Temuco and around

At first sight, Temuco may appear a grey, forbidding place. However, in reality it is a lively industrial and university town. For visitors, it is perhaps most interesting as a contrast to the more European cities in other parts of Chile. Temuco is proud of its Mapuche heritage, and it is this that gives it a distinctive character, especially around the feria (outdoor market). North and east of the city are five national parks and reserves, and several hot springs, while to the west, in the valley of the Río Imperial, are the market towns of Nueva Imperial and Carahue and, on the coast, the resort of Puerto Saavedra.

Getting there

Manquehue Airport is 6 km southwest of city. There are several daily flights to/from Santiago, Concepción and Puerto Montt.Temuco is the transport hub for the Lake District, and its municipal bus station serves much of the region, as well as the communities towards the coast. The long-distance terminal is on the northern outskirts of town. The city is easily accessible by bus from Santiago (many daily) and has connections to large towns both north and south, especially Talca, Chillán, Concepción, Valdivia and Varas and Puerto Montt (many daily). Train connections to/from Santiago and south as far as Puerto Montt are currently suspended.

Getting around

Colectivos and buses serve the outlying barrios. However, the centre is relatively compact, and few places are more than a 30-minute walk away. When looking for a specific address, be careful not to confuse the streets Vicuña MacKenna and General MacKenna.

Temuco

The city is centred on the recently redesigned
Plaza Aníbal Pinto
, around which are the main public buildings including the cathedral and the municipalidad; the original cathedral was destroyed by the 1960 earthquake, when most of the old wooden buildings in the city were also burnt down. On the plaza itself is a
monument to La Araucanía featuring figures from local history. Nearby are fountains and a small S
ala de Exposiciones
, which stages exhibitions. More compelling, though, is the
feria
, the huge produce market at Lautaro y Aníbal Pinto, always crammed with people (many of them Mapuche), who have come from the countryside to sell their produce.

West of the centre, the
Museo de la Araucanía
, houses a well- arranged collection devoted to the history and traditions of the Mapuche nation; there's also a section on German settlement.

A couple of kilometres northeast of the centre is the
Museo Nacional Ferroviario Pablo Neruda
, www.museoferroviariotemuco.cl. Exhibits include over 20 engines and carriages (including the former presidential carriage) dating from 1908 to 1953. The grounds contain rusting hulks and machinery, while the annex houses temporary exhibitions.

On the northern edge of the city is the
Monumento Natural Cerro Nielol
offering views of the city and surrounding countryside. It is a good spot for a picnic. There is an excellent
visitor centre
 and a fine collection of native plants in their natural environment, including the copihue rojo, the national flower. A tree marks the spot where peace was finally made with the Mapuche. Note that the hill has a one-way system for drivers (entry by Prat, exit by Lynch) and that bicycles are only allowed in before 1100.

Chol Chol

To get a flavour of the life of the Mapuche, it is well worth making a trip to this dusty, friendly country town in the heart of Mapuche country. Daily buses, laden with corn, vegetables, charcoal and animals as well as locals make the 30-km journey by paved road from Temuco across rolling countryside, with views of five volcanoes on a clear day. You will see people travelling by ox cart on the tracks nearby, and a few traditional round
rucas
(thatched houses). There are also several cheap bars in the town, as well as a small museum dedicated to Mapuche culture.

Puerto Saavedra and around

From Temuco a paved road follows the Río Imperial 35 km west to the market town of
Nueva Imperial
, where cattle auctions are held on Mondays and Tuesdays. From here the road continues to
Carahue
, the site of the Spanish colonial city of Imperial that was destroyed by the Mapuche. It has accommodation, a market, supermarkets and shops. The road continues to
Puerto Saavedra
, which lies behind a sandspit south of the mouth of the Río Imperial. Founded in 1897, the town was destroyed in 1960 by a
maremoto
(tidal wave). Fortunately the local population were warned of the disaster by the sight of water draining from the bay, and so few people were killed. However, the impact of the
maremoto
on folktales cannot be overestimated. A local man commented to the author of this book, “We thought it was the end of the world, so we spent two months drunk on the hills until the water receded”. One of Chile's most famous films in recent years,
La Frontera
, was filmed here.

After the
maremoto
, the centre of the town moved inland and its former site at
Maule
, 2 km south, became a fishing port. Just beyond Maule is a track to the incredibly narrow sandspit created by the
maremoto
. It stretches several kilometres north to the mouth of the Río Imperial, where there's a beautiful beach and uninterrupted views of the ocean. The third distinct area of Puerto Saavedra is the resort of
Boca Budi
, 4 km south, where there's an enormous beach.

From Puerto Saavedra a track leads north 2 km to a free ferry crossing over the Río Imperial to
Nehuentue
, on the north bank (there is an alternative, easier but less interesting crossing via a new bridge further upstream). From here launches may be chartered up the Río Moncul to the pleasant town of
Trovolhue
, four hours. Alternatively there is a half paved half
ripio
road north to the town of
Tirúa
, 70 km away.

Lago Budi

The only inland saltwater lake in Chile, Lago Budi lies south of Puerto Saavedra and is visited by over 130 species of water bird, including black-necked swans. Although the lake is marked on maps as having an outlet to the sea, this is dried up for most of the year, when there is a continuous track along the expanses of sandy beach from Puerto Saavedra south to Porma and Toltén. This was the old right of way for the Spanish between Concepción and Valdivia before their final defeat of the Mapuche; wild and remote, it passes many isolated Mapuche communities.

On the east shore of Lago Budi, 40 km by road south of Carahue, is
Puerto Domínguez
, a picturesque little town famous for its fishing. On the west shore is
Isla Huapi
(also spelt Guapi), a peninsula with a Mapuche settlement of
rucas
and fine views of the lake and the Pacific. This is one of the poorest spots in Chile, but is ideal for camping. It can be reached by
balsa
(ferry) either from 10 km south of Puerto Saavedra or from Puerto Domínguez.

Curacautín and around

Thirty kilometres north of Temuco a paved road branches off the Pan-American Highway and runs east to the Argentine border at Pino Hachado, passing through Curacautín . A small town situated on the Río Cautín, Curacautín lies 84 km northeast of Temuco and 56 km southeast of Victoria by good paved roads. Deprived by new, stricter deforestation laws of its traditional timber industry (until recently there were several sawmills here), Curacautín is trying to recreate itself as a centre for tourism; it is a useful base for visiting the nearby national parks and hot springs, including the indoor and sadly run-down
Termas de Manzanar
, www.termasdemanzanar.cl
. On the way, at Km 6, the road passes a turn-off to
Laguna Blanca
(25 km north, take fishing gear) and the
Salto del Indio
, a 30-m-high waterfall, where there are
cabañas
. Some 3 km beyond Manzanar is the
Salto de la Princesa
, a 50-m waterfall, with camping and
hostería
.

Termas and Parque Nacional Tolhuaca

The beautiful pine-surrounded
Termas de Tolhuaca
, www.termasdetolhuaca.cl, are 35 km to the north of Curacautín by
ripio
road, or 57 km by unpaved road from just north of Victoria; a high-clearance 4WD is essential out of season. Just 2 km further north is the
Parque Nacional Tolhuaca
, which covers 6374 ha of the valley of the Río Malleco at altitudes of 850 to 1830 m and includes the waterfalls of Malleco and Culebra, and two lakes, Laguna Malleco and Laguna Verde. There's superb scenery and good views of the volcanoes from Cerro Amarillo. Park administration is near Laguna Malleco and there is a campsite nearby. Unfortunately, much of the park, together with the neighbouring
Reserva Nacional Malleco
, was damaged by forest fires in 2002, and will take several decades fully to recover, although some day-trails are open.

Reserva Nacional Nalcas-Malalcahuello

Situated northeast of Curacautín, this 31,305-ha park lies on the slopes of the
Lonquimay Volcano
(2865 m), and is much less crowded than the nearby Parque Nacional Conguillio. The volcano began erupting on Christmas day 1988 and the crater produced was named Navidad. Useful information about the park is available from the
CONAF
office on the main road in Malalcahuello (east of Curacautín) and from
La Suizandina
, which is also a good base for treks and for the ascent of the volcano. Several marked trails (varying from one hour to two days) leave from the CONAF office. From Malalcahuello it is a one-day hike to the Sierra Nevada , or a two-day hike to Conguillio national park; less experienced climbers should hire a guide.

Los Arenales ski resort
, is at Las Raíces Pass on the road from Malalcahuello to Lonquimay town. It is a pleasant, small resort with a nice restaurant and four lifts that go up to 2500 m with great views. In winter the pass is usually snowed out, and the road from Malalcahuello to Lonquimay town is diverted via the
Túnel Las Raices
. This former railway tunnel was, until recently, the longest in South America at 4.8 km. There is talk of repairing the tunnel, but for the moment it is in poor condition, unlit and with constant filtration. If travelling by bicycle it is wiser to hitch through the tunnel in a pickup than cycling through yourself.

Access to climb Lonquimay is either from Malalcahuello, 15 km south, or from from the ski resort from where it is a one-hour walk to the municipal
refugio
at the base of the mountain. Walk towards the ski lift and from there head to the spur on the left. Allow four hours for the ascent, one hour for the descent. Crampons and ice-axe are necessary in winter, but in summer it is a relatively simple climb.

Parque Nacional Conguillio

Covering 60,833 ha, the park, situated 80 km east of Temuco, is one of the most popular in Chile though it is deserted outside January and February and at weekends. In the centre is the
Llaima
Volcano
(3125 m), which is still active and can be climbed. There are two craters: the western crater was blown out in 1994 and began erupting again in March 1996. The volcano came to life again on New Year's day 2008 and the effects are visible in the massive lava-flow to the north.The last eruption was in April 2009. There are two large lakes, Laguna Verde and Lago Conguillio, and two smaller ones, Laguna Arco Iris and Laguna Captrén. North of Lago Conguillio rise the snow-covered peaks of extinct volcano
Sierra Nevada
, which reaches 2554 m.

Much of the park is covered in forests of southern beech but it is also the best place in Chile to see native
araucaria forest
, which used to cover extensive areas of land in this part of the country . Mature araucaria forest can be found around Lago Conguillio and on the slopes of Llaima. Other trees include cypress and
canelo
(winter's bark). Among the park's wildlife are condors, black woodpeckers, the marsupial
monito del monte
, pumas, foxes, pudú and many waterfowl.

There are three
entrances
to the park: the northern entrance is reached by
ripio
road from Curacautín, 28 km north; the southern entrance at Truful-Truful is reached by a
ripio
road from Melipeuco, 13 km southwest, while the western entrance is reached by
ripio
road from Cherquenco (high-clearance vehicle essential). Close by is the
Araucarias ski resort
, www.skiaraucarias.cl.

Trails
within the park range from 1 to 22 km in length. Details are available from the park administration or from CONAF in Temuco. One of the best trails is a path round the east side of Lago Conguillio and north towards the Sierra Nevada (allow a full day for the round-trip). The first 10 km are reasonably easy, with two or three miradors offering spectacular views. After this it gets much more difficult for the final 5-km climb. From the western entrance it is a two- to three-day hike around Volcán Llaima to Lago Conguillio - a dusty route, but with beautiful views of Laguna Quepe - then on to the Laguna Captrén
guardería
.

Climb
Llaima
south from
Guardería Captrén
, avoiding the crevassed area to the left of the ridge and keeping to the right of the red scree just below the ridge. From the ridge it is a straight climb to the summit. Beware of sulphur fumes at the top. Allow five hours to ascend, two hours to descend. Crampons and ice-axe are essential except in summer; less experienced climbers should also hire a guide. Further information on the climb is available from
Guardería Captrén
.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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