In October 2009 I was fortunate enough to head south and help lead our inaugural bicycle tour through Chile’s wine country. ExperiencePlus! is proud to be one of the first US bicycle touring companies to offer tours here just as we did back in 1972 when we offered our first trip in Italy. This new tour represents our 7th cycling itinerary in South America and two sold out departures proved that our bicycling customers were excited and ready to explore the area that travelers and wine drinkers everywhere consider one of the hottest regions of the world. We rendezvoused in Santiago, Chile’s capital, and headed directly to the Central Valley where we visited our first winery. Smooth pavement with minimal traffic leads us through small towns and farms that reminded me of the Po delta area of Italy where our first bicycle tour back in 1972 travels. This area is considered the “bread basket” of Chile and you can see Chilean Huasos (cowboy farmers) pedaling or riding their horses to and from their fields on our bicycle routes.
As we bicycled through villages, vineyards and historic haciendas I also felt as though I’d been transported to Andalucia in Spain. Though there were similarities to the traditional landscapes and wine regions of Europe the Chilean touch is ever present. The Cordillera de los Andes (Andes mountain range) watches over us as we bicycle between the Coastal Range and the Andes. Chilean’s fondly refer to the “cordillera” when they talk about their history and wine culture. In fact, it is the backdrop of the steep Andes mountains and the more gentle Coastal Range that has created the unique micro climate in which the region’s fine wines are produced (and winning awards world wide). In fact Chile is now the fifth largest importer of wines in the world.
Like any young upstart, Chile has its own flavor and personality. They are fiercely proud of their heritage, pisco sours and they will make sure you know why they are different from Peruvians and Argentinians. Our Plus! tour allows a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of Chileans living in smaller fishing villages who make a living off of the ocean. On our last day we head back to the Central Valley for my favorite ride of the tour along the Ruta de los Conquistadores, supposedly used by the conquistadors as they traveled from north to south. Today the route is perfect for cycling, a scenic and smooth road that connects the Central Valley and the Coastal Mountain Range, a perfect ending to a fabulous bicycle ride in Chile.
Join us March 13 – 20 or March 13 -23, 2011 for some wonderful bicycle rides, special wines, great food and a whole lot of fun.