Despite Santiago’s seductive nightlife scene, diverse weekly arts and cultural events and the many delectable gastronomic havens housed throughout the city, a break from the smoggy hustle and bustle is sometimes necessary. If you can manage to break away from the carrete obligations you’ve undoubtedly picked up during your stay in Chile, consider a short weekend trip to El Refugio Tricahue.
Photo courtesy Kyle Weaver
Just an hour and a half outside of Talca, the refuge is nestled in Region 7’s foothills where the Maule, Claro, Melado and Tricahue rivers meet. The refuge, built in 2004, boasts an idyllic landscape guaranteed to satisfy any nature lover.
Perhaps one of its most underrated attributions is the story behind the whimsical series of events that led to the refuge’s creation. Undeterred by distance, founders Dimitri and Betty, an audacious, adventure-seeking couple, biked from Belgium to Santiago four years ago (save the bodies of water, naturally--though with their fiery track record, the thought of biking over those could have crossed their minds as well).
After stumbling upon the Andes mountains at Tricahue Park, they settled and built the charming wooden cabins, which presently host a motley crew ranging from avid sportsmen, to honeymooners, to tired English teachers in need of respite. The meticulous craftsmanship put into the refuge’s rustic architecture evokes a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere that makes home a distant memory. For five luca (CP$5,000, or US$8) a night you can enjoy the luxury of these picturesque lodgings under a stellar star-lit sky that will leave you wondering whether Orion’s Belt or the Big Dipper can be found in the Southern Hemisphere.
When asked why they decided to build the refuge, Dimitri simply smiled and said, “Why not?” The couple's infectious can-do attitude shines through in the array of outdoor activities they proudly provide, like bike rentals, fishing, camping, horseback riding and hiking.
Hiking routes range from a leisurely three-hour tour to a more intense, 10-hour guided hike. The refuge also houses a quaint sauna and pool deck to help you relax after a day of outdoorsing.
If you're tempted, make reservations ahead of time, since Dimitri and Betty only check their email twice a week and have limited phone access.