Puerto Saavedra: Preserving Chile’s Mapuche heritage and natural environment

Chile.Travel recently reported on Lorenzo Aillapán, famous Mapuche Bird Man of Lake Budi, who has been named one of Chile’s living treasures. Like Aillapán, the respected performer’s hometown of Puerto Saavedra, in Chile’s Araucanía region, is another of the country’s valuable cultural gemstones.

Puerto Saavedra is “Konun Traytrayko leufu” – or “meeting of waters” – in Mapudungun, the Mapuche language. Mapuches comprise a high percentage of the population of this tranquil community. Located beside incredible Lake Budi – the only salt water lake in South America – it is a great place for hiking, canoeing and kayaking. As a result, Puerto Saavedra is a living example of the modern Mapuche culture in Chile and a prime destination for ecotourism.

To promote tourism and raise environmental awareness about Lake Budi, the area’s Lafkenche Mapuches have implemented the Nature and Ancient Culture Project. The project facilitates intercultural relations and provides unique opportunities to experience Mapuche’s traditions and their natural environment firsthand through organized travel packages and stimulating activities.

A geologic history

Puerto Saavedra was an important port city from 1885 until 1960, when the world’s strongest registered earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated the area.

The cataclysm was a mixed blessing for the area’s Mapuche people. Without the traffic and industrial influence of the port, the local Mapuches now reside amidst a relatively uncontaminated ecosystem and in a provincial locale that is ideal for cultural preservation and maintaining traditional practices.

Stay close to nature in Puerto Saavedra

Surrounded by lively forests, gorgeous vistas and lakeshore beaches, the geography of Puerto Saavedra is unique for its proximity to the sea, a saltwater lake, and a coastal river.

Lake Budi meets the Pacific Ocean in a stunning aquatic merger at Boca Budi, located three kilometers east of Puerto Saavedra. In the area of Boca Budi, visitors will find remarkable beaches, along with aromatic seafood restaurants, cozy hotels, and pretty campsites.

Within Puerto Saavedra itself, you will enjoy delicious food, including traditional Mapuche fare. In the center of town, Mapuche artists sell colorful wool clothing and crafts.

Check out Playa Maule (Maule Beach), the town’s principle beach, and a perfect spot for picnics, camping and long, relaxing walks. Make sure you also have time for a journey to Isla Huapi (Huapi Island), where you will find Centro Turístico Mapuche Playa Puaucho (Puaucho Beach Mapuche Tourist Center).

How to arrive

Puerto Saavedra is 85 km west of Temuco and 756 km south of Santiago. In car, follow the route from Temuco to Nueva Imperial to Carahue, finally arriving at Puerto Saavedra. Puerto Saavedra can also be reached by bus from Temuco or other surrounding cities daily.

By Gretchen Stahlman, written for Chile.Travel
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