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In Palena, the locals live and breathe the culture of the Andes. This is a land of yerba mate, horses, and cowboys, with a rich natural heritage whose crowning symbol is the flowing, crystalline water of the Palena River, on which visitors can row or boat from the town of Palena all the way to its mouth at Raúl Marín Balmaceda. Palena was named by Nicolás Mascardi, the first Jesuit explorer to arrive to the area, who thought it looked similar to his birthplace in Italy.
Ancestral territory of the Aonikenk people, in 1911 the first settlers arrived in the area, returning to Chile after having tried their luck in Argentina. They came back to establish cattle ranches between the Encuentro River and the California Valley. There has always been quite a bit of travel between Chile and Argentina in this area, leading to a rich cultural exchange celebrated each year in the “Binational Festival of Traditions.”
Today, Palena is a must-see destination with a wide variety of offerings for visitors, including rural tourism, adventure tourism, and activities for anyone who wishes to enjoy the natural beauty of this area.
Most of the lodging available in Alto Palena is in cabins and boarding houses. Find more information at:
From Puerto Montt, take the Carretera Austral to Caleta La Arena, then board the ferry to Caleta Puelche (no reservation required). From Caleta Puelche, continue to Hornopirén. At Hornopirén, you’ll need to board another ferry south, and the Hornopirén–Leptepu and Fiordo Largo–Caleta Gonzalo legs should be booked in advance. (You can make reservations at www.taustral.cl.) From Caleta Gonzalo, drive 81 miles to Santa Lucía, then continue east on Route 235 for 44 miles until you arrive at Palena.
If you’re coming from Coyhaique, take the Carretera Austral 215 miles north to arrive to Villa Santa Lucía. There, continue east 43.5 miles until you reach Palena.
If you’re coming from Argentina, drive to the town of Carrenleufú. From there, take Route 44 to the border crossing at Río Encuentro.
Transportes Río Palena and Buses Cárdenas offer daily routes from Chaitén. There are also three buses per week traveling from Futaleufú to Palena. Board in the plaza (town square); look for Transportes Jerry.
Buses Kemel also offers routes from Puerto Montt to Chaitén, where you can then board the bus to Palena.
Naviera Austral offers trips from Puerto Montt and Quellón to Chaitén. Boats only depart a few times a week and prior reservations are required. From Chaitén, you can take a bus to Palena.
Pewen and Aerocord offer daily 35-minute flights from Puerto Montt to Chaitén. These flights leave at various times, depending on the day of the week, and are subject to change depending on weather conditions. Palena also has an aerodrome; you can coordinate private flights to Palena in Puerto Montt.
Encuentro Binacional de las Tradiciones
Each year, the municipality holds a “Binational Festival of Traditions,” to preserve and share this border area’s culture and local identity.
Semana de Aniversario de Palena
In February, the town hosts Palena’s Anniversary Week Celebration and puts on a traditional rodeo.
In January, the town hosts a local festival called “El Pilchero.”
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