By Flavia Labbé S.
In the heart of the Chilean Patagonia, lies Alto Palena, the commune further south from the Los Lagos Region. Set within a wide valley, it offers a variety of touristic activities related to its exuberant vegetation, its mountainous landscape and the rivers that bath it.
Fishing is, without a doubt, the activity that brings more visitors to the region. Nonetheless, if you want to live a unique experience, feel the usual pace of the passing of the days the way the locals do, and imbed in their culture, you can take advantage of the great development that agrotourism or rural tourism is having in Palena.
Alto Palena has a privileged natural environment. That’s the reason why there are many places worth visiting around the town of Palena.
About 12 miles from Palena, you can reach the area of El Diablo, a stunning lush valley and one of the most beautiful places of the commune. Here, you can horseback ride to the lagoon La Golondrina and the Black Lagoon, where you can even fly fish. For all these activities we would recommend you to hire a guide. You can stay in the area of El Malito or organize a daytrip from Palena.
From El Malito, taking a detour south and continuing through a narrow road, you will find the El Tranquilo area. To get there you will have to cross the Palena River on a raft in a deep pool of calm green waters. Here, the path enters fields and woods, between abrupt cliffs with beautiful views of de Palena River valley.
Fly fisher’s destiny
One of the main reasons tourist visit Palena is because of the quality of its fishing. The Palena River is considered by many to be one of the premier trout rivers in the world. Unlike other rivers in Chile that offer large trout, the Palena runs through a diverse scenic river valley. The river is born from a high altitude glacial lake in Argentina, and as it heads toward the Pacific the vegetation becomes almost jungle like. Aside from helping make it one of the most gorgeous rivers in Patagonia, the steep ridges offer the fly fishermen refuge from the relentless westerly winds.
Probably one of the nicest surprises for anglers visiting the Palena is the diversity in fishing opportunities. You may be sight casting to large cruising rainbows on one side of the river, and then swinging a closer to catch a Chinook salmon.
Inside Alto Palena commune, about 26 miles away of the center of the town, you will find Puerto Ramírez. This little village is a touristic destination because of the great quality fishing that can be practiced here. In Puerto Ramírez, experts like to fish were the Futaleufú and El Malito rivers flow into the Yelcho Lake. Here you can fish in a lake, which speaks of the diversity of fishing available in Puerto Ramírez. You can fly fish on float tubes, fishing boats or practice shore fishing.
The marvelous natural surroundings of Puerto Ramírez make it a perfect place, not only for fishing, but also for trekking or organizing horseback riding trips around the village. We recommend you to place yourself in the hands of a professional guide to explore virgin corners of the mountains, marvel at the powerful El Salto waterfall (9 miles away from Puerto Ramírez) and enjoy a privileged view of the Futaleufú River flowing into the Yelcho Lake.
In Puerto Ramírez you can find accommodation for every taste, such as cabins, camping, family type lodging and Bed and Breakfasts.
Lago Palena National Reserve: a well kept secret
Dominated by ice covered mountains and millenary forests of lenga trees, lies the isolated Palena Lake, located in the natural reserve of the same name. This reserve was created in 1965 to assure the preservation of the huemul deer, the trees and the natural landscape. It covers a surface of 41.380 hectares.
To enter the reserve you need to ask for authorization to the CONAF office and go with an experimented guide. This natural wonder is in Chile but also in Argentina, where it is called General Winter Lake. It is interesting to add that you can only visit the lake in summer, since the bad weather conditions make it impossible to access the lake the rest of the year. In fact, CONAF keeps one park ranger from December until March, closing the area the rest of the year.
The road is quite long, you can take up to 2 days to arrive and you can also go by horse, but there is no way to get to the lake by car. Halfway to the lake you can stop in El Azul, where you will find a Bed and Breakfast, or continue with a 5 hour hike, until you’ve reached the shore of the Palena Lake. Here, you will find a well equipped camping.
In spite of these difficulties and its remoteness, the visit to Palena Lake will be highly rewarded by the uniqueness of the place, with a beautiful water mirror 900 meters above sea level, all with a background of high snow capped peaks and glaciers, simply striking.
Feeling like a local
Many tourists are drawn by the idea of travelling to virgin and faraway places and explore it in depth. By doing this, they want to be a part of the traditions of its people and do as locals do, instead of travelling to one of the many saturated touristic destinations.
In Alto Palena, agrotourism is having a fast development, and has a very interesting touristic offer. The visitor has the opportunity to spend the night in country houses in the company of its residents and share the rural tasks with them, such as saddling horses, learning to rope a calf, branding animals and cooking the typical delights of the place with the housewife.
The beautiful sector of El Azul, 13 miles from Palena, and that is only reachable by foot or horse, is ideal for the practice of rural tourism. Here, you will be able to milk cows, learn how to make cheese, driving the cattle on a horse and organize walks and horseback rides on the surroundings of the area.
How to get to there
- You can reach Alto Palena taking route CH-235 from Puerto Ramírez or from Argentina, taking the border crossing point in Río Encuentro, going through Corcovado and Carreleufú in Argentina.
- From Chaitén and Futaleufú, buses run almost daily.
- Municipalidad de Palena: www municipalidadpalena.cl / +(56) 65 741217 / +(56) 65 741218
- Buses Río Palena (Palena – Chaitén): +(56) 65 741319
- Buses Cumbres Nevadas (Palena – Chaitén / Palena – Futaleufú): +(56) 65 241926