It’s a once in a lifetime experience to ski at the best ski mountains in the Southern Hemisphere. Spending time exploring Valle Nevado, making turns under August sun is an experience that was unforgettable.


This post is one chapter in our trip to Peru and Chile via Air Canada Executive First (Business Class). This trip was booked using Air Canada e-upgrades to upgrade into Air Canada International Executive First class. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Region Visit: Skiing in August at Valle Nevado Ski Resort, Chile


Travel Planning and Getting There:

The second portion of our Chile experience took us to Valle Nevado ski area. In my past life, having previously been a ski instructor and having been lucky enough to ski in Japan and France, I had always wanted to go down to Valle Nevado, Chile. I mean, skiing in August is a dream come true!! Valle Nevado (Snowy Valley in English) is situated 46 km East of Santiago in the El Plomo foot hills of the Andres mountain range. The hotel areas is based at 9,843 feet (3,000 meters) and it’s peak elevations are 17,185 ft (5,400 meters).

I researched the option of staying in Santiago and traveling up every day, but really, it was a holiday and likely a once in a life time experience. I booked a transfer through Ski Total, which we got to their city departure point via the Metro at Escaula Militare. Since we were going up to Valle Nevado and back on two different dates, they charged us twice for the trips as they had to block our seats upward on our return date. I thought this was a bit of a sham, but indeed the vans were packed full without a spare seat to be had. We paid 48,000 CHP ($97 USD for two) or 12,000 CHP per person each way for transfers due to blocking seat for the return trip. I was impressed with Ski Total, they were very organized and clearly loved skiing. 

The road trip up was awesome. It was a switchback road that had some 39 switchbacks. The road was about 1.5 lanes wide, and was single direction going up and down at certain times of the day. The reason was likely because the cars needed the whole road when we going around the corners. We were treated to some spectacular views of being in the middle of the Andres Mountains.

While there were several price points of accommodation for on hill stays, we went for the budget accommodation at Hotel Tres Puntas, given the price. I formed the opinion that Valle Nevado seems to gouge its guests. They operate on an all inclusive basis, and you can only arrive on set days. We paid over $2,000 USD for 4 days three nights for a mini ski week, worth including lodging and skiing including all food (not including alcoholic beverages) for two.

You would think for those prices, that you’d be treated like a king. Well, when we got to the check in desk, there was a massive swarm of people there waiting to get checked in. There were at least 9 people waiting with not a lot of action happening. We finally got our ski passes, changed into ski clothes and headed off to the rental department. 

Skiing at Valle Nevado Ski Resort:

We made it up the hill and had 3 great days of skiing under absolutely sunny and gorgeous skies. Some photos of the hill and the surrounding Andes mountain ranges from throughout our stay.

One of the best parts of skiing in Chile, South America is that Après Ski comes with Pisco Sours instead of the usual cerveza / beer. Pisco Sours during Apres with a view to die for

Hotel Tres Puntas:

At 4 PM, we came back and made it into our room. Remember that price that I told you about – we were horrified to learn that our room was smaller than my first apartment. I believe it to be smaller than some of the rooms I have had in the UK as a poor penniless backpacker traveler. I never though Aspen, Colorado, USA or Courchevel, France would have represented excellent value – but compared to this!! 

It also turned out that they booked us into a double room, instead of a queen. I went back up to the front desk, waiting half an hour to speak with someone who would address the problem. The resolution was that I should take the room and they would “put” a queen in the room tomorrow. The supervisor that the clerk had to check with was hiding in an office and didn’t bother to come out.

Around the Resort at Valle Nevado:

The hotel offered access to all facilities and pools. There was a large seventies hot top at the base of their flagship hotel shown here. It’s integrated into the ski resort complex.

There were two restaurants on offer at our package price point. Our favorite was the Montre del Plomo buffet. It was complete with an egg scrambling station (for breakfasts), a meat station parilla, appetizer buffet, pasta bar and dessert bar. The emphasis was on quantity, but the food wasn’t anything to complain about. 

The skiing here was similar to the resorts that I had been to in Colorado. The slopes weren’t super advanced but highly groomed. The views were the most fantastic that I have seen anywhere in the world and even beat out Les Trois Vallees in France in my opinion. 

Alpine Sunsets at 10,000 feet:

The other benefit to staying up at the hill was that you had million dollar sunsets. Having been around the block a few times, it’s difficult to get gorgeous alpine sunsets.

These were some absolutely special sunset views that were seared into my memory for quite some time.

Wine Tasting and Chilean Après Ski:

During our 3 day stay, Valle Nevado also put on a complimentary wine tasting on our last night. It was a strange experience to go from an outdoor hot tub at 10,000 feet to a wine tasting on the hot tub deck featuring fabulous appetizers, leather couches outside, Chilean wines, portable campfires with wood and a jazz band at sunset!! Being a bit bitter about the pricing, the small room and the fact that we felt as though we were getting fleeced, we took advantage of the free pour and downed as much as we humanly could. Needless to say, the wine was fabulous with a wide range of Cabernet, Cameniere and Merlot on offer!! 

The wine tasting camp fire event on the decks at Valle Nevado was a great end to our holiday.

Overall:

Our stay at Valle Nevado was pretty unique and memorable. It’s really unusual to ski under the sun in the North American Summer on what is likely the hottest ski destination in the Southern Hemisphere. The prices made your eyes water, and the value for dollars certainly wasn’t there compared to North American and Europe. Despite this, we enjoyed the experience which was punctuated by memorable views, jagged mountain peaks of the Andes and a wine tasting at 9,843 feet over a spectacular sunset. I would recommend a visit for the experiences, but temper your lodging expectations accordingly.


The Maipo Valley is one of the more undiscovered wine regions in the world and is on the cusp of wine tourism. After a taste of what it had to offer, we were impressed by the regions’ features and wineries.


This post is one chapter in our trip to Peru and Chile via Air Canada Executive First (Business Class). This trip was booked using Air Canada e-upgrades to upgrade into Air Canada International Executive First class. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Region Visit: The Wines of the Maipo Valley, Santiago, Chile

Though very little convincing, I was able to talk Ms World Traveller 73 into a day’s wine tour by private car rented from Hertz. The Hertz office was a ten minute walk down from Hotel Orly. We set out early. The lot was a compound with a large office and a maintenance bay. Although Hertz Gold 5 Star, there was no Gold Canopy here. Instead, I was invited into the office to sign a multitude of paperwork. This was apparently par for the course there – so much so that the office had black leather couches for people to wait on. I wished I had taken a photo of them.

Visiting Almaviva winery by Château Mouton – Rothschild and Chile’s Concha y Toro:

We set out and headed for Almaviva – the joint winery effort between Concha y Toro and Baron Phillipe de Rothschild. I had made an earlier appointment. It was a bizarre sight to see mountains surrounding the vines.

Our 10 AM tour was fully private as no one else had booked and we had a lovely tasting of the 2008 Almaviva, which is actually cheaper for purchase in Canada than it is in Chile. The staff here, given the caliber of the wine, were very knowledgeable of all aspects of the industry. 

It was absolutely a fabulous tasting experience at Almaviva and worth our time to come and visit.

Visiting Concha y Toro winery:

We then went over to Concha y Toro and had the commercial tour. There were lots of busses, the whole experience reminded me of Napa Valley and the commercialism. There was a great bistro restaurant for the empanadas (were rich in onions), and a fairly average wine store for souvenirs. Ms WT went nuts in the store and came out with wine stoppers, bags and bottles of wine. 

We had made a tour reservation but they didn’t find it at the check in. There was lots of tour guides so there was no problem here. They did serve Don Melachor on the tour, which is their flagship wine under their Concha y Toro label. I personally found it a bit too jammy and rough for my tastes. It reminded me of a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon that was too fruit forward.  

The place was complete with a devil in the cellar.

Visiting Cousino Macul winery:

We finished off the day at Cousino Macul. This particular winery has a few vines left in the city, but has moved most of its operation further out to get away from the development and pollution. If you wanted to do a self guided tour here (without paying for a guide in a white van) you can access this place using the Santiago Metro. Reservations are required. The wines here were quite good as well. We also had a private tour here since the other 2 on our time slot didn’t turn up. 

Summary of the day:

Overall, the Maipo Valley wineries were a pleasant way to spend the day. The Almaviva tasting was very much our speed and a great way to taste some wine. Cousino Macul had much more soul and personality to it. The Maipo Valley was a great excursion just outside of Santiago and we were happy that we were able to take it all in on our short visit.


Our time in Santiago was spent exploring it’s many terrific squares, churches and a bar here and there. It’s one of the great cities of South America and I always enjoy visiting on my travels through this city.


This post is one chapter in our trip to Peru and Chile via Air Canada Executive First (Business Class). This trip was booked using Air Canada e-upgrades to upgrade into Air Canada International Executive First class. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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City Visit: Enjoying Santiago, Chile

We had a full day available to us in Santiago, Chile after our flight down from Lima, Peru. We had set aside a day of sightseeing to re-connect with the plane. It was MrsWT73’s first visit to the city where as it was my second time through, having previously visited on a trip in 1998. The city had grown up a little bit since then but, in some ways, it was the same old charming place; beautiful classic architecture with the occasional modern touch.

Visiting Cerro Santa Lucia:

We set out for the day on foot towards Cerro Santa Lucia and the Terazza N in Centro (downtown) Santiago. It was a nice clear winter day. The city of Santiago is very similar to my home city of Vancouver with snow covered mountains forming the back drop of the skyline.

Visiting the Plaza de a la Constitucion:

It was a short walk west ward down over to the Plaza de la Constitucion and the Palacio de la Moneda.

Visiting the Plaza de Armas:

We walked into town and up to the Plaza de Armas, stopping by the gorgeous Cathedral Metropollitana. It was built between 1748 and 1800 and is probably the most beautiful church in Chile. It’s old world charm is surrounded by modernistic glassy towers which makes for a startling contrast between old and new.

Stopping in for a drink at La Piojera:

After a day worth of sightseeing, it was time for some local charm. We wondered over to La Piojera. It’s one of the great drinking bars of Santiago having been in operation since 1922 through three family generations. It offered an exceptionally authentic experience that is rare in today’s drinking establishments Previous guests have included past Chilean presidents. It’s been on the demolition block by developers for several years but seems to be saved.

After enjoying the house speciality of two strong ciders, we headed back towards Barrio Provendica. It’s always pretty in Santiago.

Dinner at Liguria:

We arrived for the evening at Liguria in the Barrio Provencida neighbourhood. It’s a fantastic little chain of four restaurants in Santiago. We were able to enjoy a little Chilean Carmenière Reserva off their robust wine list with over 50 bottles, along with a great asado steak.

To Re-Cap:

All in all, a great day visit to Santiago. A trip through here is always a pleasant experience and the city seems to fit me like a glove whenever I pass through. The Barrio Providencia was a great place to be situated and I’d love to be based here again the next time we visit.


Our stay in Santiago was made more comfortable by the apartment stay at the Hotel Orly in Barrio Providencia. The property, and neighbourhood, was an excellent spot to be based for hanging out in Santiago, Chile.


This post is one chapter in our trip to Peru and Chile via Air Canada Executive First (Business Class). This trip was booked using Air Canada e-upgrades to upgrade into Air Canada International Executive First class. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us directly or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.



Review: Hotel Orly, Providencia, Santiago, Chile

We stayed at Hotel Orly in one of their furnished apartments. The Hotel offered furnished apartments as an alternative to hotel rooms at a 15% discount. The apartments were 4 buildings down in the same block as the hotel. It was a bit run down when entering the 70’s era building, but the room had 2 flat screen tv’s, new furnishings, hardwood laminate floors, a combination sale, a hot plate with fridge and all cooking utensils, pots and pans and our own private internet router!! 

The hotel is situated in Barrio Providencia, a residential neighborhood, which was a fantastic base for exploring. There are many restaurants within 2 blocks, Starbucks, Juan Valdez are very close by. The restaurant Liguria and Normandie were within a 10 minute walk. The Metro Petro de Validavla was at end of block. We also made use of the running trails next to our hotel, which ran the length of the Rio Mapocho. Hotel Orly offered a complimentary breakfast in morning, which included eggs and cold cuts. I would highly recommend this place to stay if you were a leisure traveler and wanted to really explore the neighborhood to feel a nicer part of Santiago. It ended up being much nicer than our stay at the Santiago Marriott at the end of our trip.


For the second part of our trip, we were set to take the other LAN carrier down to Santiago, Chile. It turned out to be a no nonsense affair with strict attention to baggage weights.


This post is one chapter in our trip to Peru and Chile via Air Canada Executive First (Business Class). This trip was booked using Air Canada e-upgrades to upgrade into Air Canada International Executive First class. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: LAN Chile Airbus 319, Lima – Santiago

The next day, we were headed for Santiago. We returned to the Lima airport from Miraflores area to a massive check in line. We checked ourselves in using the kiosk again and joined the baggage drop line. We arrived at 9:30 AM for 11:50 AM flight. It did take us 30 minutes to do bag drop due to again only 3 desks being open and group blocking most one wicket. There were status lines and separate USA lines of two wickets each. However, they did not help with the regular line when the counters were empty.

LAN Peru  
LA 2631 – Economy Class (Q)
LIM-SCL (Lima Jorge Chavez International Airport – Santiago Arturo Merino Benítez International) 
August 26, 2011
11:20 AM – 4:25 PM
Booked: Airbus 319 
Flown: Airbus 319 

When we made it to the front, I was asked to pay 70 USD for my one bag that was overweight by 4 kg. I removed 2 ski boots from each of our bags and attached them to our backpacks and they eventually accepted the bags at 1.5 kg over weight (23 K each) loaded together on the scale for a total weight reading. The line was so long that our guide for the day (that said he was going to be waiting around for us after check in), disappeared, never to be seen again. 

A bit of a side story here. Earlier in the week, I had received an email stating that our return flight from SCL-LIM had been retimed from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM. It actually said that it was delayed, but it turned out to be a schedule change. 

As we were catching our homeward AC flight at 11:50 PM, the 2 hour and 50 minute connection on a different carrier made me nervous pervis. So after we had checked in, I proceeded over to the LAN ticketing desk. I asked if it was possible to get the flights changed. The guy at the ticketing desk initially told me no right off the bat, but after bugged him a little bit he relented and said that involuntary re-routing rules could apply. He told me to wait 10 minutes for his colleague to come back, which turned out to be supervisor. After some discussion, I was directed to the adjacent excess baggage payment desk where it took 10 minutes to change the ITIN with lots of typing. Unfortunately another 30 minutes wasted for something that could have probably been done on the internet in 5 minutes. Why must everything be done the hard way??? =) 

We cleared security and proceeded through Lima exit customs. There was no line at all. Lots of amenities were on the secure side of the airport including a massive duty free spanning both sides of the walkway. Most of the pricing on the secure side was in USD, not Peruvian Soles and as always, the mark up was very noticeable. 

After a gate change and the late arrival of the inbound aircraft, we were served a light sandwich and drink. I asked for wine and received the smallest wine pour that I have ever received on a flight. I usually feed my 7 year old son Cranberry juice in a larger sippy cup glass than this. 

Upon arrival at Santiago International airport, we headed for the famed “Reciprocity Fee desk”, payable for certain Nationalities including Canada. The fee for Canadians is $132 USD (blah!!!) I was traveling with USD cash and didn’t want to spend it, so I attempted to pay with Visa, which appeared to have been a mistake on my part. Despite the markings of the acceptance of the cards at the desk, the very sour agent claimed that the credit card system was off line. She tried my RBC Visa Avion CHIP card twice and it was “declined” according to her. I pulled out an Amex and it did go through on the first swipe. 

At the baggage claim, there were many signed indicating not to take random taxis into Santiago for your security. There was a Trans VIP taxi service desk on the secure side, which I would have used inbound had I known it was there and had not booked the hotel car. 

Summary:

Our LAN Chile flight down to Santiago was pretty unremarkable in terms of service. Aside from some congested check in and careful attention to the baggage weight, it was nice to arrive to this corner of the world on a short haul flight instead of an exhausting long haul one.


Our hop back down to Lima was on the convenient LAN Peru flights that ran on a frequent basis.


This post is one chapter in our trip to Peru and Chile via Air Canada Executive First (Business Class). This trip was booked using Air Canada e-upgrades to upgrade into Air Canada International Executive First class. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us directly or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.



Review: LAN Peru Airbus 319, Cuzco – Lima

We arrived at the airport for our return flight. I had heard some horror stories here about flights being cancelled due to the elevation of the Cuzco airport.

LAN Peru  
LA 2020 – Economy Class (V)
CUZ – LIM (Cuzco Alejandro Velasco Astete AirportLima Jorge Chavez International Airport)
August 25, 2011
12:20 PM – 1:25 PM
Booked: Airbus 319 
Flown: Airbus 319 

The check in was the same mess as Lima, but on a much smaller scale. Despite being a large tourist attraction, the amenities at the Cuzco airport were nowhere near as nice as the Lima airport. 

There wasn’t much on offer on the public side except a priority pass lounge. We waited on the public square outside while waiting for our flight. There were the usual souvenir stalls across the parking lot, which opened at 10 AM for those last minute souvenirs. Ms World Traveller 73 bought a small ceramic pair of pigs that commonly adorn the roofs of Peruvian homes for good luck. There is a joke in there somewhere but I didn’t dare. Boarding was through an outdoor ramp, which I always find more fun than an air conditioned hallway.

When we arrived back in Lima, the lock on Ms World Travellers 73’s checked bag was broken clean off. Strike two! There was no damage to the zipper, so it was either cut off or got snagged on a belt as it passed through. Fortunately, nothing was taken this time either. We didn’t file a report. 

Conclusion:

Like on the way out, LAN Peru was a quick hop that met our needs. The service ran on time and the flight was without any major incidents. Earning AAdvantage miles was also an added bonus.


The highlight of South America was exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu. Despite it being a popular tourist attraction, it’s still worth an extended visit on any trip through South America.


This post is one chapter in our trip to Peru and Chile via Air Canada Executive First (Business Class). This trip was booked using Air Canada e-upgrades to upgrade into Air Canada International Executive First class. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us directly or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.



Attraction: Exploring Exotic Machu Picchu, Cuzco Region, Peru

The highlight of Peru was seeing Machu Picchu itself. Although we didn’t do the hike over the Inca trail, we did stay for two nights in the area. I’d highly recommend this for anyone who wants good pictures as seeing it at sunrise and sunset with different weather made for a memorable experience. You also managed to get the experience seeing Machu Picchu after all the day crowds had gone away.

Taking the train from Cuzco to Aquas Calientes:

Macchu Picchu is located on top of a hill from the town of Aquas Calientes. We took the train from Cuzco to Aquas Calientes. We stayed in Aquas Calientes overnight, which is the closest town to Macchu Picchu and was able to catch the site after all the day tours had left. . 

Visiting Machu Picchu, Peru:

On the same day of arrival, we were able to take the bus up the many switchbacks up to Macchu Picchu. At the time of our visit, guests were permitted to walk freely amongst all the ruins without any restriction.

Cuzco has many ruins around the area and similar to the Egyptian Pyramids of Giza, the main attraction of Machu Picchu seems to steal all the thunder. We spent some time checking out the smaller ruins as well, which was neat to see. 

I call these guys and girls “The Guardians”,

In Summary:

Seeing the ruins of Macchu Picchu were a lifetime bucket list item. We were fortunate enough to have the ability to wander through the ruins without being pressured on by a tour guide. Staying in Aqua Calientes certainly helped us experience the ruins to it’s fullest, by allowing us the opportunity to experience the site after all the day travellers had departed.


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