We took the bus to Santa Cruz from Santiago this morning for 4,000 pesos (£4). As the town was only a few hours away we left our large rucksacks in Santiago, opting to travel light as we made left the big city in search of the vineyards of central valley.
Our bus to Santa Cruz was a public bus. It stopped often, providing transport for locals going about their days activities. We passed shopping centre, market places, food stalls and drove through the odd town.
After a few months of travelling with our large rucksacks it was nice to travel light this time. Rather than having to sit on our large rucksacks or constantly check on them in the overhead storage as people disembarked the bus at each stop, it was nice to relax on this journey and enjoy the views as we made our way into the countryside.
The town of Santa Cruz is a pretty small. There’s not too much to do their other than visit the vineyards which it’s famed for. Most travel itineraries recommend a day here but unless you want to pay tour group prices, the bus journey is a little too long to enjoy your time at the town (you’re looking at a good 8 hours round trip).
We arrived in Santa Cruz around lunch time and checked into our hotel. Due to the small size of Santa Cruz there isn’t many accommodation options (especially in our price range) but we honestly couldn’t have asked for nicer accommodation and friendlier hosts.
Upon arrival we were shown to our private room (clean, nicely decorated and it even had air con) before we were invited to the courtyard to have a complimentary glass of wine. Although it might not seem like much, after travelling for a good few months now, drinking a glass of red Central Valley wine in a courtyard on a woven chair with the sun warming our skin was one of those ‘this is where I’m meant to be right now’ times in my life.
Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel needs a special shoutout in it’s own. Although there is a kitchen which you can use, the hotel laid out a huge breakfast spread for each guest. We’re talking like 10 courses each each morning; from cakes to cheeses to fruit and bread. The selection was pretty impressive. Most things were vegetarian (apart from a plate of ham) and there were lots of vegan options too. The grains soaking in apricots and syrup was a particular highlight for me (although probably not my waistband).
Vineyard visit – Montes
Due to Santa Cruz (Central Valley) being one of the most famous wine regions in Chile we were inundated with vineyard options to visit. We chose Montes vineyard because it was one of the best price wise, had great reviews and the option of a tour in English. Although our Spanish has been improving lots whilst we’ve been here, it’s not quite on the understanding of turning grapes into tasty wine level.
We booked the 3pm tour of Montes vineyard so jumped in one of the collectivo’s to make our way there. Collectivo’s are great because it’s basically a shared taxi (you share the price but it also means that you might have a few detours so leave lots of time spare before you need to get to your location).
Once dropped at the vineyard we walked about 10 minutes before reaching the main house and courtyard. We arrived a little early so spent the next 15 minutes looking out at the views before our tour started promptly at 3pm.
The tour lasted around 2 hours and we were driven around the vineyard on a truck, stopping every few minutes to get out and have a look around/ sample the grapes. The vineyard was huge so it was a good thing we didn’t have to walk everywhere. We later learnt that there was the option of cycling around the vineyards but after we reached one of the lookout buildings at the top of one of the large hills I was pretty happy with our little truck!
The tour itself was really interesting. We learnt about the science behind planting on different terrains, at different altitudes and in different climates. How each of these factors effected the quality of grapes produced. The vineyard was beautiful too and once we’d been clued up on the growing, harvesting and processing processes (Montes is a carbon neutral vineyard so it has a pretty special was of processing it’s grapes) of the grapes it was time to taste test the finished products.
We were driven back to the main house and the six of us were sat at a large table with four empty glasses in front of us. As the wine was poured, the aromas and individuals flavours explained to us and tasted, we had a beautiful view of the sunsetting over the vineyard.
After we’d drunk/sampled the wine we were offered the chance to buy any of the bottles for direct prices. This meant it would be cheaper than buying a bottle in the local supermarket and would directly support the vineyard. We’d had such a good day so bought a bottle of the carmenere (what the region and vineyard is most famous for) for £4!
Vegan in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz isn’t the most vegan friendly town that I’ve visited. There were only a few restaurants in the town and none of them offered anything vegan/ vegan friendly on their menus. They also closed pretty early which wasn’t ideal after an evening vineyard tour. Luckily our hotel had a good kitchen that we were able to use and several large supermarkets to buy some supplies.