Bearing north from Viña del Mar you will see several small summer resort towns, each with its own stories and attractions.
Friday, July 24, 2009
There come in all kinds, from more popular ones to ultra-exclusive gated communities, from places with a more laid-back hippy groove to those that specialize in gourmet dining. You’ll find a whole gamut of options, all overlooking the sea.
Empanadas, shellfish and sand dunes. This would be a good definition for this small city located 10 kilometers north of Reñaca. Concon calls itself “Chile’s Gastronomy Capital.” The reasons are many and become obvious when one observes the extraordinary line-up of well-known restaurants in the fisherman’s cove called Caleta Higuerillas and around the area where the Aconcagua River flows out to the sea. They serve typical seafood dishes such as mariscal, paila marina (a stew of mixed shellfish served in a small, deep, circular metal dish with handles called “paila”), fried fresh fish or the very popular cheese and shellfish pies called empanadas de queso y marisco. Concon has excellent beaches such as La Boca, ideal for surfing; Playa Amarilla and Playa Negra, great for a quiet swim, and Playa Bahamas for sunbathing. The Santuario de la Naturaleza or Nature Sanctuary is worth visiting, with the sand dunes that provide impressive views of the coast.
This resort town is popular with the middle-class; almost all aquatic sports can be practiced in its many beaches. Most popular are snorkeling, windsurfing, water skiing and sailing. The third largest yacht club in the country is found in Quintero. Of all its beaches the most important are, from south to north: Ritoque is huge – 12 kilometers long and impressively beautiful; El Durazno is very close to Quintero; Papagayo is known for its stunning sunsets; Los Enamorados (“the lovers”); and finally at the northern end there is Loncura Beach, ideal for surf fishing. Make sure you visit “la Cueva del Pirata” or The Pirate’s Cave. They say there’s hidden treasure there.
Located forty-four kilometers north of Viña del Mar, in the 1970s Horcón became a haven for hippies, and their spirit lives on its streets, is felt in the handicrafts fair to one side of the beach, and in the laid-back ambiance. Forests, fishermen and artisans give Horcón a lot of style. There are also nudist beaches in its proximities.
A little farther north, 57 km from Viña, the coast changes. Cliffs 100 meters high, covered with pine and eucalyptus forests tower above white-sand beaches. The most popular of these is Aguas Blancas, because practically the entire beach is ideal for snorkeling, and is considered the best in the Region. The beach is practically at the same level as the ocean and the beaches and rock bluffs are interspersed with beautiful vacation homes. At the extreme north is La Laguna, a small resort that offers sailing and horseback riding.
Gentle hills dipping down to the sea and socialite vacationers who have built beautiful houses with roofs covered with coirón, a kind of thatching grass, are characteristic of this town and its long beach of fine white sand. Very close by, the Los Pingüinos Island invites snorkelers and scuba divers to enjoy its waters. In Cachagua you can combine country living, the beach and golf. Nature lovers will be interested to know that a three-hour trek will take them to Quebrada del Tigre (Tiger Gully), where there is a relic millenary forest very similar to others found in Coquimbo Region. Cachagua is 183 kilometers from Santiago and 64 kilometers north of Viña del Mar.
This is a small town with a legitimate and well-deserved claim to fame, because of its beautiful houses that line the entire coast. For decades it has been the favorite vacation place of the local aristocracy, who stroll along La Rampla and watch the sun set from the Mar Bravo vista point. To admire Zapallar’s architecture, walk along Avenida Zapallar, lined by European-style mansions and enormous trees. Zapallar is located 71 kilometers north of Viña del Mar.