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From Villarrica, Highway S-95 crosses the land between Lakes Villarrica and Calafquén to Licán Ray (also spelled Licanray). Cattle and sheep pastures, small farms and furniture workshops spot the countryside. Cabañas and campgrounds blossom along this road during the summer. On the north shore of Lago Calafquén is Licán Ray, a quiet, little village. Or at least it is in the off-season. But once summer comes, the town swells with vacationers, with the aroma of once-more-opened restaurants and the strains of festivals weaving across the strands and waters. It wasn’t always this way, though.


Licán Ray has been on this shore for time immemorial. Legend says that the beautiful Mapuche princess Licán Ray (Flower of a Very Sacred Rock), the daughter of Cacique Carilef, had fallen in love with a Spanish soldier. This angered the Mapuche people. The couple fled, going from island to island, chased by her father. They felt safe. But one night the cold rains drove them to build a fire. The pursuers came. Licán Ray and her Spaniard continued to seek refuge in the lake’s many isles until they disappeared.


For years the Mapuche community Loncopan was here. In the 1930s, trade by steamship linked the hamlet with others around Lago Calafquén. Licán Ray was incorporated in 1944. By then it was connected to the outside world by road. In the mid-50s, many left when plans to build a hydroelectric dam at Pullinque were unveiled. The village would be flooded out of existence. But fortunately, those plans were scrapped after the 1960 earthquake. Tourism took hold in the 1960s. The 1971 eruption of Volcán Villarrica created a river of lava towards the lake, six kilometers (3.6 miles) from Licán Ray, crossing the road to Coñaripe. Looking across Lago Calafquén, to the left, the escorial, or hardened lava flow, can be seen. In 1990, a 25-kilometer (15-mile) paved road from Villarrica was finally completed.


Licán Ray has a variety of activities to enjoy. Between the two beaches, Playa Chica and Playa Grande, is a peninsula. Hiking trails lead to a mirador atop with views of the lake, its 14 islands and the snowy volcanoes. Birdwatching is good. (The entrance is at the west end of Playa Chica; entry: $0.60). Rowboats and other watercraft can be rented on Playa Chica. From October to March catamarans do tours around the lago (leaves weekends October-December, daily in summer when there are enough passengers, $4). At the west end of Playa Grande is Arco de Piedra, a natural rock arch. Fishing is also quite excellent at Licán Ray. (Obtain permit at the municipality in Villarrica).


Along Licán Ray’s main street, General Urrutia, are stores, an internet / phone café, tour operators, restaurants and inns. Urrutia borders the large, shady Plaza de Armas. Around the public square are the tourism office (Urrutia 310, Tel.: 43-1201), Iglesia San Francisco, the hospital and the Jac bus terminal. Most tourism-oriented businesses are open only in summer. However, a few restaurants along Urrutia are open year-round, like The Naños and Ulmos de Chiñura.


In the winter it rains a lot. Camping can be challenging. Many campgrounds are at the north end of Playa Chica. Accommodations that are open all year are (low season prices quoted): Hotel-Restaurant Becker (Felipe Manquel 105, Tel.: 43-1553, E-mail:, URL:$50 one or 2 persons; includes breakfast; Señora Nadime (Carimán 25, Tel.: 43-1093)--$10 per person, including use of kitchen; six-person cabaña $36 per day; Camping El Trebol (Camino Panguipulli, Tel.: 9-684-9971, E-mail:, URL: Lodging prices climb steeply in the high season.


Although Lago Calafquén is in the Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes) region, Licán Ray is not considered to be part of the area, as it is in Region IX, Araucanía and the Siete Lagos in Región X, de los Ríos.



(Altitude: 207 meters / 673 feet, Population: 2200, Phone Code: 045)


Other places nearby Licanray: Frutillar , Lago Panguipulli, RalĂşn, Puerto Varas, Temuco, Parque Nacional Tolhuaca, Lonquimay, CuracautĂ­n, Lago Pirehueico and Puerto Octay.

By Lorraine Caputo

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

27 Dec 2008

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