El Morado is the name given to one of the most popular hikes in Cajón de Maipo, an area that follows a narrow river valley south east of the city, heading up towards the Andes, and to Argentina. Along this serpentine road, there are loads of places to stop and eat everything from full meals to a traditional coffee and kuchen (German-style fruit pastry), and in the plaza in San José del Maipo (the main town), there are always handicrafts for sale.
But further up the valley is the entrance to El Morado, a wide open uphill hike on which you can see the many striations of natural coloration in the rock, from red to brown to green and yellow. If you continue up, you arrive at the San Francisco Lagoon and Glacier. For those who have never seen a glacier before, it’s a stunning sight, and though you’ll probably want to dip a hand or foot in the milky glacial lagoon below just to say you did, you’ll probably quickly step away, as the water is at near freezing point. When the ice of the San Franciso Glacier is stable, you may see people climbing it, though it goes without saying that that is only for well-equipped experts.
Possible animal sightings here include many different types of birds including a giant hummingbird and some small mammals such as the small, burrowing herbivorous coruro, that looks a bit like a prairie dog.
The El Morado hike and glacier are in an area that is very exposed to harsh weather such as wind and snow. Be sure to go with a qualified guide and be prepared for a very sunny walk, with SPF clothing and good quality sunglasses. There can be snow up on this hike until late December, and the sunlight reflected off the snow is very bright.