Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Parque Oncol

Parque Oncol is a 754 hectare preserve of native Chilean temperate rainforest, and is an excellent day trip to make from Valdivia. The park has an office on the Valdivia River, which runs tours daily, by boat or by van.

Inside the park there are several trails, one of which reaches several lookout towers that over an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean and Valdivia. The park is excellent for birdwatchers and nature lovers. The forest consists mainly of Canelo trees, a tree which was considered sacred by the Mapuche Indians.

For adventure seekers, the park has an extensive canopy tour, which is the best in the area, and offers a unique way to view the top of the forest.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Valdivia is a vibrant town in southern Chile located on Rio Valdivia, just before it flows into the Pacific. The town, originally one of the most prosperous and industrious cities in Chile, was destroyed by the earthquake of 1960, whose epicenter was only 10 km away. The town has since been rebuilt, but is somewhat less industrial.

Valdivia is unique for its mix of German and Chilean culture. In the 1850s many German immigrants were attracted to Valdivia, and built breweries and other factories, and brought modern agriculture methods to the area. One such brewery is Kunstmann, which is located just outside Valdivia. Visitors can try the different types of beer, as well as eating traditional German dishes. Each year in January Kunstmann holds Bierfest, which is a smaller version of Oktoberfest.

Valdivia is also a great destination for nature lovers, as the surrounding wetlands and temperate rainforest offer spectacular natural sites. In the summer, canoes and kayaks can be rented, and boat tours can be taken to view the surrounding areas. There are several large nature parks nearby, the most popular being Parque Oncol.

Valdivia is also the location of the Universidad Austral de Chile, a public university located along the Rio Cruce and Rio Valdivia. The highlight of the university is its large botanical garden featuring trees from all over the world.

For those who wish to spend the night in Valdivia, there are many hotels and cabins. A cheaper and more scenic option, however, is to take a short bus ride to Niebla, and stay in a cabin along the mouth of Rio Valdivia and the Pacific Ocean.

Puerto Saavedra and Lago Budi

Puerto Saavedra is a small costal town directly east of Temuco, making it the closest trip to the ocean from Temuco. Although it has yet to catch on as a popular tourist area, Puerto Saavedra has much to offer.

The highlight of Puerto Saavedra is a peninsula, with several 4 kilometers of ocean beach, called Playa Maule. This peninsula is the former location of the mouth of the Imperial River, which was destroyed in the earthquake of 1960. Above the beach is a large hill extending the length of the peninsula, which offers varying landscapes from sand dunes to a pine forest, all of which offer great places for camping and hiking.

At the start of the peninsula is Cerro Mirador, a very high hill with a lookout tower that offers a panoramic view of the landscape. A short walk or bus ride from Puerto Saavedra is Boca Budi, a small strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and Lago Budi, one of the only saltwater lakes in South America. Here there is a small community of summer houses and a few cabins and restaurants. Continuing on to Lago Budi, which is best done in car or boat (local tour guides can be contracted, and a free ferry service is offered), and many original Mapuche communities can be found, along with breathtaking natural areas and a wide variety of unique animals, such as the black-necked swan.