Kayaking in Chile: The 6 Best Kayaking Tours and Rivers

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Chile is home to some of the most staggering landscapes in the world. With the Atacama Desert in the North, the mountains of Patagonia in the South, and so much in between, this long, thin nation is not short of natural beauty. And while there are many adventure activities to undertake in Chile, perhaps one that stands out amongst them is whitewater kayaking. In fact, kayakers have been making pilgrimage to Chile for years now just to get a piece of the action. But, what makes kayaking in Chile so great? Aside from the chance to kayak between icy glaciers, the main reasons why a tour to Chile is so appealing are its accessibility, mild climates and excellent infrastructure.

To find out more about some of the best rivers in Chile for kayaking, read through the list (in no particular order) below:

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1. River Rio Maipo

Just an hour or so from Santiago, Rio Maipo is by far one of the most popular kayaking spots in the country purely thanks to its location. It is also surrounded by great places to stay and eat. The river tends to be divided up into an upper and lower section with very few challenges except for Frenchman’s Corner. Here, the rapids pick up a bit — the corner got its name from a French kayaker who unsuspectingly turned the corner and encountered some serious whitewater. This section of the river can be as tough as class V in high season.

  • Difficulty Level: Medium. Most rapids are class III but there are some sections that get more difficult. Otherwise it is a good spot for beginners.
  • Kayaking Duration: 1 hour
  • Rapid Grades: III – IV
  • Best Season: Year-round the rapid is class III. September – April the river is considered class IV.
  • Start/End Location: San Alfonso to Parque Los Heroes
  • Safety Consideration: Be alert as you turn Frenchman’s Corner

2. River Rio Futaleufu

Kayaking in Rio Futaleyfu
With rapid grades of IV+, Rio Futaleufu is a kayaker's dream come true

Rio Futaleufu is the kind of river that kayaking dreams are made of. Exclusively for people who really know what they’re doing on the water, this incredibly challenging route has been appeasing kayaking pros for years. There are sections of the river that would be suitable for a class II or III kayaker but beginners should still probably start somewhere else. If you want an adrenaline rush then the Throne Room and Terminator are some of the most exciting class V rapids that can be found along the river.

  • Difficulty Level: Difficult. Only people with a lot of kayaking experience should take on this route.
  • Kayaking Duration: 1 hour
  • Rapid Grades: IV+
  • Best Season: December – March
  • Start/End Location: Zapata Swinging Bridge to Puente Futaleufú
  • Safety Consideration: Mundaca Rapid is the most difficult part of the route.

3. Seven Teacups

Kayaking in Seven Teacups Chile
Canyon drop after canyon drop, makes kayaking in the Seven Teacups in Chile an enthralling experience

The Seven Teacups or Siete Tazas is Chile’s most iconic kayaking spot and draws in watersport enthusiasts from around the world. If you’re planning on kayaking in Chile then you cannot miss this run. The route is speckled with waterfalls and clean drops and is fringed on either side by rugged cliff faces. The scenery here is second to none and the thrill of kayaking through it at speed is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Situated just two hours from the nation’s capital, Santiago, in the Radal Siete Tazas National Park, this kayaking paradise is easy to get to and well worth visiting while you are in Chile.

  • Difficulty Level: Medium. This route is for people who feel confident in a kayak as there are a number of drops to navigate
  • Kayaking Duration: about an hour
  • Rapid Grades: III - IV
  • Best Season: December – March
  • Start/End Location: ¼ mile upstream from Observation Deck to just after the last large waterfall
  • Safety Consideration: The put-in and take-out spots involve a tricky climb. Also, be prepared for the waterfalls – these are generally considered to be good first-time waterfalls but can still be tricky for a beginner.

4. River Rio Serrano

The Serrano River wholly embodies exactly what makes kayaking in Chile so magical. The river winds around the border of the Torres del Paine National Park in Southern Chile and has long been a hit with kayakers. The vistas you can expect as you make your way along the water are outstanding and you will be able to gawp at some impressive glaciers on your journey. This run is calm yet exciting and gives you an exceptional opportunity to marvel at the power of Mother Nature.

  • Difficulty Level: Easy. Anyone can paddle this route.
  • Kayaking Duration: 6-7 hours
  • Rapid Grades: II
  • Best Season: December – March
  • Start/End Location: Serrano Village to Ultima Esperanza Fjord
  • Safety Consideration: While there isn’t a particular risk to be aware of while kayaking in this river, one must always stay on alert. Kayaking is not free of risks.

5. River Rio Ñuble

Kayaking in Rio Nuble Chile
Kayaking in Rio Nuble is suited for intermediate level kayakers who can tackle some difficult rapids

If you are looking for adventure then a kayaking trip along the Rio Ñuble should satisfy that craving. This Chilean waterway runs through some beautiful nature just a few hours away from Concepcion, Chile’s second largest city. But, what really makes this route exciting is the possibility to set up camp once the sun goes down. This is the perfect opportunity to be completely immersed in the great outdoors – away from the hustle and bustle of the cities and the stress of modern life.

  • Difficulty Level: Medium. Generally, not too difficult but there are sections of more difficult rapids – great for intermediate paddlers.
  • Kayaking Duration: 4 hours
  • Rapid Grades: III-IV
  • Best Season: September – March
  • Start/End Location: Rio de los Sauces to El Caracol
  • Safety Consideration: While there isn’t a particular risk to be aware of while kayaking in this river, one must always stay on alert. Kayaking is not free of risks.

6. River Rio Petrohué

This is a popular spot for both rafters and kayakers and with good reason. With snow-capped mountains as the backdrop and sparkling turquoise water beneath your boat, the views here are breath-taking. The rapids along this river are nice and wide, making them easy to manoeuvre so you’ll have plenty of time to take in your surroundings as you float along the water. The river is situated in the Los Lagos region of Chile.

  • Difficulty Level: Medium. Excellent for intermediate kayakers
  • Kayaking Duration: 3 hours
  • Rapid Grades: III-IV
  • Best Season: September – March
  • Start/End Location: Saltos del Río Petrohué to Puente Huenu-Huenu
  • Safety Consideration: When you first enter the water, there is a tricky class IV rapid to navigate.

Kayaking in Chile is an experience you aren’t likely to forget. Whether you want the thrills of being propelled through rapids or are looking for a more relaxing paddle, Chile has a kayaking tour fit for everyone. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your boat and hit the water.

Planning a custom trip to Chile by yourself can be daunting. Contact our travel experts and let them take care of everything.

Published by Marie Storm, updated on June 15, 2023

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