Torres del Paine National Park

Yerba Loca Nature Sanctuary, Santiago de Chile

Yerba Loca Sanctuary, Chile.
Image: Outlife
Yerba Loca Park is located very close to the capital of Chile, precisely 25 km from Plaza San Enrique, in the municipality of Lo Barnechea. It lies in the foothills of the Andes, en route to the winter resorts. It was created in June 1973 and has an area of 39,000 hectares, of which more than 11,000 are under the protection of CONAF (National Forest Corporation).  
The reserve extends from the western peak of La Paloma hill to the peak of El Plomo. The altitude varies from 900 to 5500 meters, so the variety of flora is very rich. As for the fauna, birds predominate, especially birds of prey, and to a lesser extent you can see mammals and reptiles. 
The sanctuary owes its name to the Yerba Loca stream that flows from the La Paloma glacier, at almost 4000 meters of altitude, on the other hand, according to local tradition, the name Yerba Loca ("Crazy Grass") would come from the strange and nervous reactions of animals after grazing the abundant grass of the area. As for its waters, you should not drink from the stream, not even boiled, because it contains sulfates that cause severe stomach upset.

Because of its proximity to the city of Santiago, the beautiful mountain scenery and the attractions it contains, the reserve is included in several tours around the capital of Chile.

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Best Time to visit Yerba Loca

Since this is an area at the foot of the Andes, in Winter the snow covers the entire park, for this reason it is recommended to make Randonnee Tours and admire its beautiful snowy landscapes, however the access is closed when you cannot move around. The best time to visit this Nature Sanctuary is from September to March (Spring - Summer season) when the landscape is shown at its best, which can be enjoyed with various outdoor activities such as horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking the trail, climbing the hills: La Paloma, Falso Altar and Altar.

How to get to the Protected Area

Yerba Loca Sanctuary of Nature, Chile.

The first option is taking some of the Tours available, some of them are detailed below. Although the directions of how to get there are quite simple, there is no established public transport. A good option is to rent a Taxi service available at Plaza San Enrique, not far from the Natural Sanctuary. Those who go by their own means must take Las Condes Avenue until this road is renamed Camino a Farellones. You must continue until an area full of curves begins, at curve # 15 is the entrance to the Reserve. All this way is paved road. From the entrance to Villa Paulina facilities are 4 km of gravel.

Attractions of the Nature Sanctuary

Among its facilities stands out Villa Paulina, 4 km from the entrance to the park, a service area with campings, bathrooms, "quinchos" (BBQ sheds) and recreational activities. Its main attractions are Casa de Piedra Carvajal, about 17 km from Villa Paulina. Casa de Piedra Carvajal is a strangely shaped rock formation, adapted since ancient times to be used as a rustic refuge for herders, a construction where native peoples would have inhabited since pre-Hispanic times. 

Glaciar La Paloma, one of the largest in the Central Andes of Chile. Formed during the last Glacial Period, La Paloma Glacier once covered most of the 20 km of the valley, although today it presents an important retreat. This excursion can be considered one of the must see for Nature lovers in the surroundings of Santiago. Las Cascadas, at the feet of Falso Altar mountain, which in Winter are frozen, many people take the opportunity to climb them. Archeologically, the Reserve is also a very interesting site since at least 100 important sites have been found with traces that date from 6,000 to 8,000 years BC.  
A relevant finding occurred in 1954 when herders discovered the so-called Momia del Cerro El Plomo ("Mummy of El Plomo Mountain)", which are actually the well-preserved remains of an Inca child. Today, the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural in Santiago houses the child's body in a refrigerated chamber to which only researchers have access, while a replica of the body is exhibited to the public in the Chile Biogeografico room. More information HERE. 

Information & Tours around Yerba Loca