Located in central-southern Chile, by the shores of the Bio-Bio river, Concepción sits in the heart of one of the largest metropolitan areas of the country: the Greater Concepción, with more than 1 million inhabitants, is together with the Greater Valparaíso, the country’s most important urban agglomeration apart from the capital. Concepción can be reached through one of the several daily flights from Santiago or after 515km (320mi) of highways in good condition from the national capital.
This was one of the first settlements raised by the Spaniards in Chile. Founded in 1550 by Pedro de Valdivia, it had an important role in the country’s independence process; as a matter of fact, the Independence Act was written and first declared at Concepción’s main square (Plaza de Armas), in January 1818. The Plaza de Armas is, by the way, one of the city’s main attractions, featuring monuments to the Spanish explorer Pedro de Valdivia and to the Mapuche leader Lautaro. Although Conce (as fondly called by its locals) cannot be considered to be a touristic destination on its own right, it does present an interesting showcase of life in the interior of the country, a busy cultural agenda and night life, thanks to the presence of numerous universities in the area. The main postcard of the city is actually linked to this characteristic: the Medicine Arch is a building that originally hosted the Medicine faculty, erected at the entrance of the University of Concepción’s main campus, in the form of an arch.
Leaving downtown and heading 16km (10mi) north to the navy base of neighboring Talcahuano, you will find one of the most important historic relics of the country: the Huáscar. This turret ship, captured from Peru in 1879 during the Pacific War, served the Chilean Navy until 1897, remaining active for a total of 33 years. Nowadays the ship serves as a floating museum, where it’s possible to learn a little about the Pacific War as well as how sailors and officers lived and worked. This ship also features the exact places where captains Miguel Grau (Peru) and Manuel Thomson (Chile) fell in battle.
Concepción and Talcahuano stand about 80km to 100km (55mi) from the junctions with Route 5, the country’s main highway. From there you can continue your journey south towards Pucón (380km, or 235mi, from downtown Concepción) or to Valdívia (465km, or 290mi). Heading north, you can head to the wine route of the Colchagua Valley, in Santa Cruz (365km, or 225mi, away from Concepción). During the winter season, a great alternative is including Nevados de Chillán in your itinerary, located 190km (120mi) away from downtown Concepción.