Trip Reports: Valle De Aguas Calientes, Chile - November 2011

After our long bus ride south from northern Chile and a quick pitstop in Santiago, we’ve spent the last several days in and around Las Trancas, a sleepy mountain town set in a gorgeous forested valley below two volcanoes. Las Trancas is situated down valley from the famous Termas de Chillán hot springs and ski resort; however, we bypassed the commercial hot springs in favor of a backpacking trek to some remote hot springs on the other side of the mountains.

Chile, South America, Valle de Aguas Calientes, Termas de Chillán, hot springs, hiking, photo

Hiking past some hot springs above Termas de Chillán.

After hiking through the forest we were surprised to see how much snow is still in the mountains! Apparently they had an epic winter here. We donned our crampons and headed over a high pass.

Chile, South America, Valle de Aguas Calientes, Termas de Chillán, photo

Hiking over a snowy pass to get to Valle de Aguas Calientes.

Chile, South America, Valle de Aguas Calientes, Termas de Chillán, photo

Looking down into Valle de Aguas Calientes.

Here’s the view from near the pass, looking down into Valle de Aguas Calientes. (Photo taken on the way out). Though we knew by then to expect lots of snow, we were still a bit shocked to see the total snowpack coverage in the valley, and started to prepare mentally for a couple uncomfortable nights of camping on snow. The rivers you see down in there are all hot spring rivers, so at least we wouldn’t freeze to death!

Chile, South America, Valle de Aguas Calientes, Termas de Chillán, photo

A hot spring river cuts through the snowpack, showing how big of a winter it has been.

Chile, South America, Valle de Aguas Calientes, Termas de Chillán, photo

Our hot spring oasis in the snow (notice our little gray tent in the center).

Very fortunately, after a bit of exploring we found a meadow where a series of hot spring creeks had melted the snowpack off! This lifted our spirits big time, as it meant that we wouldn’t have to camp on the snow after all. It was pretty funny to be camping on dry green grass, totally surrounded by snow!

Aguas Calientes, Chile, South America, Termas de Chillan, Termas de Chillán, photo

Hot spring creek and volcano above.

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Wine and hot springs.

It doesn’t get much better than this!!! The river behind Claudia was actually scalding hot, but this joining river was the perfect temperature for a soak… along with a tasty Chilean wine of course.

Valle de Aguas Calientes, Termas de Chillán, Chile, Vulcan Chillan Viejo, Chillán, hot springs, photo

Valle de Aguas Calientes

The hot springs rivers in Valle de Aguas Calientes steam in the cool dusk air.  The water here is scalding hot, though a joining river right around the corner is a perfect temperature for a soothing soak below Vulcan Chillan Viejo.

Aguas Calientes, Chile, South America, Termas de Chillan, tent, Termas de Chillán, photo

The obligatory nighttime tent shot.

After two days of soaking in the hot springs and generally chilling out, we headed back over the mountains to Las Trancas, for more adventures!

Posted in Backpacking & Trekking, Andes and tagged Chile.