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A stay in a Mapuche community in Chile: Reconnecting with nature

Ecotourism

Chile

In a hidden corner of the Southern Andes in Chile, about 8 hours by bus from Santiago and surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, you will find the community of Quinquén. The name comes from the Mapuche word Kmkañhue, which means “place of refuge”. Formed by a group of indigenous families dedicated to the forest, this community is part of the Mapuche Pehuenche group, “the people of the trees”, specifically referring to the monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria).

In the last few decades, these welcoming families have opened their houses and hearts to share their knowledge and lifestyle with travellers interested in learning about their history, their daily life and their relationship with nature. They have become a great example of how indigenous groups can share their cultural heritage and conserve it at the same time.

This magical place will fill you with peace and a feel of happiness while you enjoy astonishing views of sacred mountains, ancestral lagoons, and forest of millenary monkey puzzle trees (Araucaria). In this beautiful setting, your hosts will teach you to slow your pace and (re)connect with nature.

Quinquén and the monkey puzzle tree

This little known destination has something for everybody. There are several hiking options, including a trek to the top of Lifkan Mountain, incomparable views of the Andes, world-class horseback riding excursions and the distinctive gastronomy of the area. Also, you can discover the incredible native forest that surrounds this community while learning from the locals about their day to day life, as well as their beliefs, farming traditions and relationship with nature, animals and spirits. A visit to Quinquén is a unique, cultural and natural experience. 

During your stay, you will gain insight into the way of life of this community and understand the importance of ancient narratives for the preservation of their longstanding culture and heritage. Amongst many other things, you will learn about the relationship of the Pehuenches with the Auracaria trees and the pacific defence of their lands in Chile.

For a very long time, the diet of the inhabitants of this region has been based on the seed the tree produces, called “piñon”. Consequently, the community has been fighting for more than 30 years for the conservation of this sacred trees. The protest of the Mapuche people is about tenderness, they say, because they consider their land as their Mother. You can enjoy this and many other stories in the words of Don Cresencio Meliñir, one of the wise elders, while sharing a “mate” (typical hot beverage) close to a fire. What an authentic experience!

The role of rural sustainable tourism

This rural community has lived through the years mainly from agriculture and farming, even though it is not always easy for them. The weather in the Andes can be very hostile in winter and changes can be very drastic. When the snow blocks all roads and accesses, harvesting and all other economic activities can be affected.

The Mapuche people are resilient and thrive with their love for nature and for their land. Community-based tourism in this region can be a great agent for sustainable development and an important tool for showcasing and preserving this ancient culture. This exceptional community is always ready to welcome you and share about their rich history and peaceful way of living.

Next time you are planing a visit to Chile, make sure to add Quinquén to your itinerary. It is guaranteed to be an experience you won’t forget.

This post was a contribution by Daniel, a local expert from our trusted tour operator in Chile. To know more about this and other travel experiences in Chile, you can visit our Chile Holidays page and send a travel request.

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