For most foreign visitors, Chile’s Mediterranean heartland has played second fiddle to Torres del Paine ’s Patagonian grandeur, the southern lake district’s forested Andean scenery, or the Atacama Desert’s vast wastes. This is changing fast, though, as they discover appealing destinations such as the colorful port of Valparaíso , a marvel of vernacular architecture and spontaneous urban growth that so entranced poet Pablo Neruda that he built homes there and at the nearby beachfront community of Isla Negra , to the south.
Chile’s coastline, from Valparaíso  and its twin city Viña del Mar , north to Papudo  and south to Cartagena, is the traditional destination for domestic holidaymakers and for Argentines from across the Andes. Overseas travelers often find its rocky Mediterranean headlands beautiful but the beaches crowded and the water cold even in summer; at the same time, surfers find the breaks at small resorts like Pichilemu  irresistible even in midwinter.
For those unwilling to brave the water, the rugged coast range backcountry of Parque Nacional La Campana  is barely an hour from Viña del Mar ; east of the Panamericana, from Rancagua  south to Los Ángeles , hikers have the underrated Andean scenery almost to themselves, thanks to the progress of the Sendero de Chile, a recreational path due to cover the length of the country.
The biggest news, though, is that Chilean wineries have finally appreciated the value of promoting their products by welcoming visitors for tours, tasting, dining, and even accommodations. No less than four separate “Rutas del Vino,” each with dramatically different characteristics, have become reason enough for aficionados and professionals alike to travel the heartland.