Wedged between the Río Claro to the west and the Panamericana to the east, Talca (population 193,755) is 257 kilometers south of Santiago. Unlike most Chilean cities, its streets are numbered rather than named, but the central core still has a regular colonial grid.
Like Rancagua and Curicó, the midsized city of Talca makes an ideal base for exploring a important wine- and fruit-growing area, with easy access to an Andean backcountry that’s drawing a select number of foreign visitors who realize they can hike through spectacular mountain scenery without the crowds of Torres del Paine.
While it has settled into the comfortable roles of political capital (of Region VII, Maule) and service center, it does not lack a cultural component—especially since the 1981 founding of the Universidad de Talca, the arts have flourished here.
Tomás Marín de Poveda founded Talca in 1690, but after a major earthquake, José Manso de Velasco refounded it in 1742 under the name Villa San Agustín de Talca. Bernardo O’Higgins signed Chile’s declaration of independence here.
Talca has no air services, but buses are frequent and it’s a stop on the EFE railroad line between Santiago, to the north, and Chillán, Concepción, Temuco, and Puerto Montt to the south. It also has Chile’s last operating short-line passenger train, to the Pacific port/resort of Constitución.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition