Cajon del Maipo, Santiago
The Cajón del Maipo is a glacial valley that turns into a river valley for the Rio Maipo that heads from the Andes down into Santiago. It is a mountain paradise only about an hour's drive away from Santiago. People head up the valley to get away from the city. You can go rafting, horse trekking, hot springs, hiking, looking at rocks and rivers :) (hey I like that kind of thing!!)....
To get here it is easiest by car as this will give you more flexibility. If you haven't got a car you may consider biking up the Maipo which is a popular passtime in the area. There are also buses that go up.
The Rio Maipo valley is formed out of the Andes Mountains and provides journeys into the Cordillera, providing amazing mountain views above and below. There is a lot to offer such as outdoor activities ranging from hiking, rafting and mountain biking. The main towns are San Jose de Maipo, founded in 1791 following the discovery of silver deposits nearby, and also San Alfonso. In the valley there are wine vineyards and the small but interesting Andes Museum with displays of precolumbian artefacts. You can ascend highter via El Volcan, Banos Morales for the Monumental Nacional El Morado; Banos del Colino for its natural termas; and further east, Cajon del Morado for the huge glacier.
When my parents visited Chile for my wedding to Christian I had to take them to the Cajon de Maipo. It is afterall one of my favourite places near Santiago!
We went to a rafting place close to San Jose de Maipo and to a picnic spot in San Jose de Maipo called Parque los Heroes, which is where the rafting trip ends. The pictures are of us having a Chilean style bbq in the park grounds and rafting with company Aventuras Cajon del Maipo.
Go to Cajon del Maipo. Trip for the day, 60 kms from Stgo. You can go to Pirque first, visit Concha y Toro winery (tour guides in English and Spanish, make an appoinment before is a good idea) and then continue your day in San José de Maipo, visiting the old church (colonial).
Picnic in the border of the river is a nice and local custom. There is a lot of places, with good facilities and without facilities.
If you like rafting, you can go to San Enrique. There is a place where you can do rafting, ride a horse for the day or for more than one day in the Cordillera. (Cascada de las Ánimas: has a homepage, I don't remember the URL but is easy to find) You have to make reservations first, in Santiago they have and office and you can call them.
The view is wonderful almost in avery way but...don't think it is a Canyon as Grand Canyon or something. It is only the place where the river goes between the mountains. I'm telling you because I met some americans that have some kind of ads about Canyon del Maipo and they thought they will see something amazing but they found only wine.
High up in the Cajon del Maipo is the El Morado National Park. This is a pretty spectacular place to hike any time of the year. You either need a car or take one of a few organised trips there. Turis Montaña goes there on Wed/Sat/Sun. Bus leaves from Plaza Italia.
The entrance to the trail is at Baño Morales. From there the sendero leads up a fairly steep hill but after a kilometer or so the going gets easier. In winter snow shoes may be needed if you wish to go far up the valley. In spring there is a possibility of avalanches, so take care. In summer there is a huge variety of flowers and birds. The birds tend to be quite tame. For the fit, it is possible to hike all the way to a huge hanging glacier at the end of the valley.
If you only have 1 day for visiting this area go by metro (line 5) to Bellavista and then get bus to S.José,San Gabriel or San Alfonso.These villages are connected by the very cheap taxis called "colectivos".
a quiet and pretty valley that (actually two) where you can hike or hang out at a river and pass some time outside the sometimes very hectic capital. there are nice cabañas to rent, so you can stay for the whole weekend.
activities: hiking, swimming in some hot pools, skiing in winter
My friend and I booked the "wine tour" package at Cascada de las Animas, an eco-tourism resort in the Cajón del Maipo. The wine tour includes transportation to / from Santiago, a tour of the Concha y Toro winery, lunch at Cascada de las Animas' restaurant, a hike up to the waterfalls, and zip-line across the Maipo River. We decided to stay 1 night at the hostel affiliated with the resort and also booked a 2+ hour horse trek the following day. (There are actually cabins on site but they fit at least 4 people, so we went with a double the hostel instead.)
We were picked up at the airport promptly by our driver, which was quite nice as we usually do not have good luck with taxi drivers. We got to the winery a little late because our flight was delayed for about 30 minutes. They did manage to accomodate us and put us with the next tour. It was pretty good and we got a taste of Chilean wine and I guess it was just what we needed to cure our jet lag :)
The staff at Cascada de las Animas were friendly. Francisca, who handled our reservations, is quite fluent in English and explained the arrangements with us. Our lunch was in an atmospheric restaurant set beside the river and the zip-line area. We had a little trouble finding the hostel though, since the name is only on one side of the sign. The lady there only speaks Spanish but with a combination of the few Spanish words we know and sign-language, we were able to get by.
We enjoyed all the activities at the lodge, especially the zip line (which was not as scary as we thought) and the horse trek. Our guide, Paul, was very attentive and he even zip-lined with us to help us take some videos! The scenery was amazing - though our horse trek was a tad scary for us first time riders (it was quite safe, we were just a little afraid of heights). The resort also offer other adventures like white water rafting or longer horse treks. Based on what some of our fellow riders (?) told us, they enjoyed them as well. The only minor nit is that the tours don't always start or end on time, so it was a good thing we weren't in a hurry.
The village is pretty small, so there aren't a lot of food choices. Also, the prices are a bit higher than Santiago. If you like the outdoors, you would enjoy a trip to the Cajón del Maipo.
Total cost for 2 ppl including lodging, transportation and activities: About 180,000 CLP
A winding road/trail through the Andean foothills. Amazing scenery following along the Rio Maipu. Great vistas and places to camp or cool your feet in the river.