Source: National Service of Tourism, SERNATUR Los Lagos, www.sernatur.cl
Regional Government, www.goreloslagos.cl
Chaitén commune is a locality surrounded by islands, fjords and gulfs in the middle of beautiful landscapes and forests. It was founded in 1933 by Arturo Alessandri Palma President, aiming to populate this area and gain sovereignty. CHAITÉN VOLCANO is 10 kilometers to the northeast of the city. On May 1st, 2008, this volcano started to erupting, event which raised its seriousness and changed the history of the city due to the overflow of Blanco River on May 16th, destroying the 80% of the city. Many houses were left under the ashes. However, today the city is slowly recovering by the implementation of basic services, commerce and tourism. The pier is constantly maintained and dredged, allowing the ferries to reach the Chaitén bay.
If you like thermal waters, you will find DEL AMARILLO HOT SPRINGS 20 kilometers to the east of Chaitén city, just 4 km away from The Austral Road. t is open to the public the year round. These hot springs are the south entrance to Pumalín Park. The area is rich in rivers and lakes with good fishing and a privileged landscape form by mountains, glaciers and grasslands, which allow to perform different outdoor activities, such as horseback riding, trekking, picnic, excursions, and to knowing the wide flora and fauna of the place, while covering the trails that will carry you to the Michimahuida Volcano or to the Yelcho Glacier. There are two open hot spring pools at different temperatures, individual hot springs pools, and nearby there are log cabins, family accommodations and camping. The entrance fee to the hot springs is about CLP $3,000.
Currently, the route between Chaitén and Amarillo is paved. It takes 35 minutes to arrive there from Chaitén, taking a detour which starts from The Austral Road. There is no public transportation to this place, so apart from the programmed excursions, the fastest way to arrive is making arrangements with the local people or paying someone for this service.
Going from Futaleufú, some kilometers before it are already asphalted, but still 50 kilometers are being asphalted, so it is highly recommended to drive carefully in this stretch. You will get to Amarillo Bridge, and from there to your right you will get the detour that starts from The Austral Road. The road is in good condition, but it has not been paved yet.
PUMALÍN PARK is located 60 km to the north of Chaitén, and it has been declared Nature Sanctuary. It can be accessed by the public, and its operational center is at the cove Caleta Gonzalo, where you will find accommodations, camping, restaurants and cafeterias. It also has hiking trails, being the most remarkable the Alerces trail and the Lobería access. Trekking in these trails is free for the visitors. To arrive from Puerto Montt take Don Baldo barge. It gets to Chaitén in just 8 hours. Then, from the town is possible to get the bus to the cove Caleta Gonzalo. The gravel roads are in good condition and constantly maintained, being suitable for all kind of vehicles.
Traveling from Chaitén to Villa Santa Lucía by The Austral Road, you will find the YELCHO SNOWFIELD, which thanks to its thousand year-old ice is one of the most fascinating attractions of the Chilean Patagonia. From Yelcho Complex excursions are organized through a trail of rain temperate forest, plenty of coihue, myrtle, mañío, cinnamon tree, and all the typical flora and fauna of the zone. In this route, paving works are being done, so it is recommended to drive carefully.
In Puerto Cárdenas, 46 km to the south of Chaitén, there is YELCHO LAKE, which is considered one of the most beautiful lakes of Chile due to its emerald waters of glacier origin. It is surrounded by high hills and snowfields, covered in its slopes by the forest which leaves just few free beaches. Sport fishing can be done here. It is accessed by The Austral Road. In the area of Puerto Cárdenas you find some lodges and other services to fish. The road is in good condition and it is being paved, so it is suggested to pay attention to the works on route.
Thirty kilometers to the north of Yelcho in the Patagonia, and 26 km to the south of Chaitén by The Austral Road, you will find AMARILLO SNOWFIELD, which can only be accessed on foot (it is recommended to wear appropriate shoes and clothes, especially in winter). This glacier falls from the top of Michinmahuida Volcano. In the road to the snowfield base, visitors can watch different kind of birds, as the magellanic woodpecker, chucao tapaculo, guet-guet and kingfisher, among others, and animals, like the pudús and the southern river otters (huillín).
If you like nautical sports FUTALEUFÚ is your destination. This locality is one of the favorite of the worlds kayak and rafting lovers. Moreover, it is a beautiful town to fly-fishing in its lakes. ESPOLÓN LAKE is a feature of this zone. From Futaleufú, it is possible to access to Argentina by Trevilin international crossing. It is about 150 kilometers away to the south of Chaitén. From Chaitén, you should take The Austral Road, and turn to the left in the area of Villa Santa Lucía to continue until Puerto Ramírez. In this area you should take route CH 231 until reaching Futaleufú. It is a gravel road of about 150 km, but it is in good conditions.
Crossing the commune from the Argentinian border until coming out onto the Yelcho Lake, FUTALEUFÚ RIVER is well-known all over the world for its Class V rapids the best white waters according to the experts-, its turquoise waters and its excellent fishing. It is possible to find a wide array of salmonid species in it, being perfect for those wishing to practice fly-fishing.
Five km from Futaleufú in direction to the Argentinian border, there is the FUTALEUFÚ NATIONAL RESERVE. It was created to protect the cordilleran cypress forest species and the South Andean deer (huemul). This place offers the possibility to organize photographic safaris and horseback ridings with the prior authorization of CONAF-, covering the virgin lenga beech forests, enjoying the landscape and the panoramic sights of Futaleufú River, the valleys of Chico River and Las Escalas. The reserve has two park rangers who can guide the excursions. We recommend you to contact the National Forest Corporation (CONAF) of Chaitén.
If you wish to visit PALENA, you should take The Austral Road from Chaitén, turning to the left in the area of Villa Santa Lucía to continue until Puerto Ramírez. From this point, you must continue by route CH 235, which takes to Palena after covering about 150 km from Chaitén. In Palena there is an international crossing to Argentina, called Río Encuentro, which is suitable for all kind of vehicles. It is a gravel road and the border opens from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. the year-round. The main attractions are Palena River, Palena National Park and Media Luna. In January, the Official Rodeo is carried out, counting with the presence of the best men in this sport, breaking in horses and rein handling.
Sailing in PALENA RIVER guided by experts- is a must-do for those who enjoy this activity. It is an enjoyable trip of about 10 km admiring the green of the high ravines from where the river stretches. In some places these ravines have very high walls, which highest part is almost impossible to see.
PALENA LAKE NATIONAL RESERVE has a privileged landscape, dominated by the high peaks, the icecaps and a lenga beech forest which gets to the cold water of the lake. From this zone, Palena Lake is considered the first of the binational lakes between Chile and Argentina. An authorization from CONAF is needed to access, which can be obtained from the Municipality. This trip starts at Palena, being advisable to rent horses and to begin the excursion from there. You can stay the night in Azul area, and then continue until Zancudo area.
In November, it is celebrated the COSTUMBRIST FESTIVAL in which the inhabitants gather and participate in typical food-tasting, handicrafts, music and local games.
If you are travelling in February, you can participate in the activities of ALTO PALENA WEEK, when takes place the traditional rodeo upon the national contest. You will find handicrafts selling, sport contests, rafting, horseback riding, among other activities. People cannot wait for the election of the communes queen.