Scouting New Gravel Bike Routes – Conguillio National Park Chile

gravel bike conguillio chile

Last week, we celebrated the re-opening of Conguillio National Park by exploring new gravel bike routes. With the Llaima volcano always at sight, we explored the park across colorful ancient monkey-puzzle tree forests.

 

Since 2003, Amity Tours has been the leading adventure travel operator of the Lake and Volcano District, Chile’s world-class destination. Among our main domains of expertise, cycling the incredibles routes of southern Chile is our main specialty, and the year 2021 marked a milestone in the history of Amity Tours.

 

 

gravel bike chile
Specialized Diverge E5 and the Villarrica volcano

 

Indeed, we decided to renew our bike tours with the new gravel modality. As we all know, the gravel bikes are buzzing in the world of cycling, and we certainly could not stay apart. Since the arrival of our new gravel bike fleet, we have been working on the best cycling way to explore the off-the-beaten routes of Chile’s Lake and Volcano District.

 

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Designing new gravel adventures at Amity Headquarters.

 

What is a Gravel Bike?

 

elite gravel chile

 

A gravel bike is a drop-bar bike designed to let you ride over many different surfaces. The drop handlebar and road bike-like design mean that you can make good progress on the road, but with wider tyres, lower gearing and stable handling you can also head off-the-beaten tracks.

A gravel bike will typically give you a more upright riding position than road bike geometry, with a longer head tube and shorter reach. That should result in more comfort on long rides and also lets you shift your weight around to tackle obstacles and off-road descents.

 

Scouting new routes in the Lake and Volcano District

 

Finally, we could change the office seat for a bike saddle and explore the routes we previously designed at our desks with a bike route planner software. Armed with a bunch of zero-waste snacks, bicycle tools and good mood we hit the road towards Conguillio National Park.

 

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Amity team about to hit the gravel roads of Chile’s Lake and Volcano District

 

 

Travelling in times of COVID-19 is a big privilege. Thus, after 1 month of lockdown, we felt so grateful to be able to visit again one of the most beautiful parks of Chile. Starting from our operation center based in Pucón, Chile’s capital of adventure travel, we initiated the road trip on our pickup.

During the first 70 kilometers, we tracked routes on GPS, searching the most beautiful roads and trails, in addition to enjoying the spectacular views over the Villarrica lake and volcano. Moreover, we took advantage of the moment to stop by our beloved and exclusive Santa Amalia Polo Lodge.

 

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Colico Lake at Santa Amalia Lodge

 

Gravel Biking in Conguillio National Park

 

 

gravel bike conguillio chile
Entrance of Conguillio National Park

 

Conguillio National Park is located in La Araucania Region, approximately 110 kilometers from Temuco city. Without a doubt, Conguillio is one of the highlights of Chile’s Lake and Volcano District, and part of the Kütralkura Geopark by UNESCO. Indeed, with 60,831 hectares and altitudes ranging between 700 and 3,125 meters above sea level.

More importantly, the unparalleled beauty of Conguillio National Park is mostly expressed in the native thousand-year-old Araucaria tree forests and also the remarkable lava flows like long black scars drawn in the landscape. Truth to be said, the landscapes are impressive: the active Llaima volcano (3,125 meters), the extinguished Sierra Nevada volcano and the pristine Verde, Captrén and Arcoiris lagoons.

 

llaima volcano conguillio
Llaima volcano

 

Upon arrival at the park, we could immediately observe the presence of the Llaima volcano on our left-hand side. This volcano is the highlight of Conguillio National Park. Historically, the Llaima volcano is one of the most active in South America, and one of the most voluminous in the southern Andes.

 

gravel cycling chile
Cycling alongside Truful Truful Canyon

 

Afterwards, we kept pedaling until arriving to the famous Truful Truful Canyon. There, we could observe the fantastic 20-meter waterfall, along with the geological and eruptive history of Conguillio National Park. In other words, standing in this special part of the park is like a trip to the past. Indeed, it reveals how the Llaima volcano and the effects of the ancient glaciers deposited in the valleys haven been shaping the landscape for the last thirteen thousand years.

These surprising changes are projected in layers of land that were eroded and cut vertically by the effect of the Truful-Truful River.

 

 

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Impressive Truful Truful Canyon in Conguillio

 

Following our adventures, we kept gravel cycling towards the andean volcanic lagoons. We first arrived at Laguna Verde (green lagoon) that connects with the Truful Truful river and through which it drains. At this time of the year, the water level is at its lowest point and the lagoon seems to be very small. During the rain season, and especially in spring,  we can appreciate the full size and greenish color of the lagoon.

 

laguna verde conguillio
Laguna Verde in autumn with the lowest water level

 

Right after, we entered the extensive colorful temperate-rain-forests of ancient and native Nothofagus trees. On the way, we stopped by the Arcoiris Lagoon. Formed by the damming of the waters of a estuary, the lagoon is product of lava flows from the Llaima volcano, the great sculptor of the landscape of Conguillio.

 

 

 

 

Following the smooth gravel road, we finally reached the impressive Araucaria trees. These monkey-puzzle trees with the Sierra Nevada Volcano in the background let you feel like reaching another world. We even spotted two Condors overflying the forest. What a majestic animal, flying through the wind with its enormous wings.

 

 

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Under the araucaria trees, spotting the flying condors

 

Finally, we reached our last point of interest: the Captrén Lagoon. The Lagoon doesn’t cease to surprise us with the dozens of trees submerged in the water, which can be easily seen.

The water is a mix of green, deep blue and transparent color, making this lagoon a unique place. There, we can also admire the contrast between the volcanic remains surrounding the Captrén, and the lush forests of intense green color.

 

captren lagoon conguillio
Final stop of our gravel adventures in Conguillio National Park

 

Visiting the Conguillio National Park in autumn is just a blast. The golden-colored native forests and stunning sunsets invite to fill your camera with unforgettable pictures, and fill your heart with strong energy from Mother Nature.

 

 

Amity’s best choice of accommodation: La Baita Conguillio

 

la baita conguillio chile
Aerial view of La Baita Lodge during autumn season

 

La Baita Conguillio is Chile’s first ecolodge. Pioneer in the area, with a recognized prestige for the quality and warmth of the services delivered. La Baita Lodge is equipped with 6 comfortable rooms designed with native wood and looms, added to large windows that overlook a ravine from where the wonderful araucarias hang.

 

 

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Double room in La Baita lodge

 

The restaurant offers a healthy and organic menu with products from local suppliers, while its SPA offers great relaxation with a massage room and several hot-tubs amomg the native forest.

 

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Hot tub at La Baita Lodge

 

And not to forget the famous hot-tub under the open sky! Can you imagine a better way to relax your muscles after a challenging biking day? We felt so lucky! Arriving at the lodge and immersing ourselves into the warm water, watching the starry sky and chatting about the beautiful day we just spent together!

 

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Amity Team at Conguillio lake with the Llaima volcano in the background

 

Contact us for more info about our active trips in the Conguillio National Park, and check out Instagram and Facebook to follow our adventures in Chile’s Lake and Volcano District.

 

Sustainable Practices at Amity Tours

It all started with a big dream: Amity Tours wants to become a Zero Waste Company. As simple as that. What might sound easy, is in fact the beginning of a long journey. A fascinating one without any doubt. Let’s dive into the beginning of this long sustainable trip.

 

Our Zero Waste Challenge

 

As a company offering responsible tourism in Chile’s Lake & Volcano District, Atacama Desert and Patagonia of Chile since 2003, we decided to take a new challenge towards becoming a Zero Waste Company. As a result, we are implementing several new measures: 

 

REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE AND MUCH MORE.

 

sustainability chileReduce

In order to prevent the production of waste, we have partnered up with local & organic food suppliers. This allows us to buy in bulk. Thus, it avoids the use of disposable plastics but also fuel the local economy.

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Reuse

We donate all of the remaining reusable water bottles after each operations’ season. In 2019, approximately 450 bottles were donated to local sport clubs. Moreover, we highly encourage our clients to bring their own water bottles.

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Recycling

At our main office we installed a recycling point. We separate Plastic, Cans, Glass, Paper/Cardboard, and of course, all the organic waste generated at our office. Our chicken at the headquarter are happy about every food waste.

During the trips our guides and drivers set up a dismountable recycling point where clients and staff can dispose the residues. These will be collected at the hotels visiting during the trip. In addition, we separate and collect the organic waste to be transformed into compost. This compost will be used for our vegetables garden located at Amity Headquarters.

We are encouraging our local partners to join the Zero Waste Challenge. Sustainable practices and waste management are important focuses by electing our accommodations and food suppliers during the trips. Our goal is it to contribute to a first Zero Waste Destination in Chile.

 

Since 2021 we’ve been forming part of the Zero Waste Community of the Fundación Basura in Chile.

 

Our chicken waiting for their food
Our chicken waiting for their food. You can see our recycling point and warehouse in the backdrop.

 

Tourism Declares Climate Emergency

 

While we were investigating about how to become a Zero Waste Company, a whole new world opened up. We learned about sustainable practices for tour operators and found great local alternatives for our previous waste problems.

During these searches we stumble over the Tourism Declares Climate Emergency website. A global community who has declared a climate emergency and came together to plan a better future for tourism. We immediately declared as Amity Tours and committed to act in order to cut global emissions in half over the next decade. We just finished our first Climate Action Plan.

Being part of the Tourism Declares Community means sharing ideas, challenges and solutions, so that together we can create a new, regenerative tourism industry built on the principles of climate justice.

 

 

climate emergency
Llaima volcano (3.125 meters) from Sollipulli volcano.

 

Carbon what?

 

During our journey we read a lot about carbon footprint, how to offset it or even how to remove existing carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon offset, carbon removal, carbon capture, carbon neutral, climate positive… A complete new area for all of us, and we got a little confused with all these different terms. In a few words we would like to explain each concept in order to give you an idea about our decisions.

 

Offsetting your carbon footprint

 

Carbon offsetting is an internationally recognized way for companies or individuals to manage the carbon emissions that are not able to completely eliminate. The emissions are getting calculated and an equal amount will be invested in projects that reduce or remove emissions.

Need an example: It is like, eating a chocolate bar with 500 calories. Afterwards you bike to the Caburgua Lake and burn the 500 calories. That is how the actual impact (in terms of calories) of eating the chocolate bar would be zero.

Now let’s apply this concept into carbon offsetting: The chocolate bar in this case would be the carbon footprint and burning the calories is offsetting it into projects where carbon is getting removed from the atmosphere (by buying carbon credits from projects, such as reforestation, renewable energy).

 

Carbon removal or Carbon capture

 

Carbon removal means capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and locking it away for decades or centuries in plants, soils, oceans, rocks, saline aquifers, depleted oil wells, or long- lived products like cement. source: Tommorows Air

 

Getting Carbon neutral

 

Carbon neutral means taking action to reduce and remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as an organisation puts into it. Being carbon neutral means that an organization has a carbon footprint equal to zero.

 

Getting Climate positive

 

Getting climate positive is going one step further then reaching the carbon neutrality. That can be reached by creating greater environmental benefits, than the actual carbon footprint. You can remove additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for example.

At Amity we are conscious of the environmental impacts as a business. That is why we need to reduce our own carbon footprint and offset our unavoidable emissions. Since the beginning of our trajectory we have been focusing on responsible and sustainable tourism practices. A fact that also gets reflected in our Conservations Tours.

 

 

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Amity Tours and Conservation Tourism

 

We love supporting projects, that are providing benefits to the local communities and environment. Here a few examples we have worked on during our 18 years:

 

Kütralkura – Chile’s First Geopark

 

An amazing example of how geo-sciences connect with local culture for the conservation of the geological and cultural heritage of this landscape in Chile’s Lake & Volcano District.

 

 

 

Mapuche Tourism – Valle del Kuel

 

The objective of the project was to put in touristic value the heritage resource “kuel” of the valleys of Lumaco and Purén. A heritage considered by national and international archaeologists as one of the most important and unknown of the original Mapuche people.

 

 

 

Asi Conserva Chile and WWF

 

The project sought to value, through the design of tourism conservation products, private and community conservation initiatives that make up the trade association “Así Conserva Chile“.
A 100% tour operator pilot focused on conservation tourism was implemented. Where we assured in it all the skills and abilities necessary to sustain itself over time.

 

 

https://www.adventuretravelnews.com/working-with-wwf-chile-for-the-development-of-special-interest-tourism-in-private-conservation

 

Darwin’s Route Tour in Chiloé

 

A tour where you can discover the wonders that Charles Darwin saw on his journey to the south of Chile. Explore this fascinating territory of the Chilean rain forest, and watch the same species of flora and fauna described by one of the Fathers of Modern Science.

 

 

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Route of Parks of Patagonia

 

Our most recent project is a 14-day Multisport Route of Parks, Patagonia. In this tour you will discover Torres del Paine National Park, the lush and exuberant temperate rainforest of the Pumalin Park, and a stunning starting at the foot of active volcanoes covered by unique forests of giant Araucaria trees in Conguillío National Park.

Nature, diversity, local communities and interaction with the culture of Patagonia, while giving back and supporting rewilding experiences leaded by our local experts. This is a featured program in some of the best parks that make up the Route of Parks of Patagonia and The Lake and Volcano District. An unforgettable multi-sport adventure where you can be sure to discover new paths in Patagonia!

 

Our latest inquiry ended up in a local tree planting project.

 

Wiñolfe Anumka

 

In April 2021 the platform Wiñolfe Anumka has been launched. This brand-new project is the response of the inquiry we at Amity Tours made one year ago. We now get the possibility to offset our carbon emissions on a local basis. Wiñolfe Anumka is a Mapuche Pewenche community network offering reforestation of native forests through their own nursery network.

Beginning of 2020 we contacted our local partner, Rutas Ancestrales Araucarias to discuss a solution about offsetting our not avoidable carbon emissions on a local basis. Since many years we are working together with the award winning community based project, sending clients from all over the world, to connect with the local culture. We did share with them our vision, about a reforestation project in Kurarewe, located just a few kilometers away from our headquarters. After our first meeting, we invited a forestry engineer to join the project.

Together with a local company that is dedicated to landscape management, environmental education and regeneration, we stared working on gathering relevant and scientific information. We then calculated the CO2 emissions produced by Amity Tours (approximately 50 Ton CO2), and hence the amount of native trees to be planted to neutralize these emissions. As a result we learned that we must plant at least 14 tree clusters, each formed of 20 different native especies, to be able to offset the 50 tons CO2 in the next 20 years. Together with Wiñolfe Anumka we will be working on the implementation of this great goal.

 

 

 

Local is our solution

 

At Amity we are conscious of the environmental impacts as a business. That is why we need to reduce our own carbon footprint and offset our unavoidable emissions to support the transition to a low-carbon sustainable future. Indeed carbon offsetting alone won’t fix the climate crisis. Despite that, we are convinced that each step towards a climate positive society is worth any effort.

At Amity Tours we want to make changes, share progresses and solutions. It is one of our main goals to motivate other companies and individuals to join the Zero Waste Movement and to participate actively in the big challenge of changing unsustainable habits.  We are not only a tour operator but also a consultant company and are aware of our responsibility by sharing practical knowledge.

 

 

Amity Greenhouse waiting for its consumers