Cajón del Maipo, a narrow canyon where the Maipo River flows, begins just 16 miles (25 kilometers) southwest of Santiago, but its picturesque scenery, fresh air, and charming mountain towns feel worlds away from Chile’s capital city. Thanks to its close proximity to Santiago, though, Cajón del Maipo is one of the more popular day trip destinations for an easy escape to Chile’s famed wilderness.
Hiking, rafting, horseback riding, climbing, cycling, and skiing all rank among Cajón del Maipo’s offerings for outdoor adventure. Most guided tours will include two or three activities, so shop around for which options appeal to you the most. Look for tours that include hiking the rim around the Embalse el Yeso Reservoir, rafting down the Maipo River, taking in views from the San Jose Volcano, or soaking in the Baños Colina hot springs. For a look at local history, visit San José de Maipo, located at the heart of Cajón and the biggest city in the canyon. The colonial town still retains many of its original adobe structures as well as an 18th-century church in the town center’s Plaza de Armas.
Things to Know Before You Go
Most Cajón del Maipo tours include round-trip transportation from Santiago.
Weather changes quickly in the Andes Mountains; be sure to wear comfortable layers and check the forecast before your trip.
Roadside stalls sell fresh-baked bread, empanadas, and other food items to stave off hunger pangs during a day of exploration.
Due to the canyon’s popularity, a small-group tour or private tour will help you stand apart from the crowds.
How to Get There
The easiest way to reach Cajón del Maipo is on a day tour that includes round-trip transportation from Santiago, which allows you to get there hassle-free. Otherwise, catch one of the frequent buses to San José de Maipo from Santiago’s Plaza de Puente Alto metro station, or between Bellavista de La Florida station and Baños Morales on the weekends (or every day during the summer). You can also get a taxi for a higher price.
When to Get There
Santiago residents often escape to Cajón del Maipo on the weekends, so try to plan your trip for a weekday to avoid the city crowds. Rafting season lasts from November through March, while winter sports take over from June to September.
Wine and Sunshine
In addition to its status as a perfect weekend getaway, Cajón del Maipo is also known for its Chilean wines. Look for tours that include stops at wineries or other chances to sample the region’s signature varietals.