The Andes Mountains are massive
They extend 4,300 miles through seven South American countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. They offer every climate variation, elevation and trekking difficulty level. If adventure and unbelievable scenery is what you are looking for, this is the mountain range you must visit!
Chile is a great place to begin your exploration because of the vastly different climate zones from the north to the south. If you visit northern Chile, the Atacama, your Andes experience will be drastically different than Patagonia in the south. The Atacama is the driest desert in the world, while the southern Andes will bring you face to face with gigantic glaciers. Be aware that both the Atacama and Patagonia typically require a second flight out of Santiago to explore.
If you don’t have time to jet set or simply don’t want to travel to remote areas of Chile you are in luck, Santiago is surrounded by the Andes and you can reach them by car or via public transportation in less than an hour!
We had one day in Santiago and chose to hike in Aguas de San Ramón Park. In less than an hour we arrived in the parking lot and began our ascent. There are numerous trails within the park, we chose the longest one, which ended at the Los Andes waterfall.
We hiked up and down steep trails, jumped through rivers and climbed rocks in search of the best views. What we saw was incredible, every valley was filled with a variety of flowers, cacti and greenery that extended up the peaks. We stood at every turn back and felt miniscule next to the sight of these gigantic rolling mountains.
The best part? The silence.
While you walk, listen to the sounds around you. There is a peacefulness about nature that can relieve any stress and calm your mind. Focus on the water flowing, leaves rustling and birds singing. Walking through the Andes Mountains is an experience that can only be fully enjoyed by engaging all of your senses.
The bigger the group you travel with, the louder your hike will be. At one point we passed a group of 40+ people following in line down the narrow trails. When we walked by them we could no longer hear the stream in the valley below, or the birds that had been chirping seconds earlier.
You aren’t going to be able to fully explore the Andes Mountains with a day or two of hiking, but it will allow you to understand why so many people travel from all over the world to marvel at these mountains and it will leave you wanting more.
How to Visit the Andes from Santiago
There are many tour companies that take day trips into the Andes. There are plenty of trails to be explored, but I suggest you do your research and make sure that you go in with the correct expectations. Make sure you inquire about the level of fitness needed to complete the hike and whether lunch is provided or if you need to bring your own snacks and water.
I suggest asking how many people they take on their tours and how many guides are on the hike, so you can try to get with a smaller group.
Meeting a group at your hostel and renting a car for the day is a great way to see the Andes and save some money. Ask your hostel owner or other locals where the trails begin, your drive should be around 1 — 2 hours. Most of the park entrance fees are very low, $1-2 if you arrive on foot and $5 per car.
The trails are usually well marked with signage along your hike, so you don’t have to worry to much about getting lost. Bring a map and a compass to ensure you don’t spend the night with the cacti, and don’t wait too long to start heading back in case it takes you longer than expected.
Alternate Day Hikes From Santiago
Río Clarillo National Reserve – only 45 kilometers outside of Chile, this reserve was created to preserve central Chile. Its main attraction is the Clarillo River, which provides water to nearby communities. This trail is open year round for hiking.
Cerro Pochoco – this trail can be very steep, but offers fantastic views of the Andes mountains. Plan for a three hour round trip hike if you are taking your time to enjoy the scenery and taking photos along the way.
What to bring with you:
- Small backpack
- Lightweight rain/wind jacket
- Swimsuit/Towel (for swimming in waterfalls along the way)
Couple Travel Tips
- Meet other couples to hike along with you. Most of the trails are clearly marked, but it is always safer to hike with more people.
- Enjoy the silence. You usually spend all day talking with your second half. For the day practice experiencing more and talking less, you will be glad you did!
- Bring water! This was in the previous list, but I wanted to highlight it. You are hiking for 8+ hours in a day, you need to stay hydrated. I suggest bringing at least 2 liters of water per person. It will be heavy when you start the hike, but that’s all the more reason to keep drinking it!
- Check in with the park rangers, especially during the winter, on how the weather conditions have been and ensure the trails are safe to hike. Even though some trails are known to be open year-round, there may be unforeseen conditions you aren’t aware of.