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Officially, Melipeuco wasn't founded until January 1981. But for centuries before, the Mapuche lived on this land they called Melipewco, which in MapudungĂșn means “the meeting of four waters,” referring to the Peuco, Truful-Truful, Allipen and Sahuelche rivers, which join here. The village is in the Cordillera area of la AraucanĂ­a. It is the closest community to VolcĂĄn Llaima, which has recently been erupting once again. In January Melipeuco tips its hat to this mammoth, with the Feria del Llaima.


Like their ancestors, the indigenous here continue to struggle against the political and economic conquest of the “foreign” settlers. In the 1970s, this was a hot spot for the agrarian reform movement. After the 1973 coup d'etat, a number of activists were arrested, including members of the Mapuche nation. The fight for the preservation of their lands and customs continues today.


But what draws the majority of travelers coming to Melipeuco is the natural beauty of this landscape. The village serves as a convenient base for visiting national parks and hot springs. A few lesser-known reserves are also nearby. One is Reserva Nacional Villarrica composed of 60,005 hectares of araucaria and beech forests. Within its boundaries is Nevados de Sollipulli, a dormant volcano (access only by 4x4 vehicle; Entry: free). Reserva Nacional China Muerta, 24 kilometers / 14.5 miles northeast, protects 9,727 hectares of araucaria woodlands. Mountain biking is a popular sport here (dirt road to park; Entry: free). Furthermore, Melipueco is the southern access point into Parque Nacional ConguillĂ­o (31 km/19 mi). Within this park are the lakes Verde and CongullĂ­o. The emerald waters of Laguna Verde, also called Quililo, are excellent for salmon fishing (pick up fishing license at Melipeuco's municipalidad, city hall). The native forests surrounding Laguna ConguillĂ­o are excellent for birdwatching.


On the way to Parque Nacional Conguillío are the Saltos de Truful-Truful, a two-step waterfall. The first section, near a heap of lava, is 10 meters (325 ft) high. The second step is 20 meters (750 ft) high. Another spectacular cataract is Salto Carilafquén, a 25 meter (81-ft) high cascade passing through dense vegetation of quila, nalca, beech and mosses.


With so many volcanoes around, it is no surprise that many hot springs dot the area. Termas de Balboa, aka Molulco are rustic pools with 65ÂșC (149ÂșF) water (open January-February, 25 km/15 mi southwest). At the foot of Nevados de Sollipulli, are not only thermal springs, but also geysers; there are no facilities (open January-March, 23 km/ 14 mi southwest by dirt road, 4x4 necessary). At Termas de HuechelepĂșn, crystalline waters bubble next to a wooden hut (open January-March, 25 km/15 mi southwest).




Services are virtually non-existent in Melipueco. There is no bank. The Oficina de InformaciĂłn TurĂ­stica is open only in the summer (Aguirre Cerda, between DurĂĄn and Prat). Other times of the year, consult: or



La Bait ConguillĂ­o (Tel.: 41-6410, E-mail:, URL:



There is an artisan market on the plaza.



Hospedaje Icalma (Aguirre Cerda 729, Tel.: 09-280-8210; $10-13 per person)

Hostería Hue Telén (P. Aguirre Cerda 1, Tel.: 58-1203, E-mail:, URL:; single $20, double $40)

Centro TurĂ­stico Los Pioneros (1 kilometer from Melipeuco, Camino Internacional Paso Icalma, Tel.: 58-1002, E-mail:, URL:; single $24, double $50)

There are also cabins and campsites out of town, especially on the road to Icalma.



Several restaurants are on Aguirre Cerda, including Pub Restaurant Ruminot (no. 496, Tel.: 58-1087), Restaurant Llaima (no. 461, Tel.: 08-508-4942), and Restaurant Juanito (no. 563).


(Altitude: 1,505 meters / feet, Population: 1,591, Phone Code: 045)


Other places nearby Melipeuco: Puerto Varas, CuracautĂ­n, Temuco, Ensenada, Reserva Nacional Malalcahuello-Nalcas, Lago Panguipulli, Valdivia, Puerto Octay, Parque Nacional Alerce Andino and Parque Nacional Tolhuaca.

By Lorraine Caputo

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

07 Jul 2009

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