El Yeso Dam is a reservoir located in the Santiago Metropolitan Region of Chile, around 60-miles (98km) from the Chilean capital. In 1964, it was created by damming the Yeso River and now is one of the major sources of water for Santiago.
However, the reservoir is also a stunning area of picturesque natural beauty and makes for an excellent day trip from the city.
Where is El Yeso Dam?
Located in the mountains southeast of Santiago, El Yeso Dam is only accessible by 4×4. From Puente Alto, a city at the south of the Santiago conurbation, a paved road heads towards San José de Maipo and the well-known Cajón de Maipo, a deep river gorge that is the main location of outdoor activities in the region.
Here, the road continues before it forks, with a left turning along an unpaved track taking you to El Yeso Dam.
From the turn off at Puente Alto, it is a drive of around 45-miles (70km) with a time of approximately one hour 45 minutes.
What to see and do at El Yeso Dam
The shimmering turquoise hue of the waters of El Yeso Dam or Embalse El Yeso as it is known by the locals, makes it a truly spectacular place to while away an afternoon. Surrounded on all angles by the snowy peaks of the Andes Mountains, this dam feels hidden away from civilization.
During the summer, the dam is a popular destination for a day trip, with visitors bringing picnics to enjoy by the side of the water or even coming as part of a windsurfing tour. El Yeso Dam is also suitable for fishing.
What to see around El Yeso Dam
Further up the dirt track from the dam are the Termas del Plomo. Heated by the thermal activity of Volcán San José, these hot springs sit at an altitude of 9,500-ft. (2,900m) above sea level. Visitors can relax in the soothing waters or hike an hour to visit Laguna de Los Patos, a lake known for its crystal clear waters.
The entrance to the the thermal springs costs $5 USD.
Considerations before visiting El Yeso Dam and Termas del Plomo
Before setting out on a trip to the area, it’s important to consider the following pieces of advice:
- A 4×4 is essential for visiting El Yeso Dam and the Termas del Plomo. This is because of the conditions of the road, which, although some of it is paved, also contains sections that are unsuitable for vehicles with 2×4.
- From El Yeso Dam to the Termas del Plomo, there are parts of the road that are susceptible to landslides, so it is essential to take care when driving.
- The best time to visit both attractions is in spring and summer. During the rest of the year, snowy or wet conditions can make the roads dangerous or impassable.
- Take clothing for all weather types with you as temperatures can drop significantly at altitude. It’s also essential to take plenty of food and water.
- Don’t leave any rubbish at either site.