In English:What You Can't Miss in Temuco
Some travelers cast off as a “pass through” city as they rush to the nearby wilderness, but the thick greenery of Ñielol Hill and the delicious dishes at the artisanal Niri-Vilcún Market are worth stepping on the breaks to see.
Most Gringo excursions to the Araucania Region in Southern Chile begin with a blurry-eyed night after a multi-continent red eye to land in the region's capital city of Temuco. Some travelers cast off as a “pass through” city as they rush to the nearby wilderness, but the thick greenery of Ñielol Hill and the delicious dishes at the artisanal Niri-Vilcún Market are worth stepping on the breaks to see.
After sitting on a plane or bus for countless hours, climbing or biking up Ñielol Hill to take a bird’s-eye city view gives groggy visitors a chance to shake off the jet lag.
The 220-acre park, created in 1939, has a day’s worth of winding trails with dense-overhead foliage that isolates hikers from the city completely.
Make your way to the entrance seven blocks from the main square, called Plaza de Armas, using Arturo Prat street.
Trees leading up to a hilltop sport their Spanish nametags. Tree houses riddle dirt paths through the forest letting visitors climb up and snap photos of the about 250 different plant species, including the Red Copihue, which is the national flower of Chile.
At the peak of the hill there is an exercise park for adults and a playground for kids. The park’s 66 different types of birds regularly stop by to perch and hop around the playground.
If you’re not yet up for a hike, a winding paved road takes you too a cozy restaurant called La Cumbre. It’s large glass windows gaze down toward the city skyline. They serve up traditionally Chilean meals from 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Tuesday through Sunday. Paintings that reflect the area's patrimony cover the walls.
La Cumbre, acts the clubhouse of what seems to be the most exclusive and longest running club in the city of 250,000 people. About 150 members of the Amigos de los Arboles, or Friends of the Trees, fight to upkeep the hill. This group of in-their-prime activists – their leader is 92 – channel their youthful energy to improve Temuco’s environmental awareness and cleanliness.
The park also includes a handful of giant totem-pole statues with resolved-blocky faces and hands that benevolently cross beneath their stomachs called “La Patagua del Armisticio.” They’ve stood about four times taller than the average person looking eastward for over a century to mark the location of a peace treaty signed at this historical spot.
When the part-force part-diplomacy treaty was signed in 1881, the warring relationship between Chile and indigenous Mapuche, or people of the earth, settled down a bit. Under the guard (and shade) of these wooden figures, visitors can picnic or rest their feet post climb.
If you prefer grabbing a bite in town, the Niri-Vilcún Market packs in prepared foods, meats and raw produce alongside artisanal crafts. Wooden carved pitchers and bowls, Mapuche-design knits of Alpaca wool and silver jewelry burst out of 106 stalls inside. Fifty more vendors unload their goods outside the covered building. which was rebuilt after an extreme flood 30 years ago.
The Mapuche started peddling their goods in 1930, originally selling produce, meat and agricultural products. Then and now, they cooked dishes like steamy empinadas as hot on-the-spot meals.
Fifty-two-year-old Isaac Santana, president of the venders’ group, spent 30 years bargaining inside his 12-by-12 foot shop. According to Santana, “If you haven’t come to the market, you haven’t been to Temuco because it’s the heart of the city.”
Although you’re likely to recognize similar patterns at markets across Chile, Santana claimed that local Mapuche from neighboring Truf-Truf, Maowehue, Boroa and Chol-Chol handcraft most of what you pick up at the large warehouse-style building. The imperfect patterns of the gourds and heavy-knit hats at his shop, at least, seem to be the real deal.
Yes, Temuco tops the charts of the most polluted city in Chile thanks in part to it’s sink basin shape, abundant industry, and gas heating units. But breathing the forest air offers a refreshing break every day of the week from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the bargain price of $2. Follow it up with a quick visit to the market, and you’ll tote home a bit of Chile for someone special back home.