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Lago Ranco

The City of Caesars (la Ciudad de Césares) was on the shores of Lago Ranco – or so thought the Valdivia governor don Joaquín de Espinosa Dávalos. In 1777 he sent an expedition in search of the legendary city. The explorers, unable to find a home with the Caesars, founded Llifén instead.

Today the major city on the shores of Lago Ranco is Futrono, “The Place of the Smokes,” as Futrono means in Mapudungun (123 kilometers /
74 miles from the region’s capital). Surrounded by mountains, this village is the place of traditions and legends. On Isla Huapi, accessible by boat from Futrono, is the main reservation of the Mapuche-Huilliche in the area. Here, this indigenous nation maintains its customs. La Piedra de Bruja (the Witch’s Stone) on the island is said to bless visitors with a long life. Another mythical place is the Cueva de Weichafe where Mapuche warriors were protected by the spirits of the cave.

One of the area’s most important celebrations is the Feria Isla Huapi in January and February. In town, travelers can sun on Playa Galdámez, or check out the Iglesia San Conrado, the Plaza de Armas and the Parque Botánico Futronhue. Fishing is one of the rewarding activities in this area, especially on the Ríos Blanco, Caunahue and Hueinahue. The season runs from mid-November to the end of May. Futrono hosts the Rally del Lago Ranco in March and a triathlon in October.

A 124-kilometer (74.5-mile) road, of which only 30 kilometers (18 miles) is paved, runs around Lago Ranco. Heading east on this route is the original settlement of the Lago Ranco region, Llifén. Midways are several spots of interest. Reserva Natural Mocho-Choshuenco is home to the 2,415-meter (7,849-foot) tall Volcán Choshuenco. Winter sports are an attraction in this park, as well as hiking any season of the year. Also between Futrono and Llifén is Cruce Cerrillos, from where a side road leads to the Santuario de la Virgen del Lago and the rustic Termas de Cerrillos (15 kilometers / 9 miles northeast).

Llifén is a port on the far eastern shore of Lago Ranco, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Futrono. Perhaps what drew the 1777 expedition to stay here are the hot springs located just one kilometer (0.6 miles) from the center of town. The village has many beaches, including Playa Bonita, Puerto Llifén, Piedra Azul, Huequecura and Caunahue. Bonita, accessible only by boat, has very fine sand. From Cerro Huequecura are great views of the lake, islands and the surrounding hills. Another pastime besides sun and hot spring bathing is rainbow trout fishing. Don’t forget to visit Santuario de Llifén and the Centro Comunitario Artesanal.

From Llifén an unpaved road heads to comuna Maihue on Lago Maihue, with hot springs, fishing and campground. In 1948, poet Pablo Neruda hid out at these termas while escaping to exile. Various communities around Lago Ranco are developing La Ruta de Neruda, following the footsteps of his flight.

The lake road crosses Río Calcurrupe and Río Nilahue which has waterfalls upstream. This dirt road swings west through Riñinahue hamlet before reaching Lago Ranco village. The city has several things to offer to the casual visitor. Parque Municipal Piedra Alfonso Brandt protects 25 hectares of native forest and affords views of the lake and its 13 main islands. Museo Tringlo houses anthropological and archaeological pieces. Along Lago Ranco’s shore here are over 10 kilometers (6 miles) of sand beach to stroll. In summer boats leave from the city’s pier for cruises around the lake. The third week of November is the Campeonato Regional de Pesca Deportiva.

From the town of Lago Ranco the road bends north to the RĂ­o Bueno. This river has a stretch of intense Class II and III rapids. Whitewater rafting runs on the coigĂĽe and roble forested banks of this emerald river end at el tapĂłn (the stopper), which has waves and whirlpools. Expeditions can be arranged with tour operators in Futrono. Balsas take passengers across the stiller waters of the mouth of the river. The route then continue northward past Playas San Pedro and Imahue. Four kilometers (2.4 miles) from Futrono is BahĂ­a Coiquea, which has an extensive white sand beach, camping, a tourist complex and golf course.

Lago Ranco is Chile’s third-largest lake. Its surface measures 42,300 hectares. The economy of the region is based on dairy farming. Traditional crafts in wood and wool weaving are also mainstays, as is tourism.

Futrono, Lliifén and Lago Ranco have hotels and restaurants. Most are open only in the summer. Campsites in the Lago Ranco region are:

Camping Cuesta de Arena (Cruce Vista Hermosa),

BahĂ­a Coique (Playa Coique, Tel.: 48-1264),

BahĂ­a Las Rosas (sector Puerto Las Rosas, Tel.: 48-1615)

Maqueo (sector Maqueo).

In Futrono

The tourism office is located in the Municipalidad (Balmaceda and O’Higgins, Tel.: 48-2636, URL:


HosterĂ­a Futronhue (Balmaceda 90, Tel.: 48-1265)

Hostería Rosengarden (Km 1.5 Futrono-Llifén, Tel.: 48-1044; $24 per person)

Cabañas Lahuenco (Km 1, sector Cun-Cun, Tel.: 48-1326, E-mail: cabañ; 1 person $30, 2 persdons $50 in low season; also has campsites).


Don Floro (Balmaceda 141, Tel.: 48-1271)

La Guarida (Padre Leodegario 47, Tel.: 48-1137)

La Jungla (Balmaceda 465, Tel.: 48-1869)

In Llifén

The village has a tourism office at the crossroads in the town center, supermarket and other services.


Posada del Turista (Tel.: 197-1954; $12 per person)

Spa Termas de Llifén (Tel.: 24-7810, E-mail:, URL:; $30 per person)


Restaurante HosterĂ­a Chollinco (Chollinco km 3, Tel.: 29-1919, URL:

CocinerĂ­a Rural Bello Amanecer (Sector Chumpeco s/n, Tel.: 197-1941)

In Lago Ranco

Lago Ranco has a tourism office in the Municipalidad (Viña del Mar 133, Tel.: 49-1212, URL:, food shops, tour operators, internet, hospital and other services.


Hotel Parque Thule (Km 2 Lago Ranco, sector Quillaico, Tel.: 48-1293. E-mail:, URL: ; $10 per person)

Hospedaje Los Pinos (ValparaĂ­so 537, Tel.: 49-1329, E-mail:, URL:; $16 per person)

Casona Italiana (Viña del Mar 367, Tel.: 49-1225; $20 per person)


Phoenix (Viña del Mar 141, Tel.: 49-1226)

Ruca Ranco (Costanera 1000, Tel.: 49-1406)

(Futrono — Altitude: 272 meters / 884 feet, Population: 545; Llifén — Altitude: s/d, Population: 2035; Lago Ranco — Altitude: 390 meters / 1268 feet, Population: 8070. Phone Code for all villages: 063)


Other places nearby Lago Ranco: Lonquimay, Reserva Nacional Malalcahuello-Nalcas, Parque Nacional Alerce Andino, Parque Nacional Conguillio, Puerto Montt, Lago Llanquihue, Lago Puyehue, Reserva Nacional Alto BĂ­o BĂ­o, Parque Nacional Tolhuaca and Puerto Varas.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

02 Aug 2011

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