Escape Santiago without leaving the city: Parque Cordillera

Feeling sick of smog, crowded micros, and the fast pace of city life, but don’t have enough time or cash to take an extended trip to another part of the country? Parque Cordillera provides an escape to nature and Andean hiking without even having to leave the limits of Santiago.

Santiago seen from Parque Natural Aguas de Ramón
Santiago seen from Parque Natural Aguas de Ramón

Parque Cordillera was established in 1993 with the purpose of protecting and conserving the cordillera that surrounds Santiago. The park passes through six Santiago municipalities: Colina, Lo Barnechea, Peñalolén, La Florida, San José de Maipo and Las Condes, all of which touch the foothills of the mountain range. In 2005, Parque Cordillera was recognized as a place of high biodiversity, an environment far removed from the chaotic hustle just a short distance from the city center.

Andean cordillera from Parque Natural Aguas de Ramón
Andean cordillera from Parque Natural Aguas de Ramón

Within Parque Cordillera, Parque Natural Aguas de Ramon is a trekking and exploration site for hikers of all levels. It is located in La Reina, accessible by metro, bus and taxi. The park includes three different treks varying in difficulty. El Canto del Agua is an easy walking trail of around 25-minutes, accessible to kids and seniors with good spots to sit, picnic, and relax. The next level up is Paso Los Peumos, a three-hour trail of medium difficulty. The trail passes small waterfalls and provides the chance to observe Parque Cordillera’s wide range of plant biodiversity.

The most difficult, but most rewarding, trek within the park leads to the Salto de Apoquindo. This is a seven-hour hike, the first two of which are spent on some straight up climbing. However, the higher the trail leads, the more impressive the views of the valley and river below, making it definitely worth the calf-burning workout. After about two hours of hard breathing and heart-pumping hiking, the next 45 minutes are flat and offer well-deserved views of the snow-capped mountains. Although the view and the level ground are a fine reward, an even better surprise awaits at the end of the final stretch.

Salto de Apoquindo
Salto de Apoquindo

Curving into a grassy field, the trail passes a small cabin and leads over some large boulders, before the ultimate prize is revealed. A 100-foot waterfall pours down from the cliff face, making the seven-hour round-trip absolutely worth the effort. With view of the waterfall just a few feet away, a small pool of crisp, clear water, and a river rushing by from the force of the fall, this oasis is the perfect spot to stretch out and eat lunch before the descent. The walk down follows the same trail, but after the reinvigorating experience of lunch by a waterfall, the biodiversity and views are just as entrancing as on the way up.

One of the nicest things about living in Santiago is that, for a city of several million people, it is remarkably easy to escape from. Experiencing the majesty of the Andes does not mean having to go all the way to Patagonia or the Atacama. Simply taking a bus to the city's eastern fringes, which sit at the foot on one of the world's greatest mountain ranges, can reveal natural splendor on a grand scale.

Useful Information:

Parque Cordillera:
Parque Natural Aguas de Ramon:

How to get to Parque Natural Aguas:

- From Metro Pricipe de Gales, take the D18 bus (The stop is at Avenida Vespucio, going south). Get off the bus at Avenida Ppe. de Gales and Valenzuela Llanos, walk one block to Plaza La Reina. Take a taxi or walk 25 minutes along Onofre Jarpa towards the mountains.

- From Metro Francisco Bilbao, take the D18 bus (The stop is at Avenida Bilbao, going west). Get off at Avenida Padre Hurtado with Carlos Silva Vildósola, Plaza La Reina. At Plaza La Reina, take a taxi or walk 25 minutes along Onofre Jarpa towards the mountains.

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, 8am to 6pm (If you are doing the Salto de Apoquindo Trek, you will not be permitted to start the trek after 10am).

Entrance fee: $1.500 Chilean pesos (about US$3). For children under 8 years-old and senior citizens, it costs $500 (about US$1).

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