On the north bank of the navigable Río Biobío, Concepción is 519 kilometers south of Santiago via the Panamericana and Ruta 152 from Chillán, and 287 kilometers north of Temuco via the Panamericana and Ruta 180 from Collipulli and Angol. It is part of a sprawling urban area that includes the port of Talcahuano, 15 kilometers northwest on the Bahía de Concepción; Penco, to the northeast at the other end of Bahía de Concepción; and San Pedro, connected by several bridges across the Biobío.
Plaza Independencia is the focus of Concepción’s central grid, which trends northeast–southwest rather than north–south. Southeast of the plaza, Parque Ecuador and the 256-meter summit of Cerro Caracol mark the edge of the downtown area, while the riverfront to the southwest is the subject of ambitious redevelopment plans.
For much of its history, the capital of Region VIII (Biobío) has been Chile’s industrial powerhouse, thanks to its navigable river, convenient coal resources, the Huachipato steel plant, and sheltered port of Talcahuano. Fishing and forestry contribute to the regional economy, but the economy has suffered in recent years with the closure of coal mining at nearby Lota. A hoped-for tourism boom has not yet taken hold, but the presence of several universities and upwards of 30,000 students gives it an active cultural life and a cosmopolitan feel, as many foreigners are exchange students here.
By Air: Aeropuerto Internacional Carriel Sur (Jorge Alessandri 5001, tel. 0412/732000) is five kilometers northwest of downtown on the Talcahuano road.
Sky Airline (O’Higgins 537, tel. 0412/218941) flies north to Santiago and, on occasion, south to Puerto Montt.
By Bus: Most long-distance buses use the Terminal de Buses Collao (Tegualda 860, tel. 0412/749000), near the soccer stadium on Avenida General Bonilla (Ruta 148), the old Chillán toll road; unless otherwise detailed, buses leave from this terminal, which is also known as Terminal Puchacay. Some carriers use Terminal Chillancito (Camilo Henríquez 2565, tel. 0412/315555), the northward extension of Bulnes, but most visitors find all they need at the Collao terminal. All companies except Tur-Bus (Tucapel 530, tel. 0412/237409) have closed their downtown ticket offices.
In addition to the long-distance terminals, there are two for regional buses. From the Terminal Costa Azul (Las Heras 530, tel. 0412/651267), northbound buses go to the beach towns of Tomé, Dichato, and Cobquecura. From Terminal Jota Ewert (Lincoyán and Manuel Rodríguez, tel. 0412/229212), southbound buses go to the Costa del Carbón cities of Arauco, Lebu, Cañete, Tirúa, and Contulmo.
By Train: To Chillán and Santiago, two EFE trains daily (8:37 a.m. and 10:45 p.m.) leave from the new Estación Concepción (Arturo Prat and Barros Arana, tel. 0412/227777), alongside the old station; EFE has a separate ticket office (Barros Arana 164, tel. 0412/226925).
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition