Destinations | South America

The best hikes in Central Chile

30 Jan 2020 | Destinations, Outdoors, South America

Travelers in Chile often hurry north towards the Atacama Desert or to Patagonia in the south to visit the Torres del Paine. Since these are one of the best places to visit in South America.

Chile is a vast country, so you regulary have to make choices if you don’t have months to cross the entire country. The options for discovering the country are endless, all depending on your time and budget to travel through Chile. One thing is for sure, if you like a good road trip and love nature, then Chile is the perfect travel destination for you!

Travel with us and discover everything about the best hikes in Central Chile for the perfect Chile vacation.

We visited the country for seventeen days and visited one of my dearest childhood friends. We stayed 24 hours in Santiago. Read all our tips about the capital here, from top things to do in Santiago, hikes in and near Santiago, to the best places to eat in Santiago. From the capital we took a domestic flight to Concepcion, where we stayed for one night to start the tour with the three of us. We spent the night in Curacautin to start our first hike in Conguillío National Park the next morning.

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Conguillío National Park – Sierra Nevada Trail

Conguillio National park is one of the most special nature parks in Chile and it attracts more and more visitors every year. It is home to the 3125 meter high Llaima volcano and is known for its beautiful lagoons and vegetation. The park is full of araucarias. These trees are national monuments and are world famous. You can enter the park through both the north as well as the south. The beautiful entrance road will astonish you instantly, the volcanic landscape can be compared to the landscape on which dinosaurs used to live. Admission to the adult tourist park is 6,000 CP. First walk around Laguna Captrén to spot birds, which will take you about 45 minutes.

The most popular hike in the park is the Sierra Nevada Trail. This ten kilometer long tour was declared by the Lonely Planet as one of the most beautiful, short hikes in Chile. The trail is a semi-tough six-hour trip, with beautiful views over the volcano. During the hike we also saw children and elderly, so it is safe to say that the trip is suitable for anyone. We even spotted a couple of condors during the hike. After the hike we stayed in Melipeuco with the sweetest Mamasita ever: Posada Los Arriesgados.

China Muerta

We continued our journey towards Pucon, a small touristic but pleasant village! Dine in Trawan, where they only use fresh ingredients and you can taste that! Our next stop was China Muerta National Park. The road to the park is breathtaking but also frightening at times. The park has survived heavy forest fires which are still clearly visible. There is no entry fee to pay. The park is super nice to walk through but the signages of the hikes are not always clear, which makes hiking a bit more difficult.

Pucon – Santuario El Cañi

Feel for a solid hike? Then Santuario El Cañi is definitely for you! From Pucon, follow the S-907 road towards Thermas de Huife. After appr. five kilometers, just behind the restaurant Kod Kod, you will find the base camp on your right. Between 8 a.m. and 12 a.m. you must register here before you start your walk. The entry fee is 4000 CP.

The walk is 21 kilometers long with a height difference of 2600 meters in total. Be prepared to follow a serious steep path to the top…you will ask yourself more than once why you started this journey for God’s sake… The hike is tiring, but definitely worth the effort! The climb will take between three and five hours, the descent between two and four hours. We did the hike in five hours and spotted two condors during our walk. Along the way you will come across the beautiful Laguna Negra lake and at the top you will be rewarded with a spectacular view! Take enough water and food with you and dress in layers so that you are also warm on top!

Huerquehue National Park

Pucon is also the perfect base for the Huerquehue National Park. The park is world famous for the Los Lagos trail. This five-hour, beautiful walk takes you past the forests of old araucaria trees that surround the lakes in the higher part of the park. The entrance to the park is between 3000 and 5000 CP depending on the season.

After a day of backpacking in Huerquehue National Park you can use some relaxation. The Thermas Geometricas in Pucon are highly recommended. In these thermal baths you will completely relax and you can prepare your muscles for the next Chilean hikes. The entrance to the thermal baths is 27,000 CP.

Huilo Huilo

After three days of hiking its time for a rest day! We continued to our beautifulhotel Marina Del Fuy Lodge in Huilo Huilo. Along the way we stopped at least five times to take pictures but unfortunately an image cannot capture all this beauty. We almost constantly thought that this is by far the most beautiful road trip we done so far. We drove from lake to lake and the trip could have lasted many hours longer without us even noticing!

Huilo Huilo offers everything a person needs after three days of hiking. It is a small, fairytale village where all hotels and restaurants are made out of wood. Our stay at Marina Del Fuy Lodge was wonderful. The hotel restaurant was very good and the cocktail bar even better. The rooms are immaculately clean. The hotel has a nice swimming pool with a beautiful view of the lake.

Parque Nacional Agence Andino

After our well-deserved rest, we continue our journey to Parque Nacional Agence Andino, where we enter the park via the north via Puente Rio Sector Correntoso. The entrance is 4000 CP for an adult. The hikes in the park are laid out with wooden paths and wooden stairs, which makes it very tiring, but also very unnatural We personally did not like walking in the reserve, although it is a beautiful park.

To interrupt our hikes we visited Feria Fluvial, the fishermen market in Valdivia. It is a covered fresh market where sea lions have found paradise. They get here all the surplus (heads!) of the fresh fish that are cleaned here. Walk onto Castanero to get closer to the sea lions. Drive further along the beautiful coastline for a wonderful walk in La reserve the Curiñanco. Entry Fee: 3000 CP. The walk takes you through a fairytale forest with centuries-old trees and on the way back one can spot otters next to the wild ocean. It’s an easy walk for young and old and highly recommended. Eat the best civeche in Chile after the walk at Café Del Parque.

After the walk we spent the night in Temuco. Cities in Chile (with the exception of Santiago) are not really an added value to your trip and can therefore be avoided? The accommodation costs are often much higher but the rooms can be very disappointing! Dine  at La Pampa restaurant for a delicious piece of meat.

Lumaco

We continue our journey to the picturesque Italian village of Lumaco, where we spend the night in the delicious L’Emiliano Cabañas. You should always sleep in Cabañas while in Chile. They offer the best price/quality comparison and are always very clean and cozy. Do not be tempted by hotels as the photos on the website often look much better than in real life.

Nahuelbuta National Park

We entered the park via the Calima street in Angol. The base camp of the park is about an hour and fifteen minutes’ drive on unpaved roads. This can take easily quite some time, certainly without a SUV.  The Entry Fee is 2500 CP. It is a beautiful park that you absolutely must visit. The hikes are pleasant without any steep climbs. At the top of the summit, eagles and condors fly at eye level.

Getting around in Chile 

We have done our entire trip with a “normal” passenger car although I would strongly recommend renting a SUV! The main roads in Chile are well maintained but the smaller roads are sometimes suddenly unpaved. Always calculate enough travel time to get to your next destination and refuel where you can refuel as gas stations are scarce. 

Is it safe to travel in Chile? 

Backpacking through Chile, unlike other South American countries, is super safe. The residents are very friendly and you can drive through the country yourself without any problems. Make sure you always have your international driver’s license with you and keep your attention on the road. For example, people cross the highway at any given moment, cyclists ride along the highway and police officers stand in the middle of the highway are everyday customs.

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