Rafting Through Patagonia in the Beautiful Futaleufu River


Futaleufu River is home to the world’s best water rafting spots, with aquamarine waters, the world’s wildest waves, and secluded journeys into the gorgeous Futaleufu River Valley. The beautiful Patagonia landscapes and adrenaline-pumping activities have attracted visitors to stop at this place and take an adventure into the beautiful river.

The river is cold and the rapid is strong, but none of them matter, because we rafted in the river with the view like this:

Beautiful view on the Futaleufu River | Photo credit: Patagonia Elements

This experience is something I cannot get over and watching the beautiful water flow along the Futaleufu Valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains is awe-inspiring.

Previous experience is not required for rafting, but it is not something for the faint of heart. When facing the strong rapids, you cannot just hide in the boat or be uncomfortable of getting wet in the freezing water. You can, however, have fun paddling through the waves and waterfalls with your team.

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Rafting tour with Patagonia Elements

There are day tours from different tour agents that take you to the Futaleufu River that is half-hour away. I booked the tour through the hostel Las Natalias with Patagonia Elements the following day at 10:30 am.

Futaleufu white-water river rafting, Patagonia

Photo credit: Patagonia Elements

The cost of 90 minutes river rafting is $50,000 pesos, and the transport, clothes (wets, waterproof jacket, and boots) and snacks are included. Given the unpredictable weather in Patagonia, we were thrilled that we got gorgeous sunny weather so we could enjoy the rafting and a short road trip on the world’s most beautiful highway that is Carretera Austral.

How white-water rafting works

For anyone who has not been river-rafting before, here is the way it works: there is no seatbelt, and you sit on the side of the boat putting one foot under the front seat to anchor you in. You do not paddle all the time, but paddle along at slow pace until you enter the rapids, and the guide will tell you to paddle fast, faster, and hard. Most times we will paddle forward, and occasionally backward. The guide is in charge of the direction to prevent the boat from hitting a rock and branches.  There are times we were told to get in the boat so we all immediately changed position from the side to the middle so we did not fall out.

Futaleufu white-water river rafting, Patagonia, Chile

My experience rafting through Futaleufu River

There were two groups and our group consisted of six people plus one guide journeying through some awesome rapids beneath towering white-dipped mountains and glaciers. The guide gave us the geological background of the rapids, instructions, on how to deal with dangerous rapids, where we will face the possibility of flipping the boat, and what to do if we fell off the board.

Futaleufu river-rafting

Futaleufu River | Photo credit: Patagonia Elements

In Futaleufu River, many rapids are classified as class three and four on a scale of five. This was a bit adrenaline-pumping for us, as there was only one person on our team who had done rafting before and some rapids are dangerous. We just embraced the journey and enjoy the scenery. The scary thing is that the guide always told us where the boat had flipped before and what to do when this happens (trust me, none of us wanted to swim in the waves), and it was there I realized that this was an extreme and adventurous sport.

After a short training, we saw our first rapid – class four underneath a bridge visible at the starting point. We then rafted through several class three and class four rapids, and each offered a unique level of difficulty. Most class four rapids are short and strong, and the first class three rapids were continuous and sometimes I had to keep the balance to prevent myself from falling off the boat.

Futaleufu River rafting, patagonia

After we survived several class three and four rapids, we came to the Terminator, a monstrous ½ km rapid with a massive hole-infested center where any boat going in will flip. We were told to raft from side to side to avoid the hole as we could not conceive of swimming in the cold and strong waves. I was super scared and could feel my heart pumping into my chest.

Rafting through Patagonia in the beautiful Futaleufu River, Chile

We paddled hard and fast in the waves and let the water smash in our faces. After a few seconds, we left the Terminator behind and looked back at the small waterfall cascading down the rock where we just paddled past. We were so glad that we pulled it through. We celebrated and continued to face more challenges.

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Jumping off a rock

Eventually, we ended our rafting journey and were given the option of walking to a rock on the left side of the river to jump. The feeling of walking with our body soaking wet in the crisp air and then jumping into the freezing cold water was nerve-wracking. We were given a safety spot to jump and that we needed to swim back to the boat. I have always had a problem with heights, but that time I was more concerned about the cold than being on the edge. Another traveler had the same concerns and we stood on the rock after the rest of the team jumped. Finally, all the crew encouraged us to get into the water by shouting “jump” from the boat. Taking in all the fun and pressure, both of us decided to jump together.

Futaleufu River rafting

This is where we jump off the river | photo credit: Patagonia Elements

My first rafting experience ended with warm tea and a snack placed on the Futaleufu riverside. At some point, we found a place on the rock where we warmed up and soaked up vitamin D, while surrounded by such beautiful blue water, green trees, glaciated peaks, and rapids we just rafted through. This was a special experience in a beautiful place.

There are many great rafting spots in the world, but not so many places have such beautiful water surrounded by majestic beauty, untamed natural wonder, few tourists, and many adventure opportunities. No wonder many travelers stop in Futaleufu specifically for rafting, and its gorgeous surroundings, fresh air, and turquoise water really live up to the title of the best rafting spot in the world.

What to wear: layers and bikinis. The agent provides wetsuit, waterproof jacket and boots, and you are only allowed to wear bikinis under the wetsuit. Also, bring a towel.

Other activities: hiking, kayaking, and rappelling. You can book it with Patagonia Elements, other agencies, or through your hostel.

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The most popular thing to do in Futaleufu is white-water river rafting. This activity will surely rekindle your wanderlust and inspire you to take a trip into the beautiful Patagonia region.

Julie Cao

Julie is the creator of Always On The Way. She lived in Hawaii and now resides in London (Ontario, Canada). In 2017, she went on an overland trip from Bogota Colombia to Puerto Williams, the southernmost city in the world. She believes travel is not only about visiting tourist attractions but more about getting to know the culture, people, and the place.

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