After stumbling through Mendoza and its surrounding wine regions, we were excited to explore the best Chilean wine tours. From our home base in Santiago, we visited the Maipo Valley—we then headed west to Casablanca Valley, followed further south to the Colchagua Valley to taste some of the best wines in the country.
It’s an understatement to say that we were excited to visit the Colchagua Valley. As Chile’s most stunning wine region, the Colchagua Valley is known for its Mediterranean climate and production of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Syrah, and Malbec.
Moreover, the steep slopes of the Andes Mountains in the valley provide both a scenic and an ideal location to grow the various varietals. Simply put, the Colchagua Valley is one of the most magnificent places to taste locally-produced wine. Nevertheless, we enjoyed visiting all three regions, as each is unique in its own way.
Best Chilean Wine Tours on a Budget
Our goal for the next week was to find the best Chilean wine tours on a budget for wine lovers. Below are the wineries that we visited, along with options for tours.
Maipo Valley > “Bordeaux of South America”
Maipo Valley is the closest wine region to the city of Santiago, and is commonly referred to as the “Bordeaux of South America.” Vineyards stretch eastward from Santiago to the Andes and westward to the coast. Furthermore, the region is best known for its production of Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Best and Easiest Way to Explore the Maipo Valley >> With the Little Wine Bus Tour!
We were excited to learn that we could use public transportation to reach Cousiño Macul Winery, one of the most celebrated wineries in Maipo Valley. Visitors can take a traditional tour or a Premium Wine Tour which includes tasting three of their best wines. However, for those travelers looking for a private transfer and tour, there is a Private Tour of Cousiño Macul Winery available too.
Cousiño Macul Winery
Founded in 1856, this winery is one of the oldest in Chile boasting some of the oldest vines. Remarkably, the winery is still in the hands of the original founding family. Using Santiago’s subway system, take the Tobalaba line and get off at the Quilín stop.
Although many reviews said the walk from the Quilín subway stop to the entrance takes 25 minutes, it took us closer to 40-45 minutes. Also, the traditional tasting and tour cost about USD 25 per person.
At the end of the tour, we didn’t feel much like walking from the winery to the metro. For this reason, we called a taxi/uber which cost about USD 15 to take us back to our lodging by the Manuel Montt metro stop.
Concha y Toro
Concha y Toro is one of the most popular South American wines in the United States and around the world. In fact, there’s a good chance that you’ve already tasted a glass, considering that the wine is even sold at Walmart.
Located in Pirque, a suburb of Santiago, the winery is about a 50-minute drive from the city center. During the traditional tour, visitors are given access to the winery and gardens, then offered a tasting of three to four wines.
Half-day group tours led by an expert sommelier are available from Santiago. There are many benefits to taking a group tour, including transport, a tour of the mansion, and tasting seven wines accompanied by an assortment of cheeses.
Where to Stay in Santiago Chile
Below are some of the best places to stay in Santiago, Chile categorized by budget.
Budget: Eco-Hostal Tambo Verde (hostel) or Providencia Bed & Breakfast (buffet breakfast) or Sweet Stay Chile (apartment)
Mid-Range: Hotel Eco Boutique Bidasoa (great value) or DoubleTree – Vitacura (modern and clean)
Luxury: Hotel Casa Real (inside Santa Rita vineyard) or Hotel Magnolia (vintage-inspired boutique)
Casablanca Valley > Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
The town of Casablanca is located about a 1-hour drive west of Santiago. Wine lovers should stop here on their way to visit the artistic city of Valparaíso.
There are two great wineries within a short distance of the city center to tour, they are:
Visiting the Casablanca Valley makes for the perfect day trip from Santiago. This small-group wine tour from Santiago visits four wineries and includes a lunch stop at one of them.
If you’re going to stay overnight in Casablanca Valley make sure it’s at Hotel Boutique BC Wine Casablanca.
Colchagua Valley > Chile’s Napa Valley
Carménère is to Chile as Malbec is to Argentina, and the Colchagua Valley is probably one of the best places in the world to taste this varietal. Located about a 2-hour drive south of Santiago is the Colchagua Valley. This destination is one of the few places in South America, outside of Mendoza, that also offers organized wine tourism.
This day trip takes guests on a Private Tour into the Heart of Chilean Wine Country from Santiago.
For those unfamiliar with Carménère, Wine Folly recommends this varietal for beer drinkers who enjoy an IPA, stating,
The flavors and aftertaste of Carménère resemble the complexity of an IPA, making it the ideal wine for someone more loyal to beer, but looking to branch out into wine.
Reservations for wine tours and tastings are pretty much mandatory in Colchagua Valley. We will not go through and rate each winery, because there are extensive reviews online. Nevertheless, much of your experience will depend on how well wineries reply to reservation requests if you proceed with non-group tours.
As mentioned in previous South American wine country posts, return email correspondence was poor and it was disappointing to see how many of our email inquiries went unanswered. Honestly, if you’re short on patience or time it may be worth booking a group or private tour of the vineyards.
No worries. We’ll walk you through the best tours below.
On our first day in Colchagua Valley, we splurged on a tour and tasting with food pairing at Mont Gras. Our private tour of the vineyard came with an in-depth lesson on the vines, leaves, and grapes.
We toured the distillery being able to taste Sauvignon Blanc right from the stainless steel vast. From Santa Cruz, a taxi/uber costs about USD 20 roundtrip.
Afterward, our hostel owner let us borrow his rental bikes for free to taste wine by the glass at Laura Hartwig. Tasting costs range from USD 1.50 to 3.50 with reserve wines on the more expensive side.
Viña Montes and Viu Manent
On day two, we rented two bikes from our hostel and explored the Ruta del Vino (Wine Route). Our first reservation took us to Viña Montes, where we opted to sit on the lovely outdoor patio and order wine by the glass.
Also, Montes has an outdoor restaurant on site, but we had a lunch reservation later that afternoon at Viña Viu Manent. Afterward, we attempted to visit Clos Apalta Winery but were turned away at the gate due to not having a reservation. Many say this is one of the most beautiful wineries in the area so it may be worth a visit if you can make reservations.
We finished up our tour by biking to Viu Manent for lunch. We also made a reservation for a tour here as it includes a charming horse-drawn carriage tour through the vineyards. However, at the last minute, we decided to skip this tour too and use the money toward a great lunch, as we were starving and hot.
Getting Burnt Out
On a side note, at this point in our travels through South America, we had visited probably close to 30 wineries. For this reason, we decided to pass on the tastings and tours and instead put the money through bottles of wine and food.
In conclusion, we saved money in this expensive region by skipping the tours, opting to order wine by the glass (or bottle), then enjoying each winery and its beautiful surroundings. Although, many of the top wineries offer something special to make their tours unique (e.g., horse carriage ride, drinking from the vast, hiking opportunity on the grounds, skylift, etc.), after a while the tours do start getting repetitive.
Where to Stay in Colchagua Valley
We had a hard time finding budget accommodations in this area during peak season. Therefore, if you intend on making reservations, be sure to do it sooner rather than later. We ended up booking Casa Suiza which was a budget-savvy accommodation and was within walking distance of the bus terminal in Santa Cruz.
Want to sleep in a GIANT wine barrel? >> Checkout Cava Colchagua Hotel Boutique
Budget: Casa Suiza (hostel with continental breakfast)
Mid-Range: Hotel y Cabañas Tierra & Vino (wine-tasting) or Casa Calfu B&B (amazing pool area)
Luxury: Hotel Boutique Vendimia Premium (love the vibes) or Colchagua Tiny Lodge (sleep in a vineyard)
Willing to choose the best places to stay by yourself or are you interested in getting off the beaten path? Try Trivago: a service comparing the best prices.
How to Get to the Colchagua Valley
We took the subway to Santiago’s bus terminal to purchase tickets to Santa Cruz/Colchagua Valley. When we arrived at the bus terminal, we scouted out which bus company was the cheapest. Ask around because there was a variance in quoted prices. We paid about USD 8 per person.
Getting to Chilean Wine Country
We took AndesMar from Mendoza to Santiago costing about USD 55 per person for two cama-suites on the bus. Equally important, be prepared for a very long, frustrating border crossing! It took approximately 3.5 hours to clear customs from Argentina into Chile.
The total time on the road was approximately 9 hours, including the time at the border crossing. Also, we were happy we purchased the suite that came with a light lunch, movies (in English), and comfortable seats.
Even with the windy roads and extensive border crossing, the opportunity to explore the best Chilean wine tours made it all worthwhile. With dramatic landscapes, genuinely nice locals, and professionals passionate about the art of winemaking, no trip to Chile is complete without a visit to wine country.
12 thoughts on “Best Chilean Wine Tours on a Budget > For Wine Lovers”
Thanks for sharing this post, this information is really very helpful for all the travelers. I have seen much things in life but experiencing this will be the ultimate thing.
Thank you again Audrey! We’ve been going back and forth on this, an we were curious if you knew if there are any independent bike rental outfits in Santa Cruz? It looks like you can only rent a bike through a hotel or a tour group, and we’re really having a hard time finding any information about what’s in the town of Santa Cruz. If you know of any other resources, that would be great!
The hostel we stayed at, Hostal del Centro, (as we quoted in our post) also rents bikes. Pepe is the owner of both the hostel and bike shop. The bike shop is attached to the hostel, which located right in the city center of Santa Cruz. He was really great about providing information and even called some wineries for us to help with reservations. I just checked trip advisor and it appears that he is still there and still renting bikes. (Reference that post for details where the hostel is located.)
There is really not much going on in Santa Cruz. It’s a very quiet, traditional Chilean neighborhood. Wineries are the main focus for tourists there. If you do decide to go there, head to that Pizza Restaurant we quoted in this post. It’s just a simple place to order some good pizza and eat it outside the little stand.
I’m curious where you are looking to stay for lodging there.
One more thing, the bike ride into Colchagua Valley wineries were a pretty good distance away. I would estimate 30-40 minutes? Pepe was kind enough to bike with us to the start of the main route which was helpful. Just something to note if you are not avid bikers or enjoy a long bike ride on some (at times) busy main roads.
Thanks for this info! Although we would love to spend one or two nights in Santa Cruz, it looks like if we do this side trip, it will have to be a day trip (we just can’t make a longer side trip work in our trip schedule). So if we do this, we are planning to take an early (6 or 7am) bus to Santa Cruz, work with Hostal del Centro to rent a bike (we have actually been emailing someone there named Jose Leon), and only go to two wineries (probably Viu Manet and Montes…depending on whether we can get reservations). Then hopefully we can get a late bus back to Santiago from Santa Cruz (although the website you listed in one of your previous responses won’t let us see ANY bus times for ANY day for some reason…even though it seemed to work the day you first posted that link :/) So we’re waiting to see if that works and whether there are any evening buses back to Santiago. We realize it will be more difficult to make reservations at wineries and rent bikes without staying at a hotel/hostel down there, but this might be the only way we can do this trip (without going through an expensive tour group or renting a car). It’s tricky, but we’ll just have to see I suppose! However, since you are curious, we were originally considering staying at the Hostal Cruz de Valle (but they haven’t responded to our emails, so we’re not sure about them).
Also, we are comfortable with long bike rides, and even biking on busy roads (we did something similar in the Dry Creek Valley in California :)) So thanks for that info too!
However, I did have one more question that I hope you might be able to answer. When you traveled from Mendoza to Santiago, did you have to get a tourist card? We are flying into Santiago at the beginning of our trip, and we know we will have to get this card (and turn it back in when we leave the country to fly to Bariloche), but later we are flying from Bariloche to El Calafate and then crossing back into Chile (to Puerto Natales) by bus. Since that will be a land crossing, I’m not sure if we need to get this card again (and I’m not sure where to get it down there if we did). I can’t find any current information about land crossings into Chile, other than the fact that don’t have to pay that reciprocity fee anymore (yeah!). So when you went into Chile after Mendoza, did you encounter this at customs?
Harry and I took a few days to try to think about your question. Our Argentina and Chile segment of our trip happened so long ago that the details are starting to get a little fuzzy. In fact, we barely remember that tourist card that you referenced. It is basically the card that you receive upon arrival and need to present again upon departure, correct?
I will tell you that we flew from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. Then bused in and out of Argentina and Chile numerous times. And then departed South America via Santiago. I don’t recall us having any issues with paperwork.
The only thing that caused issues was having proof of onward travel, which you will have as you will have your flights secured prior your trip. It may be helpful to have your travel information available (i.e., print out, screen shot) to show to customs so you will be able to provide proof of your travel plans.
Hope this helps!
I would also try that bus company link again. I too had issues with loading the webpage, but I tried again and it worked. Don’t forget Bus Sur was another option. Maybe their website will be more reliable.
Thank you for your reply Audrey! The website did work (yeah!) and I appreciate your tips about onward travel (I read about that somewhere, but wasn’t sure how much of an issue it might be). I think we’ll be okay in our land crossings in to Chile (and Argentina), and we’ll see if we can ask folks at our various hostels about this. Thanks again taking the time to follow up. You guys (and your website/blog) are great!
Hi Audrey and Harry!
Thanks for this great post 🙂 My fiance and I are traveling to this area in October as part of our honeymoon and we are trying to figure out a way to get to Santa Cruz for a few days (without renting a car or taking a taxi). I was wondering if you remembered how early buses would generally depart from the Santiago Bus Terminal for the Santa Cruz/Colchagua Valley area? Were you able to travel there directly, or did you have to stop in San Fernando and take a taxi the rest of the way? I’m getting conflicting information from the bus companies and the ticket comparison sites (i.e., VoyHoy) online, and can’t really find any schedules. I’m not terribly comfortable just sauntering up to the bus station and picking a bus company if I don’t know what times of day they generally leave for that area (I don’t want to eat up a day waiting around the bus station). This also affects our return trip to Santiago and what flight we will purchase to head on to our next destination (Bariloche)…though I think I might try and arrange an airport transfer from the hotel we are planning to stay at in Santa Cruz (if those can be done early enough). Any insight you can provide would be really helpful and thanks again for all this information!
Hi Kelly! Congrats on your unique honeymoon destination. Very cool! There are several buses and bus companies leaving every hour (from very early in the morning to late at night). It’s very easy! Don’t worry. When you’re sightseeing/touring around Santiago just stop at the Universidad de Santiago Metro stop and the bus station is right there. You can check out schedules and purchase tickets a day before (or whenever).
Here’s some tips to help you:
1) You can remain on one bus from Santiago to Santa Cruz. The bus will make other stops, but no need to change buses.
2. We took the bus company Nilahue from Santiago to Santa Cruz (and I think Bus Sur on the way back to Santiago). We just showed up and took the next bus (since they leave so consistently). Here is the time table. Buses leave nearly every hour (if not more). From this link, it looks buses can leave as early as 6 am.
3. There are several bus company kiosks at the Santiago bus terminal. You can buy tickets a day or two before (we shopped around for the best price). Not a huge difference in prices but it can save a few dollars. The bus terminal is located at metro Universidad de Santiago. Exiting the metro, you’ll go right and head through a tunnel that will take you to Terminal Alameda Santiago. This is Santiago’s primary bus terminal.
4. Here is another helpful article. https://www.visitcolchaguavalley.com/colchagua-transportation/bus-transportation-services-to-colchagua-valley-chile/
We have a post on Patagonia that includes some tips from Bariloche all the way down to Ushuaia, so feel free to check that out if you think it could help. Not sure exactly your question on the transfer from Santa Cruz though.
If you have any other questions please feel free to ask!
Thank you Audrey for the quick reply! This helps a lot 🙂 I guess I didn’t really have a question about the transfer from Santa Cruz when I wrote earlier (just thinking/typing my thoughts I suppose). However, what I meant was that we also weren’t sure how early buses leave from Santa Cruz to return to Santiago. We were hoping to also leave early from Santa Cruz so we could catch a 1:40pm flight from SCL to Bariloche (we haven’t purchased tickets yet). So whether we bought that flight was dependent on how early we could leave Santa Cruz. I also found that article you posted about transportation from Colchagua Valley, and it mentioned that it was possible to get transfers from certain hotels directly to the airport in Santiago. So I was thinking if we couldn’t get an early bus, then we could try and get one of those private transfers (and hopefully make that afternoon flight). It could potentially be tight, but after looking at the bus schedule you sent, it might work 🙂 Unfortunately our time on this trip is limited, and we’re still deciding if we want to spend more time in Santiago, or try and make this side trip to Colchagua Valley (we don’t want to spend too much time traveling, though we know that can’t be avoided if you really want to see the big sites of Chile and Argentina). Thanks again for these posts and I’ll let you know if we have any more questions!
We are here to help! And personally, I think a stop in Colchagua Valley would be a great addition to your itinerary. 🙂 Enjoy!
Great article! Planning a trip to the valley now- A little clarification: As I understand it, you need to make a reservation to get in to each winery, but once you’re there, you can order wine by the glass without paying for a tour or entrance fee. Is this correct? Do you reserve for a specific time of arrival, or for the day? We are trying to decide if we do a day tour from Santiago, or take the bus as you did and get taxis or a private driver to 2-3 wineries. Our objective is to visit 2-3 and save money, and we were thinking we could possibly get off cheaper by doing maybe one tour and just having a couple of glasses of wine at another or two. The day tour with transportation we are looking at costs $101, or $126 with “premium lunch”. Suggestions?
– As I understand it, you need to make a reservation to get in to each winery, but once you’re there, you can order wine by the glass without paying for a tour or entrance fee. Is this correct?
Generally speaking, if the winery has a restaurant then you’re able to order an individual glass of wine. We didn’t make a reservation at any of the winery restaurants we visited and were able to walk right in and be seated without waiting. For the most part, we enjoyed these experiences the most because it seemed like we were getting the best value for our money. We were able to order individual glasses of wine or bottles that we knew we’d enjoy and didn’t have to feel hurried or rushed to finish.
If the winery doesn’t have a restaurant then most likely you won’t be able to purchase an individual glass of wine and your only option is a guided tour with tasting. Most high-quality producers will require a reservation.
– Do you reserve for a specific time of arrival, or for the day?
Most will request a specific time and you will go with a large group of people through the winery and for a tasting afterwards.
If you love wine and visiting wine growing regions then you’ll regret only doing a day trip. The wineries are very similar to Mendoza but the scenery is more dramatic. Unfortunately, we had a hard time finding a budget accommodation and really got stuck at a dump (owner was a great guy though). Luckily we only booked 2 nights. It’s such a beautiful region and kind of far from Santiago (2 1/2 hours) that we’d recommend staying in/near Santa Cruz for 2-3 nights at a minimum.
Thanks for the comments! Let us know if you have any other questions.
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