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Horse Riding in Chile’s Andes Mountains just one hour from Santiago

Story by Chile

Posted: April 19, 2013

One hour southwest of Santiago, the road grows narrower, the foliage becomes greener and small restaurants selling freshly baked empanadas line the pavements.

Huasos (northern Chilean gauchos) herd cattle from horseback, a river runs its course through the valley lined with vineyards, and the tall Andes Mountains grow up all around.

With the effects of heat and high altitude to consider, a good way of exploring the Andes is on horseback. The small village of San Alfonso is home to eco-tourism resort, Cascada de las Animas, where you can do just that.

Greeted by Crisencio, head horse guide, we have a quick demonstration before being allotted our horses for the day. Cascada de las Animas was once an estancia, but now it's an action-packed resort where you can hike, kayak, raft and stay over in tents or cabins.

There are 37 horses in total, and the rides are suitable for beginners and pros alike. Due to the steep terrain, the pace never exceeds a walk.

Following Crisencio in single file, we head up the hillside admiring the large cacti at either side of the path. Steep and rocky in parts, after about an hour we reach a viewpoint overlooking the lush Rio Maipo Valley.

This mountain is called La Campana, and measures 1730 meters. We notice just how high we have climbed (at very little effort thanks to the horses) as we watch condors soaring around below us.

Descending into a woody glade called Cruce de los Maquis, we find ourselves at the lunch spot. Tying up the horses in the shade, some riders go for a dip in a nearby mountain pool, whilst others watch Crisencio prepare lunch over an open fire.

Sausages, steak, salad, and a glass of local Maipo Valley wine slip down nicely. A couple of hammocks hanging below trees beckon for us for a quick nap before it's time to set off again, retracing our steps back down the mountain.

A full day horse riding in the Andes with Cascada de las Animas costs $60,000 pesos. There are also shorter rides, including a half-day option. San Alfonso is reachable by public transport from Santiago: take Metro line 4 to Las Mercedes and catch the N72 metrobus. The metro and bus will take roughly three-hours, compared with one-hour by car.