Greater Temuco, is a small city situated on an inland plain (formed by ancient glaciers). It is equi-distant between both the Pacific Ocean westwards and the Andes Mountains to the east. This city is one of the fastest growing in Chile with a population of somewhat over 225,000 and it ranks as the 6th largest in the country. In the lands south of the capital of Santiago it is second only to Concepción in size (3+ hours drive north) with a population of somewhere over ½ a million people.
Temuco, besides being both a business and transportation hub, is also one of the gateway cities for access to travel southwards into both The Lakes Region and Inter-Patagonian Chile. There is a domestic commercial airport just on the southern end of the Route 5 (Pan-American) Highway on the city outskirts. Regular, dependable, reasonably priced and comfortable bus transportation can get you to every major Chilean city or transfer city and most any major small town that's on the bus route. A few of these wonderful bus companies also travel to some of the other major Latin American cites and tourist destinations.
There are several private bus companies and stations, all reasonably clean, safe, well lit and patrolled by both security and regional police that will put your mind at ease. Plus, let me tell you friend their first class travel is so comfortable it puts the international airlines to shame! There is also a nationally run train service to the north (so we hear) but I was advised it wasn't worth trying a few years back.
If you live anywhere out in the surrounding countryside, or "outback" as they say in Australia, then Temuco will most likely be one of your semi-regular shopping excursions. Available here are many of civilization's guilty pleasures including, stores, shops, malls and restaurants, that the wife of any ornery hermit needs to indulge herself with before trekking back up into the verdant and scenic mountainside. But seriously though, let me tell you a bit more so you can see for yourself…
All the major banks and airlines have offices here. There are multiple currency exchange offices (Casa de Cambio), new and used car dealerships as well as several streets of shops catering to sales of auto parts. There are two Home Depot/Lowe's style big box stores that carry all of your regular home improvement tools, kitchen appliances (large & small), lighting, bed & bath and kitchenware. Besides that, there are three major department stores, several supermarkets, a six block covered municipal market selling honey, spices, meats, cheeses and also local and Mapuche handicrafts.
Speaking of food, leads me to comment on the local restaurants. Of course, there are many choices in a city of this size. At present I have tried less than a dozen myself. Seems every time I'm there I'm in the midst of running off to somewhere else with no time for a leisurely dinner out. I've read many good reviews but cannot yet corroborate on individual choices. That being said I really like Chilean food; steaks and seafood are terrific and everything is fresh. The traditional seasonings are mild; this is not one of your salsa loving countries. If blander is to your taste you'll thrive. If in the case you are a big ethnic and spicy foods eater, you won't feel challenged by the homier versions of your favorite Asian and Indian dishes except for a few places mostly in Santiago. So, (sorry) friends, just carry your own bag of red pepper flakes when you're out.
Within the last few years a large modern mall was built in Temuco, which rounds out the local selection of imported goods from Germany, Italy, and the U.S. There is sub-level parking, on-site security and 3 floors of national and international brand name items to choose from. Especially delightful for North Americans are many of their brand name shoe and clothing boutique franchises (such as Timberland, Nine West, Levi, Esprit & Van Heusen).items and much more.
There is also cinemas, a bowling alley, game arcade, fast food court, pet store and lovely handicrafts area. The pièce de résistance though is Jumbo's Supermarket. It's the Chilean version of Super Wal-Mart's. It hails a convenient ATM kiosk (linked with preset US accounts) reasonably priced computers, kitchen gadgets, cleaning supplies, bedding, cosmetics, fish and meat counters, fresh fruits and vegetable bins plus scores of frozen items and much more.
See a layout of the Portal Temuco or "The Mall" as all my friends call it.
Somewhat on the downside, many of the city's older antiquated buildings have a bit of a ramshackle look to them. They are in the infamous words of the Rolling Stones song, somewhat "torn and frayed, & they've seen much better days." I'm afraid that the February 2010 earthquake may have been a remedy to that situation though, since many of them have been or are slated to be torn down. So I expect we'll be seeing a lot of rebuilding programs going forward. In spite of that comment, I must admit (since I'm a truth loving person) that you'll find (in winter only) that the air will be somewhat on the heavy side because wood is the principal source of heating by folks here.
Temuco, if you'll recall from above, is a growing, thriving Latin American business city. Property rights are enshrined in the constitution (even for gringos) and the government is promoting direct foreign investment. Surrounding Temuco and throughout the Lakes District there is fertile farmland rich in volcanic minerals which yields it's main crops of wheat and fruit. The other crops include vegetables, oats, rape and lupine. Last but not least we don't want to forget to mention the abundance of lumber and numerous cattle ranching operations that abound.
With all the comings and goings of commercial interests there, local business people have developed ample choices for overnight accommodation. The city hails at the top end a 5 star hotel & casino with 96 finely decorated rooms. There are multiple bars, nightclubs, pubs, and every star of hotel, bed & breakfast, or backpackers' digs from which to choose. From hostel to 5 star hotel there is someplace for every budget and level of comfort, with or without wifi.
For an expat who still has school-aged children and not interested in home schooling there is private education available. There are several schools that would be suitable for youngsters coming from abroad. If you principally speak German there is a good choice for you. If English is your native tongue you should consider that the only truly English speaking schools are in the capital city of Santiago but Temuco's private schools are a good choice. Depending on your child's age and aptitude they could apply themselves to becoming bilingual with a bit of effort, perseverance, tutoring and of course a sprinkling of some fun and friendship along the way should do the job.
For those of you who need to be nearby to the city for work, air travel, municipal & business offices or children's schools then this capital city of the Araucanía Region is a good choice. If city life isn't your bag but you still need access to all of the above-mentioned goods and services consider this. There are small lakes in the outlying areas where you could build as long as you aren't phobic about having somewhat of a commute everyday. Living either near or far from this city, it still will be an important part of life for anyone living within its 2 hours reach.
For a world class mall, supermarkets, home goods, air tickets, auto parts, or just a special night of dinner and drinks out on the town then this thriving city is the "Portal Temuco" to the super commercialized life you left behind, but we all still love…. so fare thee well Temuco.