By Flavia Labbé S.
The touristic attractions in Futaleufú are so many that it makes it difficult to reduce them to a few pages. The first thing that catches your eye when you reach this commune of the Palena Province, is the way in which greens, yellows and blues interact with each other in a scene of incredible natural beauty.
When the landscape begins to change, and you can gaze the first snow-capped peaks, the columns of long poplar trees, stunning lakes and rivers, you know that you are approaching Futaleufú.
Some 5 miles before entering the town, the Espolón Lake will welcome you to the commune. Its emerald green waters are perfect for fishing, but also to be navigated calmly by kayak or motorboat, while enjoying the astonishing waterfalls, majestic mountains and the deep vegetation that encircles the lake. There are some touristic services on the area that provide accommodation and well equipped cabins too.
Near Espolón Lake lies another beautiful lake, called Lonconao. Smaller than the former, at its shore you will find a camping area and you can also organize walks through the hills that surround the lake.
Adventure sports to suit every taste
Visitors from all over the world come to Futaleufú every year, in order to feel the adrenaline in the whitewater rapids of the Futaleufú River.
The Futaleufú is no ordinary river. Its bright turquoise waters, wind its way through the lush Chilean rain forest and imposing cliffs, creating explosive and untamed whitewater, unparalleled anywhere in the world. Its rapids, born from the glaciers of Los Alerces National Park in Argentina, can reach class V (one of the highest levels of difficulty in river rafting), turning, this way, into one of the best rivers in the world to practice rafting.
According to the experts the “Fu”, like the locals call it, has everything that is needed to become a real paradise for rafting: long rapids, good flow and just the right slope. Most definitely, practicing rafting in this place is a unique experience, not only because of the quality of its rapids, but also because of the awe inspiring beauty of its surroundings.
Despite the speed of the rapids, it can still be considered as a very friendly river, since it has very few stones and is pretty deep. This avoids one of the major risks in this sport: falling and hitting against the rocks.
If you are a beginner at rafting, don’t be afraid, it’s not necessary for you to jump into a level 5 rapid. On the contrary, the Futaleufú River is a good option for those initiating in the sport, since it also has less challenging rapids, but not for that reason less exciting. Furthermore, if what you are looking for is to practice this sport with your family, you can book a family rafting trip through the Espolón River, the largest tributary of the Futaleufú River, where you and your loved ones will enjoy the magnificent landscape around the river while swimming in its crystal clear waters.
Other extreme sport you can practice here, and that has become very popular over the last few years, is Canyoning. This consists in hiking through gorges and descending down waterfalls with the use of ropes and climbing gear, of course with the help of a qualified guide. In Futaleufú, this sport can be practiced in the waterfalls of Gelvez Canyon, Los Molinos Canyon and El Palenque Canyon.
To practice all the activities above mentioned, you can find touristic offices with experienced professionals and high security standards in Futaleufú, where you can choose and book the excursion that better suits your taste.
A great river to fish
If you are the kind of person that chooses sport fishing in order to escape the city life, Futaleufú has all it takes to offer you a unique fishing experience. The Futaleufú River is not only known for being a world class rafting river, but also because it provides superb fly fishing opportunities. This restless river is home to a prolific population of rainbow and brown trout and also Coho and Chinook salmon.
You can fly fish in different sectors of the Futaleufú River, but also in Lake Espolón and Lonconao, in the Seno Muerto Lagoon and in Espolón River. Here, you will fish backed up by an idyllic setting, surrounded by glacier capped peaks, native forests and under a bright blue sky.
Patagonia on foot
If none of these water activities catch your attention and you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, in Futaleufú you can also practice trekking, horseback riding and mountain biking. The best places to do this are the ones that lie near the town, like Las Escalas and the Futaleufú National Reserve.
One of the favorite routes chosen by the trekking lovers is the one that circles the Futaleufú River on the southern side, known as Las Escalas. The trail goes through the Los Reyes and Las Escalas Valleys until it reaches the place where the Azul River flows into the Futaleufú River. In your path you might see the huemul deer, culpeo foxes, and birds like the black woodpecker, the “Martín Pescador”, and marvel with the amazing coigüe, tepa and ancient mañío woods.
The Northeast section is another circuit you can choose, that can also be done by bike and lasts around a day. The route runs along the Espolón River, reaching the waterfalls of Lake Espolón and the “Eagle Stone”, from where you will enjoy a breathtaking view of the lakes and rivers of the area.
The touristic infrastructure in Futaleufú is growing, and you can currently find accommodation of great quality and very good restaurants, also several tourism companies that offer a variety of outdoor activities with great experience in the field.
Without a doubt, there are a many more attractions hidden in Futaleufú. We highly recommend you to ask the locals for information about other things you can do in town, and you might be in for a surprise. Most likely, you will end up drinking mate next to a fire and listening to stories about colonization and faraway places from your host.
How to get there
- You can reach Futaleufú by car continuing in the Carretera Austral from Chaitén, following the CH-231 route from Puerto Ramírez.
- Argentinean route: From Esquel (Argentina) travelling through Trevelín until the border crossing point El Límite (50 km, Jacobsen Buses in Argentina) and from El Límite to Futaleufú (10 km) you can travel with Buses Futaleufú (+(56) 65 721458). This route will give you the opportunity to discover the beautiful Argentinean towns of Esquel and Trevelín.
- From Chaitén depart daily buses to Futaleufú (150 km, 3 hours journey).
- Municipalidad de Futaleufú: www.futaleufu.cl / +(56) 65 721535 / +(56) 65 721241
- Buses Cárdenas (Chaitén – Futaleufú): +(56) 9 81280135
- Buses Cumbres Nevadas (Chaitén – Futaleufú – Palena): +(56) 9 85976405