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When I plan a trip, I am always looking for the “alternative” places to visit. It is good to take in the famous tourist sites but the unique hidden locations in a country are the places I seek out and treasure afterwards.
A really special find is a hacienda about 90 miles south of Santiago in the heart of the Chilean wine country. Los Lingues is supposedly the oldest operating hacienda in the western hemisphere. It was given to the mayor of Santiago in 1599 by King Phillip of Spain and has remained in the same family since. It has over 2000 acres of pastures, vineyards, fruit trees and riding trails.
Los Lingues is famous for a breed originated there called, “Aculeo.” As I discovered for myself on two rides these are well trained three quarter sized horses. I even used my BrailleNote GPS for the first time. As it turned out, I didn’t need to navigate as a huaso named Nelson was our guide, short on words but the quintessential image of the Chilean cowboy. His spurs were so big he had to walk with his ankles rolled out. He told me there are 75 horses here and 50 staff. We couldn’t count the number of dogs, 10 at least followed us everywhere we walked and many came on the ride including the most intrepid Yorkshire Terriers you can imagine. They chased every chicken or neighbor dog we passed by.
The hospitality and food are extraordinary. Members of the family mix with the guests. The lady of the house arranged for us to visit the mining town and former house where my grandfather and mother lived and worked.
Despite the 22 guest rooms, we felt like we were welcomed into the home of good friends or family. The antiquity is mixed with modern amenities so you have beautiful antiques in the bedroom but also a telephone and even wireless. It felt so strange to be using Skype Out on my computer to talk to family and colleagues back in California within these 400 year-old walls. Picture too the Chilean cowboy talking on his cell phone as we ride through the hacienda.
The food here is simple and exquisite, if having 5 glasses and 11 utensils qualifies as simple. We had our first lunch in the “Red Room” all by ourselves. The other meals have been taken in the dining room, one grand dining table seating 6 to 8 people while we have been here but capable of seating 16.
Lunch has been four courses and dinner seven. The wines come from the immediate region. The desserts are fruity, light and once, chocolate. The main courses have been fish, beef and ostrich. The soup and minor courses have all been delectable, always a pleasant surprise. Amazingly, the boys have been trying everything, another treat for us parents.
The rooms at Los Lingues are reasonably priced but you do pay for the excellent food and service. There was no menu with prices so the bill was a bit of a shock when we checked out.
Los Lingues is definitely worth the trip for a special occasion. For more information, go to Los Lingues Website
When traveling south on Route 5 from Santiago, it is tricky to cross East to the left exit for Los Lingues. There is a small opening in the middle of the highway where you can make a U-turn. If you miss this as we did, you travel another several miles before finding an exit where you can turn around. Should you have a GPS, this opening is at:
34, 29, 35.196 S. 70, 54, 48.258 W.
The exit for the road to Los Lingues is .78 kilometers north of that opening and the small roads to Los Lingues are marked pretty well the rest of the way.
The General Manager Jorge speaks very good English as does the owner, Maria Elena. We were happy to use our Spanish and that worked well with the rest of the staff.