The Central Valley is the most abundant valley in Chile, not just for fruit and grape production, but also for its wealth of opportunities for adventure: hiking the Andes, steaming in thermal pools, scaling rocks, or heli-skiing down snowy slopes. At the coast, you can tan on the lovely beaches, surf world-class waves, and nosh on outstanding seafood. In between, indulge in some of the finest wines South America has to offer while enjoying the laid-back charm of rural life.
The Central Valley is Chile's agricultural heartland. The rich soil benefits from ample spring melt-water for irrigation and long, warm, and dry summers. Grapes especially thrive, and wine has been an important product in much of the Central Valley for the past four centuries.
The Central Valley is a straight shot down the Pan-American Highway between the volcanic cones of the Andes on the west and the lower Coastal Mountains to the east. As you head south, the relatively dry foliage of the short, scrubby indigenous bushes gives way to verdant pastures and thick pine and eucalyptus forests.
It's about a five-hour drive straight south from Santiago to Chillán and nearly another hour east to Concepción, but plan to stop and explore along the way. Most valleys have Wine Route (Ruta del Vino) associations, which are happy to help visitors plan tours of the wineries, as are most hotels.