Day Trip to Pomaire from Santiago

If you’re looking for traditional Chilean crafts, along with a traditional hearty country meal, Pomaire (po-MAI-ray) is one of Chile’s most vibrant crafts-oriented town, and it’s just a short ride from Santiago. The main street stretches several blocks, and all along are stores on either side selling the terracotta dishes, vessels and figurines for which the town is known.

Famous baked terracotta

Pomaire was founded in 1771, and since then has become known throughout Chile for its particular style of baked terracotta. All of the bowls all over Chile, which are used for traditional dishes, such as the baked potage of pastel de choclo, or chupe de jaiba, the first a kind of corn-topped shepherd’s pie, and the second a thick crab bisque, are served in bowls from this area. Terracotta dishes go from oven to table, and retain the food’s heat.

Pomaire labeled dishes

Pomaire labeled dishes – photo courtesy of Eileen Smith

But bowls are not the only product to buy in Pomaire, in addition, there are large round pots with and without lids, shallow dishes perfect for casseroles or lasagna, sugar bowls, small bowls for serving olives or nuts, bowls with matching spoons to serve pebre (Chile’s version of salsa fresca) and, perhaps most famously, three-legged pigs.

Pastel de Choclo

Pastel de Choclo – photo courtesy of Pedro Villavicencio

Good luck pigs

The three-legged pigs, which come in many sizes, from about the size of a penny through up to about the size of an adult’s hand, are often given as gifts, and make great souvenirs. They are considered a good luck charm, and many people will go from shop to shop looking for the perfect chanchito de la suerte (little good luck pig). Since they’re made by hand, they’re all a tiny bit different, and newly, brightly painted versions are appearing.

Colorful Pomaire pigs

Colorful Pomaire pigs – photo courtesy of JB

Modern innovation on Pomaire’s traditional goods include colorful, glazed terracotta, domed candleholders with cutouts and brightly painted piggybanks in a variety of shapes, including that of the propane gas canisters which most Chileans use to fuel their stoves. And if you’re lucky, on weekends you may find an alfarero (potter) at work, molding, cutting, or throwing the clay on a potter’s wheel.

Pomaire also serves as a quick primer in traditional Chilean games and food, with wooden toys such as the ball-in-cup (emboque) and trompo (top), and products such as chestnuts in syrup, country-fresh eggs and a variety of jams for sale beside the terracotta items.

Pomaire eggs

Pomaire eggs – photo courtesy of Eileen Smith

Day Trip from Santiago

Pomaire is just 50 km from Santiago, and makes a great day trip from the city. It is easy to take a tour, rent a car, or take a local bus to the town. Saturdays and Sundays are especially popular with Chileans, and family-friendly restaurants serving traditional food such as pastel de choclo (see above) perníl (pork shoulder) and cazuela (a vegetable soup based on either beef or chicken) in large restaurants do brisk business.

LAN Airlines and its affiliates offers 39 flights weekly from the United States to Santiago, with 14 nonstop flights weekly from both New York and Miami.

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