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Chile: Futaleufu Rafting

9 days . Futaleufu River . Ecotourism
We will guide you into the heart of Patagonia! From our ideally situated luxurious riverside retreat you'll have the opportunity to explore the magic that is the Futaleufu. Our base camp on the banks of the river is home base during your stay. The multi-sport adventure we offer is an endless stream of exciting and fun activities in one of the world's most pristine, beautiful settings. Whitewater rafting and kayaking, fly-fishing, mountain biking, hiking, yoga, and horseback riding are just some of our specialties.

The Futaleufu River valley in southern Chile is a window into the past. The pace of life has changed little since the gauchos and huasos settled there a century ago. An authentic and genuine experience unfolds as we visit Patagonian farms, ride horses with the locals and enjoy their friendliness and warm smiles.

Our riverside retreat provides a wilderness experience in rustic-luxury. This apparent paradox is dispelled as your guides pamper you and invite you to relax with a massage and soak in the wood fired hot tub overlooking the river! You'll stay in private tent-bungalows overlooking the aqua blue river. We taste a variety of South American flavors and feast on the bounty of fresh fish, meats, vegetables and cheeses in a Patagonian "Galpon." We further enjoy free flowing, delicious Chilean wine overlooking the river during lingering sundowns from the "Sunset Bar." Our camp has a wood fired hot tubs and hot showers. We have two peaceful massage studios and the indoor and outdoor yoga decks are situated on a bluff with a clear view straight downstream! Each day adventure abounds as we explore every nook of the valley - by raft, horse, kayak, or mountain bike.

Join Bio Bio Expeditions, the Futaleufu experts, in one of the most beautiful and exciting places on Earth - Patagonia!


Day 1
Arrive in Buenos Aires, Argentina for your flight connection to San Carlos de Bariloche. A Bio Bio Expeditions representative will meet you at the Bariloche airport and escort you to the “Switzerland of the South” that lies on Lake Nahuel Huapi. Check into a lovely hotel with lake views located within walking distance of town. Your afternoon can be spent swimming, walking around town, shopping for Argentina’s famous leather goods, sampling Bariloche’s delicious chocolate or going for a walk along the lakefront. There is also an option to go for a longer hike near Bariloche’s ski resort. In the evening we will gather for a group welcome dinner at one of our favorite restaurants where you can indulge in an Argentinean steak off the parilla. * Please note that we are happy to arrange an extension to Buenos Aires either before or after the trip dates – don’t miss your chance to spend an extra day or two to explore Buenos Aires, the “Paris of South America” – one of the world’s most exciting and enticing cities.
Day 2
After breakfast we will board our private vehicles and begin the drive south to the Futaleufü as it flows into Chile. This is a beautiful drive down the east side of the Andes and is nothing short of breath taking! We will drive through the frontier gaucho towns of Esquel and Trevelin that were settled a century ago by Welsh farmers. This region of Patagonia was made famous by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid! The terrain alternates between lush forest and emerald green valleys, aquamarine lakes, and the windswept plains of the Patagonian steppe. In the afternoon we will reach the remote, rugged outpost that serves as the border between Argentina and Chile where you will get another stamp in your passport as we enter Chile. The dry, rugged scenery of the Andean rain shadow quickly gives way to lush, green temperate rainforest as we get our first glimpse of the Futaleufu River and then follow it downstream to our Bio Bio multi sport Adventure Base Camp. On the way to camp, we pass a few farms that are carved into the ancient rain forest allowing us a glimpse of frontier living, Chileno style. We arrive at the Bio Bio Base Camp where your private tent bungalow on a raised platform, complete with river views and comfortable beds, will be waiting for you. Our enthusiastic guides will lead you to your sweet new “home away from home” on the river! After a short hike or a swim, you may want to soak in the riverside hot tub or enjoy a hot shower. Then, we gather in the sunset bar for our first welcome happy hour. We will introduce the entire BBX crew and go over the week’s agenda. After happy hour, a hearty dinner will be served. It does tend to cool down quite a bit when the sun sets below the peaks so we dress warmly in the evenings.
Day 3
Awaken on the banks of the Fu and enjoy your first morning in camp! We rise with the warmth of the sun and have breakfast around 9 am. A pre-breakfast yoga class is available on our customized yoga platform with river views! Mornings tend to be crisp and dewy so prepare to dress warmly - a fleece is perfect. Today is a river day. We will launch our rafts from base camp after a thorough safety briefing. In a safe ‘eddy’, a short distance downstream, we’ll do a set of practice rescue drills. This allows the crew in each raft to hone their skills and prepare to raft as a team. We use a cataraft combined with ace safety-kayakers as part of our “safety net.” Each raft is captained by a highly trained and intuitive river guide, who guides the boat from a stern-mounted oar frame. Guiding with oars does not detract from the paddling experience. The advantage to the oar frame is greater control in pointing the bow straight through bus size holes and 15-foot high “haystack” wave trains. High siding is also an actively used “paddle” command. This style is consistent with any high volume, strong current river where rapids graded 4 to 5-plus rage on. This is the Futaleufú! The first section that we raft, from camp down to Puente Futaleufú (the Futaleufú Bridge), is only 10 km, but offers more rapids per 1000 meters than anywhere else on the river. It is the perfect warm-up run and it is non-stop fun! The rapids of note are “El Cojín”, the Cushion, and “Mundaca”, a local family name. At take-out, we meet our vehicles for a 20-minute ride back to camp. Those who would prefer a “lower body” workout to complement their paddling are welcome to run back or ride one of our mountain bikes from take-out to camp. When we get to camp, you can choose to go fly-fishing, try out a kayak, practice yoga, nap in a hammock, enjoy the sauna, have a massage, go for a hike, or soak in the hot tub. Taking a hot shower, either indoors or under the big sky, feels very luxurious while camping in the remote wilderness of northern Patagonia! Of course, for the hardy, the river provides a cold bath and refreshing swim. As the sun sinks behind the mountains, enjoy a game of chess or cards at the sunset bar. Every late afternoon is “Happy Hour” with an open bar stocked with beer, wine, soda, and fresh juice. Then, we gather together in the open-air kitchen/dining area, the “Galpon”, for a candlelight sit-down dinner featuring fresh locally grown produce and fresh-baked breads. After dinner, enjoy the campfire and the stars before retiring to your cozy tent on your private platform. The sound of the river will lull you to sleep and send you off dreaming of the next day of adventure in Chile.
Day 4
Officially day two of our rafting extravaganza. Our aim is to settle into a river rhythm that will be utilized in order to successfully raft the next few sections the Fu. After breakfast, we will launch our rafts from camp and have lunch on the river. After we pass the Puente Futaleufú (yesterday’s take-out), we immediately round the corner to meet a big stomping continuous cascade of waves known as “Mas o Menos”, translated, “More or Less”. This is a good stepping-stone towards our first true blue class V technical rapid, “Casa de Piedra” (House of Rock) which is right around the next corner. We will get out of our rafts to scout this massive boulder choked rapid from the banks of the Fu. It is formed like a series of water wheels that channel all of their fury into a final churning pit with a dragon’s back highway through it; that is, if you hit it on line. After this rapid, we will run the remaining class 3 and 4 rapids as our hearts resume beating at their normal rates. We will drift into a nice long calm section that offers perfect fishing from the rafts as well as a great place to get into some hard shell kayaks. The next three miles we will have a floating happy hour and reach our take out spot just above Lago Yelcho. Upon return to camp, we will continue to celebrate the day, enjoy the spa and get ready for another fabulous dinner prepared by our jovial crew and talented chef.
Day 5
Today we become experts at navigating our very own river crafts, known inflatable kayaks or IK’s. We venture up canyon to the source of the Rio Espolon as it cascades out of the Lago Espolón to find gin clear water and gentle class 2 and 3 rapids that offer a perfect learning opportunity to become a great captain of your own boat. If there is interest, before we paddle we will have a chance to stroll around the quaint little town of Futaleufú There is something deeply satisfying paddling your own boat down river, knowing that your destiny is in your own hands. Of course our highly trained guides will be there to coach you, watch over you and provide safety should you need to be rescued. The Rio Espolon is one of the major tributaries to the Futaleufu river and flows into the Fu right above the Inferno canyon which is where we take-out in the early afternoon. For those ready to try out a hard shell kayak, this is the perfect class 2-3 river to do it on!
Day 6
Surf and Turf up and down the Rio Azul valley! After breakfast we take a short drive to the stables where we will find our trusty steeds saddled up and ready for adventurous riding. After a safety briefing, we ride alongside some local expert equestrians and our own river guides who will gladly join the posse up a glorious, pristine side valley where the Rio Azul flows unhindered from its glacial headwaters. After a 3 hour ride, we stop for a picnic lunch and then trade in our saddles for paddles to test our talents on the challenging and fun Class 3 and 4 Rio Azul, a significant step up in difficulty from the Rio Espolon. This is a full biathlon day and you will be glad to return to camp, enjoy the soothing hot tub, a cold beer or glass of wine as you wait your turn to get a well deserved massage!
Day 7
We will have an early breakfast in camp then travel 25 kilometers up the road to Rio Espolon to launch our rafts for the Inferno Canyon day! On the Rio Espolon we have a chance to warm up on this low volume river before it joins and helps form the mighty Futaleufu as it gets squeezed into the narrow Inferno canyon. This upper canyon requires aggressive class V paddling and is potentially the most intense section of white water on the river. Many other options exist for those who choose not to participate in Inferno Canyon. Five distinct rapids form a narrow sinuous river passage creating a wet surge and a “full on” adrenaline rush. The fourth rapid was until recently the smallest of the 5, but due to road building debris landing in the river, has now become nearly impassable at most water levels and requires a walk around and “lining” the rafts through it. As we come out of “Exit”, the last rapid, we enter into a long calm. The current remains swift and we cruise many miles downstream arriving at the mandatory portage around the fierce “Zeta” rapid. We have lunch on the rocks as the crew “ghost” boats the rafts through this treacherous rapid. After lunch, our first obstacle is “Throne Room,” a class V+ rapid for kayaks, a ghost boat rapid for rafts. By walking around this rapid, we get a great bird’s eye view of an almost ‘river wide’ hole that could destroy a raft. Back on board our rafts, we are dealt a Royal Flush; a continuous class IV corridor of rapids does not let up until we get to our take-out spot at the Rio Azul footbridge. The rafts are left for the night, tethered on shore. Early evening is spent in camp getting ready for the evening festivities. Blanca and her partner Umberto, locals from a nearby farm, prepare a very special treat for us. They merrily prepare a delicious dinner called “Curanto” that is typical of the south of Chile and the island of Chiloe. We spend the evening by the bonfire on the beach singing and dancing the night away.
Day 8
Today we must be mentally and physically well prepared for the river. We call it the “summit day” as we aim to top our already great paddling days with the best day of white water in the world. After a nutritious breakfast, we head up river to the footbridge where we left the rafts yesterday. As our day on the river begins, the blue glacial run-off from the Rio Azul River merges into the Fu from the right. The views of the snow capped mountain peaks and jagged ridges of the mountain “Las Tres Monjas” (translated, “the three Nuns”) are absolutely breathtaking. A six-kilometer stretch of warm-up rapids leads us to the longest and toughest rapid that we will raft, “The Terminator.” We scout and study our line, then we take the plunge and drop in. “Left turn, right turn, dig it in — hard forward!” are a few of the commands that might be heard. The next three miles are non-stop rapids. After an aerobic workout, we pump through the enormous haystack wave train known as the “Himalayas”. Just when we need it, a calm returns, we float gently into lunch, served at our base camp. After lunch, we return to the river to complete the last task for the day, tackling as much white water as possible. We raft the whole section of river from camp to below Casa de Piedra. At take-out, cold beers and tea are waiting. We make a triumphant return to camp to celebrate our days spent exploring Futaleufú valley and river. For the evening’s festivities, Rolando and Nelli will prepare a typical Chilean Asado — lamb roasted over a bed of coals, ensalada, potatoes and farm fresh bread. We toast the river and give thanks for our safe passage. Under a bright starry sky, we will spend our last night together as a group on the banks of the mighty Fu with the guides and crew.
Day 9
We start early today. After loading up your personal gear, our bus and transport will take you to Bariloche or Esquell to catch your flight to Buenos Aires. (See below if you are interested in the Torres Del Paine Extension.) An evening or following day flight returns you to Buenos Aires. If you wish to spend a day or two learning tango and exploring the city we are happy to make arrangements for a trip extension. We hope that when you board the airplane you will look back upon your time in Patagonia and think of the friends you have made and the beauty of the Futaleufú River and Patagonian wilderness. Ciao amigos. Ciao Ciao Chile.

Important Travel Information

Is This Trip For You?
This trip is designed to let you get the most out of your Patagonia experience, including: rafting, kayaking (hard shell and inflatable), hiking, fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking and relaxing. Our base camp was developed with comfort in mind, with amenities like private tent platforms with beds, hot showers, wood-burning hot tub, sauna, massage studio, yoga platform, and the Sunset Bar. We've had everyone from first-time rafters to those wanting to raft all of the great rivers of the world.
While in Bariloche, we stay in a beautiful, fun, centrally-located hotel and enjoy meals at delicious local restaurants serving fresh, modern interpretations of traditional Chilean fare. At our base camp and Cascada camp, we gather for hearty family-style meals in our “galpon”. All meals are festive occasions, served up as gourmet fare that may feature fire-roasted lamb, freshly caught fish, and traditional cuisine infused with a little international flare. Everything is cooked daily on the premises. Vegetarians will love the abundance of locally grown vegetables and we can cater to any dietary requirements.
The local currency is the Peso (Argentinian Peso and the Chilean Peso). For the latest rates, There are ATM machines in the airports. You are responsible for lunch on day one. Other expenses to consider are tips, telephone calls and shopping. Tips are dependent on each individual but an average tips is 10-15% of the trip cost. Traveler's Cheques are no longer the convenience they once were. The exchange rate is not the best. It's much easier to use a local ATM and bring US cash. It's a good idea to have a variety of small, crisp US bills.
Destination Location
Our base camp is located in the heart of Patagonia in Southern Chile. You will fly to Bariloche, connecting through Buenos Aires. After a stay in the lakeside town of Barlioche, we will then travel into the Futaluefu River valley to begin your adventure.
Travel Companions
The maximum group size for this trip is 20. Bio Bio Expeditions has a group organizer discount incentive program. Please don’t hesitate to call us if you want to learn how to get a free trip and help organize a discount for a group of your friends. Under special circumstances the trip size can be increased.
Our Futaleufu guides are some of the most experienced on the planet; they are recognized around the world as some of the best in the business. They are leaders in the field of whitewater and swift water rescue instruction; they travel the world teaching other less-experienced rafters the latest techniques in whitewater rafting and rescue; they are all class V kayakers and class V rafting guides with experience on rivers in the USA, Peru, Chile, Africa, and Nepal. You will be in good hands with our crew! Our guide to guest ratio is always very low as to make sure everyone gets plenty of personal attention.
You are responsible for getting yourself to Bariloche, Argentina. If you would like Bio Bio Expeditions so assist you in booking your airfare please do not hesitate to ask. We book with a company called Americas Travel. Cesar, who is one of the owners is from Peru and is more than happy to help you with your booking. They can be reached at 888.703.9955. You will fly through Buenos Aires International Airport (EZE) then switch to the domestic / regional airport - Jorge Newberry (AEP) - to get to Bariloche. You should leave about 3 hours to switch airports in case of traffic or minor delays. You can always choose to fly through Santiago as well. After your arrival, all transportation is included in the trip price.
While in town, we stay in a lovely, centrally-located hotel close to all of Bariloche's offerings. At our camp, we feature private wood tent platforms, each with a roof and seating area overlooking dreamlike river vistas. Inside your tent, a comfortable bed awaits you - single and double mattresses are available. Every morning, as you designate, hot coffee or tea is brought to you as your morning wake up call.

Recommended Gear List

• Rain Gear The Futa region is famous for occasional intense rainstorms. Please be prepared with rain gear, such as a Gortex jacket or even one of those inexpensive yellow rain ponchos your wore as a kid. • Wool or fleece sweater • Down jacket Lightweight and a great insulator • Wool or fleece hat You can also buy locally made wool goods near our camp. • Wool socks Two pairs, so you’ll always have a dry pair to put on — a luxury! • Daypack or fanny-pack • Water Bottle • Hiking Boots or Walking Shoes You don’t need anything special; comfort is key. If you buy new boots, be sure to break them in before the trip (very important!). There are great running trails around the camp, so bring the sneaks if you’re a runner. • Hiking Shorts with pockets and a belt • Toiletry kit shampoo, soap, toothbrush, lotion, bug repellent, medications, etc. • Flashlight and or headlamp extra batteries. • Tent – Bungalow - We will supply you with a tent, which you will share with a “tent mate”. (If you prefer to bring your own tent, please let us know.) • Camera A waterproof camera is nice to have to take pictures from the raft. At all major rapids, we will stop and there will be time to shoot the rapids from the shore. We will bring along waterproof cases and bags to keep cameras dry. • Lotion and sunscreen Not much Ozone left in the southern hemisphere! • Book There is plenty of time for rest and relaxation, so bring along a book or journal. • A favorite poem to share around the campfire is also welcome. • Two tee shirts • One pair of lightweight nylon or cotton baggy pants Only a suggestion, but they are comfortable to wear around camp after a long day of rafting. • One nice pair of pants or summer dress for restaurants in Puerto Varas. • Bathing Suit • Songs, mirth and merriment, small musical instruments, etc. The Futaluefú is a difficult area to pack for. The bottom line is that you need to be prepared for any and all types of weather. The rain gear is very important!

Meeting/Departures Location

Bariloche Airport
Bariloche Airport
See Location on a Google Map

Cancellation Information

A 3% credit card processing fee will be charged to all balances. To avoid this fee you have the option to send in a check. No fee will be applied to initial deposits.

If it becomes necessary for you to cancel your trip (or any portion thereof), YOU MUST NOTIFY THE BIO BIO EXPEDITIONS OFFICE IN WRITING, BY E-MAIL, OR BY FAX IMMEDIATELY. Bio Bio Expeditions will assess a cancellation charge to cover loss of non-refundable advance payments we have made on your behalf to ground operators and government agencies, communication expenses, and the loss of time that may permit the resale of your space.

The following cancellation charges will apply.
Nonrefundable cancellation charge: $300
61 - 120 days prior to departure: $600
60 days prior to departure: No Refund
At or after trip departure: No Refund

**Bio Bio Expeditions will not grant partial refunds for any unused trip arrangements after the trip has commenced or any refunds to trip members who do not complete any portion of the itinerary.

If any trip has to be delayed for reasons out of our control, or has to be altered due to weather, road conditions, river levels, government intervention or any other contingency for which Bio Bio Expeditions World Wide cannot make provisions, the cost of the delay is not included.

If due to unforeseen circumstance it is deemed necessary to alter or change the itinerary, hotels, or form of transportation in order to produce a safer and smoother trip, then Bio Bio Expeditions World Wide reserves the right to do so. Bio Bio Expeditions reserves the right to cancel trips that are below the trip minimum (usually 6 persons). All trip members will be notified a minimum of 30 days before the trip departs and will receive a full refund. In the event of trip cancellation, Bio Bio Expeditions is not responsible for additional expenses incurred by trip members (e.g. nonrefundable "advance purchase" air tickets, medical expenses, and passport and visa fees).

Limitations of Liability
Bio Bio Expeditions World Wide, its owners, agents, outfitters, and employees give notice that they act only as agents for the said company and assume no responsibility for injury, loss or damage to person or personal property resulting from the expedition or connected activities other than through gross negligence on behalf of Bio Bio Expeditions World Wide, its owners, agents, outfitters and employees. On advancement of deposit, the depositor agrees to be bound to aforementioned terms and conditions. (Indemnity form)

*We recommend, as do other adventure travel companies, that you purchase a travel insurance package to protect yourself.

Adventure Snapshot

Duration: 9 days
Skill Level: Intermediate
Category: White-water Rafting
Destination: Futaleufu River
Theme: Ecotourism


Operator: Bio Bio Expeditions

Pickup Location

If you would like us to pick you up, the following locations are available:

Bariloche, Argentina Airport

Adventure Matrix

Comfort level

We Accept