Rafting on the Río Futaleufú
The Futaleufú River is known as one of the best white-water rivers in the world, and an adventure down the rapids here rates as one of the highlights of a Chilean holiday. Tour operators can organize hard-adventure rafting expeditions, or shorter rafting on more mellow sections of the Futaleufú. There is also the Espolón River closer to town, which is suitable for light day rafting and kayaking trips (the Hostería Río Grande, see below, has sit-on-top kayak day rentals for the Espolón). The following three outfitters are the best around, and they offer weeklong all-inclusive packages that cost between $2,750 and $3,500 (£1,833-£2,333).
The rafting and kayaking company with the most experience and local knowledge is Expediciones Chile, run by American Olympic kayaker Chris Spelius. This outfit has one of the best-run all-inclusive trips here, with a series of lodges both in Futaleufú and in the surrounding backcountry; they're based at the three-story townhouse Adventure Lodge, Gabriela Mistral 296 (tel. 800/488-9082 in the U.S., or 65/721386 in Futaleufú; www.exchile.com). Expediciones Chile is, however, less of a lodge and more of an interconnected series of properties that include camping and the get-away-from-it-all cabins CondorNest Ranch at Tres Campos. These backcountry cabins are serviced by a staff that leaves every evening to ensure absolute privacy, and there are wood-fired saunas and massage service on the premises. Depending on your desire, Expediciones Chile can organize a week that can include rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, and fly-fishing. Contact them ahead of time for day trips if you are short on time.
Another outstanding pick is the all-inclusive rafting outfit Earth River Expeditions (tel. 800/643-2784; www.earthriver.com), with a 400-hectare (1,000-acre) private ranch outside of Futaleufú fitted with camp-style lodging in lofty tree houses and "cliff dwellings" with tent platforms and sweeping views. They've been around for more than a decade, and, like Expediciones Chile, they boast superb guides whose local knowledge is as keen as their concern for safety. They also have outdoor hot tubs and massage services.
Lastly, try the rafting pros Bío Bío Expeditions (tel. 800/246-7238 in the U.S.; www.bbxrafting.com), a U.S.-based company with a passion for the Futaleufú. Like the other two outfits mentioned above, Bío Bío utilizes riverfront lodging in the form of camping (on forest-canopied tent platforms) and cabins, and they combine a full-day horseback ride to a glacier to raft the river that runs from it. They also have a sauna and yoga classes.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.