Cajón del Maipo, a narrow canyon where the Maipo River flows, begins just 16 miles (25 kilometers) southwest of Santiago, but its picturesque scenery, fresh air and charming mountain towns feels worlds away. Santiago residents often escape to Cajón del Maipo on the weekends for hiking, rafting, horseback riding, climbing, cycling and skiing. Rafting season lasts from November through March, while winter sports take over from June to September.
At the heart of Cajón del Maipo lies San José de Maipo, the biggest city in the canyon. Founded during a 1792 silver rush, the town maintains many of its colonial adobe structures as well as an eighteenth century church in the Plaza de Armas in the center of town.
Hot springs scattered throughout the canyon offer opportunity for relaxation, while roadside stalls sell fresh-baked bread, Chilean empanadas, honey and other food items to stave off hunger pangs during a day of exploration.
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