Around Santiago

This region can be divided into three: to the east are the peaks of the Andes; to the west is the coastal range; and between is the Central Valley. On the eastern edge of the Central Valley lies Santiago, its more affluent suburbs spreading east into the foothills of the Andes. Some of the highest peaks in the range lie in this region: just over the border in Argentina, Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the world outside Asia, rising to 6964 m. There is a mantle of snow on all the high mountains, while the lower slopes are covered with forests. Between the forest and the snowline there are pastures; during the summer, cattle are driven up there to graze. In this area you can ski in winter, hike in summer and soothe your limbs in thermal springs year round. The less energetic may opt for a vineyard tour, sampling en route.

Pomaire

A small town 65 km west of Santiago, Pomaire is in a charming setting surrounded by high grassy hills dotted with algarrobo bushes. The town is famous for its clayware; the main street is full of shops selling dark clay pots and kitchenware, as well as diverse
artesanía
from all over Chile including fine basketwork from the Central Valley and some lovely items made from the
combarbalita
stone from the north. There are probably few better places in Chile in which to buy general souvenirs and presents (although bargaining is not really entered into); pottery can be bought and the artists can be observed at work, before visitors retire to any one of numerous restaurants serving traditional dishes such as
humitas
, giant
empanadas
and
pastel de choclo
.

Reserva Nacional Río Clarillo

This reserve covers 10,185 ha and is situated 45 km southeast of Santiago in the
precordillera
at between 850 m and 3000 m. It offers excellent views of the higher mountains and of the surprisingly green pastures of the foothills. The information centre is at the entrance, 2 km southeast of El Principal. There are guided trails
and wildlife, including the endangered Chilean iguana, salamanders and the rare bird, torcaza. The reserve is also the only remaining home to
sclerophyllous
(hard leaved) trees in central Chile. In summer it is very hot and horse flies are a nuisance. There are no places to stay and camping is forbidden. If you are in the city for a while it is a good place to get away from the bustle for a day.

Santuario de la Naturaleza Yerba Loca

Reached via a
ripio
side road off the paved Route G21, 25 km northeast of Santiago towards Farellones, this park covers 39,000 ha of the valley of the Río Yerba Loca, ranging in altitude between 900 and 5500 m. It was founded in 1973. From the park administration office a four-hour walk leads north to
Casa de Piedra Carvajal
, which offers fine views. Further north are two hanging glaciers,
La Paloma
and
El Altar
. You may spot eagles and condors in the park. Native tree species include the mountain olive. Maps and information available from CONAF. There is no accommodation here.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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