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NOTE: Constitución was utterly wiped out by the post-quake tsunami.

Constitución is a small port town tucked in on the coast at the mouth of the Río Maule. It has acceptable charcoal-colored sand beaches, though it pales in comparison to much better coastal towns that bustle with surfers and beach bums such as Pichilemu or the stretches of quite beaches to the south. The town’s cellulose plant, located several hundred meters near the public beach, does not improve the ambiance and offers whiffs that can make you cringe.
The Plaza de Armas located on the main street of Freire is a pleasant place to burn a bit of time. From there, it is a 20-minute walk along Freire, past the eyesore that is the cellulose plant, to the beach to view several huge rock formations that jut out of the sea. The most famous is Piedra de la Iglesia, which resembles a huge stone church that serves as a resting place for local birds. There is also a quaint, early-morning market on Calle Infante where deals are to be found on fruit, vegetables and handicrafts.
If you are unable to find cheap accommodation in Constitución, you are not looking. Odds are locals will begin to hound you the first moment off the bus or train to stay at their residencial. Don’t feel obligated to take that first option because there are plenty of places located along Calles Freire and Prieto. A good, affordable option is Casa Particular (Calle Pinto 159, 71-671857). There are no signs to make the place stand out, so simply ring the bell and Senora Morelia - a friendly, older woman who owns the operation - will answer and usher you to a room. A clean dorm with a shared bathroom cost $6, or add a few bucks to the price and she’ll cook breakfast, too. For $8 a night head to Residencial Lopez (Freire 153, 71-671183). Rooms are clean, though dark, and the bathroom is shared.
There is a string of restaurants that line the beach and most offer about the same options of fish or empanadas. Pipa Grill (MacIver 1340, 71-673003) offers good pescados for about $5. Closer to the Plaza de Armas, La Rica Cochina (Freire 267) is a typical fuente de soda with completos, Italianos and sandwiches. Nothing cost more than $4 on the menu.
Tourists can pick up town information at the kiosk in the Plaza de Armas. The pharmacy Cruz Verde is located at Freire 644, while Banco de Chile, which can exchange currency or travelers checks, and has ATMs, is located down the road at Freire 500. The bus and train terminals are opposite one another a few blocks northeast of the plaza along the river on Calle Rosas. There is a daily train ($2) that rides more like a slow school bus on rails and is about a four-hour ride to and from Talca. A better, faster option is a bus. Pullman del Sur, Pullmann Contimar and Buses Santa Olga all operate from the terminal and head toward Talca, Santiago and Santa Olga.


Other places nearby Constitución: Rancagua, Talca, Santa Cruz, Curicó, Pichilemu, Chillán, Contulmo, San Fernando, Concepción and Angol.

21 Jul 2010

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