The unique, hidden glacier of Araucania
Did you think the glaciers were only found in Patagonia? Do you want to discover one without having to travel the almost 2000 miles that separate Santiago from the end of the world? In that case, head straight for the jewel of Araucania. Make your way to the small South of Chile to get away from the tourist traps and off the beaten track, towards Chile’s most secret glacier!
Though its real name is the Sollipulli Glacier, we’ve nicknamed it the Hidden Glacier, because it is not referenced in any of the well-known travel guides. We stumbled upon it a little by chance, looking for a trek that would amaze us. And we were not disappointed!
Climbing the volcano
Before you read any further, we should warn you–this hike is for people who are used to walking!
The ascent is possible on the two north and south faces of the volcano, but it is easier to climb by the north face from Melipeuco. The 4,500-foot difference in elevation takes more than 5 hours of trekking one way.
The well-marked path begins with the crossing of the forest in the middle of immense heights before reaching the steep slope of the volcano. From there, the region’s views are splendid and you can admire the panorama of the surrounding volcanoes: Llaima, Lonquimay and Tolhuaca.
Walking over the lava pebbles is rough, and you’ll find yourself sinking into them. Hang in there, though, because the reward for your efforts is this view:
2.5 miles long and 2,100 feet thick, the Sollipulli Glacier makes a lasting impression! Formed after the collapse of the crater more than a thousand years ago, it is a geological wonder and an incredible sight to behold.
The contrast between the pristine white of the glacier and the black-ochre of the volcanic rock is striking. Everyone who has experienced the volcano comes back in awe. The hike is definitely challenging, but we are generously rewarded at the top.
Careful! If you want to cross the glacier and reach the south face of the volcano, you must be accompanied by a guide. The crevices are numerous and the journey requires specific equipment. The complete hike, from the north face to the south face including the crossing of the glacier, is usually done over two days, with a night spent in a tent on the glacier as an added bonus, what more could you ask for?
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Access to the Sollipulli Glacier
From Melipeuco, take the S-61 road for 1.5 miles and then turn right towards Laguna Icalma. Be careful, do not follow the directions toward the Parque Nacional Conguillío, another gem off the beaten track that we reveal in a different detailed article. A few miles further, follow the direction of the Reserva Nacional Villarica. After 6.5 miles of road you will cross the Allipén River and then reach the rocky part of the path.
Then you have to be ready for an adventure! It’s impossible to continue on without a vehicle with 4-wheel drive from there (don’t try it, we got stuck…).
Then pass the Huechelepún canopy, a second small bridge, and you will then see the small CONAF hut that indicates the beginning of the route.
Lodging at the Sollipulli Glacier
There was a time when it was possible to sleep at the CONAF campsite located at the entrance of the park. According to the latest news, this campsite is now closed and there is no indication that it will reopen anytime soon.
The options of camping are nevertheless numerous in Melipeuco, but if you want a little more comfort, take a look at our favorite accommodation that we introduce to you in an article dedicated to the Conguillío Park.
Tips and practical information
Opt for the period from November to May to attempt to climb the Sollipulli glacier. The risk of snow is great at this altitude and in the region over other periods.
This is a rather demanding hike because most of the difference in altitude is concentrated towards the end, which means an extremely steep final climb in crumbly or even sandy volcanic rock. Keep fighting even when you sink.
Less experienced hikers will therefore be aided by walking sticks, and a good pair of hiking boots will prevent you from getting sand in your shoes.
And for all hiking enthusiasts, if you want to go on a hiking-focused trip or just include some of them in your trip to Chile, we offer tailor-made tours in the Region of Araucania, but also on the Southern Route, Patagonia, and even with a 6-day hiking tour around San Pedro de Atacama.
Don’t wait, check out our other articles to find out everything you need to travel like a local in Chile!
See you soon for new Chilean adventures with Travel Coach Chile!