Rancagua is one of the most attractive cultural and tourist centers in the O'Higgins Region, largely because of the vineyards that have been developed in the area. Rancagua also offers sports centers and easy access to smaller villages and towns.
The city sits on the shore of Cachapoal River about 85 km south of Santiago de Chile.
The city has a population of approximately 230,000 (2012). It is the capital of the VI Region of Chile. For most of the 20th century the principal economic activities of the region were (and in large part still are) the extraction and manufacturing of copper (El Teniente mine), and agriculture.
The main economic activities range from mining, tourism, agriculture, timber, food production and services to minor industrial activities. The city also serves as the administrative and legal center of the region.
Together with Machalí and Gultro, it forms the Rancagua conurbation. After Curicó, Talca and Concepción, it is one of the most important and densely populated cities of the south central zone of Chile.
This area is known as the "huaso province" after the name of the Chilean cowboy, the huaso. The population is a mixture of both European (including Argentine immigrants) and indigenous races and cultures. The region has a homogeneous culture known as Chileanidad and a mestizo influence is evident.
Rancagua and the Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins Region was settled by Spaniards (notably Andalusian, Basque, Aragonese and Navarrese) and other Europeans. French and Italian families established agriculture, including the important wine industry: the Wine Route is one of the main tourist attractions of the Colchagua valley. Breweries can be found as well, the legacy of German and Swiss immigration. Livestock development and herding was especially influenced by British, Greek and Yugoslavian settlers.
Because the city is relatively close to Santiago, there has led to a growing urban influence in the local culture. Rancagua is fast becoming a suburb of Santiago's upper-class professional workforce.
Summers are generally extremely dry, with cool mornings and hot afternoons, while winters are mild with cold mornings and occasional periods of heavy rainfall that averages around 510 millimetres or 20 inches each year – almost all of which occurs during a handful of storms between May and August. In some years there can be a little snow.
The Metrotren from Estación Central in Santiago costs 2200-2400 pesos one-way. Service is scheduled to facilitate travel to Santiago, so most of the departures are early in the morning or late in the afternoon (around 18:00). Departures from Rancagua can take you back north towards Santiago or south towards San Fernando. Prices vary according to destination.
Rancagua is 90 km from Santiago by Panamericana (Ruta 5). Two road tolls run between the cities but only the major one, Angostura, is needed (2700 pesos). Keep the ticket to get a free pass in the first six hours on any minor toll booth, including the ones to access Rancagua.
- Terminal O'higgins, Avda. Libertador Bernardo O'higgins 0484, 1.5 km north from the city center. Most buses arrive and depart from this bus station when coming from the north. When coming from the south, and especially if it's early in the morning or late at night, buses stop at "Paradero Rancagua Sur" (Manuel Montt 1140) 2 km south of the bus station.
- Terminal Turbus, O'carrol 1175, 1 km west from the city center. Private bus station of Turbus company where most of their buses operate. Be careful because some buses of this company depart and arrive at Terminal O'higgins, so check in advance in your ticket if its says "O'carrol" or "O'higgins". Departures to Santiago, Concepción, Viña del Mar, Valparaiso.
From Santiago, the main bus terminal is at Metro Station Universidad de Santiago. Competition among the private bus companies makes for very frequent departures to Rancagua. Cost is CLP$1500-2500.
- Several urban bus lines painted red ("Micros") with stops all over the city, about 480 pesos.
- Several set-route shared-taxi lines painted black ("Colectivos") that span the whole city, about 650 pesos.
- Sparse but growing Uber community.
For inter-regional transportation, the same model of "Micros" and "Colectivos" applies but with different color (green and yellow respectively), but most of them depart from the "Rodoviario" inter-urban terminal and differ in rates.
- Paseo Independencia - The city's commercial backbone is also a nice pedestrian avenue to eat, shop, and stroll. Beware however during the Christmas holidays, when the atmosphere gets dense and pickpockets become ambitious.
- Plaza de los Héroes - Located at the east terminus of the Paseo Independencia, this central plaza is a nice place to relax anytime. Avoid gypsies who will literally tease the cash out of your pockets.
- Teatro Regional Rancagua - The Regional Theater of Rancagua has established itself as the space of culture and arts in the O'Higgins Region, with more than 356 shows, 210 thousand spectators, 96 free shows and 8 opera shows.
- Casa de la Cultura - Cultural centre and mini-museum, offers open to the public cultural activities all year long.
- Casa del Arte - Professional national theatre company, hosts the Open Air Theatre Festival every January.
- Enjoy Rancagua's nightlife in a variety of nightclubs, restaurants and pubs located all around the city, and primarily at Diego de Almagro street (side road to Panamericana). Notable places:
- Playa del Carmen [dead link], four room multi-stile dance-club.
- Moka Club, nightclub with regularly 1980s and 90s themed nights.
- Punta del Este, urban and international music scene.
- Golden Rockbar, rock-themed pub/bar with local (and national) bands live shows every weekend.
- Acqua Diva, LGBT disco.
- Cabala [dead link] and Pasion, bar-restaurants with karaoke nights.
- Visit Sun Monticello Grand Casino, 20 minutes north from Rancagua at Panamericana Km. 57. An integral fun project for the whole family, which includes the largest game room in Chile and the most complete entertainment offer, with 10 gourmet restaurants, a 5-star hotel, spa, electronic games and mechanics, Suka Club and a Conference Center capable of receiving up to 1,800 people.
- Visit Las Termas de Cauquenes and enjoy a nice thermal bath from naturally hot springwaters. Located 31 km east of Rancagua, the surrounding area also offers pretty trails for easy hiking .
- Visit Anakena Wines vineyard, part of the world-famous Chilean Wine Route, 20 minutes south from Rancagua at Requínoa.
- Reserva Nacional Río Los Cipreses is a national park east of the city, towards the Andes. Great for overnight camping. You won't be able to get in after the 18:00 closing time.
- Take a tour of the now defunct mining town of Sewell [formerly dead link] (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), right on top of El Teniente, the largest underground copper mine in the world. Private tour agencies can take you to the town, the mine, and back. They only let vehicles manufactured after 2001 in.
- Visit Parque Safari Chile and observe free roaming lions up-close, besides their herbivore-only safari and petting zoo.
- Go to a division 1 football match as the O'Higgins Football Club calls Rancagua its home.
A very traditional dessert from Rancagua and the whole region is Torta Pompadour (Pompadour Cake). It's a mille-feuille cake with whipped cream and bannana essense. You can buy it an slice in almost every bakery in the city or as a dessert in a restaurant.
- Pasteleria Tokio near the intersection of Independencia and Rubio (it's on Rubio) offers exquisite pastries at a great price.
- Club Social at Cáceres 486 provides decent, full, seemingly home-cooked meals with soft drink and dessert for 2,000 pesos.
- Mini Restaurant in Olivar, across Cachapoal bridge, is a family restaurant best known for their big and tasty servings (usually one serving feeds two people).
- Reina Victoria on Paseo Independencia is a pricey but fine bakery, ice cream and coffee shop.
- El Gordo Sabe at Diego de Almagro street (side road to Panamericana) is a reasonably priced all-you-can-eat buffet.
- Emporio de la Rosa inside Plaza América at Einstein Av. is an ice cream parlor worth the price.
- Delicia China at Miguel Ramirez Av. is an oriental themed, high class restaurant with top service.
- Torino Ristorante at Panamericana service road is a high class restaurant best known for their Italian cuisine and homegrown fresh oysters.
As mentioned above, beware of pickpockets in the city center.
The city is surrounded by quaint and peaceful pueblitos.
- Doñihue, about 35 km west of Rancagua is well known for its arts and crafts, especially the dying art of handmade silk-based chamantos.
- Pokey mountain and the "Punta Alta" offer formidable hikes and breathtaking views of the region. Ask around town to find the trail base.
- Pichilemu, 180 km west of Rancagua, one of the best places in the world for surf.