Just an hour and a half drive south east from Santiago is the beautiful Cajón del Maipu… boasting towering snowy peaked mountains, hot baths, azure blue lakes and some fabulous trekking, which welcomes you with a well-earnt view.
A weekend away
I stayed at the wonderful Hostel Chikiyan with two friends in a shared dorm. Chikiyan provided a wonderful breakfast with a 360 degree view over the luscious greenery below. We were greeted with fresh juice, coffee and tea, scrambled eggs, warm bread with marmalade and crepes, a great breakfast to fuel your busy day ahead. The hostel was very traditional and rustic, while all the workers were really friendly and willing to help you organise plans and give their local expertise.
Our first stop was Embalse el Yeso, we took the road through San José de Maipo, a small town that is the nearest civilisation for kms, up the winding (and rough) roads towards the beautiful azure blue reservoir. We were lucky that the day we arrived the snow on the road had just melted, but, thankfully, it was still capping the mountains surrounding the lakes, posing as a postcard-perfect backdrop.
Something always happens that isn’t part of the plan…
In our case, our little rental car wasn’t quite used to so much off-road, but thankfully some very friendly Chileans had some jump leads and we were back on the road in no time!
Over the other side of the mountains from Embalse is Laguna Negra, which we unfortunately didn’t have time to visit. We instead drove over to El Volcán to head to either the Baños Morales, or the even further away Termas Valle de Colina, which are very close to the Argentine border.
Make sure that you agree a price before handing over your drivers license, the men at the gate can be known to change their mind and make gringos pay an extortionate price, normally for the afternoon you can expect to pay between $6,000-10,000.
You must also hike the Monumento Natural el Morado, this route leads up to the San Francisco Glacier and the summit of Cerro el Morado, which can be weather dependant. It is a 8k hike, so it is advisable to pack the correct walking gear as it can be quite hard in areas. You can also horse ride, these horses are found near to the entrance of the Baños Morales.
Despite the photograph below not doing the rainbow coloured mountains justice, the Baños Morale’s distinct sludge colour are a result of the mixture of minerals.
There is also a small ski resort in this area, which runs between May and September. Once the weather gets warmer, you would be considered less crazy to go rafting, which is a very popular tourist attraction in the area. Many tour operators organise day trips from Santiago which are a good way to meet people and get an all-inclusive trip.
Finally, if you love beautiful places then hire and car and enjoy some of it’s fantastic scenery…
I highly encourage a trip to Cajón, the views blew me away. Buena onda!