If you’re planning a trip to Santiago, Chile, you’ve surely read about the vineyards outside of Santiago and the renowned port city of Valparaíso. However, far too many people overlook the countryside town of Pomaire, which is known for its pottery and kilo empanadas. Pomaire is one of the easiest day trips from Santiago because of its proximity to the city. In this post, I’ll cover some key points about taking a day trip to Pomaire from Santiago.
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How to get to Pomaire from Santiago by bus
Taking a day trip to Pomaire by bus is easy, thanks to frequent bus departures. However, there are a few particularities of getting to Pomaire for you to be aware of. Below is a step by step guide so that you can navigate the transportation system like a pro.
Step 1: Go to Estación Central
This is Santiago’s main bus and train station. You can get there by taking the metro to the “Estación Central” stop. Make sure to take a moment to admire the architecture of the building before entering. It’s easy to forget that you’re in South America, rather than in Europe!
Step 2: Turn Right towards “Terminal San Borja”
Estación Central has an easy setup on the surface. When you walk in, the train station will be directly in front of you. To either side of the train station, there is a single hallway. The hallways are where it can get a little tricky, but for now, know that when facing the train tracks you need to go down the hall on the right side. This is the direction for ” Terminal San Boraja” and there’s a sign to point you in the direction, if you’re unsure.
Step 3: Turn Left
When you enter the hallway, walk straight to the back. It won’t take you long. Then, turn left. There will be a sign that says “Terminal San Borja” indicating that you need to take a left. In reality, if you take a left down any of the aisles before that sign, you should end up arriving in the general vicinity of where you need to be.
Step 4: Walk straight to the end of the terminal
This is a long, but stimulating walk, considering you’re already in the terminal. You’ll feel like you’re in a mall, rather than a bus station. This is a great opportunity to purchase a snack for the bus ride. Or clothes, a cell phone, and stationary, if it tickles your fancy. You’ll feel like you’re in the wrong place, but ignore your gut and keep walking straight.
Step 5: Take the elevator on the left for the “Intercomunal” buses
When you get to the end of the terminal-turned-mall, you’ll see two elevators and two signs. Take the elevator on the left. The sign will read “Intercomunal.” The spelling isn’t a typo here, as the word in Spanish is nearly identical to English. This will take you to the second story floor and BAM! Just like that you’ll be surrounded by buses and feel like you’re at an actual bus station.
Step 6: Look for the Melipilla/Pomaire signs
When you get off the elevator, simply turn right and you’ll see a few stands a stone’s throw away with “Melipilla” and/or “Pomaire” signs. This is where you’ll buy your ticket. The trip costs around 2,000 – 2,500 pesos, depending on the bus you take. The ticket issuer will let you know which numbered parking space you need to stand next to in order to catch your bus.
We’ve got you to the San Borja bus terminal and your day trip to Pomaire is about to begin. Before we go further, however, let’s touch on the difference between the Pomaire and Melipilla buses.
Pomaire vs. Melipilla Buses
The difference between the Pomaire and Melipilla buses is simple. Melipilla is a larger town located about 15 minutes further from Pomaire. And quite clearly, Pomaire is where you’re going.
As such, when you purchase your ticket, ask if there is a Pomaire bus leaving soon. This bus is direct and will have you arriving to Pomaire from Santiago in under an hour.
The problem is…
Direct buses to Pomaire are sporadic and unreliable. Chances are you’ll need to take a Melipilla bus, or risk waiting hours at the bus terminal for a direct Pomaire bus.
How to take the Melipilla bus to Pomaire
Taking the Melipilla bus requires a bus change shortly before arriving to Pomaire. As with arriving to the San Borja terminal, it isn’t hard to do but requires previous knowledge or Spanish skills.
Knowledge is what I’m here for, so below is everything you need to know!
Step 1: Get on a Melipilla bus at the San Borja terminal
The Melipilla buses depart every 10 – 15 minutes. No need to purchase your ticket in advance, seats are plentiful. Make sure to tell your driver that you’re going to Pomaire. If you want to get fancy, you can say “Voy a Pomaire.” Otherwise, just say Pomaire, or point to the word you have written on the stationary you picked up earlier and they’ll get the gist.
Step 2: Get off when the chauffeur tells you to
The point where you need to get off will be about 50 minutes into the ride. If you’re sitting on the right hand side of the bus and are paying attention, you will have just passed a sign that shows an arrow pointing towards “Pomaire.”
Step 3. Walk to the road diagonal from you
This is where things get a bit tricky. Your driver will let you off on the side of the road. No bus stop. No sidewalk.
The bus will continue down that road. Don’t walk that way. Instead, you need to cross a few feet over to the toll booth and follow that short road up and around the curve, bypassing any toll booth payers there may be. It’s an odd experience, but a legal one!
When you’ve passed the tollbooth and are walking along the curved road, you’ll see a short set of dirt steps built in the ground. These steps lead from the lower road you are on to the higher road where you need to be.
Walk up those steps.
Congratulations! You made it to the Pomaire “bus stop.” There will be absolutely no indication you’re in the right place. No sign. No bus stand. You’ve just got to trust yourself…and these incredible directions 😉
Don’t worry, it’s super safe! You’ll be in the Chilean countryside surrounded by fields, mountains, and livestock.
Step 4: Get on a Pomaire bus
The sign on the bus will say “Pomaire.” Just flag down the bus. They’ll be looking for you, since this “bus stop” is a common thing for people coming from Santiago. Buses pass frequently, so you don’t have to worry about waiting on the side of the road for long. The ride costs 400 pesos.
For context, when I went to Pomaire, I would have had to wait over 1.5 hours to take the direct bus from Santiago to Pomaire. By taking the
Melipilla bus, I arrived to Pomaire in 1 hour and 3 minutes…totally worth the bus change!
Alternative option: Walk instead of taking the bus
If you’re the hiking type, you can easily walk to Pomaire from this makeshift bus stop. The distance is less than 5 kilometers and the bus ride is just a few minutes. To walk, go up the dirt stairs as if you were going to take the bus. Then, turn right (in the opposite direction of the bridge) and walk straight until you hit Pomaire. It’ll be the first town you come to.
Where to get off the bus in Pomaire
You’ve made it to Pomaire, hooray!
The good news is that the hardest part is over (and that wasn’t very hard, right?). Pomaire is a tiny town and is made up of two main roads forming a triangle.
I recommend getting off at the white church that marks the start of the town and one point of the triangle. From the church, you can walk down the road to the right or to the left. These are the veins of the town, and all you need to be familiar with to do proper exploring with your day trip to Pomaire.
Things to do during a day trip to Pomaire
When it comes to things to do in Pomaire, the answer is easy- walk through pottery shops and eat empanadas. This is what the town is known for, and for good reason!
As you now know, Pomaire is designed in the shape of a triangle with the two long roads being the area of all things tourism. However, of these two roads, the one on the right hand side, when you’re facing the white church, is the very center of tourist attractions.
Take a short walk down the road to the right and you’ll soon find restaurants showcasing gigantic empanadas. You’ll also come across loads of touristy pottery shops.
Travel Tip: Aim to visit Pomaire Wednesday – Sunday. Chilean tourists, especially from Santiago, are the most frequent tourists to Pomaire. As such, the weekends are bustling, and there isn’t as much open in town early in the week.
1. Admire the pottery
When circling around the triangle, starting at the white church and heading down the right hand side of the road, you’ll find that you travel from the high tourist area to gradually more home-based pottery stores and workshops. Take a left at the end of the road and you’re not going to find much, except another restaurant and pottery shop or two.
Take the next left and you’ll be completing the triangle circuit, this time starting with the more home-based pottery stores and ending with the more touristy stores, although slightly less touristy than from where you started.
A local pottery store located towards the back, and less touristy, part of Pomaire.
I personally found it more rewarding, and authentic, to purchase my pottery directly from potters at shops towards the end of the road. You can also get some extra good deals, although either way the pottery is cheap. This is a great place to stock up on pottery, if you’re a homeowner looking for some ceramic flair in your house.
If you don’t need, or want, large pieces of pottery but would like to take a souvenir home with you, make it a three-legged clay pig or an “Abundancia de la Suerte”– a traditional cornucopia-type basket believed to bring luck.
For anywhere from .50 cents – $3 USD you can bring home one of these tiny treasures to remember your day trip to Pomaire. The three-legged piggie banks in particular are a signature from there.
If you get lucky, you may even get to see locals making pottery in their shop!
Did you know? The black pottery you see in Pomaire is a natural coloration from the potter burning grass over the clay. You’ll find pieces that weren’t fully treated and have a little bit of the brown color showing through. Those are my personal favorite!
2. Eat empanadas
You absolutely cannot go to Pomaire and not eat an empanada.
In terms of taste, I personally didn’t find anything extraordinary about Pomaire’s empanadas, compared to emapanadas I had elsewhere in Chile. Chilean empanadas are quite delicious, everywhere in the country!
But in Pomaire, size matters.
The restaurants are tolerant of passersby taking pictures of their 1 kilo+ empanadas that they have on display. It’s a good thing you can take these pictures because it’s easy to expect that you’ll receive an empanada of that size on your plate.
Not necessarily so, my friends.
Of the endless list of meat, seafood, and vegetarian empanadas you’ll have to choose from, only one kind comes large. It’s the “Empanada de Kilo” (Kilo Empanada). Any other empanada will be regular sized, which, compared to what you will have seen, will feel like a portion fit for a mouse.
So what do the Empanadas de Kilo contain? Ground beef, chicken, and onion, among other seasonings.
If the vegetarian in you is cringing, you could try asking for a special order Empanada de Kilo. For the right price, they may be able to concoct something for you, especially if you go to one of the mom-and-pop restaurants further away from the touristy area.
3. Other things to do with a day trip to Pomaire, aside from pottery and eating empanadas
I know, you went through all that effort to take the bus to Pomaire, so there must be more to do than just two things, right?
You could walk down the side streets that periodically connect the two streets forming the triangle. Here you’ll come across more pottery shops and restaurants. You can also find some local packaged sweets that make nice souvenirs. They even sell packaged sweet pear empanadas.
I think that being such a small town built around pottery and empanadas is what makes Pomaire so special. Trust me, if I didn’t think it was worth it, I wouldn’t recommend it.
With 5 – 6 hours, including transportation, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy a day trip to Pomaire and get back to Santiago in time for a nice dinner, or watch the sunset from Santa Lucia or San Cristobal hill.
Travel Tip: As is typical for Chile, things in Pomaire open late. I arrived at 11:00am on Sunday (one of their busiest days for tourism) and things were just starting to get going. I recommend aiming to arrive at noon, or later, to really see the town in action.
How to take the bus from Pomaire to Santiago
Pomaire is the easiest place to leave from, considering it doesn’t have a bus station. That’s because all buses into and out of Pomaire drive the route of the triangle. So, it doesn’t matter where you catch the bus…all bus stops lead out.
Speaking of bus stops, they come in all kinds in Pomaire. Some are fully built masterpieces like this one:
Others have just a tiny green “Parada” stop sign:
And of course, since you are in a small town, you can create your own bus stop. Just flag down a bus, and chances are they’ll stop for you.
Buses pass frequently through Pomaire, every 10 minutes or so. If you ask a local how to get back to Santiago from Pomaire, they’ll all tell you the same thing- get on a bus going to Melipilla.
Unlike in Santiago, there’s no bus representative to consult with about those few direct buses between Pomaire and Santiago. Therefore, I recommend planning to take a Melipilla bus so that you’re happily surprised if a direct bus to Santiago comes around. One exception to this is finding out the time of the direct buses departing Pomaire before you leave Santiago. However, given that the bus change with Melipilla doesn’t take up much time, it’s probably not worth planning your day around it.
How to change buses from Melipilla to Santiago
The bus change from Pomaire to Santiago is different than when you were traveling from Santiago to Pomaire.
When you’re in Pomaire, tell the bus driver “Voy a Santiago” or simply, “Santiago”. Even if the bus sign doesn’t say Melipilla, it very well may be going to where you need to catch the bus to Santiago.
The ride will take about 10 – 15 minutes before the driver motions you to get off. This time, you’ll get off on a wider street in a more residential/business area with nice big sidewalks and…a formal bus stop!
When you get off the bus, cross the street and walk to the nearest bus stop. Then, wait for a bus that says “Santiago.” You shouldn’t have to wait more than 10 – 15 minutes. The ride will cost around 2,000 pesos.
The bus will let you off at Estación Central and you’ll be back in Santiago, likely with a full belly and pottery in hand!
Taking a day trip to Pomaire is the perfect option for the off-the-beaten travel path kind of person. Have you been, or will you be going, to Pomaire? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.
Laura has been wandering the globe for over a decade. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.