From the Puerto Ramírez junction, where Ruta 231 leads northeast toward Futaleufú, Ruta 235 veers southeast to the hamlet of Palena, which is far less frequented but no less scenic. While lacking Futaleufú’s critical mass of services, it compensates with a pastoral integrity that manifests itself in events like late January’s rodeo. It also provides an alternative route into Argentina.
In the namesake river valley, Palena is 43 kilometers southeast of Puerto Ramírez and five kilometers east of Argentina’s Carrenleufú border post. The Carabineros, who manage the Chilean crossing, can be agonizingly slow.
Palena has a pair of simple, affordable accommodations almost side by side: Hospedaje La Chilenita (Pudeto 681, tel. 065/741212, US$7 pp) and Hospedaje El Passo (Pudeto 661, tel. 065/741226, US$7 pp). Both also serve meals, as does Café Los Pioneros (Pérez Rosales 663, tel. 065/741262).
Palena’s Oficina de Información Turística (O’Higgins 740, tel. 065/741217, tur-muni @entelchile.net) keeps long hours in summer only.
Buses Río Palena (Pedro Montt 853, tel. 065/741319) connects to Chaitén (US$13, four hours) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:45 a.m., returning at 3:30 p.m.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition