Pichilemu: Not Just a Surfer’s Paradise

One of my favourite sounds is waves crashing against the beach. It’s not really a cliche for me because despite many trips to the coast growing up and living in Australia, this is the primary love affair I have with the ocean. I don’t surf, dive or even enjoy swimming in it that much; just the sight and sound is enough. So when we heard about a surf town just south of Santiago I jumped at the chance to see the beach one more time before summer finished for good.

I’d never seen a horse-drawn carriage on a beach before!

We escaped the busy city and began our journey along the route from Santiago to Pucon. Our bus passed through the winemaking centre of Santa Cruz before turning down the coast to Pichilemu. A giant welcome sign with surfboards greeted us and it didn’t take long to realize that we were in a true beach resort town. We were approached by several touts offering accommodation as soon as we stepped off the bus. It was early evening on a Saturday and the town was buzzing. Children sped around on four-wheel dirt bikes on the racecourse opposite the beach while adults chose to joyride in the numerous horse-driven carriages servicing the town.

Families enjoy some late waves on a Saturday afternoon.

Pichilemu is probably best known for surfing, especially at Punta de Lobos, which actually lies six kilometres south. Every summer the Campeonato Nacional de Surf (National Surfing Championship) is held there, while the International Championship of Surf is held at La Puntilla Beach in October and December. Needless to say, this little spot is thought by many to have the best surfing in all of Chile. Expats have made it home just for this reason. Visitors can hire gear, take lessons or attend surf camps with several different companies here.

Pichilemu is a haven for surfers. But non-surfers will also enjoy its charms.

The old Ross Casino is now the Cultural Centre and home to gallery spaces and the public library.

But you don’t have to be a beach bum to enjoy the town or its dark sand beaches. Lovers of beach towns (like us) can easily enjoy a few days relaxing, walking on the beach and watching the amazing sunsets. At least a half dozen empanada shops sell the handmade creations. We were there just after high season and we still waited twenty minutes for our order because the stands are so busy. We haven’t been in Chile long enough to compare them to any others but a very high benchmark has been set. After ordering off the menu of about forty different combinations of fillings, the empanadas are handmade fresh (sometimes right in front of you). Add an inexpensive bottle of local Colchagua wine and the seaside picnic is ready.

This particular empanada shop was busy day and night every time we walked by.

And our taste test confirmed that they were indeed delicious.

Getting there: From Santiago, take the metro to Universidad de Santiago and go through the tunnel to the bus terminal. Visit the Pullman del Sur or Nilahue counter and ask for a ticket to Pichilemu (they depart about once an hour). Be sure to go through Melipilla – we missed that bus and our journey took five hours. From the south, connections are available from San Fernando, which is three hours away.

Ending the day with an incredible west coast sunset.

What are some of your favourite beach spots?

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