Chile Lake Volcano District – Araucanía Andina

araucania andina lake volcano district

La Araucania Andina is located 700 kilometers south from Santiago de Chile. Geographically, this destination is formed by two large mountain areas: the Lonquimay volcano and the Llaima volcano, hence the outstanding volcanic activity of the area. Demographically, the core historical-cultural identity is strongly marked and linked to the original Pewenche people, the first inhabitants of La Araucania Region.

 

araucania andina chile
Map credit: Araucania Andina Travel

 

More than just a destination, it is where starts the famous Lake and Volcano District of Chile. The main natural attraction in this special part of La Araucanía Region is the Kütralkura UNESCO Global Geopark. There, you can witness how the volcanic activity has been shaping for ages the impressive landscapes of southern Chile.

 

araucania andina lake volcano district

 

In this week’s post, you will discover the best natural places to explore in La Araucania Andina.

 

conguillio araucania andina
Conguillio National Park, Araucania Andina (Photo Credit: Chile Lagos y Volcanes)

 

Kütralkura Geopark

 

Area of globally recognized biodiversity, Kütralkura is Chile’s first geopark. With six protected wilderness areas of diverse landscape, 5 volcanoes, and a geological history covering the last 250 million years, it in fact is no surprise that UNESCO declared this outstanding territory the Araucarias Biosphere Reserve in 1983. Dominated by the presence of the Llaima, Sierra Nevada, Lonquimay, Tolhuaca and Nevados de Sollipulli volcanoes, the notable geological features are of mainly volcanic, tectonic and glacier character.

 

llaima volcano sollipulli
Llaima volcano (3.125 meters) from Sollipulli volcano.

 

The richness of the Kütralkura geopark does not solely lie on its natural wonders. But also on its people who play a big part in the culture of this ancestral territory. First inhabitants of Southern Chile, the Pewenche are an indigenous subgroup belonging to the Mapuche community.

Pewenche people take their name from their dependence for food on the seeds of the pewen (pehuen) or monkey-puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana). They consider the Araucaria tree as their Mother and protector.

 

pewenche araucaria
Drinking Yerba Mate has been part of the ancestral tradition of the Mapuche culture since ancient times.

 

It should be noted that the Pewenche have their own cosmovision, social system, and ancestral arts. In addition, they have great knowledge and wisdom related to the use of medicinal plants (known as “Lawen” in their Mother tongue). In Mapudungun, “Kütralkura” means “stone fire”.

 

Tolhuaca National Park

 

tolhuaca volcano chile
Tolhuaca volcano (2.806 meters) and Blanca lagoon.

 

Located on the slopes of the Andes Mountain Range, the Tolhuaca National Park is a spectacular scenery of native flora and fauna. With 6.474 hectares of Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) forest, the geological formations shape the characteristic mountainous reliefs of the park. Moreover the presence of the Tolhuaca volcano also highly contributes in this landscape composition.

 

Laguna malleco tolhuaca park
Malleco lagoon, Tolhuaca National Park.

 

In the Tolhuaca National Park, you can easily access Laguna Malleco by a good trail that does not take more than an hour to hike. There, you can walk through a forest of coigües (Nothofagus dombeyi) and araucarias, leading to great views towards the Malleco waterfall. In addition, the hiking trail offers the the opportunity to also visit the Culebra waterfall. 

 

malleco waterfall tolhuaca
Malleco waterfall

 

Conguillio National Park

 

The Conguillio National Park is located in the heart of the Kütralkura Geopark, highlight of Chile’s Lake and Volcano District. Originally, with an area of 60,832 hectares, the Conguillio used to form two different parks: Conguillio National Park and Los Paraguas National Park. Then they merged and formed the current park. 

In Mapudungun, the Mapuche’s native language, the word Conguillio is “Ko-nqilliu”. The meaning is “pine nuts in the water”, or “to settle by the pine nuts” based on the abundance of araucarias (known Monkey puzzle tree) and the existence of lakes surrounding the volcanic area of the park.

 

conguillio llaima volcano
Araucaria trees with the Llaima volcano at sight, Conguillio National Park

 

Among its main attractions, the Llaima volcano (3.200m) stands out the most. Dominating the landscape, the volcano is surrounded by its lakes of volcanic formation and its forests of ancient araucarias. What’s more, the forests of this native tree are 1,200 year-old!

The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) refers to the Conguillio National Park as one of the last refuges in the World to preserve the landscape where dinosaurs lived. In this place, the UK’s broadcaster filmed part of the documentary “Walking with Dinosaurs“, more specifically the chapter centered on the Upper Cretaceous: “Death of a Dynasty”.

 

 

 

Our favorite activity to do when visiting the Conguillio National Park is hiking the Sierra Nevada trail, a high volcanic mountain range.  The trail starts near the Conguillio Lake, and crosses a spectacular forest of araucaria trees. During the hike, there are three scenic viewpoints over the lake; the trail culminates in a large open viewpoint, outside with great views over both Llaima volcano and Conguillio lake.

 

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Conguillio lake from the Sierra Nevada trail.

 

Malalcahuello National Reserve

 

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Mountain biking next to Lonquimay volcano (2.865m) and Christmas crater, Malalcahuello National Reserve.

 

 

Located in the northeast part of La Araucanía Region, Malalcahuello is the must-see place to visit in Chile. Indeed, the volcanic and glacial activity of the Lonquimay volcano (2.865 meters) has strongly been shaping the landform of the reserve. With the Christmas crater (cráter Navidad) that completed its last volcanic eruptive process in 1990, the Malalcahuello Reserve is more like a surreal landscape where recent volcanic slags combine with ancient araucaria forests.

 

 

tolhuaca volcano kutralkura geopark chile
Tolhuaca volcano (2.806 meters), Malalcahuello National Reserve

 

As a result of the volcanic geography, the 31.260 hectares stand out for its great diversity of flora and where the native forest manifests in thousands of colors and forms, with streams of crystal-clear waters descending from the Andes mountain range.

From July to mid-October, the Malalcahuello National Reserve is Amity‘s favorite place to be. In effect, the area is best known to be a great host for skiing in Southern Chile. Proof of that are the yearly visits of international ski racing teams training in the Corralco Ski Resort, a world-class destination well-known for its great snow conditions and the exuberant surroundings of Chile’s Lake and Volcano District.

 

ski lonquimay volcano
Skiing in the Malalcahuello National Reserve. Main crater of Lonquimay volcano.

 

On the other hand, during spring and summer (late-October to April), cycling might be the best way to explore Malalcahuello.

 

MTB Malalcahuello
Mountain biking with the Tolhuaca volcano at sight. Photo credit: Evoc Sports.

 

Riding across the reserve surrounded by thousand year-old araucaria trees, with the Lonquimay and Tolhuaca volcanoes at sight, and our MTB is a true travel adventure experience we love to do. More than a bike experience, it is also a great opportunity for a cultural encounter with the Pewenche. Sharing with them their traditions, culture and culinary specialties is the best way to learn about the human side of La Araucania Region.

 

pewenche chile araucania andina
The “cordero al palo” is a whole roast lamb barbecue, offered by the Meliñir family.

 

The Andean ancestral legacy of La Araucania Region: the Pewenche culture

 

In geographical terms, the Pewenche territory encompasses both sides of the Andes mountain range, between the Maule River and the Lonquimay Volcano. Before the arrival of the Spanish settlers, they were hunters and gatherers of pine nuts (piñon, pewen or pehuén), fruit from the araucaria tree that gives the name and essence characteristics of the Pewenche culture. Thanks to this, they elaborate gastronomic products such as pine nut flour, jams, muday (ancestral drink), among others.

 

araucaria tree araucania andina
Piñon, seed of the araucaria tree.

 

It is not without saying that the Pewenche consider the araucaria as a sacred tree thanks to its medicinal properties. Thus, we understand that their ancestral culture is closely related to the natural environment in which they live. Likewise, they maintain a deep bond with their territory of origin. Hence understanding that the land cannot be separated from culture and identity.

 

araucaria tree
Bark of Araucaria tree

 

This intertwined connection explains the tremendous importance of the first inhabitants of La Araucanía Region. Every corner of this Andean territory has a history linked to the processes of the Pewenche through time.

If you are interested in visiting this area, please send us an email to schedule a call with one of our Trip Design experts.

Experience the rich union between the Pewenche ancestral culture and the beautiful nature of Chile’s Lake and Volcano District. Ask about our best active travel adventures and discover the incredible diverse landscape and history of La Araucaria Region.

 

 

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Road cycling near Bio-bio river, Araucanía Andina circuit, Chile’s Lake and Volcano Scenic Route.

The best hikes in Chile’s Lake and Volcano District

Hiking Villarrica National Park
Pichillancahue Glacier Trail – Villarrica National Park

Discover the best hikes in Chile’s Lake and Volcano District.

If you are an avid hiker, nature lover or fellow traveler looking for some amazing landscapes, here’s a list of the best hikes you can find in Chile’s Lake & Volcano District!

Kutralkura Geopark – Christmas Crater Hike

The Christmas Crater is a pyroclastic cone of the Lonquimay Volcano located in the Malalcahuello National Reserve. It was formed during the volcanic eruption on December 25 of 1988, and reaches a height of 190 meters from its base.

The hike to the crater is not technical; but you’ll do require mountain gear to climb it in winter as it is covered in snow. However, in summer (from November to Early April), the trekking doesn’t require any gear.

Regarding difficulty, it is relatively short, and takes approx. 2 to 4 hours back and forth depending on your walking pace. It is ideal for families with young children, or people with not a lot of hiking experience.

From the top, you can enjoy a panoramic view over the foothills of the Lonquimay Volcano. In addition to the lava field, extended araucarias tree forests, along with view over the Tolhuaca and the Callaqui Volcanoes.

Kutralküra Geopark & Lonquimay Volcano – Lake and Volcano District

Coloradito trail hike – Malalcahuello National Reserve

The Coloradito trail, located at the Malalcahuello National Reserve, is a place shaped by tectonic and volcanic processes with an interesting and endemic fauna and flora.

This trail is a good alternative featuring typical landscapes of the Andes mountain range under the watchful eye of the Lonquimay Volcano.

All along the way, you’ll pass through forests of endemic trees such as the araucaria and the lenga tree surrounded by the ground vegetation with a predominance of michay, quila and viola trees.

Called “El Coloradito”, it is unique access to the Lonquimay Volcano that ending near the Coloradito River. The landscape is dominated by the presence of the Lonquimay Volcano and the Sierra del Colorado. During the hike, you can observe the Llaima Volcano and the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

Cerro Coloradito Trail – Malalcahuello National Reserve

Sierra Nevada hike – National Park Conguillio

The Conguillio National Park is one of the most outstandings places Chile has to offer. With the stunning Llaima Volcano, Sierra Nevada, lagoons everywhere, araucarias tree forests, endemic fauna and flora, it is a must-see for everyone who wants to visit Southern Chile.

The national park has a wide variety of trails, but without a doubt, the Sierra Nevada hike is the most accessible and offers a wider range of landscape, enough to get a good idea of the natural richness existing in the region.

The Sierra Nevada trail begins from one of the most beautiful beaches of the Conguillio Lake, passes through a spectacular endemic forest with several viewpoints facing the lake along the way. After 3 hours, the trail reaches a clear and an out-of-the woods viewpoint facing the Llaima Volcano and the Conguillío Lake.

The hike is not technical, but does require a minimum of good health as the path can sometimes be steep. In winter, the trail is covered in snow, requiring mountain gear and good hiking experience.

This 10-kilometer long hike is recommended for active people.

Sierra Nevada Trail – Conguillio National Park

Andean Lagoons hike – Villarrica National Park

Close to the Argentinean Border, and located at the foothills of the Lanín Volcano, this trail called “Lagos Andinos” is a must-see of the Villarrica National Park. During this amazing hike, suited for families, you’ll visit 3 lagoons in a large endemic forest with Coihues and Araucarias trees and end up in a volcanic landscape dominated by the majestic Lanín Volcano.

The hike begins at the shores of the Quillelhue Lagoon at 1200 meters above sea level. After 40 minutes of hiking on a flat terrain, you’ll arrive at the Huinfiuca Lagoon, the perfect spot for picnic.

Andean Lagoons Trail – Villarrica National Park

While you visit the park you will witness how the Lanin volcano has permanently shaped the landscape of the area with its eruptions and you’ll have the fantastic opportunity to see and walk on the lava flows that once came from the heart of the earth. You’ll also visit the pristine lakes Quillelhue, Escondido (Hidden) and Huinfiuca with its clear waters that reflect stunning colors.

That is to say, the hike is not technical and only requires a minimum of good health.

Huerquehue National Park

The Huerquehue National Park is located at the foothills of the Andes, 35 km (22 miles) from Pucón. The park covers 12.500 hectares (30.890 acres) with various lagoons, dense vegetation and gigantic trees that are the habitat of several endemic birds.

The hike, called “Sendero Los Lagos” starts easy but after a short distance the trail becomes rougher and sometimes steeper, but is still considered a relatively easy hiking level.

On your way to the lakes, you’ll get to see the Nido de Aguilas (nest of eagles) waterfall before the terrain gets steeper, surrounded by gigantic coigües (Nothofagus dombeyi) and mañíos (Podocarpus nubigena).

The first lookout point is where you’ll get to appreciate the views of Villarrica Volcano (2.847 m / 9.349 feet) and Tinquilco Lake which are absolutely stunning; here you’ll find great photo opportunities as well as chance to reenergize with a snack.

If you’re lucky, you can spot some birds that live in the forests of Nothofagus, such as chucao tapaculo (Selorchilis rubecula), black-throated huet-huet (Pteroptochos tarnii) and the magellan woodpecker (Campephilus magellanicus) among others.

Huerquehue national park
Los Lagos Trail, Huerquehue NP

Once you pass the Trufulco falls, the hike gets a little more demanding. Once you’re over 1000 meters above sea level, you’ll see the first araucarias trees. You’ll then walk through a mixed forest before arriving at the first lake called Lago Chico. It is characterized by its clear waters reflecting the image of hundreds of araucarias, and the snow-capped peaks around.

After visiting the different lakes, you can then start to turn around and walk back to the entrance of the park.

El Cañi Reserve

El Cañi Reserve is located approximately 21 kilometers from Pucón. This 500-acre private reserve committed to the preservation of the Araucaria Araucania tree species.

This hike, although not technical, does require an overall good physical condition since you’d be constantly walking on a steep terrain until arrival to the final viewpoint. It starts with approx. 1,5 kilometer of flat terrain, and from there you’ll start the stiff climb for 3 more kilometers.

You’ll then arrive at Aserradero Refuge (1000 meters above sea level). It is the entrance of the reserve, with the first panoramic views over the valley and flora. You’ll pass through the Las Totoras Lagoon, Negra Lagoon surrounded by the thousands-year-old Araucaria, Lengua and Coihue trees.

The final path climbs until you arrive at the final viewpoint, your reward. You’ll have a 360° panoramic view over 4 volcanoes, two lakes and the valleys around the Reserve.

Moreover, you can walk around a small path that starts at Laguna negra and takes you to 6 mores lagoons.

El Cañi Sanctuary

Villarrica Volcano Ascent

Without a doubt, the Villarrica Volcano (2800 meters) ascent is a must-do activities if you plan to visit Pucón. As of today, it is one of the most active volcanoes in South America. The climb to its open crater is definitely a one of a lifetime experience.

The adventure starts at approx. 6 am, when the van takes you to the ski center located at 1.300 meters. After putting on your mountain gear, the hike begins with 2 options: use the chairlift, or start walking immediately.

Depending on your walking pace, it will take you approx. 4-5 hours to reach the open crater. From there, you’ll get to have an incredible 360° panoramic view over volcanoes, lakes, mountains and valleys around.

The descent consists in sliding down until the base of the Volcano (approx. 2 hours) where the van awaits you before taking you back to Pucón for a well-deserved rest.

Villarrica Volcano Climb

Pichillancahue Glacier hike – Villarrica National Park

The hike to Pichillancahue is not very famous but will surely take your breath away for its landscape. This is a hike suitable for everyone who seeks connection with nature, from children to elder adults.

This Glacier is located at the Villarrica National Park, Coñaripe side. Youll get to see several majestic snow-capped volcanoes such as Quetrupillan and Rucapillan. The vegetation changes from raulí and hualle forests to araucarias as you ascend to Chinay. The highest point of the day at 1.250 meters / 4.101 feet altitude.

After approximately 1.5 hour of hiking, you’ll arrive at the Pichillancahue Glacier trail. A good spot to relax and eat a good snack to refill energy if needed. The rest of the trail (3.5 hours round trip) leads to a phenomenal glacier covered by black volcanic ashes. Once again, you’ll be able to enjoy the stunning views of four volcanoes.

This hike is not technical and does not require any mountain gear. The best hiking time is during summer season.

Pichillancahue Glacier – Villarrica National Park

Visiting Chile’s Lake and Volcano District is definitely a must-do for every hiker & nature lovers.

Take a look at our hiking experiences in Southern Chile for some wild adventures!