Santa Cruz: the heart of a Chilean wine valley

Unless you’re a surfer, nice beaches are surprisingly hard to come by in Chile, so we decided to end our holiday in Santa Cruz, a small town in the Colchagua Valley, one of the country’s top wine regions. I mean if you can’t find a beach to relax on…then a wine valley has to be a pretty good second choice!

Santa CruzThere are quite a few vineyards with accommodation in the nearby countryside but they mostly seemed pretty small. So as we were going to be there for five nights we opted for the town centre and the Spanish colonial style resort Hotel Santa Cruz.

Santa CruzIt was a great choice. We had big rooms, each with a terrace with full size sunbeds and at the centre of the resort is a lagoon style swimming pool shaded by huge palm trees. Perfect for plenty of rest and relaxation – just what we needed after our trekking adventures in Patagonia.

Santa CruzThe hotel is on Santa Cruz’s main square, a pretty plaza with benches and a bandstand. Next door to the hotel is Ruta del Vino, an office and shop where they have lots of information about all of the vineyards in the area. They’re really helpful and can book you on a tour, or you can just buy tickets for specific vineyards.

Santa CruzWe were pretty tired after trekking, so rather than do a full day wine tour we decided on a visit to Viu Manent, a lovely winery just outside Santa Cruz. It was close enough to get a cab and we got there in time to have an alfresco lunch overlooking the vines and then toured the property in a horse drawn carriage.

Santa CruzIt’s a third generation family owned vineyard that is beautifully maintained inside and out. We were able to see where the wine is made and stored before being taken into our exclusive tasting room.  We’d already sampled the rose with lunch and the other wines were just as good.

Santa CruzSanta CruzSanta CruzOur trips away from the hotel pool were few and far between, but we did meander around the shops in Santa Cruz a couple of times. There are some nice small boutique stores selling jewellery and gifts, as well as a lovely shop called Eco Bazar at Vina La Posada.

Santa CruzVina La Posada is a winery that only about 10 minutes walk from the town square and as well as the shop it has several restaurants. On our last evening we ate at La Casita de Barreales. It was very good, though probably nicer to eat there in the daytime when you can admire the view of the vines and mountains.

Santa CruzWe also had dinner at Club Union Social just off the main plaza, which has a lovely outdoor patio and very nice food. And we had a great meal at Prape’s Sushi & Wok which is just along the street when you come out of the back of the hotel. Afterwards we went to the Casino Colchagua, which is owned by the hotel.

Santa CruzIn fact the casino was on the ground floor of the the building our rooms were in but we didn’t ever hear any noise so they must be thick walls and ceilings. The casino was the usual mish mash of slot machines and gaming tables, but it didn’t really have the pizzazz of Vegas. So we just played (and lost) briefly on an one armed bandit or two and made a quick exit.

Santa CruzOur favourite bar was Uno Siete Nueve which if you speak Spanish you’ll know means 179, the number of the building where you’ll find it on Diaz Besoain. It was fairly quiet early in the week, but livened up by Thursday. The staff were a friendly bunch and they served good cocktails.

Santa CruzWe also loved having lunch at quirky Cafe Sorbo on Avenue Rafael Casanova and of course the Hotel Santa Cruz had a very nice restaurant. We had a great breakfast there every morning and ate dinner in the outdoor gazebo one evening. The hotel also has its own vinoteca where you can taste and buy wines.

Santa CruzMore surprisingly the hotel complex also includes Museo Colchagua, a private museum exhibiting the huge  collection owned by controversial entrepreneur and alleged arms dealer Carlos Cardoen. This was also in the building where our rooms were, so walking to breakfast we could look down the circular stairwell and see one of the large and slightly alarming exhibits.

Santa CruzBeing hotel guests we got free entry and while we weren’t really up for a long museum visit during the relaxing stage of our Chile trip, we were keen to see it’s star exhibit, El Gran Rescate. Like many others we had been gripped by the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for 69 days in 2010. The displays are really good and include photos, films and objects related to the rescue.

Santa CruzSanta CruzSanta CruzAnd just like that it was the end of our time in Santa Cruz . Despite the lack of beach the wine valley had turned out to be the perfect place to end our adventures in Chile. To read more about them, visit the Chile section of my blog and click on an image below to scroll through more photos in this post’s gallery.

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