World of the Mapuche

Learn about the Mapuche culture exploring their beautiful land

The area around Temuco is called “Araucanía” - thanks to the many araucaria trees that grow there in the altitudes. This area is the region with the highest indigenous population in Chile. It is the center of the Mapuche culture in Chile, yet the Mapuche defended their territory long and successfully against the European invaders. Temuco, the regional capital, could only be founded in 1881 as a fortress. Pay attention to the signposts in public institutions and elsewhere, as they are written in Mapudungún as well as in Spanish here.

“Mapuche” means “people of the earth” (mapu = earth, che = human). Originally, the entire area between the “little north” of Chile and the Island of Chiloé was home to the Mapuche. In such a large area, of course, there are also cultural differences, which are reflected in the names of the groups by region: “Picunche” (people of the north), “Huilliche” (people of the south), “Pehuenche” (people of the Araucaria Trees) and “Lafkenche” (people of the sea). The Picunche were subjugated early by the Incas, the Huilliche only very late by the Europeans. Depending on the region, they lived either as farmers, fishermen or hunters and are also famous for being very skilled silversmiths and weavers. Today, many Mapuche communities are engaged in tourism. They introduce interested travelers into their culture and worldview and offer guided tours as well as overnight stays in their traditional houses made of wood and reed.

With your own rental car, you are flexible to discover the beautiful land of the Mapuche - a really unique experience! Well planned with the right partner, a rental car trip to the Araucanía is safe and uncomplicated.

Our sample itinerary only includes the picturesque city of Pucón as base station because of its convenient location in midst of spectacular landscapes, hiking trails, Mapuche tourism, rafting options and other outdoor activities and finally the beach of Lake Villarrica. You can easily explore the region from there via day trips, so there is no need for packing bags daily. For outdoor enthusiasts, we recommend an extension in the area around Malalcahuello as described below.

It’s best to plan your trip in Chile with your own rental car in stages and to cover the long distances with domestic flights.

First, a few tips on trips with a rental car to the Araucanía

You should be prepared for some rainy days, even in summer. However, when the sun shines, the radiation is quite high, even if the temperatures are not. So, in addition to rain gear, you should always have sunscreen in your equipment.

Some roads are remote gravel roads where you rarely see other vehicles. There may be poor cell phone reception, so in case of a breakdown you should be well prepared. Remote roads are made of gravel, sand or stones, so we recommend careful driving. Keep in mind that, on gravel roads you can only go about half as fast as on asphalt.

There are many accommodations in Pucón and Curacautín, ranging from simple campsites, hostels, holiday homes and middle-class hotels to extravagant luxury hotels and lodges. With your own rental car, you are flexible and can adapt to weather.

Be respectful! Although many Mapuche open their doors to tourists and explain their ceremonial items, instruments, clothing and rites to the travelers, many things remain sacred to them to this day. If you are offered to wear traditional clothing, play instruments, or join the demonstration of a ritual, don´t be shy! However, please do not just take or use instruments and other items and always ask kindly for permission before taking pictures of people.

Sample Itinerary for a Rental Car Trip to the Araucanía Region

  • Day 1

  • Day 2

  • Day 3

  • Day 4

  • Day 5

  • Day 6

  • Day 7

  • Day 8

Araucanía Airport/Temuco - Pucón

Pick up your rental car at the Araucanía airport near Temuco. Start your journey on Ruta 5 Sur towards Freire and then follow the signs to Villarrica and Pucón. Spend the rest of the day exploring the lovely tourist town of Pucón, dine at one of the many restaurants and relax on the beach of Lake Villarrica. It is also a good idea to drop by one of the many agencies and see the offer of guided excursions for the next few days.

Overnight stay in Pucón or surroundings. Distance covered: about 95 km on asphalt.