Introduction to Futaleufu
Futaleufu is not just about the rafting, nor is it about the little town that holds the name. It is an incredible steep sided valley, lush with vegetation and a ferocious yet captivating and calming a river, of extraordinary colours, running through the middle. There are fascinating places to stay, from 5* luxury lodges to farm home stays, or you can test your nerves and take on a five day rafting trip with a base camp on the shores of the river. The hospitality of the locals, their pride, calmness and shy demure is infectious and endearing.
As you enter the valley, the first thing that strikes you is the water colour; it is continually changing as the light and wind change, and the texture and height of the clouds shift over the high peaks - the water really does have a turquoise magnificence that is hard to believe.
Ways to explore
The Futaleufu River houses some of the best rafting in the world; best known for the technicality and quantity of its rapids, the incredible turquoise colour and clarity of the water and the stunning mountain scenery.
It is possible to do a rafting day trip, taking on the ‘bridge to bridge’ section of the rapid about 20km further down stream than the village of Futaleufu. If you have more time there is another section that you can do a little further down stream with larger, more technical rapids - this stretch houses the famous ‘Casa de Piedra’ rapid, where the raft has to do some ferocious paddling to get around an enormous rock in the middle of the rapid.
For those looking to do more than a day's rafting, there are multiple day rafting trips offered, which would take on the bigger rapids further up stream and also include a day of duckying, kayaking or paddle boarding (this varies depending on the programme). For more details see our rafting trips.
The valleys and mountains of the Futaleufu Valley beg you to hike up into them. Located just outside of town is the Reserva Nacional Futaleufu. It hosts two main trails which are reasonably short so both can easily be completed in a day. There is also a number of shorter hikes to view points around the town which are well worth it. Depending on where you are staying, there are other hiking options to hidden lakes, waterfalls, hidden valleys and stunning untouched forests and peaks. If you are coming to Futaleufu, it is worth factoring in a day or two of hiking into your itinerary.
Cars are only a recent introduction into the Futaleufu Valley so there is an abundance of horse trails. Much of the horse riding in done up the Epsolon Valley and Azul Valley, both of which flow into the the Futaleufu. Horse riding will get you higher up into the hills, generally on private land to otherwise unreachable locations. The horse riding tends to be a day rather than multi-day trips.
Stopping at Futaleufu is an absolute must when on the Carretera Austral via Esquel/Futaleufu, and also makes a wonderful option for a detour if you are on the road, driving north or south between La Junta and Chaiten. Depending on how active you want to be, we would definitely recommend a minimum of three nights in the valley. For places to stay, please see below.
Don't be put off by the adrenaline sport fame Futaleufu has. It is a breathtaking valley with something for everyone, from 5* luxury spa experiences to rafting the mighty 'Futa' but with experienced guides and a cosy camp.
Trips in Futaleufu
Where to stay in Futaleufu
Futaleufu doesn't have a huge range of accommodation options but the lodges, hotels, cabins and base camps it does have are unique, with stunning views and a really high level of comfort. There is something for everyone!
Choose to stay either in the village, in cosy but simple lodging or head out of town to a luxury hotel with pool and spa facilities.
How to get there
Futaleufu can be accessed and included in a wider itinerary in a number of different ways:
From Buenos Aires it is just a two hour domestic flight to Esquel and then a one hour drive across the border; it is 4-5 hours drive from Bariloche.
Accessing it from the Carretera Austral, it is a 2-3 hour drive from the Lago Yelcho, 3-4 hours drive from Chaiten and 2-3 hours drive from La Junta. Chaiten is a short one hour flight from Puerto Montt in the southern part of the Chilean Lake district which connects with Santiago.
To access the town it really is best to come in your own rental car (preferably a 4x4) to give you the freedom and flexibility to explore when you arrive. If driving isn’t for you, then a transfer or a guided road trip can be arranged.
Speak to any Futaleufuan and they are none too proud to tell you that the town's slogan is ‘Un Paisaje Pintado Por Dios’ - a landscape painted by god. Although a little cheesy, it is easy to believe and you find yourself agreeing whole heartedly with them. It really is truly breathtaking.
Sally Dodge Patagonia Specialist
FAQs about Futaleufu
The colour and clarity of the water, the lush forest on either bank, the volume and speed of water and the technicality of rapids makes Futaleufu world famous for its rafting. For other types of tourism it is relatively unknown but offers stunning scenery, great hiking, horse riding and some really special accommodation options.
Absolutely yes - it is a really beautiful valley with great hiking, horse riding and fly fishing. It is perfect for people looking for a multi-activity experience or simply a place to stop and rest on an action-packed trip on the Carretera Austral.
Rafting trips operate between October and March - in October the water is much bigger as the river is receiving fresh snow melt from the spring; in March, the water level will be a little lower but the rapids are still exhilarating. For other activities and lodging, we would recommend the same time frame.
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