Italy, Spain, California…CHILE.

by Liz Caskey on May 23, 2010

For decades, North Americans have been flocking to Mediterranean destinations like Italy, Spain, Greece, the French Riviera, Turkey for the culture—and let’s face it, seeking sunny holidays. Looking at the climate of the coastal fringes of the sea, it is not hard to see why—long hot summers, with more or less guaranteed sunshine, and mild, wetter winters. Heck, the United States has its own Mediterranean paradise, California, which is currently (as per the last census) the most populated state in the nation. Could it be the delicious climate and all that California sunshine? Must be. This geography seduces and rules!

Nothing beats a Mediterranean climate. I am a Northeastern convert and quite frankly, I never plan on living in a non-Mediterranean climate for the rest of my life. It’s just too good to be true. It is paradise. Much of the year is dry, warm, sunny and thankfully so bug-free (minus flies and honeybees) that I don’t even need screens on my windows. After being bored with a couple hundred days of straight sunshine, the temperatures eventually drop and the exquisite pitter patter of rain comes to turn everything emerald. Literally every crop known to man, save mangos and the tropical bunch, can grow in these places, and a lot of blessed grapes, which makes for lots of vino.

There’s really only a handful of places on the entire planet that can boast this type of setting:  Southern and southwestern Australia, coastal California, the Western Cape of South Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, and central Chile. Yes, that’s right. Chile has the same climate as Italy, Spain, and California (and all the above-mentioned). People seem to selectively forget this–or just out of non-awareness, don’t make that connection. Well, let’s get that ironed out quickly.

Chile’s Mediterranean climate is located in the area known as the Central Valley, along with the coast, which stretches from 34 – 38 ° S, which is right across the Pacific from another Mediterranean place, Sydney, Australia. The Central Valley is squeezed between the chiseled Andes and rolling coastal mountains, formed by glaciers and the eroding mountains, and comprises the cities of Santiago (capital), Rancagua, Concepción (Bío Bío) and all the cities in between. Over 70% of the total population of Chile lives in this area.

It is truly a fertile heartland and the agricultural powerhouse of Chile. Mile after mile is planted with corn, wheat, grapes, orchards, olive trees, farms, livestock grazing dotted with red-tiled villages and kinships. Vistas from the countryside always have the background of the gleaming, snowcovered Andes in the distance. Perhaps every school child’s first drawing captures this. It is drilled into the visual and mental landscape of all Central Valley chilenos since birth. It’s a geological compass. In fact, the Central Valley is the area of Chile that produces much of the fruit and produce for export, feeding North America and Europe during their winter.

Now, you must know where I am headed with this…some juice to get you down here because Chile is just too delicious to not visit, any time of the year.

Scenario Uno: Let’s say you live in Houston, Texas or anywhere along the Gulf Coast. The mercury is hitting the 100+ degree mark again for the 3rd month straight; the humidity is 110%; and the A/C is moaning from so much overtime. Your make-up slides off your face between the house and car. Ohhh, some relief?! Where?! Our savvy Texan clients head south to Chile. To wine, dine, hunt (ok, that’s for doves in Cordoba, Argentina), and ski. Want to know what the winter of Chile’s Central Valley feels like? Highs in the mid-60s with sunshine most days. A little rain which dusts the Andes with snow (heads up, big powder for all you skiers) and everything is green and lush. At night, you’ll need a warm jacket. The temperature can dip into the 30s/40s but hell, it beats that wicked heat any day and A/C-assisted living.

Scenario Dos: You live in St. Paul, Minnesota or anywhere in the snow belt, which with global warming these days seems to be from Atlanta north. Snow for Thanksgiving, a blizzard at X-mas, snowed in for President’s day. Now again in March to foil the Easter Egg hunt! Seriously, WTF?! When will this winter weather spanking be over? While you’re covered and snowblowing yourself out from 2 feet of snow and ice, AGAIN, guess what, it’s our summer. Sun, sun, and more sun, freakishly perfect temperatures hover in 80s-90s with about 12% humidity. Nights around 55F to sleep all cuddly with a blanket. Do I need to further explain why this is great time to visit Chile?

Reverse seasons make Chile a natural destination any time of the year. Plus, unlike Australia and Europe, we’re on Eastern Standard Time 6 months per year (+2 in summer). That means a long flight but NO, I repeat, NO jet lag.

So let’s review why Chile is a year-round destination:

  1. Amazing geography from the towering Andes Mountains to California-esque rolling hills, and the wild, turquoise Pacific Ocean.
  2. Simple, intense Mediterrean-style cuisine made from the most primo ingredients: ethereal produce and seafood to sublime goat cheese
  3. Lots of vino-all kinds: red, white, bubbly
  4. Friendly natives and a vibrant culture that feels distinctly European and Latin at the same time
  5. Stability, infrastructure, and a peaceful, developed country where the US dollar actually still has weight
  6. That yummy Mediterranean climate: ski, wine, dine, hike, bike, walk, dive in, love it any time of the year
  7. Tax treaty on all hotels for foreigners (that’s right, you don’t have to pay the 19% VAT tax on any hotel stay, not the case in neighboring Argentina)

So if you love Italy, Spain gets you jazzed, have been all over South Africa, and already done Greece 20-odd times, seriously consider coming down to these latitudes. Besides all the above-mentioned reasons, there is something truly epic, inspirational and downright gorgeous about this setting on earth. Come experience it for yourself. The place, along with the Mediterranean climate, seduced me nearly 10 years ago. The rest is historia.

For food, wine, cultural, and active travel to Chile,  contact the Liz Caskey Culinary & Wine Experiences office directly at info@lizcaskey.com or 904 687 0340 (US Direct). We’ll hook you up and turn you onto the best in this slice of paradise.

{ 3 comments }

Matt Wilson May 23, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Great article Liz,
makes me almost wish I did not live in Chile, so that I could come and discover it again

David May 24, 2010 at 9:14 am

Hi Liz,

Great Stuff !!!

How funny, I am a expat from Chile and I live in Australia.

I much appreciatte what you do.

Keep up the good work.

DSC.

Nicole February 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Loving your blog! Happened upon it last eve and have come back for more! Adding it to my favorites and will share with friends. We have been wintering in Mexico the past 4 years but Chile intrigues…wondering where the above picture of the waterfront cafe was taken – I think I could very much enjoy living in that sort of community!!

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