Category Archives: Chile & Argentina

Skedaddle Twaddle about our trips to Chile and Argentina

12 hours in… Santiago de Chile!

Welcome to Santiago! Located in between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, this city is surrounded by some of the world’s most impressive natural wonders, yet often gets overlooked, until now! From museums to markets, and spectacular views of the mountains all around, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

In a nutshell…
Santiago de Chile is the capital of Chile, and encompasses a whopping 40% of all Chileans within its boundaries. This makes it the 5th most populous city on the continent! It is widely recognised as the cultural hub of Chile, filled with many theatres, cinemas, museums and restaurants, for both locals and tourists to enjoy. All of this is accompanied by a breath-taking backdrop of snow-capped mountains, so you’re constantly reminded of the country’s famed natural beauty.

Sights not to miss…
Plaza de Armas is the central hub to all things in Santiago, as the main square in the middle of the city, it’s a a great place for some people-watching too, buzzing with activity no matter what time of the day or year. You can sit on the benches under the cover of the palm trees and observe, or grab a refreshment at one of the many nearby bars or cafes.

Cerro Santa Lucia is a hill right in the centre of the city! Believe it or not, but it actually used to be a volcano! It’s been extinct for at least 15 million years now, so no worries on that front. The hill itself is actually not very big, but it is packed with wonderful facades, fountains and stairways, and even two small castles (or forts) built by one of the most distinguished military engineers in the history of Chile, Manuel Olaguer Feliú. At 69 meters high, it also provides one of the best views of the Santiago’s skyline and the Andean mountains. The park on the hill is essentially vertical, so make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes!

Rebuilt five times due to fires and earthquakes, the Metropolitan Cathedral is a must-see due to its astonishing architecture. Make sure you take time to appreciate the ornate frescos on the ceiling and the building’s gilded columns. Also, the Palacio de La Moneda (Chilean President’s Palace) is only 10 minutes’ walk away from here.

National Museum of Natural History is the ideal place to learn more about the country. It contains a wealth of information and anyone interested in history will enjoy the visit. But to learn more about the countries recent history, head to the Museum of Memory and Human Rights! It’s a museum founded to reflect on and remember the regime led by Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The visit to this museum won’t leave you indifferent.

Barrio Bellavista is a colourful and charming neighbourhood in Santiago. It is a very popular area with many restaurants, bars, and clubs. This really is the perfect place to get a taste for authentic Chilean nightlife.

Flavours of Santiago…
Santiago is well known for its fantastically flavoursome dishes, but also has quite a good reputation for deserts. Ice cream shops such as Emporio la Rosa, who offer weird and wonderful flavour combinations such as raspberry & mint, orange & ginger and of course with the classic vanilla, you can’t go wrong.

Foodies will also enjoy the Mercado Central market, which although busy, is the best place to enjoy the variety of fresh seafood (voted ‘5th best market in the world’ by the National Geographic)!

Dishes to try…
Empanadas, like the Latin American version of a Greggs pasty, but a lot more cultured! The name is derived from the Spanish verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread and they are generally filled with combinations of meats and cheeses. The local artisans will create some unique flavours you will struggle to recreate elsewhere!

Caldillo de Congrio is one for the more gastronomically adventurous… this eel soup dish is a classic in this region, with the preparation involving the boiling of eel fish heads with onion, garlic, coriander, carrots and peppers.

Our team says…
‘I love Santiago! On a Sunday morning, the main street along the river is closed to traffic as bikes take over and you can join hundreds of locals for a morning cycle up to the cable car at San Cristobal.’ – Lizzie, Family Cycling Expert

‘Make sure to visit the ‘Museum of Memory and Human Rights’ and the Augusto Pinochet museum in Vitacura, to get the true understanding of the country’s history. The museums give you a great overview of different perspectives!’ – Steve, Chief Guide

‘My favourite day trip from Santiago is visiting Valparaíso. I like to wander around here, it’s a very vibrant city! Also, definitely check out the bar scene while in Santiago.’ – Andrew, Cycling Adventures Expert

Feeling inspired? Experience Santiago de Chile yourself…
Chile holds a special place in the heart of Skedaddle, this is where the idea of the company was born. With this in mind it’s only fitting we have a great range of guided cycling holidays here, so that you too can experience this amazing country and its lively capital! Most of our trips exploring Chile start or end close to Santiago, so we strongly recommend you come early or stay a bit longer after the tour has ended.

If a landscape of snow-capped volcanoes, deep valleys, lakes and monkey puzzle tree forests set against the awesome Andes sounds great to you, then join us in exploring magnificent Lake District on our cycling adventure in Chile and Argentina. Alternatively, come along on our gastronomic adventure discovering the world-famous Chile’s Wine Country that is home to some of the finest new-world wines currently produced.

Or, if you are eager to take a journey across some of the world’s last true wilderness regions, then our Wild Patagonia mountain biking holiday is the one for you!

If road cycling is more your cup of tea, then we got you covered too! Based on the success of our mountain bike holidays in this region, we have introduced a road cycling version of the Lake District Explorer. It’s a perfect and accessible choice for those cyclists looking for a spectacular destination.

Experience South America’s most dramatic landscapes by bike

Never ending lakes, majestic mountains and some of the cleanest air you’ll ever have the pleasure of experiencing! It’s little wonder Chile inspired us to create Saddle Skedaddle over 20 years ago, but for those who need more convincing, here are a few surprising facts about this epic slice of South America…

1. Wine, wonderful wine!
We’re partial to a tasty tipple post-ride and in Chile you’re spoilt for choice. With over 100 wineries in the country, Chile is now the 5th largest exporter of wine in the world and our Wine Country holiday explores some of the finest vineyards in the region.

2. There are a whopping 1300 volcanoes in the mountains of Chile
Don’t worry though…the majority are either dormant or extinct! These epic features are tall, cone shaped and often dusted with snow… an impressive backdrop to lots of our rides in the region and an exciting post-ride excursion for those eager to get up close.

3. The majestic monkey-puzzle tree is the nation’s favourite
This national tree of Chile, the Araucania, was alive over 200 million years ago, and has even rubbed shoulders with the dinosaurs, so riders get a real window into our pre-historic past. We defy anyone not to feel in awe whilst cycling through these dramatic ancient forests.

The lowdown on road cycling in Latin America

Our Road Cycling Product Manager and Tour Leader, David Hall has sampled many a road in his time and over the years he’s developed a strong passion for cycling further afield. He’ll regularly be found on his bike in Costa Rica and Colombia and is the envy of the Skedaddle office at Christmas when he’ll be off cycling tropical climes! Read on if you’re keen to discover more about Saddle Skedaddle’s road cycling opportunities in Latin America…

Long Haul VS Europe… How do they compare?
For me, and many other road cyclists for that matter, riding in the European mountains such as the Alps and Pyrenees is quite hard to beat. Here in Europe there is a huge cycling culture firmly engrained, as well as plenty of noteworthy, iconic mountains, made famous by the Tour de France and other famous races.

Whilst Europe might be considered by many to be the spiritual home of road cycling, it can’t claim exclusive rights on cycling culture. Many Central and South American countries also have long, rich histories in professional cycling and they also offer some superb riding opportunities including some enormous mountains, stunning scenery and seemingly endless miles of almost unexplored roads.

The professional riding scene is also very well-developed and Colombian and Costa Rican riders such as Nairo Quintana, Rigoberto Uran and Andrey Amador are pretty much household names for many British cycling fans. One great thing about offering trips in far flung destinations is that it allows us to extend the cycling season because come December, when most European mountain roads are covered in snow, we’re almost guaranteed perfect riding conditions.

What makes Latin America so appealing, do you think?
Well apart from the fantastic riding, I just love the general sense of energy – there’s a certain buzz and vibrancy that’s impossible to ignore. Music and dance are such an important part of Latin culture and having a good time seems to be very important to Latin people – it’s hard not get drawn into the party atmosphere.

What’s your favourite long haul destination?
To be honest, each of our three Latin American cycling destinations have their own unique attractions, so it’s hard to pick a favourite.

If I’m pushed I would opt for Colombia. Cycling is as ingrained in the Colombian culture as it is in any European destination and we enjoy the company of local riders out on the roads every day. The scenery is very dramatic and the climbing is unrivalled. One of the highlights of our tour is the ascent of Alto De Letras, at around 52 miles it is reputed to be the longest climb in the world and it is certainly one of the more challenging rides in the Skedaddle portfolio. Colombia is the only place I know where you can spend an entire day tackling a single climb!

Then there’s Costa Rica – one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet. It’s a tiny country accounting for 0.03% of the earth’s surface yet home to 6% of the world’s biodiversity. I just love the way that the nature comes to us as we ride through the country as we travel from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific. There aren’t many places on earth where you can cross a continent in less than 2 weeks.

Finally our Chile and Argentina tour provides a totally different experience and a unique landscape. The snow-capped volcanoes and towering monkey puzzle trees feel worlds away from the tropical climes of Costa Rica and Colombia. It isn’t without challenges but it is a slightly more gentle tour and as such it’s a great destination for anyone looking to cut their teeth in the region.

Have you got any advice for people looking to travel to Latin America?
I always think it’s a good idea, if you have the time, to try and arrive a day or two before the start of a trip to allow for a little recovery from the long journey and to adjust to the different climate – I’m not very keen on jumping on a bike when I’m still jet-lagged. Another consideration, specifically when travelling to Colombia, is that we spend quite a few days at high altitude – again arriving a day or so early to start the acclimatisation process is a great idea and we always encourage riders to listen to their bodies and take it easy during the first couple of stages.



 Are there any aspects of long haul travel that cyclists are often concerned about? 
We sometimes get questions about security and some folks express concerns that some countries might not be safe to explore. My response to this is simply that we wouldn’t ever offer a trip if we thought it was dangerous to do so – we have absolutely no interest in putting our customers or our staff at risk, it just doesn’t make sense. Of course we expect everyone who joins us to exercise common sense, as we have to in all the destinations that we visit but we’ve been leading tours in South and Central America for well over 20 years and our experiences have only ever been positive … that speaks volumes.

Any parting thoughts?
If you fancy something slightly different, give it a go! I’ve been putting trips together and leading tours in these destinations for years now and they still feel as fresh and exciting as they did the first time around. Even now these are still pioneering tours and on the occasions when we divert from our usual routes and visit new towns and villages, we still find that we are amongst the first, if not the only, foreign tourists to have passed through on two wheels – few destinations can make such a claim these days.

For those keen to sample Latin America on a road bike, we have three fantastic holidays to choose from: Colombia, Costa Rica or Chile and Argentina.