After a couple days in Santiago, I still did not see everything, but I knew even before I came that since I would only be here for a few days, I also wanted to see a bit of the rest of Chile. Originally, I picked a tour to Cajon del Maipo, but due to unsafe conditions, the government had to close that road. The tour company leading my trip rebooked me to this one (normally more expensive) in which I went to a vineyard, saw some petroglyphs, and, of course, visited Inca Lake. It was an amazing trip, and a great way to get out of the city. Also, the Andes are amazing, and I’m so glad I got to see them on this trip.
My guide picked me up directly from my hostel, and for the first part of the drive, we learned about Chilean history. Although on other tours I’d learned more about Allende and Pinochet, this one was particularly interesting because we talked about the older history with the indigenous peoples and the Spanish colonization. We even drove through a valley where a battle was fought against the Spanish in the Chilean War of Independence.
The first stop on the trip was at a vineyard in the Andean foothills. Here, we hiked a short way up the hill to see some petroglyphs and to learn about wine production in Chile. Once the Spanish missionaries realized that shipping wine from Europe brought them vinegar instead, they imported actual vines. Since wine was necessary for mass, churches in the old days also had small vineyards. Today, Chilean wine is considered some of the best in the world. One variety of grapes – Carmenère – is now only produced in Chile. As part of the tour, I sampled the Carmenère and a local Sauvignon Blanc along with some empanadas de pino. It made for a very delicious and scenic lunch!
Following the picnic, we drove into the mountains. The road we took is actually an international road that takes a lot of traffic between Chile and Argentina. The road has more than twenty curves zigzagging up the side of the mountain. Stopping to the side to watch the massive semi-trucks is pretty cool – and it also makes you grateful for a certified driver! Cyclists also go up and down the road, and going down, they’re usually faster than the automobiles.
When the curves finally stop, you’ve arrived at the Portillo Ski Resort. The inside of the lodge features a restaurant and gift shop, but the main attraction is the lake behind the building. It’s an amazing shade of blue and utterly remarkable with the snow on the mountains. It actually wasn’t even that cold when I was there. The ski season officially starts on June 21, and after that, the only way to see the lake is if you’re staying at the resort to ski. In the summer, the snow melts entirely. I’m sure the lake is still beautiful, but I think I coincidentally picked a really good time to go. The colors in the vineyard were beautiful, and the snowy weather in June was also nice and very lovely. It was a great tour, and I really loved getting to see some mountains on my last day in Chile.
Bonus Tip: The snow is Bright! Bring sunglasses!