Cajón del Maipo is a canyon located in the Andean southeastern portion of the Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile. A frequent destination for Santiaguinos looking for a break from the noise and feverish pace of the city, it offers quiet, tranquillity and beautiful surroundings and isn’t too far from the city center.
How to get there
I was surprised to find that this area is easily accessible by Metro. You will need to get on the Blue line (linea 4) and get off at the penultimate station in the south (Las Mercedes). From there you can catch a colectivo for about 2 mil pesos to wherever you want to go.
Where to stay
We stayed at Cabañas Nogalia in San Alfonso. A very agreeable location consisting of 3-4 quiet cabins with asado grills and a small swimming pool. It cost $55.000 per night for two people. There are plenty of options in the area so look around for something you like, you can check out Tripadvisor for ideas.
What to do
In my view, Cajon del Maipo is a place to go to relax, reflect, enjoy asados and go walking in the stark but beautiful Chilean brushland and mountains. You don’t really need any organised activities at all to have a good time here.
As for swimming in the river, you should probably forget it. The water is brown, fast and very cold (5-10 degrees celsius) so this is only a realistic option if you’re feeling suicidally brave.
If you are looking for something a bit more organised, there are plenty of options. Horseback treks are offered in various places including San Alfonso, but most activities are based in the major town of the area: San Jose del Maipo. The river is the main feature in the valley so most ventures revolve around it, including rafting, kayaking, hydrospeed and highwire.
On our first day in San Alfonso we took a long walk west off the beaten track, along the river-side. As well as accidentally stumbling across a highwire course devoid of people, I also met a group of guides launching white water rafts. They turned out to be members of Chile Rafting and after a chat with the bearded and friendly owner, I decided to book a trip with them the next day.
As an experienced kayaker I am no stranger to white water, and rafting turned out to be great fun even though it doesn’t involve any real skill.
Rafting is totally safe and suitable for people with no river experience. The rafts are tough and pretty much just bounce off any rocks. The guides were fantastic and had everything completely in hand the whole time. I can definitely recommend Chile Rafting for a rafting adventure if you’re into that kind of thing. Cost is $19 mil pesos for the longer trip, but watch out – you will get wet and that water is very cold!
Cajon del Maipo makes for a wonderful break from Santiago for a long weekend. If you’re feeling tired of the noise and smell of the city, you could do far worse than to escape for a few days to this spot.