Curacautín – Araucanía
The small town of Curacautín and its surroundings, which belongs to Araucania (Araucanía), is popular with domestic and foreign tourists because of its scenic beauty. In winter it is also a famous ski resort.
Among the most important attractions of the Araucanía are the national parks Conguillío, Nalcas-Malalcahuello and Tolhuaca, the volcanoes Lonquimay and Llaima as well as the thermal baths of Malalcahuello (quite exclusive), Manzanar (somewhat run down) and Malleco (formerly Termas Tolhuaca). The 303km² large Malacahuello-Nalcas nature reserve is visited by far fewer tourists than the Conguillío National Park. It contains one of the most spectacular landscapes of the “Little South” (Sur Chico), an extraterrestrial looking desert of black-grey ash and sand. The short way (1.5km, approx. 2 hours there & back) to Cráter Navidad, which owes its name to an outbreak on Christmas Day 1988, makes visitors think of the Mars: In the background, the volcanoes Lonquimay and Tolhuaca form an impressive backdrop, with the reddish sand and rocks bathing the scenery in the same light. The Sendero Piedra Santa is an interesting and more challenging hike (7.5km, approx. 6 hours there & back). The well-marked trail starts at the CONAF administration in Malalcahuello and leads through araucaria forest (with thousand-year-old specimens), then over tufted meadows to a mountain slope until above the tree line the highest point of the hike on Cerro Colorado is reached. From the hilltop you can enjoy a wonderful panoramic view of the nearby valley of the Cautín River and the surrounding mountain ranges.
The Tolhuaca National Park is located about 35 km north of Curacautín and offers many opportunities for a day hike to waterfalls and lagoons. Passing Termas Tolhuaca, the gravel road leads through a high valley to the park entrance. Shortly after the entrance, the path to Laguna Verde turns right. The hike leads through the typical mixed forest of bamboo, beech trees and araucaria. After a good 1.5 hours you reach the beautifully situated Laguna Verde, whose banks provide a good picnic area. After the descent on the same path, you can continue towards the park to Laguna Malleco by car. A flat and shady forest path winds its way along the lagoon to the impressive Malleco waterfall. This walk takes about two hours.
The Lonquimay Volcano (2940 m) can be climbed by experienced mountain hikers on their own. Nevertheless, you should not underestimate the challenges of climbing. Depending on the time of year and the weather, you should expect snow and icy places. In this case the use of crampons, pickaxes or even mountain ropes is necessary. The ascent starts at the Corralco ski centre at 1600 m altitude. The first two thirds of the ascent are technically moderat and easy to climb for good mountaineers. In the last part, however, you walk over ashes and scree, making your progress exhausting. Finally, the summit ridge requires a head for heights and safe walking, which is often difficult due to strong winds. In good weather, you can see up to fourteen volcanoes in a radius of 250 km from the summit.