On the north margin of the braided Río Cautín, Temuco (population 232,528) is 677 kilometers south of Santiago and 339 kilometers north of Puerto Montt via the Panamericana, which now bypasses the city center; the former Panamericana, known as Avenida Caupolicán, divides the city into a compact original grid to the east and a rather irregular residential area to the west.
Fast-growing Temuco is the gateway to Chile’s Andean lake district, numerous national parks, and many other attractions, though its own tourist appeal is limited—while it’s a Mapuche market town, the city’s architecture is largely utilitarian and economically it relies on agricultural and forest products. Unfortunately, like Santiago, it’s begun to suffer air-pollution problems, especially in winter, as the widespread use of low-quality wood-burning stoves has contributed to a growing incidence of respiratory infections.
Temuco is Araucanía’s major transportation hub, with air connections north and south, and even more abundant bus connections north and south along the Panamericana, and east into and over the Andes. Technically it’s the terminus of the railroad from Santiago; a new service south to Puerto Montt requires changing trains here.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition