About Lago Ranco

A Magnificient and Unknown Natural Patrimony

Lago Ranco, commune located in the North of the X Region, has rich forest ecosystems that are still virgin with native fauna, impressive waterfalls, large lake basins, beautiful beaches, active volcanoes, substantial tributaries and extensive territories that are part of the Puyehue National Park.

It only lacks the sea. This phrase could perfectly define the conclusion of the traveler who covers the vast territory of the Lago Ranco commune. The 1707.5 Km2 that makes up the area, are an abundant source of natural riches with its prodigious hydrography and many forest areas.

Even though many hectares became victim of the wood fever at the beginning of the century, it is still possible to see places where man has scarcely been and where the indigenous life keeps flowing just as centuries ago in the middle of an area that opens up to the Andes Mountain Range.


Lake Area

  • Ranco Lake: It is impossible not to start talking about the lake that gave its name to the commune. Bordering with the municipality of Futrono on its northern side, it is one of the main reference points of the water power and the scenic beauty of the place. It has a surface area of 443Km2, which make it the second largest in size in the country, emptying into the Bueno River. There are 10 islands in the lake, the largest being Huapi Island.
  • Maihue Lake: Long Andean lake, surrounded by high mountains, which has predominantly native vegetation. The Rupumeica Valley is found to the East of the lake, inhabited by a Mapuche reservation.
  • Huishue Lake: This lake is found in the midst of thick forest, in the Rupumeica Alto area. It is characterized by its native vegetation and has an extensive beach with dark sands.
  • Gris Lake: This lake is located in the Southeast sector of the Lago Ranco commune, within the Puyehue National Park, with a surface area of approximately 9km2 at 1,000 m.a.s.l.
  • Verde Lagoon: Its main characteristic is the greenish color of its water. It is worth stating that this beauty cannot be reached, due it is steep slope and enclosed access points.
  • Pocura Lagoon: Form by volcano, with very difficult access due to the large slope that surrounds it.





  • Forests, thickets, grasslands, parks, steeps, swampland, marshes, peatland and dunes, with the forests dominating the vegetation and the scenery of Southern Chile, both in the intermediate hollows as well as in both mountain ranges.
  • Forests: In the Los Lagos Region there are 16 forests of which 13 are found in the Lago Ranco commune



  • The fauna of the area is closely related with the vegetation formation that exists in the area, namely that of the Valdivian Rainforest, which is characterized by the high proportion of endemic species, that is to say, species whose area of dispersion is limited to this region. However, many of these species are in danger of extinction, due to man’s lack of conscience.
  • Mammals, the most common in this type of forest are: the kodkod, the pudus (whose preferred habitat is Coihue and Ulmo forest), the Southern Puma (which inhabits the mountainous sector), the grey fox, the Southern coypu (which is found in humid, marshlands), and the mountain cat, as well as other species that have been introduced like the hare.
  • Birds, the ones that stand out are the Chucao, the Black-throated Huet-huet, the Chilean Pigeon, the Slender Billed Parakeet, the Magallenic Woodpecker and the Chilean Tinamou, among others.
  • Insects, the ones that stand out are the Stag Beetle, the Moon Beetle, the Acanthinodea cumingii (Mother of the Viper) beetle, and the Damselflies.

As for existing native and introduced fish species, which are an important attraction for sport fishing, the most abundant indigenous fish are the: puye, carmetita, trout or perch, river mackerel, and among the introduced species are rainbow trout, brook trout, brown trout and European trout.


  • Bueno: This is the natural drain of the Ranco Lake, whose surface is 443km2 at 69m.a.s.l. and 199 meters as a maximum depth, it is also the second longest lake in the country.
  • Others: Riñinahue River, born from the Nevada Range, close to the edge of the Puyehue National Park. The Contrafuerte, Venados and Nilahue rivers begin at the North of the Puyehue Volcano, draining the central area of the Puyehue – Carran volcanic area; both rivers join close to the Carrán Volcano, taking the name of the Nilahue River, which flows to the East of Lago Ranco. In the Nevada range area, the Iculpe River is born, which flows to the Southern bank of the Ranco Lake, close to the town.



Spectacular waterfalls, all of which are visible, are part of the attraction of these rivers. Those that stand out are:

  • Nilahue: The attraction is formed by two consecutive waterfalls. On its sides the basalt walls can be seen as a result of the water erosion.
  • Riñinahue: This waterfall is formed by two waterfalls, which, due to water erosion, form a large well of green waters as well as a cave.
  • Pichiignao: This is formed by a group of falls, surrounded by vegetation, mainly Coihue, Chilean Firebush and Chilean Myrtle.
  • Los Mañios: Fall formed by a waterfall of approximately 80 meters, surrounded by vegetation and basalt rock.
  • Hueinahue: Fast-flowing mountainous river, surrounded by mountains with native vegetation. Large rocks and trunks dragged in the winter by the force of the water lay on its beds, which form waterfalls with great scenic beauty.


The commune of Lago Ranco, unlike Futrono, has a series of beaches that allow direct contact with the coast:

  • Municipal Costera: is found parallel to Viña del Mar Street and is located in the center of Lago Ranco town. It is about 100 meters long, surrounded by green areas, with willows and an area to leave boats.
  • Chumul: further away from the town, but it still has a good public. It is suitable for bathing, and a good number of willow trees can be found around it.
  • Municipal Recinto Ferrocarril: in the train area, which is the longest of the Lago Ranco town, where the largest number of services is available for the tourist. Its length is approximately 150 meters and it is wider than the others being formed by gravel and sand. The texture of the sand is somewhat volcanic with a dark color.
  • Riñinahue: with thick sand, located in the center of Riñinahue, with a beautiful view where one can see the lake surrounded with vegetation, mountains and islets.
  • El Arenal: approximately 800 meters long, with volcanic dark sands. It is next to the Illahuape Peninsula, which offers the possibility of carrying out ecotourism activities.

Mountain Area

  • Carrán: Volcano that at the end of the 50’s experienced an unexpected eruption, forming a new crater called “the Mirador” (the view point), which serves as a view point towards to the Riñinahue Valley and Ranco Lake. In neighboring areas it is still possible to see the effects left by the volcanic ash rocks from its activity, destroying the vegetation that would have existed at the time.
  • Mirador: Crater formed by the eruption of the Carrán Volcano in the 50’s, from here one has a privileged view of the Riñinahue and Carrán Valleys.
  • Sulfur Mines: located in the mountainous area called the Caulle Range, where one can see geysers and hot springs. This is a very special place given that in spite of being in the mountains it has a desert like landscape, and also has some areas with vegetation.

Protected Areas

  • Puyehue National Park: The commune of Lago Ranco shares part of its extensive territory with this area protected by CONAF. It has more than 107 thousand hectares and has evergreen humid forest type vegetation, with species from the Ulmo to the Coihue, at the lower layers, and from the Tepa to the Long-leafed Manio at a greater height. Within the limits of the commune in the Park are the Huishue Lake and the Sulfur Mine.
  • Alfonso Brandt Park: Created by the Municipal Council and at only 4 kilometers from the town of Lago Ranco, the area has tree species such as oak, Chilean firebush, tepa, pitra and an abundant understory. On the paths, one can see the species of vegetation that exist there, as well as having a privileged view of the lake, its island and all the surroundings.

View points

The commune of Lago Ranco has set up a circuit of 14 view points, with signposting and terraces at the main landmarks. Among these are:

  • Piedra Mesa: On a side of the Alfonso Brandt Park, with an excellent view over the whole Lake, part of the mountain range and the whole town.
  • La Junta: With a view over the drainage point of the Ranco Lake and the birth of the Bueno River.
  • Basic Services: The commune has drinking water, electricity and a sewer system.
  • Fuel: Gas station, located on Concepción St, the main street in the town. There is gas for all octane ratings, diesel and kerosene. They also sell liquid gas at 5, 11, 15 and 45 kilos. It also has a tire shop, sales room and public restroom.
  • Communications: There are telephone booths, with telephone services, fax and internet. Cell phones work in the area. The Post Office (Correos de Chile) is located at 452 Concepción St. They attend public every day from 09:00 to 20:00hrs.
  • Police: It has a Police Station, which reports to the 4th Commissary of Rio Bueno, and has permanent staff throughout the year, which increases during the summer season.
    Carabineros (Police): Camino Publico S/N, Tel: (56-63) 1971285
  • Health: In the commune it is possible to find a general consultancy, located in the town of Lago Ranco, which provide first level attention, where there are observation rooms, SAPU (A Public Service to Attend Patients) and Emergency Attention 24 hours a day. It also has statistical medical orientation service. It is important to make clear that patients requiring a more specialized attention and that require hospitalization, must be transferred to the hospital in Rio Bueno, some 48 kms from the town. Consultorio Concepción N° 655 TeL: (56-63) 491322

According to the 2002 Census, there was a population of 10,098 inhabitants in the commune of Lago Ranco which showed a reduction of 3.4% in respect to the previous census, carried out in1992, due to the low birth rate and high mortality rate that the commune has.

Of the total population, 2,205 (21.83%) inhabitants correspond to the urban population, concentrated in the town of Lago Ranco, which has experienced an increase in respect to previous Censuses. The rural population is represented by 7,893 (78.16%) inhabitants, a lower number in respect to the census carried out in 1992. This result is due to the countryside – city migration, generally by the younger population, who look for better opportunities in the city, but even with this result more than half the population of the commune is located in rural sectors, which identifies the commune as a rural commune.

In the chart, the evolution that the population of Lago Ranco has experienced during the last three Censuses carried out by INE, is shown.

Evolution of the population of Lago Ranco

Censo - year
Urban areas population Countrysidepopulation Total population


1.876 8.546 10.422


1.998 8.462 10.460


2.205 7.893 10.098

Source: INE, Censo 2002.

Distances by towns - places.


Km Town/Places Km
Ilihue 9 Quillín 7
Pitreño 15 Laguna Pocura 37
Riñinahue 25 Puente Los Venados 42
Río Nilahue 35 El Arenal 37
Calcurrupe 43 Volcán Carrán 47
Ignao 13 Paso La Mula 39
Huiemén 13 Lago Maihue 67
Balseo Puerto Lapi 20 Laguna Verde 41
Quillaico 4    

Source: Secplan, Comuna de lago Ranco.

The One-Hundred Years of Lago Ranco History

Before being a commune, this area was populated for centuries by the original people, the Huilliche, from whom thousands of their descendents continue being an important part of the living history of Lago Ranco. Trains that no longer exist, eruptions of the volcanoes and a wave of wood production at the beginning of the 20th Century are part of the testimony that is found in its streets and the stories of its inhabitants.

Huilliche Lands

The population base of the commune was clearly aborigine and had its center by the pre-Andean lakes of Ranco and Maihue, where agricultural, livestock and small fishery activities took place.

The Hulliches, which means “people of the south”, were also called veliches. They populated the south in the intermediate hollow starting from the Toltén River to the Gulf of Reloncaví. The specific zone of the settlement was Osorno, Llanquihue and Valdivia.

In 1535 there were about 180 thousand Huilliches. The first encounter with the Spaniards was in 1557. After that the life of the Huilliches was altered by contact of missionaries through the evangelizing work of the Jesuits.

Colonization of the 19th Century

At the middle and end of 1800 a process of immigration began, which mainly took place in the Lago Ranco Valleys and mountainous area. Among these pioneers were the Duhalde, Machmar and Retting families.

In 1845, the second colonization began, one of the most influential of the Province of Valdivia, with the arrival of the first German immigrants to the port of Corral on board the Bergantin Catalina.

At the end of the 19th Century, the first families set up on the east side of the lake, today known as Hueimen and Ignao. The possibility of exploiting the native forest due to its evident wealth attracted the first families of German colonists, which later meant the beginning of Lago Ranco as such.

Wood, Trains and the Municipality

The first decades of the 20th Century converted the place into an active commercial center thanks to the explosion of wood activities and the creation of the train, which extended to the train station of Lago Ranco which had a jetty.

The branch line reached from Rio Bueno in 1936, giving birth to the population dedicated integrally to the preparation and transportation of the material that arrived in steamboats at the port.

On February 14th 1941, during the government of Pedro Aguirre Cerda, the commune of Lago Ranco was created, initially on lands around the new train station.

On November 30th, the same year, the first town council was constituted in the commune, with the mayor being Luis Parada Jara, which covered basic problems that existed in a community that was in the process of being organized.

The commune of Lago Ranco and its municipal administration had to face diverse emergencies, product of the earthquake in 1960 and the eruptions of the Carrán Volcano (born in 1955, with its last eruption in 1979) marking a pause in the production projects for the area.

Cultural Patrimony of Lago Ranco, Rural Tradition and the Huilliche.

Diverse activities in the different periods of the year serve to symbolize through oral traditions, monuments, exhibitions in museums, typical events and ancestral ceremonies are part of the rich culture found on the banks of Ranco Lake. All are indisputable signs of a true, folkloric, and potentially deep-rooted Chile in this area of the Los Rios Region.

A deep footprint left by the constant presence of the Huilliche culture and the rural tradition enriched by the presence of the colonization that took place at the end of the 19th Century, mark part of the stamp that the main artistic, cultural and intellectual activities show in the commune of Lago Ranco.

The traditions present themselves in the diverse events that the community organizes, as well as those in religious ceremonies, sporting ones or in the museum that the town has. Among the main highlights that can be seen during the year are the following:

  • Arturo Moller Sandrock Museum. In this museum, mainly indigenous pottery from between the 16th and 20th Centuries, as well as fabrics and archeological pieces excavated in Lago Ranco during the 60s, are shown.
  • Puerto Lapi Ferry: Ferry located in the Puerto Lapi sector, on the limit between the commune of Lago Ranco and that of La Unión. The sector surrounded by its beautiful landscape, is suitable for fishing, and boats are offered for rental here. The pace is that of a human, that is to say, the operators are based on their own physical strength and skills in the knowledge of the waters they cross. Now there are only two ferries of this type in the South.
  • The Game of Palin: Version of the game of chueca: typical Mapuche expression, which began in Ignao with the purpose of increasing cultural tourism, where diverse Mapuche groups took part.


However, it is during the summer the cultural values of the commune are lived more fully:

  • Craft Fair: Fair where diverse artisan products are shown; woolen knitwear, wooden crafts, jams, preserves, ulmo honey, among others. This is done every year in summer season by the railtracks.
  • Local Traditions Fair: Typical crafts and food of the Huilliche Mapuche communities of the commune can be found here, represented by diverse indigenous tourism groups. Here it is possible to see craft products made in wool, clay, etc. Gastronomy like muday (fermented corn juice), catuto (wheat based bread), milcao (potato based bread), sopaipillas (traditional pumpkin based bread), among others.
  • Lepún: Typical Huilliche Mapuche event in which an initiation ceremony takes place as well as prayers, typical dances and rituals, with the objective of giving thanks and asking for a good harvest during the year. It lasts three days. This ceremony currently brings together around 200 people and is done at the end of January in Tringlo.
  • Candelaria: This is held the first week of February to worship the Virgin of Candelaria, where a procession is made by the population, accompanied by hymns and prayers.
  • Threshing with a Loose Mare: Activity for collecting wheat which separates the kernels by bringing a loose mare into a corral. Finally it is collected as was done traditionally in the fields. Typical food, songs and the sales of crafts can also be enjoyed. This is done on the Illahuapi Peninsula.

Additionally, during the summer season there is a series of communal celebrations and festivities in each village related with sporting, cultural and recreational activities during January and February, such as the choice of candidates for queen, anniversary weeks for the towns of the commune, and theatrical and ballet presentations.

International Folklore Event – Lago Ranco – Chile 2006

One of the most important events in Latin-American Folklore took place in the commune of Lago Ranco during this summer. This is the International Folklore Conference that looks to bring together the customs of neighboring countries in America, strengthening tourism, art and the culture of our country.

This project began in 2004, and was the first experience of international folkloric dance in the area with a delegation from Mexico. The International Folklore Conference brought together delegations from Paraguay, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico and Venezuela in a spectacle that lasted approximately two hours.