When standing in the streets of Santiago, surrounded by whistles and horns, the snowcapped Andes stand in the east as an invitation to escape. When city dwellers do choose to escape the city, a favorite spot is Baños Colinas set high in the Andean foothills. Here at a lung-testing 8,200 feet—where even the air in the middle of summer has a welcome alpine chill—travelers can slink into thermal springs that are naturally heated by the earth. The waters here have healing qualities and rich deposits of calcium, and you’ll notice your skin is soft and smooth after this alpine soak with a view. Speaking of views, a popular activity in Baños Colinas is hiking amidst the hills, particularly the trail to a panoramic viewpoint of San José volcano. Serious alpinists can continue farther to the highest peaks and ridgelines, although most travelers are content with a day hike followed up by a soothing soak in the naturally heated pools. To extend the adventure into the night, bring a tent and sleeping bag to camp atop the hills—cradled beneath a blanket of stars that bursts through the inky black night.
Baños Colinas is located 2.5 hours from the capital city of Santiago. The final eight miles are on a rough dirt road that can often be impassable in winter, and travelers should prepare for inclement weather during any time of the year. Admission to the hot springs is approximately $11 for adults and $6 for children, and while camping here is a popular activity, modern facilities are limited.