In a secluded coast range valley on the border between the Metropolitan Region and Region V ( Valparaíso), northwest of Santiago, the village of Caleu has attained a certain rustic chic among Santiago’s elite—including ex-president Ricardo Lagos, who owns a weekend house here.
Perhaps because it has avoided the more garish aspects of Chile’s economic transformation, Caleu is widely regarded as symbolic of a simpler past, with its modest artisans’ market and November’s equally modest Feria Artesanal y Gastronómico (Crafts and Food Fair).
There’s little to do in Caleu except kicking back, walking, riding, and birding in the nearby mountains (Parque Nacional La Campana is just across the regional border to the west, via the serpentine road over the pass known as Cuesta la Dormida). La Cabaña de Steve (tel. 099/5177222, US$70) can sleep up to five people on orchard grounds with a small swimming pool.
Chip Travel (Av. Santa María 227, Oficina 12, Recoleta, tel. 02/7775376, www.chip.cl) offers day tours of Caleu and vicinity, including transportation, snack, lunch, and hiking, for US$75 per person for a minimum of three people; larger groups pay less per person. Horseback riding costs an additional US$25 per person.
Caleu is about 75 kilometers northwest of Santiago via Ruta 5 (the Panamericana), the town of Tiltil, and a northbound lateral off the road over the Cuesta la Dormida. An alternative route leaves the Panamericana at Rungue and heads directly east to Caleu. The only regular public transportation is daily with Buses Colina (Av. La Paz 350, Independencia, tel. 02/7374572), which leaves at 4 p.m. daily (US$3, 1.5 hours).
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition