At the mouth of the Biobío, 18 kilometers west of Concepción, businessman, farmer, whaler, nitrate baron, and writer Pedro del Río Zañartu (1840–1918) inhabited this late-19th-century mansion (tel. 041/2426399, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Tues.–Sun, free, parking US$4), set in Parque Pedro del Río Zañartu, its extensive grounds planted with native and foreign trees and crisscrossed by numerous footpaths. Del Río stipulated in his will that no tree be removed, only pruned.
A chronic globetrotter, Del Río circled the world four times before his death, when he left his travel mementos—not to mention Hualpén and its grounds—to the city of Concepción. Opened to the public as a museum in 1938, it remains partly as it did when Del Río lived here, with information on his voyages and family history, plus bedrooms, a dining room, and a music conservatory with period furniture. Visibly warping because of deferred maintenance, the house encloses a central patio, but a sunny east- and north-facing gallery runs around part of the exterior.
In addition, several exhibit rooms show off his eclectic assortment of artifacts from Europe, the Near East, ancient Egypt (including a mummy), the Far East, Chile, and Easter Island, along with 18th-century weapons, religious icons, and materials on American ethnology, history, and folklore. The grounds extend to the coast, where there’s a small island and several guano-covered rocks.
At the mouth of the river, the Casino Club de Caza y Pesca (tel. 09/9442-0921 or 09/9828-2737, entrées US$7–8) offers ample, simply prepared fish dishes. The club, too, is part of Del Río’s legacy: The area was to be left open for hunting and fishing, though there can’t be much game left on the periphery of an urban area of more than half a million people.
Getting There and Around
No regular public transportation reaches Hualpén except on summer Sundays, when Flota Centauro leaves from downtown Concepción’s Terminal Puchacay. Otherwise, Concepción city buses to Avenida Las Golondrinas go within a few kilometers of the entrance, where a cab is the best alternative.
Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Chile.