Places to visit near Santiago

Alhué

Alhué is located 150 km from Santiago. According to the indian tradition, it is the town of ghosts, but it is more obviously a little-explored example of the colonial past, a few kilometers from the center of Santiago.Alhué is considered a typical zone. Before the 1985 earthquake, more than 90 per cent of the houses were built in adobe, and today there are still stones standing at the street corners to prevent yokes from damaging the constructions as they turn. The town with its dirt roads is still a surprise to visitors, considering that it is only a couple of hours from downtown Santiago.

Attractions in Alhué include:
 
Iglesia Parroquial The parish church is the only important building to have survived the 1985 earthquake and it is a testimony to the colonial past, reflected in the classical Spanish architecture and the interior adorned with sacred images of brightly painted wood. It is open from Monday through Friday from 10.30 to 12.30 and from 15.30 to 18.30 hrs.

Plaza de Armas

The main square is a very busy place with several handicraft stalls. Here you can find good quality saddlery articles, textiles, homemade jams and mistela, an alcoholic drink made from grape spirit.

Cerro Alto de Cantillana

This mountain, 2,281 meters high, is the highest of the Coastal range. You can take a couple of days, on foot or on horseback, to get to know it, appreciating all the native fauna and flora of the region. It is a private property and you can only climb accompanied by local guides.

Reserva del Cobre de Loncha

Here, only a few kilometers south of Alhué, you will find the largest roble forest in the region. In the reserve is the Embalse Carén, the property of Codelco. It is a recreational area for the local inhabitants who can go picnicking or fishing, and is also an attraction for those interested in nature and history.

Pomaire

Located in the Cordillera de la Costa, 60 km from Santiago, Pomaire is a popular place for visitors looking for some of its well-known handicrafts, or those who want to enjoy the traditional cuisine. The town is known especially for its pottery, which is nothing new. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, utensils such as clay pots, plates and cups constituted basic commodities amongst the indian population of the Valle Central. The fame of this small ravine located 7 km east of Melipilla continues to rest on the quality of its reddish clay.

On weekends, this village next to the highway receives thousands of visitors who buy the typical products that are offered along Calle San Antonio and Calle Roberto Bravo, the two main streets in Pomaire. A tour round the various stalls shows both classical and modern pottery work: traditional pots, cups, beakers, and piggy banks, as well as figures from television programs and painted objects. You can still see the traditional potters at work.

The clay is prepared by hand and then molded using a potter’s wheel driven by foot with a treadle.In Pomaire you can also find wickerwork, wood and metal handicrafts, and nurseries offering house plants.

Buin

Buin is located 35 km from Santiago. Here you can find plant nurseries, restaurants, dog breeding centers and even a zoo in the section between Buin and Champa, in the first kilometers of Ruta 5 Sur. You only have to cross the river Maipo to see Ruta 5 change its look. From being a road worn by time it becomes a comfortable modern highway with characteristic features for the next 950 km to Puerto Montt. At this point in the Maipo Valley, a section begins – the 20 km that separate Buin and Champa – where a rural landscape predominates, offering various alternatives which invite the tourist to stop at the roadside to buy, have fun or simply look. Several of these small stops together can make up an interesting day out for the family.

To start with, you will find nurseries and gardens on both sides of the road. Here you can buy roses and citrus trees, both summer plants, fruit and forest trees, indoor plants, pansies and auricula.The open countryside of this zone also includes breeding centers for pedigree dogs, with no less than thirteen breeds on offer. One of the attractions of Buin is the BuinZoo, the biggest private zoo in the country with an area of five hectares and animals from all over the world. They are arranged by their continent of origin. The zoo has two eating places, pet sales, an aviary, bird exhibition areas, and direct access from the Metrotren. You can turn off the Carretera Panamericana Sur direct into Buin.

Los Molles

This resort is located little more than 2 hours from Santiago and maintains its rustic charm and beauty, set in a beautiful natural landscape.

Attractions in Los Molles include:

Puquén or Las Terrazas

These are two natural zones which constitute the main attraction in the area. They are quiet seaside resorts with clear water.El Puquén is the name given to a group of rock formations shaped by the sea with a crack between them, where the water is compressed as it enters the underwater caves, producing a thunderous sound.
 
Isla de Lobos

Dozens of sea-lions can be seen on this island, located on the right hand side of Puquén.

Isla Pájaros

This island, located a little further north, is covered with hundreds of birds that have transformed the place into their home, and a multi-colored carpet of thousands of flowers.

Las Terrazas

You get to Las Terrazas by walking north along the beach. It is a natural rock formation dating back to remote geological ages, shaped by the sea to look exactly like a terrace. It is an ideal place to take photographs and enjoy the sunsets, when the sea is sufficiently calm.

Laguna de Aculeo

This lake is located little more than an hour from Santiago. Sports such as kayaking, sailing and water skiing can be practiced here. You can also camp, fish, and go riding on horseback and bicycling in this resort.The Laguna is 4 km wide and 8 km long, and has two islands. The characteristic flora and fauna of the central zone are found here. Quillayes, peumos, some robles, as well as hares, foxes and birds are part of the landscape. There are also big estates that come right down to the shores of Laguna Aculeo.

You can go right round Aculeo by car or on foot, and you will frequently see sailing boats on the lake at any time of day. This is an excellent area for sailing, with piers located in several places where small boats can tie up, including kayaks, water scooters and small rubber dinghies, in which amateur fishermen test their skills fishing for pejerreyes. There are several places where you can fish from the shore, such as Camping El Alamo, situated at the western end of the lake. Before you turn off the Panamericana Sur on the road to the lake, you will find a variety of eating places, as well as nurseries and furniture stalls, amongst other attractions.

The road from the Carretera Panamericana Norte to Laguna de Aculeo is a distance of 19 km, offering beautiful views of its picturesque houses. Laguna de Aculeo also offers other tourist attractions such as Cerro Cantillana, which rises to 2,800 meters above the sea level, with a natural viewpoint which offers a spectacular panoramic view of the area, from which you to can observe the flora and fauna of the region.

Paine

The main attraction of Paine is the Laguna de Aculeo, a summer resort popular with Santiaguinos. There are 702 square kilometers of fertile valleys with roble forests where country traditions, reflected in religious festivals, the heritage of the indian and Spanish forbears, are still preserved.

The main outlying villages are El Tránsito, Huelquén, Chada, Hospital, Abrantes, El Manzanito, Peralillo, Huiticalán, Aculeo, Pintue and Rangue. One of the traditional festivities is the threshing of the wheat by galloping mares which takes place in the town of Rangue, beside the Laguna de Aculeo. The Cruz de Mayo is a traditional festival in which singers, singing in the canto a lo humano and canto a lo divino styles, perform songs handed down and preserved from generation to generation. Other festivals are Semana Santa (Easter) and pilgrimages to the Virgen del Cerro (in the Aguila Sur area), whose small altar is perched on the top of the Cordillera de la Costa. The natural environment offers a chance to observe the flora and fauna, and an invitation to walk, ride and go on outings.

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