If you love wine, fine dining, never-ending springs, street art, skiing, hiking, mountain biking, surfing or just lazying for days on wild coasts, there's a spot in Middle Chile that was created just for you. This is Chile's most important wine-producing region, and the wineries and cozy bed and breakfasts of the sun-kissed Colchagua, Maule and Casablanca Valleys will tickle your palate and enliven your senses. For board riders, there are killer breaks up and down the coast, with surf culture exploding in towns like Pichilemu, Matanzas and Buchupureo. Hikers and skiers will love the lost lagoons and steep pistes found eastward in the Andes, while cultural explorers won't want to miss the murals and jumbled alleyways of Valparaíso and the hard-rocking musical exploits of Concepción.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Middle Chile.
The spectacular setting on a windswept ocean headland makes it easy to understand why Isla Negra was Pablo Neruda’s favorite house. Built by the poet when he became rich in the 1950s, it was stormed by soldiers just days after the 1973 military coup when Neruda was dying of cancer.
Bellavista's most famous resident writer was Pablo Neruda, who made a point of watching Valparaíso's annual New Year's fireworks from his house at the top of the hill, La Sebastiana. Because entry operates on a first-come, first-served basis, it's recommended that you get here in the morning.
The upper basin of the Río Claro marks the beginning of the ecological transition between drought-tolerant Mediterranean vegetation to the north and moist evergreen forests to the south. Here, 78km southeast of Curicó along a narrow gravel road, lies the Reserva Nacional Radal Siete Tazas.
Exhibiting the impressive private collection of controversial entrepreneur and alleged arms dealer Carlos Cardoen, this is the largest private museum in Chile. The collection includes pre-Columbian anthropomorphic ceramics from all over Latin America; weapons, religious artifacts and Mapuche silver; and a whole room of huasos (cowboy) gear.
This national park covers the entire archipelago, a total of 93 sq km, though the township of San Juan Bautista and the airstrip are de-facto exclusions. In an effort to control access to the most fragile areas of the park, Conaf requires many of the longer hikes to be organized and led by local registered guides.
The great range of challenging hikes at this well-organized, easily accessible national park will leave you as short of breath as the fabulous views. Its 121 sq km cover high-Andean steppes, lagoons and deciduous forest that turns a glorious gold and red in the fall. Pudú deer, Patagonian foxes and Pampas cats also live here, though sightings are uncommon.
Between Angol and the Pacific, the coast range rises to 1550m within the 68-sq-km Parque Nacional Nahuelbuta, one of the last non-Andean refuges of araucarias, or monkey-puzzle trees. In summer, other interesting plant life includes 16 varieties of orchids and two carnivorous plant species.
Looming large within this national park are two of the highest mountains in the coastal range, Cerro El Roble (2200m) and Cerro La Campana (1890m), which Charles Darwin climbed in 1834.
Some 93km east of Los Angeles you'll find the 116-sq-km Parque Nacional Laguna del Laja. Within the park is the symmetrical cone of Volcán Antuco (2985m). Lava from this volcano dammed the Río Laja, creating the lake that gives the park its name.