Our trip to Santiago was relatively short with only three full days in the city/country. We were keen to have a ‘holiday’ but also eager to explore this area of Chile as much as possible. I’ve already told you about the perfect way to see Santiago in a day, now I wanted to share what else there is to do in northern Chile. We visited during the summer which limits some of the options… obviously snowboarding in the Andes was off the list. However, there was still plenty to do and we opted for the longest day trip on Turistik’s list. This was a trip which included a stop at a winery, a visit to Valparaiso including Neruda’s house and a look in on Vina del Mar.
The day started next to the Mercado Central where we jumped onto the Turistik coach and got comfy for the journey ahead. The coach stopped at several other accommodations and meeting points around the city but soon the whole bus was full of people. We then drove into the Turistik depot and learnt that not everyone on that coach were on the same tours. It was time to change buses and every day-trip with Turistik was currently in the process of switching buses. Thankfully this was done in a very organised fashion and we ended up on the right bus.
Our first stop of the day would be the Emiliana winery in the Casablanca valley. As we made our way out here our tour guide took the opportunity to fill us in on some facts about the area and herself in both Spanish and English. The Emiliana winery wasn’t any kind of winery, it was a small owned, organic winery with eco-friendly only methods to make their wine. We enjoyed a full two hour stop here: we took in the scenery, were taken on a tour (again in Spanish and English) then got to sample four different wines they sold. Although some of their organic methods were a bit wacky and unbelievable, overall the tour was very informative and fast paced. Of course, the wine tasting was brilliant and doing all of this in such beautiful surroundings made it even better. Once the organised part was over we browsed the wine and settled on purchasing one of the ones we had tasted as well as a sparkling one. The two bottles set us back a mere £12 and they were delicious!
It was back on the bus and onwards to Valparaiso, I’d love to tell you the journey was beautiful or something. But the truth is I slept the whole way, I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open every time the bus began to move. For me, this was much better than getting travel sick every time the bus moved…
I woke just as we arrived in the town and began ascending to the top of the hills, or more specifically the hill where La Sebastiana (the house of Pablo Neruda) stands. My eyes were glued to the window as we wound around the hills all covered in house after house of beautifully bright colours. Valparaiso is one of those places that looks exactly like the pictures but so much better in real life. Our first stop was lunch at a gorgeous seafood restaurant over looking the town, harbour and pacific ocean below. Oda Pacifico was a little pricey, especially compared to every other Chilean restaurant we had encounter but the food was delicious! Once the group were all finished we headed over to La Sebastiana, a place which doesn’t sell tour times but instead is first come first served. We had earlier been warned that it could take us a while to get into the house. But by some miracle we arrived to a completely empty queue and walked straight into the house (after receiving our audio guide).
I won’t lie, I had no clue who Pablo Neruda was, nor his importance to Valparaiso but he sure did have a pretty house. I’m never great with museums but this is certainly a place to visit just for the views that lie beyond the windows of Neruda’s house. My favourite part of this stop was the photography exhibition that was taking place in the room next door, some of these photos were incredible. Due to the lack of queue here, we had time for a little more exploring of Valparaiso and the bus took us down to the harbour for a quick wander around the town. Again as we descended the hill my eyes were glued to the window and I couldn’t stop looking at the scenery. I longed to be able to jump off the bus and explore much more of this town but our 20 minutes of freedom at the harbour had to suffice for this time.
For our final stop we drove a little out of Valparaiso and into Vina del Mar, the seaside resort of northern Chile. I have to admit, I was not keen. It felt way too touristy, there were a lot of beggars around and generally nothing exciting to the town, especially after Valparaiso. We did see a fun clock made from flowers that actually ticked but aside from that, I don’t have much more to say about Vina del Mar. Once this final stop was complete, the group jumped back abroad the bus ready to do the last drive back to Santiago.
In terms of an organised day trip I thought the guide did a great job and I would highly recommend Touristik as a company. They are well organised, the guides speak great English and they are highly rated on TripAdvisor. The itinerary for this specific trip is long but it was the only tour I found that incorporated a winery and Valparaiso the two stops I was desperate to do while in Chile. With only a few days in Santiago we had merely more than a day to pack all of this in. However, in hindsight I probably would have taken a half day wine tour and attempted to visit Valparaiso by organising it myself. I really wanted more time to explore the town, take photos and generally just be free.
You can book this trip online here for the cost of $58.000 Chilean Pesos