Chile is arguably the most famous for its ecotourism, so if you decide to study abroad in this amazing country, no doubt will someone ask you were able to experience the amazingness of Patagonia, or specifically in Chile, el Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. Stories and pictures will ensure you of the amazing hikes, breathtaking views, and unforgettable memories, but what if, like me, Torres del Paine isn’t exactly in your budget (because the price tag sure is hefty) or your travel plans (because they’re as confusing and as complicated as can be) ? Here’s a few great places I’ve hiked in the Santiago area that I have absolutely, and while I’m sure there’s nothing like Torres del Paine, the views you get during these hikes are nothing short of breathtaking.
1. Cerro San Cristóbal
This was my very first hike in Chile, and probably the most famous one in Santiago. This short, but someone strenuous hike (depending on your experience level and the weather, because the sun and heat can make you sweat ten times more than you usually would) is easily accessible by public transportation and walking, although it’s a little tricky to find at first. Take a few hours to trek up this cerro and get some amazing views of Santiago, even above the smog!
2. Aguas de San Ramón
This being my second hike during my time in Chile, after a long hiatus of pretty much zero physical activity, I found this hike to be a lot more difficult, but no less thrilling or exciting! The journey to the Parque Aguas de Ramon is a little lengthy (requiring a metro ride, micro ride, and 20-30 minutes walking uphill through a gorgeous neighborhood in La Reina) but the views of the cacti-filled mountains and Santiago off in the distance are truly unbeatable.
3. Cerro Manquehue
This was another hike that I found pretty difficult to get to (a friend and I ended up taking a pricey uber through a beautiful Beverly Hills esque neighborhood together, and somehow, after a long walk, found micro to take us home) but I think this is definitely one of the more daring and challenging hikes in the Santiago area. The views are absolutely beautiful, but my fear of heights and the intense steepness of the hike kept me from reach the summit, just 15 minutes away from the top. Nonetheless, hopefully I can come back to Chile one day, conquer that fear, and reach the top to see what I’m sure must be an even more amazing view than the ones I already saw.
4. Cajón del Maipo and San José de Maipo
This was, hands down, my absolute favorite hike in Chile and possibly one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life. Located only a few hours from Santiago by car, in June especially, Cajón del Maipo boats a beautiful, glistening, snow-covered canyon with sparking blue water below. I ventured out to Cajon del Maipo on a whim on a random Monday when I didn’t have class, and I honestly feel like it was one of the best decisions I made during my time abroad. After enjoying the beauty of the canyon, my friends and I took our car to venture off on a hike a few minutes away in the mountains of San José de Maipo. The views of the snow covered mountains were absolutely unforgettable, and although the hike wasn’t extremely strenuous for me, the cold weather and the trek through the thick snow kept my blood pumping for sure.
There are numerous other sites and blogs that can be searched to find many more hikes and treks around Santiago and all over Chile, because the country truly has so much natural beauty to offer. And I’m sure Torres del Paine is an amazing experience, but the beauty I got to experience while hiking in Chile on a budget I could better afford truly can’t be beat. Not all of them were easy to find or navigate my any means, but I know the memories and experiences I had during each hie will be sure to last a lifetime.