A trip on horseback for a day in the cordillera near Santiago takes us up high. The beauty is as unexpected and spectacular as in the high Andes, known as the ‘alta cordillera’, although the scenery is beautiful in a different way. We reach rugged rocky parts, but much of the scenery also has wonderful trees and bushes, cacti and exotic plants. Most of the ride will be below the tree line.
There are streams and pools rather than lakes at this level. If you are camping it is less cold at night. On the day rides, which are popular with people looking to get an experience of the Andes in a day out from the busy and hectic pace of Santiago, you get a good feeling of being away from it all in the rich beauty of the mountains at this level, even though the journey to get there is shorter and less arduous than for the high cordillera.
Horseback rides in the high Andes, the ‘alta cordillera’
Horseback rides in the cordillera of the high Andes in Chile start up there at over 2000 metres (6,500 feet), above the tree line. There is no long preliminary trail up through the pre-cordillera. The views are always spectacular and, depending on the time of year, you will also find myriad exotic wild flowers. There may well be snow and always water to bathe and refresh after the day’s riding, whether it be an ice blue lake or rushing streams. The beauty is truly indescribable. In all of time very few people have been there before, even though now, in addition to the local arrieros, or horsemen, a few intrepid tourists are beginning to find this place. There are mountaineers and walkers, but horse riding is the pleasantest and easiest way to access these high mountains. There are nearly always trails, made in the ancient of days by arrieros (horsemen) driving for cattle to and from Argentina, and riding up to care for the horses which are pastured there.
For some time mountaineers, solitary and on foot, have been exploring these mountains, sometimes to practice before an expedition to Everest. Now it is possible to go on horseback and experience the same contact with nature at its wildest and most inspiring, and also at its most beautiful and reassuring.
The paths and horse riding trails in the Andes
In addition to riding in the Andes, you can walk and have your baggage and equipment carried for you. We have a service for mountaineers in January and February.
The paths and trails are sometimes steep but our horses are bred in the mountains and are sure-footed and strong. They are well looked after and well fed and have no difficulty with the steepness, even with a heavy load on board. The skill of the horses, and the unimaginable beauty of the landscape, is such that the rides are fascinating and entertaining for advanced and less experienced riders alike, even though we rarely go out of a walk. We offer camping or hotel alternatives, or a mixture of the two, since although the tracks are remote there is a dirt road to a small nearby mountain resort, Bano Morales, where there is also a national park with some good walking.
Rides in the high Andes can be for anything from one to seven days, or even up to two weeks if required. We have a heavenly campsite in a ‘vega’ (green meadow) by a little river, with flowers, birds and the occasional fox and condor to accompany you.
We have cooks who will provide a delicious evening meal, around the camp fire, after a pleasant day followed perhaps by a bathe in the small nearby lake. Most of the rides can go out from this one place with no need to keep changing campsites, although for longer rides we might need to change occasionally.
Also, there is a small, clean, simple hotel accessible from where the rides start out, so that visitors who prefer not to camp can sleep there.
We can tailor the rides to be long or short, more or less challenging and all variations according to your taste. Because the mountain paths are often steep and the terrain is rugged, we rarely go out of a walk. The rides are still exciting and fascinating, because of the nature of the mountains, the paths and the incredible views which cannot be accessed in any other way, unless you are a mountaineer.
Camping at 2000 metres in a secret valley
We pitch camp in a little green valley crossed by a small river and many little streams. The valley is full of birds and flowers and is a delight in itself. Close by there is a small lake where you can bathe after a the ride. Evenings can be spent walking around to look at flowers , or relaxing with a book on our camp chairs, glancing up from time to time to see the hummingbirds gathering nearby in the evening light. They behave like flycatchers and hover near us catching the few insects that survive up there, rather than sipping from flowers as they do down below.
The camp site is so delightful, and the daily rides can so easily be tailored to individual needs – longer or shorter, more or less difficult – that this place would be suitable for a family with children. Parents need to be aware that the cordillera de Los Andes is not a country club park, and there are dangers, but our guides are experienced and careful so that the pleasure of a campsite, barbecues, lassooing and managing horses and mules and so forth, could give enormous pleasure to children. Not to mention riding out to a glacier, or crossing easy rivers on horseback.
This is the perfect holiday on horseback. It is difficult to think of a vacation which could help you relax, free you from pressures and stress, more effectively than riding in the cordillera – the mountain chain – of the central Andes.
Easy access from Santiago and its international airport. A holiday which combines extreme location and activity with the relief and relaxation that comes form being well looked-after and cared for, surrounded by the most incredible beauties of nature.