Decided to bus it from Pucón to rural Chillán to break up the route to Santiago, see the famous Mexican Murals, and experience the renown Termas de Chillán (hot springs) of this area.
The Tur-Bus (CH$7300) from Pucón to Chillán takes about 6-hours travelling on Route 5, which is a smooth highway. In South American terms, this is a short bus journey.
You change buses at Los Ángeles, which is almost 4 hours into the journey, before setting off again for the last leg to Chillán about a couple of hours away. Most long-distance buses stop at Terminal Maria Teresa (O’Higgins 010), which is also the case for the bus from Pucón.
Not really on a foreign tourist’s to-do path and located at the centre of the country, founded in 1580, the city of Chillán is about 400 kilometres south of Chile’s capital, Santiago.
If you are into skiing and snow sports then you won’t be disappointed with Chillán as about 82 kilometres away, mountain-style resorts and hotels are surrounded by excellent snow quality in native forests. This area also offers wonderful spa services as of course, this is the home of hot springs.
The region in which Chillán is built, also sees seismic activity. Evidence of last year’s 8.8 magnitude earthquake about 100 kilometres away on Chile’s coast are still fresh in this city, with cracked buildings, footpaths, and broken facades. And so, this city is continuously rebuilt due to earthquakes.
The city is famous locally as the birthplace of the founding father of the republic: Bernado O’Higgins. Quite small for a Chilean city with a population of only around 175,000, there is everything you need here and locals are friendly.
The wettest months for Chillán are between May to July. As this is May, we are lucky on this visit as the sky granted us a few sunny days, especially after the downpour experienced in Pucón whilst waiting for the ascent of Vulcán Villarrica.
Apart from the Mexican murals and the Termas de Chillán (hot springs), we didn’t know much about what this city offers for a visitor. So, decided just to walk around and see what we could find.
After walking around Chillán for a few days seeking out some sites, we found that most were either shut, abandoned, or under repair. Sadly, this is a result of the earthquake last year (2010).
Unfortunately, the Mexican Murals were also closed, which was very disappointing as this is one of the main reasons for visiting Chillán. But also because I love murals and any street art, especially in South America where street art is particularly impressive.
Although I didn’t get to see the murals, thought I would give you some background as it is worth a little write-up. So, if you visit Chillán, make sure to stop by the Escuela México de Chillán (Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins No. 250) and check out the murals. Painted in the school’s main staircase and library, the murals are by Mexican artists David Alfaro Siqueiros and Xavier Guerrero.
Siqueiros (1896-1974) was a Mexican-Socialist painter and the founder of “Mexican Muralism”. Siqueiros “sought to bridge national and universal art” with his deeply political works and renown for his large murals in frescos.
The also school has an interesting history as it was donated by the Mexican government to Chile before the Chillán Earthquake in 1939. The donation was a gesture of solidarity as the earthquake destroyed several provinces in Chile.
St. Charles Borromeo Cathedral
Several cathedrals on this site were destroyed and rebuilt over time to various earthquakes. Venture in front of Plaza de Armas and you will bump into this impressive example of modernism, which is an icon and symbol of Chillán. The previous cathedral was completely destroyed during the 1939 earthquake and so, the building of this cathedral started.
What is striking about this building by architect Hernán Larraín Errázuriz is the ten arches. These represent the prayer and the sign made with the hands at prayer, when hands are closed in an oval form. This Catholic cathedral is like no other that I’ve seen so far and definitely worth visiting.
Hostal Manatura (CH$16000 double with shared bathroom) includes comfy beds, heating, and electric blankets.
The accommodation is small but cosy. I think this would be quite cramped if all 3 rooms were filled. Mainly as the living and kitchen areas are quite small but luckily, we are the only ones here for now.
Breakfast is included in the room’s price and is good. The owners are very friendly and accommodating.
I’ve read recent TripAdvisor reviews on this Hostal, which are not good. People could not get into the accommodation after knocking for many hours and giving up, were forced to seek alternative accommodation elsewhere. I’m not sure if this Hostal is still operating, which is a shame, as we had a good experience here and good value-for-money.
Fuente Allemana (Avenida O’Higgins 250) – Although missing the hot springs was disappointing, this did force us to seek shelter in the warmth. What better place than a café? So, we did stumble on this excellent café/restaurant, which serves great coffee and meals at reasonable prices. Delicious pastries and cakes that you can’t go past, are also on offer at good prices.
Frequenting this café a couple of times, I noticed that it’s always packed with many locals, so you know this must be good. Although the reason for this could also be that there are not many foreign tourists in the city – I didn’t see even one foreigner, apart from us.
The rough plan from Chillán is to take the train to San Fernandez and on to Santa Cruz for some wonderful wine tasting at Chile’s famous wineries. I’m hoping that most sites and also wineries are open at this time of year…