A major perk of visiting Chile’s capital – aside from stopping in for a show at the Santiago Municipal Opera House – is its proximity to the Andes mountains. Although the major modern city is home to a few lovely parks, much more spectacular views await outside of the metropolis. Many nature lovers hike through the Andes, but visitors can also enjoy mountain views while soaking in the Termas de Cajón del Maipo, hot springs near Santiago, Chile. Besides, sinking into the soothing waters is even more relaxing after a long trek.
Termas Colina in Cajón del Maipo
In Spanish, these hot springs are referred to as both baños colina and as termas colina. (Baños means baths, while termas references the thermal waters that fill the pools.) This collection of beautiful blue pools is peacefully nestled behind the massive mountains of Cajón del Maipo, and the light frosty surface of the water looks similar to photos of the dreamy Pamukkale pools of in Turkey.
Like other hot springs, the hottest water is piped into the top pools, while the cooler waters trickle to the baths at the bottom of the structure. When I visited Termas Colina, most visitors (including myself) enjoyed sitting in the two lowest pools. They were much more crowded than the empty top baths; but if you can take the heat, you may be able to enjoy a hotter pool all to yourself.
When I arrived relatively early in the afternoon of a week day, I only met four other visitors. It was equally nice to chat with them and to enjoy the scenery together in silence. By the time I left, a more tourists had arrived after longer hikes through the Andes – and a friend of the owner also told me that the hot springs become busy at night because local bathers enjoy breathing in the cool evening air and star gazing during their visits.
If you’re ‘mud masks’, you can scoop up some of the mud at the bottom of the pool to smooth over your skin. I had a scrape from my hike, and a fellow bather recommended I slather it on my leg. ‘Can’t hurt,’ I thought – so I did. I’m not sure what sort of effect it had on the injury, but after emerging from the pools my skin felt milky smooth. My newfound friend tried to tell me all about the nutrients in the water and the mud, but my Spanish isn’t good enough to translate minerals, so I just nodded and smiled a lot.
Facilities at Baños Colina
Unfortunately, the facilities at Baños Colina en Cajón del Maipo aren’t sophisticated. You’d be best to think of visiting the hot springs as half-spa, half-‘roughing it’ camping experience. The compacted dirt paths can be slippery, so hold onto the railings when possible or even scuttle with your hands on the ground between pools.
The primitive changing rooms are composed of a short wooden ‘platform’ (with dirt peeking through the slats) and flimsy curtains. I didn’t bring sandals on my trip, so I kept my feet stuffed in my tennis shoes at all times in the changing room and toilet area. I also avoided the showers, opting to wait until I returned to my hotel – since my guide worried that I would pick up athlete’s foot.
But you don’t go to Baños Colina for the facilities. You go for a rustic, relaxing experience of the great outdoors.
If You Go to Termas Colina in Cajón de Maipo:
What to Pack:
Make sure to bring your swimsuit, towel and sandals with you – so you can safely use the shower. You should also pack a large bottle of water to avoid dehydration, as well as a bottle of sunscreen.
Admittedly, it’s a long slog to reach the remote Termas Colina hot springs from Santiago, but they might just be the highlight of your trip.
You can either reach the Andes Mountain range on a day tour, which will pick you up from or near your hotel, or with a car rental. If you leave the Santiago city centre around 6:00am, you can reach
Cajón del Maipo and squeeze in a quick hike and picnic lunch before you hit the hot springs. Taking a tour is much more convenient, so you don’t have to navigate along the bumpy roads yourself. (You can nap, instead.) However, you’ll have more freedom and flexibility if you go on your own.
Please note that winter conditions are even more precarious. Ketaka.com reports:
In the winter, Baños Colina is inaccessible by car and you can only get there with the help of a snowmobile, a pair of randonée skis, or snowshoes.
Admission to Termas de Cajón del Maipo:
Admission to the Baños Colina is $8000 Chilean pesos (CLP), or approximately $12 US dollars (USD). If you book a tour, the admission will likely be covered.
Did you make the journey to these hot springs in Chile – and how was your visit? If you haven’t been to Termas Colina, where are some of your favorite outdoor hot springs and outdoor baths?