You can mix and match activities to suit what you love to do most. We have a prescribed itinerary that we follow to give the flow of events a sensible structure. However, we will alter or amend activities to your taste. We are very flexible and want you to maximize your enjoyment during your stay. We also want to stress that you do not need to be a Class V paddler to fully appreciate the Futaleufu River Valley. There are always lots of options (see our Menu of Activities).
Each day end’s up back at our base camp where there is always time for a rest, a soak in the hot tub, a massage, a mountain bike ride, kayaking lessons, ect. Happy hour is served daily on the deck in front of the sunset bar, overlooking the river..
Arrive in Santiago, Chile. Collect your luggage, pass through Customs and then re check in for your domestic flight to Puerto Montt – gate way to Patagonia!
A guide will meet you at the Puerto Montt airport and escort you to the beautiful town of Puerto Varas. The town is located on the shores of Lago Llanquihue, Chile’s second-largest lake, with stunning views of Volcano Osorno (weather permitting). Enjoy strolling the streets, famous for its wooden homes built by German immigrants.
We will meet at 7:00 pm in the hotel lobby bar for introductions and a welcome briefing to be followed by a group welcome dinner at one of our favorite restaurants where you can indulge in a steak off the parilla or try Chile’s famous seafood.
Puerto Varas is the owners favorite little Chilean town by far:)
After breakfast we board a private vehicle for a 20 minute drive to the La Paloma Airport, where we will take an incredibly scenic 30 minute small plane flight over the island of Chiloe and along the Patagonian coast. We land in the small fishing village of Chaiten – gateway to Patagonia. Wedged between the sea and misty mountains with glaciers in the distance the ‘outpost like’ Chaiten is where you really start to feel the remoteness, the beauty, and the wildness of Patagonia!
On the 2 hour drive to the Futaleufu base camp we pass beautiful Lago Yelcho, multiple hanging glaciers, jagged glaciated peaks, and temperate rainforests. Depending on time, we will take a short hike in Pumalin National Park; one of the largest and most diverse conservation efforts in South America. The 715,000-acre Park stretches from the heart of the Andes to the fjords of the Pacific Coast. Protecting a pristine Valdivian temperate rainforest, this is one of Doug Tompkins Conservation Initiatives.
Soon we’ll arrive at the Futaleufu Adventure Base Camp, where your private tent bungalows sitting upon raised platforms, complete with river views and comfortable beds, will be waiting for you.
After a short hike or a swim, you may want to soak in the riverside hot tub or enjoy a hot shower. Then, we gather in the sunset bar for our first welcome happy hour. We will introduce the entire crew and go over the week’s agenda. After happy hour, a hearty dinner will be served. It does tend to cool down quite a bit when the sun sets below the peaks so we dress warmly in the evenings.
Awaken on the banks of the Fu and enjoy your first morning in camp! We rise with the warmth of the sun and have breakfast around 9 am. A pre-breakfast yoga class is available on our customized yoga platform with river views! Mornings tend to be crisp and dewy so prepare to dress warmly – a fleece is perfect. Today is a river day. We will launch our rafts from base camp after a thorough safety briefing. In a safe ‘eddy’, a short distance downstream, we’ll do a set of practice rescue drills. This allows the crew in each raft to hone their skills and prepare to raft as a team.
We use a cataraft combined with ace safety-kayakers as part of our “safety net.” Each raft is captained by a highly trained and intuitive river guide who guides the boat from a stern-mounted oar frame. Guiding with oars does not detract from the paddling experience. The advantage to the oar frame is greater control in pointing the bow straight through bus size holes and 15-foot high “haystack” wave trains. High siding is also an actively used “paddle” command. This style is consistent with any high volume, strong current river where rapids graded 4 to 5-plus rage on. This is the Futaleufú!
The first section that we raft, from camp down to Puente Futaleufú (the Futaleufú Bridge), is only 10 km, but offers more rapids per 1000 meters than anywhere else on the river. It is the perfect warm-up run and it is non-stop fun! The rapids of note are “El Cojín”, the Cushion, and “Mundaca”, a local family name.
At take-out, we meet our vehicles for a 20-minute ride back to camp. Those who would prefer a “lower body” workout to complement their paddling are welcome to run back or ride one of our mountain bikes from take-out to camp. When we get to camp, you can choose to go fly-fishing, try out a kayak, practice yoga, nap in a hammock, enjoy the sauna, have a massage, go for a hike, or soak in the hot tub. Taking a hot shower, either indoors or under the big sky, feels very luxurious while camping in the remote wilderness of northern Patagonia! Of course, for the hardy, the river provides a cold bath and refreshing swim.
As the sun sinks behind the mountains, enjoy a game of chess or cards at the sunset bar. Every late afternoon is “Happy Hour” with an open bar stocked with beer, wine, soda, and fresh juice. Then, we gather together in the open-air kitchen/dining area, the “Galpon”, for a candlelight sit-down dinner featuring fresh locally grown produce and fresh-baked breads. After dinner, enjoy the campfire and the stars before retiring to your cozy tent on your private platform. The sound of the river will lull you to sleep and send you off dreaming of the next day of adventure in Chile.
Officially day two of our rafting extravaganza. Our aim is to settle into a river rhythm that will be utilized in order to successfully raft the next few sections the Fu. After breakfast, we will launch our rafts from camp and have lunch on the river. After we pass the Puente Futaleufú (yesterday’s take-out), we immediately round the corner to meet a big stomping continuous cascade of waves known as “Mas o Menos”, translated, “More or Less”. This is a good stepping-stone towards our first true blue class V technical rapid, “Casa de Piedra” (House of Rock) which is right around the next corner. We will get out of our rafts to scout this massive boulder choked rapid from the banks of the Fu. It is formed like a series of water wheels that channel all of their fury into a final churning pit with a dragon’s back highway through it; that is, if you hit it on line.
After this rapid, we will run the remaining class 3 and 4 rapids as our hearts resume beating at their normal rates. We will drift into a nice long calm section that offers perfect fishing from the rafts as well as a great place to get into some hard shell kayaks. The next three miles we will have a floating happy hour and reach our take out spot just above Lago Yelcho. Upon return to camp, we will continue to celebrate the day, enjoy the spa and get ready for another fabulous dinner prepared by our jovial crew and talented chef.
Today we become experts at navigating our very own river crafts, known inflatable kayaks or IK’s. We venture up canyon to the Rio Azul, one of the main tributaries to the Futaleufu and is one of the most scenic canyons in Patagonia. Challenge yourself on the class II and III rapids and depending on your comfort level, either walk or take-on the Class IV rapid, ‘Cheese Grater’.
There is something deeply satisfying paddling your own boat down river, knowing that your destiny is in your own hands. Of course our guides will be there to coach you, watch over you and provide safety should you need to be rescued. Fishing, mountain biking or relaxing around camp are always options in the late afternoon.
After breakfast we take a short drive to the stables where we will find our trusty steeds saddled up and ready for adventurous riding. After a safety briefing, we ride alongside some local expert equestrians and our own river guides who will gladly join the posse up a glorious, pristine side valley where the Rio Azul flows unhindered from its glacial headwaters. After a 3 hour ride, we stop for a picnic lunch. Then you will have the chance to take a 30 minute, round-trip, hike to the 300 ft Cascada waterfall, one of the most beautiful waterfalls you will ever set eyes on. After relaxing and a short siesta, you will have the chance to trot or gallop back to camp. This is a full day and you will be glad to return to camp, enjoy the soothing hot tub, a cold beer or glass of wine as you wait your turn to get a well deserved massage!
We will have an early breakfast in camp then travel 25 kilometers up the road to Rio Espolon to launch our rafts for the Inferno Canyon day!
On the Rio Espolon we have a chance to warm up on this low volume river before it joins and helps form the mighty Futaleufu as it gets squeezed into the narrow Inferno canyon. This upper canyon requires aggressive class V paddling and is potentially the most intense section of white water on the river. Many other options exist for those who choose not to participate in Inferno Canyon.
Five distinct rapids form a narrow sinuous river passage creating a wet surge and a “full on” adrenaline rush. The fourth rapid was until recently the smallest of the 5, but due to road building debris landing in the river, has now become nearly impassable at most water levels and requires a walk around and “lining” the rafts through it. As we come out of “Exit”, the last rapid, we enter into a long calm. The current remains swift and we cruise many miles downstream arriving at the mandatory portage around the fierce “Zeta” rapid. We have lunch on the rocks as the crew “ghost” boats the rafts through this treacherous rapid.
After lunch, our first obstacle is “Throne Room,” a class V+ rapid for kayaks, a ghost boat rapid for rafts. By walking around this rapid, we get a great bird’s eye view of an almost ‘river wide’ hole that could destroy a raft. Back on board our rafts, we are dealt a Royal Flush; a continuous class IV corridor of rapids does not let up until we get to our take-out spot at the Rio Azul footbridge. The rafts are left for the night, tethered on shore.
Early evening is spent in camp getting ready for the evening festivities. Blanca and her partner Umberto, locals from a nearby farm, prepare a very special treat for us. They merrily prepare a delicious dinner called “Curanto” that is typical of the south of Chile and the island of Chiloe. We spend the evening by the bonfire on the beach singing and dancing.
Today, we must be mentally and physically well prepared for the river. We call it the “summit day” as we aim to top our already great paddling days with the best day of white water in the world. After a nutritious breakfast, we head up river to the footbridge where we left the rafts yesterday. As our day on the river begins, the blue glacial run-off from the Rio Azul River merges into the Fu from the right. The views of the snow capped mountain peaks and jagged ridges of the mountain “Las Tres Monjas” (translated, “the three Nuns”) are absolutely breathtaking. A six-kilometer stretch of warm-up rapids leads us to the longest and toughest rapid that we will raft, “The Terminator.” The next three miles are non-stop rapids. After an aerobic workout, we pump through the enormous haystack wave train known as the “Himalayas”. Just when we need it, a calm returns, we float gently into lunch, served at our base camp.
After lunch, we return to the river to complete the last task for the day, tackling as much white water as possible. We raft the whole section of river from camp to below Casa de Piedra. At take-out, cold beers and tea are waiting. We make a triumphant return to camp to celebrate our days spent exploring Futaleufú valley and river.
For the evening’s festivities, Rolando and Nelli will prepare a typical Chilean Asado — lamb roasted over a bed of coals, ensalada, potatoes and farm fresh bread. We toast the river and give thanks for our safe passage. Under a bright starry sky, we will spend our last night together as a group on the banks of the mighty Fu with the guides and crew.
We start early today as we have to travel back down to the coast to catch the short flight from Chaiten back to Puerto Montt for connecting flights either home or to your next destination. You will want to leave a comfortable “window” to make it back in time, so book connecting flights after 2pm. You may also choose to spend another night in Puerto Varas on your own.
A note on weather:
The Futaleufú River valley attracts many types of weather patterns year-round. The Pacific Ocean feeds its moist climate with frequent storms. The sunny months are usually December through March; however, when packing, think of cold and wet weather as well as sunny and warm weather, and you will be a happy camper. Plan ahead and bring warm clothes and a good rain shell.
This also means that the river level can change dramatically if an unseasonal tormenta or rainstorm passes through. We will only raft when the river is at a safe level.