Like any food-loving nation, Chile often keeps a lot of its best foods and wines for itself. With food traditions dating back some 10,000 years and a 450-year-old winemaking history, the country has an incredible abundance of exciting flavors. Chile’s coastline runs as long as a road trip from NYC to LA (around 2,700 miles) with wine regions dotting that expanse, and the country produces a striking variety wines that express the its diverse terroir. We met members of the Movement for Independent Vintners (MOVI), who are experimenting with grape varietals and regions and returning to older, more natural ways of making wine. Some use wild yeast and no stabilizers, and others till the land with horse-drawn plows. We tasted 19 wines from MOVI vintners during a lunch at Starry Night Vineyard and fell in love with Bordeaux-style wines, as well as Syrahs, Pinot Noirs, and lesser-known Carmenères.
Chile’s myriad climates also yield indigenous products—berries, nuts, mushrooms, peppers, flowers, potatoes, greens, and fruits—that can’t be found anywhere else on Earth. And those ingredients are helping a small number of trailblazing chefs find a voice for Chilean fine dining. Using techniques learned in Spain’s top kitchens, Chef Roldolfo Guzmán translates the very essence of Chile into modern and naturalistic plates. He sources 100 percent of his product from within Chile’s borders, and the result is molecular cuisine born of ancient ingredients. Chef Matías Palomo, too, spent time in great Spanish kitchens but makes Chile’s bounty his focus at Sukalde; his cuisine often takes a playful turn, and his dishes nearly always includes a side of potatoes—mashed, roasted, and even stuffed with avocado and cream cheese in a nod to hundreds of years of meat and potatoes culture (and a nation with 286 potato varieties). And Chef Cristian Correa cooks soulful and modern updates of Chilean classics. His restaurant Milcao is named for a traditional potato pancake, which he serves alongside Soup of Smoked Pork, Mussels, and White Wine.
Of course, there's more to Chile than food and wine (not to mention pisco and beer). As a visitor, you'll drink in views of the Andes Mountains from nearly every corner of the country. You can tackle waterfalls and glide across an emerald-hued lake. You can hike rocky trails (only if you're resigned to stop and take pictures around every turn) and stay in eco-lodges that amplify the incredible scenery surrounding them. And if you're like us, after more than a week of schlepping, eating, drinking, and photo snapping, you'll find that Chile offers an endless supply of beauty and excitement.
For a visual travel guide, view our Sights of Chile photo gallery.
The Chilean town of Valdivia became a hub for German immigration in the late 19th century, and its Eastern European settlers had a major impact on the city’s cuisine. A few hundred years later their legacy lives on at Chef Sebastián García’s Agridulce, where German potatoes and slabs of meat accompany mugs of local German-style beer. The bustling restaurant’s best dishes incorporate Latin ingredients and flair, and its sandwiches served on soft white rolls with piquant pepper sauces and house-made mayo are a must-order.Recommended:
Aleli at Hotel Arrebol is less of a restaurant and more of a celebration in outdoor cooking. The family matriarch, Patricia Jürgens, oversees the kitchen, which specializes in Cordero al Palo (spit-roasted lamb) and Curanto (mounds of seafood cooked in a fire pit)—not to mention roasted purple potatoes, the ever-present milcao potato cake, chorizo, and chimichurri. The hotel restaurant caters to larger groups, whose members can eat hearty, rustic fare for a mere $35 a head. Near the shores of Lake Llanquihue and at the base of the towering Andes, a meal at Aleli is a one-of-a-kind experience: for a night, you’re adopted into a large Chilean family and fed a mother’s honest food until you burst.Recommended:
Chef Rodolfo Guzmán returned from Spain’s top kitchens to his native Chile to open Boragó in Santiago. And in the process, the pioneering chef changed the face of Chilean fine dining. Guzmán travels the country to seek out native ingredients and elevates traditional product with avant-garde technique. His plates are restrained and naturalistic masterpieces. His short ribs look like chunks of soil. Potato purée takes the form of stones, and shrimp dangle from a bonsai tree. And Guzmán’s texturally-dazzling desserts take it to the next level of whimsy. A simple dish of violet ice cream and Chilean maqui berry nougat is textures of purple on a plate, bursting with flavor and exciting the palate with unexpected mouthfeel.Recommended:
At La Mar, Peru and Chile’s cross-border rivalry is forgotten, at least for a short time, with meals of spirited and high-caliber Peruvian cuisine. Chef Gaston Acurio’s empire spans the globe, delivering ceviche, causa (a layered potato dish), and tacu tacu (rice and beans) to hungry but discerning diners in Peru, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, and soon New York. Chef Alexander Dioses leads the team at this Santiago outpost, where he serves big plates of bright and comforting Peruvian favors. The potatoes at La Mar are laced with smoky aji amarillo. The tres leches is spiked with pisco, and the seafood comes raw and marinated in “tiger’s milk” or grilled and tangled in saffron-tinted rice. The dishes may not have Chilean heritage, but no one in Santiago is complaining.Recommended:
You won’t find La Cocina de Elisa on a Google map, but if you’re in the small Chilean village of Curarrehue—home to a sizable portion of the indigenous Mapuche people—you can probably find the pasteleria by following the scent of pine nut-flour sopapillas and shortbread cookies with dulce de leche filling. The walls of the small wooden building are stocked with jars of preserved fruits, and a small counter holds a deceptively modest treasure trove of homemade sweets, made with ingredients grown and harvested nearby.Recommended:
If Milcao was built on the Northeastern seaboard it would serve ramps, Berkshire pork, Hudson Valley foie gras, and Concord grapes. But this Santiago gem—located squarely below the equator—serves straightforward and distinctive Chilean cuisine with the country’s most celebrated ingredients. The name of the restaurant comes from a simple potato pancake with origins on Chiloé Island, and milcao make an appearance on Chef Cristián Correa’s menu alongside salsa and a soup of smoked pork, mussels, and white wine. Shrimp pil pil (sautéed shrimp with a requisite touch of Cacho de Cabra chilies) tops quinoa and rock fish. Carica—a papaya relative—gives a light parfait a touch of the exotic. And no meal is complete without Chile’s national cocktail: a pisco sour expertly prepared by Mixologist Nicholas Perez.Recommended:
Hours away from any apparent sign of civilization, Antumalal Hotel has long been a refuge for dignitaries, celebrities, and weary travelers. People come here to relax—not for jaw-dropping luxury or overambitious cuisine. At Parque Antumalal, Chef Maria Ignacia Jara succeeds in cooking simple, delicious food for the hotel’s sophisticated clientele. Visitors might sample local venison carpaccio, corn pie, empanadas, or shrimp spiced with Cacho de Cabra chilies, all while soaking up views of Lake Villaricca and the hotel’s manicured gardens. Jara’s is food to savor—her dishes are memories that will bring you back to a less complicated time and place.Recommended:
Tucked into a western corner of Lake Todos Los Santos, the eco-tourist haven of Peulla is most easily accessed by boat. Flanked by the Andes and Osorno Volcano, Peulla Hotel is an ideal stop for lunch and accommodations. The meals waiting at the hotel are festive, outdoor events, featuring dishes like Spit-roasted Wild Boar and Zapallo Pumpkin Soup. Save room for a selection of desserts—the restaurant's pies, mousses, and cakes that are well earned treats after a day of hiking and boating.Recommended:
Sukalde invites you to gaze. It’s housed in a regal, white hacienda with pictures windows spanning the façade, and from the lush back patio you can peer into the busy kitchen through more wide windows. Chef Matías Palomo’s dishes garner stares as well. The cuisine Sukalde clearly reflects the time Palomo spent away from Chile at restaurants like Arzak and El Bulli in Spain and Daniel in New York. His tuna tartare is topped with delicate soy pearls, and an “egg yolk” is really encapsulated mango purée. But for all his high-flying, international influence, Palomo doesn’t hesitate to highlight more pedestrian ingredients and preparations. He serves mashed potatoes swirled with avocado and stuffed with cream cheese. Seared fish comes with fava bean purée and roasted potatoes. Pleasures at Sulkade are many, whether they are simple or avant-garde.Recommended:
To explore Chilean wines, you could traipse the countryside, seeking out vineyards and top bottles. Or you could drink a different glass each day of the year at Ritz-Carlton’s Wine 365, whose menu boasts 365 bottles of Chilean wines, in addition to premium French vintages. Chef Rodrigo Torres crafts international dishes to pair with the restaurant’s bacchanalian stars. From ceviche and tajine to boeuf bourguignon and risotto, you’ll find just the right dish to pair with a new favorite glass of Chilean wine.Recommended:
Built in 1945 in the Bauhaus style, yet with modern, functional design, Antumalal embodies luxury and intimacy. Tucked away in the mountains of Pucón, Antumalal’s atmosphere is that of a fishing lodge, but one where royalty would feel comfortable. Historic guests at the hotel include Harry Truman, the President of Chile, and the Queen of England. The décor of the hotel’s 16 suites has never been redone, which gives them a retro-style elegance. With private access to the Lake Villarrica, hotel guests can follow a secluded path to pristine gardens, a stunning beach, heated pool, tennis court, and numerous waterfalls. The veranda at the hotel restaurant, Parque Antumalal, is a Pucón destination and offers some of the best views in the region.
Flanked by centuries-old trees and perched on a hill overlooking Llanquihue Lake, Arrebol Hotel’s organic design fits seamlessly into the stunning landscape of Puerto Varas. Puerto Varas is a picturesque tourist town with its fare share of hustle and bustle, and Arrebol is its most serene retreat. A small hotel with only 22 rooms, each cozy suite walks the fine line between modernity and comfort. Dining at Arrebol allows guests to experience classic Chilean barbecue, blended with elements of international cuisine, and featuring products from the hotel’s own orchards and nurseries. The hotel is an eco-friendly facility that uses geothermal energy, reuses rainwater, and processes its own waste.
Dreams Hotel offers modern, comfortable rooms that showcase panoramic views of Valdivia (reputed by locals to be “la ciudad mas linda de Chile” or the most beautiful city in Chile) and the handsome Valdivia River. For those not content to city-gaze or sight-see, the Pedro de Valdivia Dreams Casino is worth a gamble, featuring every imaginable game of chance, and at the Hydra Spa Dreams guests may enjoy a full menu of services, a heated swimming pool, steam saunas, dry massage rooms, a Jacuzzi, and a fitness center. Temuco restaurant features hearty, meat-centric fare that highlights the region’s best flavors and product.
The Ritz-Carlton Santiago has some of the city’s most exclusive accommodations. Near the financial hub of Las Condes, and a 15 minute drive from the Santiago International Airport, this hotel is as refined as it is convenient. There are over 200 rooms with views of the city and the Andes Mountains. The Ritz-Carlton features two celebrated restaurants; Wine 365, which carries 365 varieties of domestic wines and the full range of reds and whites produced in Chile, and Adra where guests can sample Mediterranean cuisine in an elegantly appointed dining room, ornamented with marble and lapis lazuli. The Ritz-Carlton also features a spa, multiple gym areas, and an enclosed heated pool.
The intimate Cocina Mapu Iyagl cooking school in the southern town of Curarrehue teaches traditional Mapuche cookery. Owner Anita Epulef is renowned across South America for her abilities as an instructor, and a visit to Cocina Mapu Iyagl in a hand-on learning experience. Visitors can join Epulef on harvesting and foraging expeditions and then turn the local product into a Mapuche feast, using traditional coking methods. Western travelers will learn the joys of nalca root (a rhubarb cousin), piñon (giant pine nuts), Andean potatoes, and albaricoque (tiny, tart plums). A veritable expert on her local cuisine, Epulef brings every ounce of her wisdom to the table—whether you’re preparing or dining together.
The Kunstmann family started brewing beer in their garage in September 1997. After sharing batches with relatives and friends, demand steadily grew. The Kunstmanns picked a strategic location in Valdivia and began brewing on a larger scale, taking full advantage of the crystal-clear waters that are now the hallmark of Kunstmann beer. Their beers range from the classic lager, which is light, fruity, and easy to drink, to beers with more complexity, like the Kunstmann Brewery Miel that boldly incorporates honey and hops.
Hidden in the high altitudes of the Andes, the Capel distillery produces its 100 percent natural pisco in alembic stills from the fermented mash of Muscat, Pedro-Jimenez, and Torontel grapes and pristine spring water drawn from the nearby mountains. Touring the distillery allows you to witness every step of the process from the harvesting to the mixology. Learn about the history closely linked with the local terrain. And the best bit—taste a variety of Chile’s classic cocktails and liqueurs.
Founded by Dutch astronomer Peter de Jonge, the aptly named Starry Night Vineyard rests in the southern Maipo region with the Pacific to the east and Andes to the west. The cool climate is ideal for the winery’s star Syrahs and Pinot Noirs. As part of the Part of Movement of Independent Vintners (MOVI), Starry Nights current owners, Ana María and Luis Atabales, often feature wines from its like-minded cohorts of MOVI, hosting tastings representing close to 30 wineries. MOVI vintners shun the practices of the conservative Chilean wine industry in favor of smaller wine production with more individuality—they also know how to host a party. And if you’re lucky, you’ll happen upon (or plan in advance) a tasting and family-style meal with this brigade of rogue Chilean vintners.