407km (252 miles) S of Santiago
Chillán is a midsize city located 407km (252 miles) south of Santiago, and it is the gateway to the popular Termas de Chillán, one of South America's largest and most complete ski and summer resorts. A rustic but tidy city of 145,000, with five spruce plazas and hodgepodge, utilitarian architecture, bustling streets with open storefronts, and street dogs, Chillán looks like any other Chilean city in the Central Valley.
There is really only one reason to stop here when heading south on the Pan-American Highway, the Feria de Chillán, one of the largest and most colorful markets in Chile, where you'll find baskets, huaso clothing and saddles, chaps and spurs, pottery, knitwear, blankets, caged birds, and Jurassic size fruit and vegetables. Bargaining is futile unless your Spanish is at the very least proficient. The Feria is located between Maipón, Arturo Prat, 5 de Abril, and Isabel Riquelme streets; across Maipón Street is the food market, with everything from pickled vegetables to dried fruit to Chillán's famous sausages.
Although Termas de Chillán is a full-service resort, it is the only ski resort in the Central Region with a neighboring town, Las Trancas, about a 10-minute drive from the resort base. Many choose to stay here rather than up at the resort, given that there are pubs and restaurants here, independent lodging in cabañas, and inexpensive lodging options that are more flexible with shorter stays.