From wine valley tours and surfing road trips to astronomical tourism, there’s a travel route to cater to all tastes in Chile. But there is one type of traveler that is often overlooked when talking Chile: the foodie.
Now a small group of local restaurateurs from the villages and towns scattered among the foothills of the Andes in the Araucanía Region is looking to change that. They’ve set out to indulge the epicurean (and budget-minded) traveler by banding together to form La Ruta Gastronómica de Araucanía Andina culinary route.
Coming from six distinct communities in the lush, temperate region of Southern Chile, these restaurateurs are united under one banner, pledging to provide “variety, exquisiteness and good prices.”
“The principal idea of this effort is to develop tourism to restore the culinary traditions of our country, focusing on regional and local cuisine,” said Juan Venegas, coordinator of the project.
The Araucanía boasts one of Chile’s most distinctive regional cuisines, in no small part thanks to the strong Mapuche influence on local food and culture.
That influence can be seen in the prevalence of quínoa among local plates – the current wonder food among health food aficionados – which has historically been a staple crop for the indigenous people of the Andes mountains, from the extreme South of the continental range to the far North.
The Mapuche influence is also evident in the many uses of piñon, the nutritious nut of the Araucaria tree. This nut is such a fundamental food source, it gave its name to the local Araucanian ethnic group – and the region itself.
The Araucanía is also well known for its sumptuous takes on classic Chilean dishes, from the casserole-like pastel de choclo – made of ground beef, chicken, raisins, black olives, onions or slices of hard boiled eggs topped with a layer of sweet corn – to cazuela – a stew of thick cut meat and vegetables that varies from region to region.
The following restaurants are currently involved in La Ruta Gastronómica de Araucanía Andina; be sure check them out on your next trip to the Araucanía Region of Southern Chile: El Bosque Hostería (Victoria); Café Vizzios (Curacautín); Hostería y Restaurant Donde Juancho (Lonquimay); Santa Elvira de Tracura (Melipeuco); Cafetería y Restaurant La Piedra (Cunco); Centro de Eventos Siete Espigas (Vilcún).