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While Chile winning the 2015 Copa América football tournament might have piqued the male population’s interest in visiting the 2,670 mile-long country, there are a host of other reasons to fall in love with the South American nation. A Santiago-based restaurant made the World’s 50 Best Restaurants cut earlier this year, Chile’s polo team ranks number one in the world and the movie of the Copiapó mining disaster that captivated the world hits big screens later this year. Throw in some rugged Patagonian landscapes, urban bolt-holes and award-winning wines, and there is no time like the present to visit Chile.
Why you should go to Chile now
After beating the US in the World Polo Championship in March, Chile currently reigns supreme in the sport of kings. While Argentina is better known for dominating the game, this time the Chileans claimed the championship. Playing on home turf is obviously a good omen: the team comprising Mario Silva, Ignacio Vial, Felipe Vercellino and José Miguel Pereira gave their all at Santiago’s San Cristobal Polo Club, winning 12-11 in a nail-biting finish.
South America’s premier forager, Rodolfo Guzmán, not only gathers ingredients within a 100 km radius of his Santiago-based restaurant Boragó but the chef also unearths new ingredients as well as creating innovative uses for forgotten ones. Take cochayuyo (durvillaea antarctica) kelp. Gathered for centuries by the Mapuche indigenous people, his rediscovery boils down to create a high-protein broth. Rodolfo’s efforts are considered so valuable for Chilean cuisine that he now has a lab at Santiago’s Catholic University to maximise investigations. Translating his finds into a thoughtful and elaborate tasting menu, Boragó is the first Chilean eatery in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, ranking 42 earlier this year.
El vino es muy, muy bueno…
Known for making fruity, highly drinkable, reasonably priced wine from varieties like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, Chile is expanding its repertoire with lesser known black grapes Carignan and Carménère as well as resurrecting its forgotten País varietal.
Besides ramping up its portfolio, it’s also time to consider splashing the cash on a Chilean vintage: US wine critic James Suckling recently piled on the accolades, with more than a handful notching up 95+ points. Take Tanagra 2012 from Villard Wines. This cool climate Syrah from Casablanca Valley racked up 96 Suckling points, a superb score for a boutique winery that only produces around 100,000 bottles a year.
Unbounded physical beauty
From the seemingly barren north to the icy southern tip, Chile also squeezes in volcanoes, fjords, fertile valleys, pristine coastline and of course the omnipresent Andes into its ample length and rather miniscule breadth. Constellations seem to be within reach in the northern Atacama desert, while the three sibling peaks that give their name to Torres del Paine National Park in the Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica Region are conquered by few. Of course, you could always opt for the easy life, sipping on Chile’s signature red, a juicy Carménère, at a luxury vineyard lodge in the Central Valley.
Where to stay
In Patagonian town Puerto Natales, The Singular Patagonia started off life as a humble sheep farm overlooking the Last Hope Sound fjord, and it’s cleverly been resurrected, retaining original buildings such as the tannery and forge and seamlessly fusing them with brand-new rooms and the spa.
Vira Vira in the Lake District, however, is a Swiss-owned, Chilean-designed, sustainably built property with a holistic approach: every room has an outdoor tub overlooking the River Liucurá, for example. The property also houses its own dairy and farm and the kitchen takes inspiration from the Mapuche indigenous people.
Meanwhile, the latest addition to Norwegian hotelier Alexander Vik’s largely Uruguayan portfolio is Chilean. Viña Vik, a glamorous organic wineyard estate two hours south of Santiago, produces a single Bordeaux-esque blend. What could be better than sipping the house red than at its stunning hilltop resort, where every room has been designed by a different artist, overlooking the lush vines and valley below? (Not much, I can tell you.)
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