Futaleufu With Kids – New Family Adventures For 2024

A stone’s throw from the Chilean and Argentine border, Futaleufu is a sleepy little town with abundant natural beauty that just happens to be adjacent to some of the most incredible white water rafting and other outdoor activities in the world. A modest detour off the Carretera Austra, this quirky place is mainly geared towards adults but there is enough of an array of family-friendly activities in Futaleufu with kids to fill a happy couple of days.

We visited this charming, ramshackle little town as part of our epic road trip from Bariloche to Ushuaia with our daughters Georgia and Eva. Rather than heading to Puerto Montt and then south, we decided to take a more direct route, including Futaleufu, to get us to El Chaltén in time for Christmas. We are glad we did, as Futaleufu is a great destination with an unassuming charm.

Our Map Of Things To Do In Futaleufu With Kids

Getting To And From Futaleufu

Futaleufu is an hour and a half drive off the Carretera Austra if you are heading from Puerto Montt or an hour’s drive from Trevelin in Argentina, plus the time needed to cross the border.

Driving to Futaleufu from the Argentinean side, the final 40 km stretch of Route 259 leading to the border is a fairly torturous gravel track. Likewise, heading into Chile from Futaleufu, the initial 70 km of the journey proved to be another rugged gravel trail.  When we left town, it was rough going until we merged onto Ruta 7. When we finally reached the smooth tarmac, we thought we were in heaven!

It is rough going for a long way.

If you are planning to drive to the town, we would strongly recommend a vehicle with high clearance, like an SUV or 4×4. Also, make sure you have comfy seats, as your bum does start to hurt after an hour of being rattled around like a pea in a tin! Also, these are dusty roads, so make sure your windscreen washer fluid is well-topped up.

But with some incredible views.

Depending on which way you drive into Futaleufu, you may pass through Villa Santa Lucía. This tiny town fell victim to a mudslide in 2016 that took the lives of 22 local residents with no warning. We are not one for tragedy tourism, but driving through the remains of the buildings buried up to their roofs by a river of mud is sobering indeed.

There is a small airstrip just outside the town where you can catch surprisingly cheap flights to Santiago. As ever in South America, if you want to cross a national border, the cost of the flights skyrockets.

Crossing the Border from Argentina to Chile By Car

The national border at Los Cipreses is just a short drive from Futaleufu and is almost certainly the prettiest border crossing we have ever passed through.

It was a straightforward process to cross. We needed our passports, driver’s licences, vehicle hire agreement, permission slip from Hertz Argentina so that we could take the vehicle into Chile, and the car’s ID badge. This last one caused us to scratch our heads as we were unsure what this was, but a nice soldier found it in our glove box.

A critical bit of paperwork, it turned out.

You present all the above at the Argentine side of the border, then drive to the Chilean side and do it all again. On the Chilean side, they also asked for proof of where we were staying. There is no internet connection at the border, so make sure you have the address of your accommodation saved on your phone.

There are some restrictions on what you can bring into Chile, namely any containers of fuel in the car, meat, dairy, eggs and fruit. If you are at all in doubt about something you are carrying, then be sure to declare it. It’s far better to get it confiscated than get it confiscated and get a big fine.

Happily, wine is not included on the list! You can bring in 2.5 ltrs per adult over.

Don’t forget to bring some wine!

Where To Stay in Futaleufu

The town is full of hostels, campsites and Airbnbs, all quite basic. The town is tiny, and if you are near the patch of roads that makes up its centre, you will be within easy walking distance of the local amenities.

One thing we did notice was that a lot of places were closed despite still being marked on Google Maps as open. We were unsure if they had closed permanently during COVID-19 or just shut down for the shoulder season.

There is so much natural beauty nearby.

There are a couple of small supermarkets, restaurants, and cafes available. We did find the prices here a shock after Argentina. On average, things were 3 times the same as the other side of the border, and some of the food in the supermarket was more expensive than in the UK. In fairness, everything that the supermarket stocks has to make the long journey over rough gravel roads, so the price is understandable. The one thing we couldn’t find in the town was any laundry facilities.

We had a great meal at Once Once, just on the main square. We enjoyed our first quesadilla in South America and some local beer.

The centre of town is a nice place to relax with lots of benches and plenty of shade. There is also a well-stocked tourism office near the centre and a petrol station just outside of town near the airstrip.

What To Do In Futaleufu

^^Our favourite blog heading ever!^^

There are two things to do in Futaleufu: walk and get wet!

I wish we had made some stickers!

As mentioned above, the town is famous for its rafting. The main rivers, Rio Azul, Rio Epsilon and Futaleufu River, are wonderous. They wind their way through the mountains, and occasionally, these turquoise waters break into wild rapids and thunder over small falls. The water is so clear and fresh you can see to the bottom in all but the deepest places.

Rio Epsilon
The clearest water,

Some sections of the river are a little more sedate and perfect for kids. We booked a riverbug trip (a bit like tubing but with a little more control!) with Orígenes Patagonia, who cater really well for kids. It is not easy to take kids on rafting trips, but Erica, who runs the tour company, has two young children of her own and understands how to make a trip safe and fun.

Ready to roll!

The trip took us down a gentle section of the river with a couple of small rapids – the girls were giggling their heads off the whole way! We were initially a little concerned as the water levels were quite high. Our guide, Camillo, who was brilliant with the girls, and our safety supervisor, Petie, who was helping from his kayak, ensured we were safe and well looked after.

The experience lasted about three hours, and cost Chi$ 160,000 for the four of us, with all the equipment included and a delicious and much-needed snack at the end.

Smiles all the way!

The other suitable activity for kids was lake kayaking, which we sadly didn’t have time for. It looked a little more sedate but just as enjoyable.

Family Walks In Futaleufu.

There is no shortage of beautiful walks in Futaleufu, but to be honest, we had terrible luck. We tried to do four different hikes and failed on all of them.

Eva was excited before we hit a big snag.

Our first walk up to a small lake was cut short as the land had been purchased, and the access was closed to visitors. Such a thing is unthinkable in the UK.

The second walk to Mirador “Water Tower” failed when we missed the turning up the hill as it was not signposted.

Our third walk from the National Park entrance along Futaleufu River failed because it should have opened at 9 am but was still closed at 10 am. We were really annoyed about this one as it promised to be a beautiful walk with great views of this amazing river.

Our fourth walk failed because the river close to the start was so swollen that passing it was impossible with the kids.

Beautiful, but no chance of crossing!

The walk we were most upset at missing was this one along Futaleufu River with its impossibly blue waters. We put the route we would have taken here in the hope the ranger can get his or her arse out of bed in a morning and open up the gates for you. Thinking about it, we are not sure why the river access even needs to be locked up.

Have We Missed Anything To Do In Futaleufu With Kids?

A quick hop.

We hope you find this guide helpful; we had a great stay in this charming town. It really has so much natural beauty on offer. If you think we have missed anything or spotted anything that is now outdated, please let us know in the comments below.

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About the authors

Our lives have been intertwined with a passion for exploration and a shared love for travel. Our adventures began long before we met, as we individually embarked on daring expeditions across the globe. Our paths finally converged, and we soon realized that our adventures were much more meaningful when shared!

After a brief hiatus to start a family, we eagerly embarked on a new chapter of our travel saga. Determined to instil in Georgia and Eva the values of discovery and open-mindedness, our goal is to embark on exciting escapades and explore breathtaking landscapes, bustling cities, and remote corners of the world. From hiking through mist-laden forests to snorkelling in turquoise seas, every adventure is an opportunity to create lasting memories as a family.

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