If the medieval forests of fantasy novels do exist, Huilo Huilo (pronounced as wee-lo wee-lo) is one enchanted nature reserve that is simply incapable of disappointing.
Located at the west of the Cordillera de los Andes, Huilo Huilo’s plethora of breath-taking sceneries range from the towering snow-capped mountains, temperate evergreen trees, crystal clear waterfalls and deep pools, untouched rock formations and soft shrub lands.
Hailed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this natural reserve in the Pantagonian region of Chile is famed for its preservation of its rich diversity of ecosystems, wildlife and plant species with abundant rainfall all year round through all 4 seasons. Created in 1999 as an ecotourism project owned by Victor Petermann, the reserve is a perfect getaway for families, stress-relievers, urban escapees, nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Because Chile is located between the Andes mountains and the sea, the air is among the freshest and cleanest you will ever inhale.
Boredom has no place in this magical land as you shall see, so we selected some of the many fun things that are in store for you during your long, long stay here. Who knows, you may even chance upon some magical beings like elves and fairies who have been residing in the area for years!
Chile’s temperate climate results in a flora which is predominantly of Valdivian forestry, with an abundant array of ferns, lichens, funguses and mosses that dominate the forest floors and old tree trunks. Beautiful species of trees specific to the climate include Coigue, Olivillo, Roble, Lenga and Nirre.
With over 81 species of birds recorded in Huilo Huilo, this is a perfect place for bird watching. Other interesting animals that can be found here include the world’s smallest deer specie the Pudú, the Kodkod which is the smallest cat in the Americas, the Darwin’s frog which is known for its males keeping tadpoles in their vocal sacs, the critically endangered South Andean deer and many more.
1. Snow Adventure Center Bosque Nevado
Spreading over a whopping 35,000 sq. metres, this well-equipped centre allows you to gratify your winter obsession through skiing, randoneé, snowboarding, ski lifts, snowshoe trips, snow motorcycles and many more winter activities over snow-capped hills towering more than 180 metres high.
2. Pirihueco Lake
Known for its transparent waters, you can travel the Pirihueco Lake via the Hua-Hem ferry and be awed by shiny white sandy shores, luxurious trees, and rock formations. Try out your angler skills here, or participate in the lake’s thermal baths for a moment of soothe and calm.
3. Petermann Craft Brewery
Legend has it that a magician and an alchemist concocted a unique beer made from the combination of Huilo Huilo’s spring water, secret ingredients and magic. This brewery is known for the purest malt found near the glacier Moncho Choshuenco fed by the pristine waters of Huilo Huilo. 100% made by hand with no additives, visitors can enjoy 4 types of beer exclusive to the region of Huilo Huilo, plus beer production tours, food and beer tasting.
4. Salto de Huilo Huilo
As a result of a major eruption of the volcano Moncho Choshuenco, this glacial river runs though a bed of volcanic rock. The land movement as a result of the eruption created a 37-metre high waterfall which eroded the land below into a deep gorge over time, sprouting a highly fertile area of forest trees and ferns.
5. Longest Canopy Zip Line
Dare if you must, Huilo Huilo boasts the longest canopy zip line in South America! Simply known as “canopy”, you can whisk yourself 457 metres to the other end…not suitable for the faint-hearted!
You can never go hungry at Huilo Huilo. With a wide variety of restaurants, bars and cafes to choose from, you can savour the taste of the forest produce of blueberries, chestnuts, wild boars, seafood and more!
Whether you travel alone or a in a pack, there are activities for every visitor to select and enjoy – horseback riding, fishing, mountain biking, trekking, rowing, snow activities…the fun options are endless!
1. Montaña Mágica Lodge
Montaña Mágica Lodge or Magic Mountain is a hotel famous for its volcano-shaped lodging with a cascading waterfall from its pinnacle. Clothed in flora tresses and wrapped around with rows of antique windows, the hotel allows guests to peer at the Arenal Volcano from a distance. Laced with luxurious wooden interiors, you can live your fairytale dream here from US$200 per person per night.
2. Nothofagus Hotel and Spa
This hotel’s 35-metre unusual circular structure is a colossal wooden beauty that blends nature and nordic aesthetics with the out-of-the-ordinary. Here, you get to enjoy panoramic views on its elevator, or roll your luggages up its smooth-sloping ramp. Built of strong and sturdy wooden interiors, the hotel boasts a variety of amenities including baths on centenarian tree trunks with hot, Huilo Huilo waters, library, meeting rooms, mini golf, children’s playroom and more. Price starts from US$206 per person per night.
3. Canopy Village
Never been in a tree house? This is the perfect choice to experience it! These small wooden cottages are erected 1.52 metres above the ground, and can only be reached via connecting bridges. Each cottage can fill in 2-5 people, with folding tables, camp beds and sleeping bags fit for a compact environment. Price starts from US$50 per person per night.
4. Saltos Del Puma (Opens on 1 Jan 2014)
For the budget conscious, this backpacker’s hostel is ideal due to its location at the entrance of the Salto del Puma waterfall, which is also the focal point of many outdoor activities. Includes common areas such as the kitchen, laundry and restrooms. At US$15 per person per night.
All photos courtesy of Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve. For more information, bookings and on how to get there, visit www.huilohuilo.com
This article was published on Vida De Latinos’ online magazine, 1 March 2013.
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