6 cultural tours through the foothills of the Chilean Andes

Women from the Ruka Ngen tourism cooperative lead visitors through the rich and storied traditions of the Mapuche and Pewenche indigenous people.  

Just a few minutes outside the adventure capital of Pucón, a different sort of adventure awaits the curious visitor – a chance to embark on a women-led tourism initiative through the cultural hinterland of the indigenous people in Chile’s south.
The Mapuche and Pewenche (Pehuenche) people survived for millennia in the verdant forests of southern Chile, developing stunning designs on woven textiles and coaxing a rich culinary tradition out of the extreme environment in northern Patagonia.
The Ruka Ngen cooperative brings these enduring traditions to life for visitors, with six guided tours through the culinary traditions, agriculture, weavings and natural environment of the Mapuche and Pewenche.
Women’s Traditions – This guided tour of daily life takes visitors into the heart of Mapuche traditions and culture, seen from the eyes of a local woman as she leads you through her garden, explains local bee-keeping techniques, and showcases the region’s wool and looms. Later, you’ll be able to hear about local history and costumes, while nibbling on freshly baked bread and sipping a hot cup of maté, a traditional tea.
Wool and Weaving – Each Mapuche and Pewenche textile represents a vast storehouse of knowledge passed down between mother and daughter – how to collect wool from alpacas, llamas, and later sheep; how to card, spin and dye the wool; and how to prepare the loom, weave the yarn and create the stunning, eye-catching designs that have brought traditional Chilean weaving to the attention of international designers.
Lagoons – Whether you’re looking for a guided hike to Laguna Weskefilo or a horseback ride to Laguna Cochor, both adventures take you deep into the native forest that forms part of the Araucanía UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. When you arrive, be sure to take the plunge into the crystalline waters of the lagoons, before warming up with a nice picnic lunch.
Farms and Gardens – A tour through the local farms and gardens sheds light on the traditional methods of food production and preservation, which allowed the local communities to survive the winter months in a time before supermarkets and fast-food.
Waterfalls and Forests – After a hearty country-style breakfast, this guided tour takes visitors to the network of trails and paths in the beautiful backcountry surrounding Pucón. “The elements speak to us of the centuries-old nature present in the forests of ñirre, lenga and araucaria,” says Ruka Ngen, naming three of Chile’s native tree species. One of the regional highlights is the walk to the Malalco Falls, a pristine waterfall emerging out of the forest and plunging dozens of meters below into a clear pool of water.
The Piñón – This route is all about the piñón (peen-YON), the delicious pinenut of the araucaria tree that served as a staple of the Mapuche and Pewenche diet for centuries. Modern scientists have determined the piñón to be rich in protein and important vitamins, and the meaty nut continues to play an important role in cuisine and gastronomy.
For more information and a full list of the different routes, visit the Information Office in Curarrehue, on O’Higgins 500, office 19, or visit the website (Spanish only).