The practice of outdoor activities is one of the main benefits of the great Valley of Aconcagua.
A generous land of farms and mountains, sun and pure air, of barren rock and wild vegetation, eternal skies and virgin snows; this is where by the end of the 19th century Incan groups, seduced by the beautiful plains, arrived and started a new life in a hamlet which soon was transformed into one of the happiest and most active villages in the region. According to the history the village colonists called it "aldea donde se pone el sol" (small village where the sun is put), others called it "valle de Chile" (valley of Chile). Each Incan group that arrived in the valley gave it different names, all in relation to the place where the sun is put, some of these names originating from Conconcagua, Canconcagua, Concahua, and Aconcagua, which was the one that stayed. The river which is used today to irrigate the valley was named in the same way.
Location and Characteristics of the Area
Río Blanco Railway Station
This land of farms located 80 kilometers to the northeast of Santiago and at 120km east of Valparaiso, with as much eternal fertility today as there was in the past, has been used by its inhabitants for various small farming crops and fodder in the beginning followed later by fruit farming, livestock, and today for agro-industry where the prevailing work is fruit packing for exportation including grapes, peaches, plums, kiwis, dried fruits, and manufacturing wines and liquors through hand-labor and semi-industrial plants.
In the high part of the valley, the mountains provide the wealth. Valuable minerals such as gold, silver, and copper have been extracted since the Incan epics.
With a mediterranean type of climate and well marked seasons; A winter with rain, snow and maximum temperatures of 7° C and a sunny summer that easily reaches maximum temperatures of 32° C. The area of the Great Aconcagua Valley consists of the provinces of Los Andes and San Felipe, in total 10 communities. The architecture that is seen in the populations of the area mix the colonial with the modern, highlighted by ancient constructions of a religious order such as the churches.
Fiestas and Tourist Attractions
Nowadays several sectors of the valley have recovered traditional festive activities such as "trilla" to "yegua suelta" (mare thrashing), taming of the colts, and the rodeo. This has also happened with some religious festivals such as the Virgen de Andacollo in San Felipe, the Virgenes de las Nieves (the Snow Virgins) in Calle Larga, Santa Filomena in Santa María, and that of San Francisco in the town of Curimón.
Nearby highlights include museums which hold valuable species from colonial times located in Los Andes, Curimón, Putaendo, and San Felipe.
Jump of the Soldier Monument Added to this are the consecrated tourist centers such as Jahuel, Baños del Corazón (Baths of the Heart), and Portillo. It is possible to find half dozen recreational grounds with bathrooms, most preferable in the summertime.
Found in the valley and declared a national monument is the tree where Don José of San Martin tied up his horse, today located in the Putaendo Plaza de Armas. The Monument of the Battle of Chacabuco, is close to the toll plaza with the same name. Also highlighted is the house of Don Pedro Aguirre Cerda, one of the first presidents of Chile, which is found in the town of Pocuro. Also along the Camino Internacional (International Road), it is possible to find the monuments of the Battle of the Papers, and the Battle of the Old Guard. In addition there are the Refugios de Correo (Refuges of the Mail) which date back to 1765 in the little village of Juncal, and in the full summit of the Andes is the significant Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) which marks the border's edge with Argentina.
Mountaineering and Excursions
For lovers of mountaineering and other outdoor activities, this area is naturally wealthy having more than 35 mountain peaks which are between 1,200 and 6,110 meters above sea level giving origin to countless gorges and ravines where more than 20 streams empty their crystalline waters into 4 lagoons and 8 rivers that in turn irrigate 5 inner valleys and run through seven mountainous canyons.
Serranía del Ciprés
In the full heart of the Aconcagua Valley is a place of special attraction called Serranía del Ciprés (Mountainous Region of the Cypress) located in the folds of the mountain cord Bellavista. This place is part of a project supported and subsidized by the United Nations Development Program whose object is to study the current status of the Cordillera Cypress, located at more than 2,000 meters with the purpose of conservation of these trees.
Serranía del Ciprés is accessible by mountain bikes, by foot, by vehicles with double traction up to the picnic zone. After that, walking or horseback riding is permitted on the slopes of the gorge which are rich in native plant species such as quillayes, maitenes, and peumos, as well as an abundance of birds. At the next point where the two slopes converge and the path stretches out and disappears, the first cypress trees are visible and the other trees start to give way to this single species.
This journey can be done in a day and the ideal time to visit is in fall, winter (with snowy terrain), and spring, as in summer the heat and the water shortage can make the stretch difficult. Highlights in the area include the picnic area, and it is ideal for camping. By climbing the hills Tabaco and Bellavista, it is possible to appreciate a stupendous view of the river basin and of Aconcagua Valley.
Text and Photos Courtesy of Jorge Venegas
Mountaineering and Guide Instructor