Although the region of O’Higgins is not known for its tourist destinations at a nationwide level, like the region of Coquimbo or Valparaiso, in the last few years, peasant traditions have received a boost and successful attractions have been set up for foreign visitors, like the Wine Circuit of Colchagua or surfer’s paradise, Pichilemu, averaging up to two meter waves.
Adventure sports are practiced at different spots; rafting at down the Tinguiririca river (around the Puente Negro area) and trekking and horseback riding at Sierras de Bellavista, in the Andean foothills of San Fernando.
Next, we’ll show you some of the places, constructions and traditions you can find in this part of the country in more detail.
Province of Cachapoal
– Rancagua: the regional and provincial capital offers visitors places that have priceless historical value.
Plaza de Armas: also called plaza de los Heroes (Heroes plaza), it stands out for the four streets that lead up to it, in the form of a cross. Moreover, at this spot, the patriot resistance fought one of the hardest battles of the Independence on October 1st and 2nd 1814, in what would later be known as the Disaster of Rancagua.
Iglesia de la Merced (Church of Mercy): declared a Historical Monument in 1954, the building has undeniable patrimonial importance, for this is where the patriot forces defended themselves during the Battle of Rancagua. It was built in 1771 and is located one block north of the plaza de Armas. It has a simple, colonial style, which has been preserved during the latest renovations.
Regional Museum of Rancagua: it is made up of two houses: Pilar de la Esquina and Ochavo, which date back to the XVIII century and were declared a National Monument in 1980.
Their typically colonial structure, with adobe walls, tiled roofs and ample corridors, houses important collections, such as furniture from the XVIII and XIX century, objects from the Independence period and exhibits related to regional history, mining and religious art.
Medialuna Monumental de Rancagua: sporting complex built especially for rodeo and with a capacity of 12,000 spectators. Although the city was chosen to be the host of the final of the Champion de Chile in 1975, this stadium was only just improved and given a facelift on April 18th, 1997. Now it’s even used for other sporting, artistic and cultural events.
– Machali: it is the region’s largest comuna and it stands out for preserving different huaso traditions and for having an assortment of attractions, such as:
Termas de Cauquenes (Cauquenes Hot Springs): it is more of the oldest thermal centers in the country. It is located 31 km from Machali, a bit over 700 masl. The place has a hotel and one may bathe year round, in tubs or pools, at temperatures that top 40ºC. The place’s waters are mainly used for medicinal ends, especially for people that have rheumatism, renal or hepatic problems.
Chapa Verde Ski Center: it is located 60 km northeast of Rancagua, on land that belongs to Codelco Chile, but it is run by the Chapa Verde Ski Club. It has an altitude of 2,360 masl at its base, and the highest peak is 3,100 masl. It has eight trails and four chairlifts.
Sewell: associated to the development of the El Teniente mine, one may find this important and peculiar human settlement. It is set amidst the Andes mountains and gets its name as an homage to the owner of the Braden Copper Company, Barton Sewell. This mining town grew alongside the company and was built for the workers, always mining the standards of the North American owners and bosses. It counted with important technological breakthroughs for those days, like a hospital, a fire department, a social center and an American style neighborhood.
As the years went by, the population began to drop because most of the workers moved to Rancagua. In 1960 there were 15,000 inhabitants, while in 1977, there were only 1,500 left. However, most of its one-of-a-kind architecture was preserved, which received the recognition of World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Unesco, in 2006.
– Graneros: it is said that it owes its name from the Jesuits who had a feed storage at this spot. In this comuna (county) and its surroundings, one may appreciate the traces of Inca occupation at the La Compañia hill pucara, as well as Hodkinson house, declared a national monument in 1981, which consists of a two storey construction made out of brick and Douglas fir wood. It has the particular trait of being the place where the first automobile in Chile was assembled and also where the first trolley that ran through Rancagua was built.
– Doñihue: location found 23 km from Rancagua, which is famous because typical huaso ponchos called corraleras are made there. Made in a loom and out of wool, thread and silk, they standout for their colorful designs; in addition, they have the feature of being reversible, with two totally different faces; the dark one is for the day and the light colored one is for the night.
– Pelequen: belonging to the comuna (county) of Malloa, here, one may find handmade objects made from pink granite found in this location. From the highway, it is possible to see the work of the artisans. Their creations include, washbowls, bases for tables and benches, among other things.
Province of Colchagua
– San Fernando: in the provincial capital, it is possible to see many attractions, such as the San Francisco church and the chapel of the Hijas de la Caridad de San Vicente de Paul, built between 1884 and 1899. One may also see the Lircunlauta museum in the city, which takes up a colonial house that was built between 1710 and 1730; the city was founded through here. Due to its historical importance, it has been declared a National Monument.
– Termas del Flaco (Flaco Hot Springs): they are located in the Andes mountains in the comuna (county) of San Fernando, 77 km from the Panamericana Sur highway, next to the Tinguiririca river, 1,720 masl.
Besides its warm waters, which are used for medicinal purposes, it has other attractions, like the dinosaur track fossils found in the surroundings, which are over 120 million years old. They have been declared a National Paleontological Monument.
– Los Lingues Hacienda: located 20 km northeast of San Fernando, it has several constructions that date back to the XVI century and were updated a century later. It has an adobe wall nearly one meter wide that, over the years, has allowed the hacienda to remain standing, faithfully preserving the architecture of that period. It also has a basement that has been converted into a dining room, stables and a Christ made of ivory that belonged to Pope Pio Nono.
– Santa Cruz: city that stands out for its farming and peasant tradition. During the last few years, it has earned a spot as one of the most important stops along the so-called “Wine Circuit”, which extends an invitation to come get to know the different vineyards of the Colchagua valley. In this same spirit, every year, the most important harvest festivity in the region is celebrated in Santa Cruz.
The Colchagua Museum is found in this comuna (county), which is one of the largest and most varied private museums in Latin America. Among its pieces, one may find historical, paleontogical, archeological and folkloric value; in addition, it has a room dedicated to cars, one for weapons, another for farm machinery and one devoted to liturgical art. This place also highlights the zone’s peasant traditions, including typical outfits, huaso tools-of-the-trade and carriages and wagons from different periods.
– Chimbarongo: also known as the wicker capital, it is internationally renowned for the variety of handicrafts made there. It is possible to find everything from basic elements, like baskets and furniture, to decorative pieces.
Cardenal Caro Province
– Pichilemu: it is located 172 km from Rancagua and is the provincial capital. It has the region’s most important beaches, which are known the world over, because they are perfect for professional surfing.
In the city, one may observe the architectural beauty of the building that used to house the casino, located beside Ross park.
This gaming establishment was the first one inaugurated in the country, a project spearheaded by Agustin Ross Edwards in 1906. It has three stories and draws its inspiration from some French constructions. It was declared a National Monument in 1988.
Infiernillo beach is one of the most popular ones among tourists, while Punta de Lobos and La Pancora are two of the spots visited most by surfers. There, one may encounter over two meter tall waves.
– Cahuil: 13 km south of Pichilemu there is a small town where, using rustic techniques like mud decantation and water evaporation, sea salt is taken advantage of and gathered. This process was introduced by the Spanish during colonial times and continues to be performed without any major changes.
– San Pedro de Alcantara: colonial style town that began to take shape during the XVIII century around a Franciscan convent. Today it is considered a Typical Zone.
A Highlight among its buildings is the church of San Francisco, declared a National Monument, which receives hundreds of pilgrims every October 4th that come to honor their saint.
– Marchihue: it is located 70 km from San Fernando and is famous for making chupallas and hats. This type of handicraft is made from totora and teatina straw.
– Rodeillo: 25 km from Pichilemu, this small township has given a shot in the arm to activities related to rural tourism. One of the great attractions is a water mill that is still functioning; its wheel is 6 meters in diameter and weights around 6,000 kilos.
– Colchagua Valley Harvest Festivities: in March, the main celebration surrounding the wine harvest in the region is held in Santa Cruz.
The most important part of the celebration is concentrated in the city’s Plaza de Armas, where over 20 vineyards, and their products, get together. The show is driven by popular songs, cueca competitions, huaso parades and samples of typical national cuisine.
– Champion de Chile: considered the most important celebration of national rodeo, it has been held without exception in the Medialuna Monumental de Tancagua since 1975. It combines typical dances, barbecues and wine tastings, among other activities. The competition consists of a pair of huasos on horseback pinning a calf, cornering it against certain areas that are marked along the half circle called quinchas.
– Santa Rosa de Pelequen: in the town of Pelequen, the festivities for Santa Rosa de Lima are celebrated every August 30th. Thousands of pilgrims from different parts of the country congregate here to pay tribute to the saint, who is credited for granting miracles to the people in this area in centuries past.
– Fiesta de Chacoli (Chacoli festivities): this celebration is held in Doñohue in the month of June. It centers around the preparation of chacoli, which is made from green grapes. The celebration includes handicraft shows, folk music, Chilean style mass and tastings of the zone’s local beverage.
The wine train in one of the Colchagua valley’s tourist attractions.