while vegetables and breads are towards the top. One hour later there is a feast for more than twenty people. A fine Coyam, an organic red blend from Colchagua Valley, enhanced the smoky flavors.
At Tierra there are many excursions to choose from which are included in the price of your room.
Tour of Chelín
The Church of Chelín is one of the 16 churches of the Chiloe Archipelago which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a result, this, and the other churches are taken apart, literally, shingle by shingle, named, numbered and restored. It takes years to complete the restoration of these churches, but the result is visually stunning.
Sea Kayaking in the Bay of Quehui
“Ocean view” has an entirely new meaning when gliding alongside these cool tropical-like islands in a kayak. There is a delightful quiet and freedom on the edge of the Patagonian waters that allows you to detach from the tech and frenzy waiting back home.
If you can afford the time, we recommend you head out to nearby Cousiño Macul Winery. Founded in 1856, Cousiño Macul is the oldest family run winery in Chile and continues to produce limited quantities of fine Chilean wines. Enjoy a tour and tasting. Be careful not to drive too far east or you will end up in Argentina. Chile is a fascinating place in that it is home to so many climates and this is why wine does very well there.
From LAX there is nearly a direct flight on LAN, the national airline of Chile, to Santiago. We had a short layover in Lima, but it’s negligible. Get a window seat if you can. Outside you will either see ancient craggy mountaintops piercing the cloud ceiling on the eastside, or see the endless Pacific to the west.