Experience Chile and Argentina on two wheels
Whether you’re sedately pedaling city streets or nonchalantly freewheeling through Andean vineyards, there’s a lot to be said for exploring foreign lands by bicycle. This month, we pluck a few of our Chilean and Argentine favorites from the saddlebag.
Biking Buenos Aires
You might be surprised to know that unashamedly urban Buenos Aires boasts a wild and jungly secret on its doorstep. Tigre and the Paraná River Delta are less than an hour’s (exceedingly picturesque) train ride from downtown BA but we think you’ll get even more out of it on our thrilling Tigre Bike and Kayak tour.
Not only will you get a chance to cycle along the water’s edge (the delta is so big it feels more like ocean than river) through the monied and historic suburbs of Barrancas and San Isidro with their elegant colonial architecture and tree-lined avenues, but you’ll also get to explore the town that’s known as the Venice of South America on a kayak. While the comparison is apt in many ways – residents do own boats instead of cars and the town is serviced by floating grocery stores, gas stations and school buses – it also falls sorely short in others. Venice isn’t known for its gigantic ferns, exotic birdlife and looming ceibo trees.
If you can’t spare a full day to visit Tigre, we’ve also got a couple of half-day bike tours in central Buenos Aires. The kiddy-friendly Palermo Parks tour follows a 7-mile circuit which meanders through leafy parks and includes stops at the botanical gardens, the world-famous Recoleta Cemetery (eternal home to Evita Peron) and the funky Floralis Generica. The BA Origins tour, meanwhile, visits historic highlights including the Bombonera (Boca Juniors’ claustrophobic stadium), Caballito and the iconic Plaza de Mayo. Given BA’s frenetic traffic, this one calls for a slightly more alert rider.
Santiago, Chile’s capital, is sedate and orderly, making it the perfect spot for a ride. In fact, for many guests, the hardest part is choosing which of our two extremely popular inner-city biking experiences to go for.
The first option is an informal introduction to Chilean culture that will expose you to the sights, smells and sounds that lurk beneath Santiago’s calm exterior. You’ll begin by exploring the bohemian Bellavista neighborhood with stops at Pablo Neruda´s house (an adventure in itself!), the Metropolitan Park and San Cristobal Hill for a bird’s eye view of the city. Next, you’ll scratch the surface of the bustling Patronato neighborhood with stops in the vibrant Korean and Middle Eastern districts and at the bountiful La Vega fruit and vegetable market. Last but not least you’ll explore the center of Santiago including the world-renowned Central Seafood Market and its many hole-in-the-wall eateries (seafood lovers might have to be forcibly returned to their bikes), the Plaza de Armas Square (watch out for the chess players) and the Museum of Fine Arts, which has an excellent collection of works by South American and international artists.
Our other Santiago bike tour takes itself a little more seriously. You’ll ease into things with a gentle ride through Santiago´s parks, all the while discussing Chilean culture, education, and immigration. Next, you’ll ramp things up a notch by diving into the hustle and bustle of downtown to explore General Pinochet´s notorious 1973 political coup. Using Santiago´s beautiful green spaces and lively city center as its canvas, this tour will show you what an important regional and international political player Chile has been since independence in 1810. You will then explore the wealthy Providencia neighborhood with stops at Balmaceda Park (a playground for early 20th century aristocrats), and Bustamante Park, with its many cafés and restaurants. The tour will finish off in downtown Santiago with stops at Plaza Italia (the former United States Embassy), the Presidential Palace (where Salvador Allende died during the 1973, US-backed coup) and the Paris-London neighborhood, a picturesque cobbled enclave which houses a notorious torture Pinochet-era torture center.
Wine on wheels
The only thing better than a day touring South America’s up-and-coming wineries is doing it on two wheels. Depending on where you choose to stay, we offer two different biking options in and around Mendoza, the epicenter of Argentina’s wine industry. Both involve spending half a day exploring three or four wineries at a pace that allows plenty of time to marvel at the backdrop of the snowcapped Andes. During the course of the day, you’ll cover around 20 miles – just enough to keep your head clear – on back roads and dirt paths. The itineraries below are just an indication of what to expect: if you’re dead-set on visiting a specific winery, we will gladly tailor the tour to meet your needs.
The Lujan de Cuyo (near to Mendoza city) version of the trip beings at state of the art and sustainable Melipal before wending its way to family-owned Bressia and the big guns at Norton which dates back to 1895. You’ll finish up at Ruca Malen (known for its great wines and even better food), for a slap-up lunch. The Uco Valley (further out of town, home to many of the most ambitious wineries) variation of the tour starts at the Manzano Histórico monument in Tunuyán, built around the fabled apple tree under which General San Martín took a very important nap. The tour takes in La Azul, a charming small winery, the much larger but nonetheless fascinating Salentein, and is rounded off with lunch at either Atamisque or Andeluna – both incredibly special spots.
You can also drink and ride on the other side of the Andes in neighboring Chile. Following a short drive from your Santiago hotel, you’ll cycle through the ages on the sprawling property of the seventh-generation Cousiño Macul winery. You’ll pass 80-year-old vines cloned from Chateau Margeaux in France; learn about how processes and equipment have changed in the last 150 years, and descend into the majestic wine cellar built in 1874 by renowned French architects. The tour includes three wine tastings, the first being among the vines in the vineyard, the second in the cellar and the third in the wine shop.
All photos supplied apart from the Tigre canal image which was taken by Javier Vidal and is used here on a Creative Commons license.