This is the fourth post in a throwback series about day trips you can take from Santiago de Chile.
I lived in this fantastic city for a year 2010-2011, and I just love to talk about it and remember it, and I hope this information will be useful and interesting to anyone planning to spend some time there.
One of the first day trips I took out of Santiago was a hike in the Apoquindo. I can’t remember what prompted me to do this – it’s not the most well-known day trip, a lot of locals haven’t even been there, but maybe I wanted something cheap (i.e. “a luka”, which I quickly learned is the main unit of currency in Chile. The luka (1,000 CLP) is the smallest bill, and is worth about 2USD. It’s what Chileans consider cheap-but-fair, and quite often events will be advertised that way: e.g. “Yoga a Luka” or “Santiago a Mil (which means 1,000)”)
So I dubbed this my “hike a luka” (say it out loud, you know you want to), and it was as brilliant as it sounds. I still clearly remember how stunned I was when we crested the mountain and saw this view.
What is the Apoquindo?
Apoquindo is the name of a river and pre-Columbian settlement located in the foothills of the Andes to the east of the city of Santiago, in the barrio of Las Condes. At the time I lived in Las Condes, so that would have been a big drawcard for me.
Apoquindo is a Quechua word (the Quechua were people indigenous to the area) meaning flowers for god.
What is the hike like?
The hike itself is in the Parque Natural Aguas de Ramón.
There are three different hikes you can take in the Park: the Canto del Agua trail (two to three hours), the Los Peumos (four or five hours), and the whole hike to the Saltos (waterfall) de Apoquindo (18km – up to eight hours round trip). We took a combination of the two shorter hikes as we realised we didn’t have enough time to reach the waterfall. Unusually for South America, parts of the longer trails can be closed later in the day for safety reasons (to make sure hikers have enough time to get home in daylight). So if you plan to do the whole hike you should start early.
It’s quite a standard hike – some walking poles would be handy as you need to cross a couple slippery streams and for some extra stability on steeper sections. A moderate level of fitness would be required for the steeper sections, and you should definitely take basic safety precautions such as telling someone where you will be and what time you expect to return, and take a small first aid kit. You will see a few other hikers on the trail, although it was not busy by any means. The tracks are dirt but quite well maintained. There are also a few eco toilets along the longer parts of the trail.
If you reach the waterfall, they are 1643m above sea level – the climb from start to finish is about an 800m gain.
What will I see?
The views are stunning, as you can see, with the Andes suddenly so close you feel you can almost reach out and touch them. I did the hike in spring, and the weather was 18-20 degrees Celsius. As we got higher into the mountains we completely did not expect to see patches of snow but it was lovely to pick some up and throw it around to cool off a bit!
You will get a great view across the city and probably see first-hand the phenomenon of the Santiago smog. Situated as it is between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, air pollution from local industry and dust tends to get trapped in the basin and hovers over the city with nowhere to go.
You will also see flora typical to the Central region of Chile –look out for the litre tree, which can cause a poison-ivy-like reaction. It’s a good idea to stay away or, if you like, give a hearty “Hola Señor Litre” as tradition dictates.
There are also a lot of cacti. Don’t touch these either.
If you’re lucky you might see some wildlife such as culpeos (wild foxes) (also not for touching).
From metro station Los Dominicos, take the 421, C02 or C02c bus to San Carlos de Apoquindo. It takes about 10 minutes, and if you have just arrived at Los Dominicos using your BIP card, the transfer is free!
You will have to sign in with the guards and give them your ID or passport details and phone number. If they want to know where you are headed just say “sendero” which means trail. You may or may not have to pay the entrance fee of 3USD – we didn’t but I’ve heard others say they did and if so, I’m sorry as that would ruin your hike a luka.
There is a basic map of the area a short way along the trail – it’s probably a good idea to take a photo.
Complete your experience
Well, it’s not particularly relevant to this particular hike, but somewhere in this series I have to mention Isabelle Allende. So I suggest you read “Inés of My Soul”. It’s an historical novel, tracing the life and deeds of Inés Suárez, a little-known conquistadora and the first Spanish woman to reach what is now Chile. Allende writes with the voice of an elderly Inés to recount the many twists, turns and tribulations of Spanish conquest in the old Inca Empire.
“Machuca”. Again, it’s not related to hiking so much, but it’s an interesting movie set in Chile that a lot of people haven’t seen.This is the synopsis: As Chile drifts toward civil war, three young children try to bridge the chasm between their vastly different backgrounds and find themselves faced with moral tests far beyond their understanding.
My favourite bakery, Castaño, conveniently has an outlet at Los Dominicos station. I recommend some empanadas and alfajores. (I visited again in 2015 and I can confirm it was still safely there and just as good as remembered)
If you want something a little healthier, there is a Santa Isabel (supermarket) above the station too.
I’ll go with the classic “Waterfalls” by TLC – as in, don’t go chasing that waterfall if you don’t get to the trail nice n early.