As you make your way south down the Carretera Austral, the first town you reach in Aysén, is La Junta. With 1,300+ residents, La Junta is the biggest town of the Palena – Queulat Area; one of the larger in the Region. It’s known as “the meeting place”, for its proximity to the confluence of the Rosselot and Palena rivers and also because it was THE meeting place for early settlers. Today, La Junta continues to offer visitors great encounters, friendships, hospitality, and stories, as you’ll soon discover.
Colonization of the zone began in the final years of the 1930s, when settlers began venturing following the Palena upriver, from the coast. They encountered the space they’d been seeking to develop productive farmlands and began to establish homesteads within the surrounding valleys. It was a slow process, but today, the La Junta community is known for its productive farms and a community that continues to grow and evolve.
The town was established around 1963, in the same area where families had gathered for years for social activities, sporting events and public meetings. It was the natural place to meet, a big pampa at the confluence of the rivers, but since everyone lived in their farms in the surrounding valleys, it didn’t really become a population center until settlers developed the dream of establishing a local school for their children, ending the need to travel to Puyuhuapi or Puerto Marin Balmaceda. Thanks to the determination of these settlers and the commitment of a professor, who was attracted to the area for ranching, agreed to stay and teach. The school was established in 1970, with 15 students. It was the turning point for La Junta; settlers soon began building homes nearby and a sense of community quickly evolved.
The school marked the beginning of decades of cooperation and community development in La Junta, during which the town built an aerodrome, the first stores, the Catholic Church, electrical infrastructure and even local television and radio. The community worked hard to obtain scarce public resources and services, constructing a rich heritage of friendship and cooperation; the foundations of why it’s a great place to start your visit to the Palena – Queulat Area.
Today La Junta offers a great base for your adventures, welcoming you home each evening after long days of hiking around and touring in the area. From here you can refuel both your vehicles and your spirits, before heading off each day to explore nearby Lago Verde, the Mirta, Cuarto and Quinto Valleys, Puerto Raúl Marín Balmaceda, Risopatrón Lake, Rosselot Lake, Mount Barros Arana, Melimoyu Volcano, and of course, the fantastic Palena River.
A short hike on the Sendero de Montaña Trail located alongside the Carretera Austral, in front of the town, offers a great way to orient yourself and have a good look around. After climbing 600 meters through native Patagonian evergreen forest vegetation like quilas, tepúes, coigües y chilcos, you’ll reach a lookout point with a great view of the whole area. On a clear day you can observe the Palena and Rosselot rivers, the Barros Arana mountain range, the Melimoyu Volcano and, of course, the town of La Junta. Perfect place for getting your bearings, right?
Afterwards, choose from a variety of activities and excursions, many of which are detailed in the rest of this chapter. La Junta offers a wide range of accommodations, from simple camping to hotels with all the amenities and gourmet meals. You’ll have plenty of choices, but definitely, book in advance, because in the middle of the summer you’re likely to find everything occupied.
And La Junta is full of surprises that make it much more than a base for accommodations and refueling! Here, you can find great organic, homegrown and local products including some of the most delicious fruits, vegetables and cheeses in the Region, all produced nearby, on local farms. Stock up on delicious goodies to cook in your cabin or take with you for picnics – we recommend the Farmer’s Market for the Women Farmers of the Valleys (Monday and Friday, 10.00 - 12.00), and also the Greenhouses of Don Fito, open every day and located alongside the Carretera Austral at the entrance of town.
A great way to wind up a day in La Junta is on the terrace of Hotel de Montaña Espacio y Tiempo. You’ll feel like you’re living a dream! No matter what the weather, you can comfortably relax outside enjoying the birds singing from the forest, the warmth of the afternoon sun or the gentle rhythms of the rain falling on the transparent roof. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a great pisco sour or local artisan brew, Kawiñ, brewed right in town. Don’t miss the chance to dine on one of their gourmet specialties, which feature many local products of the zone. The gastronomy is only rivaled by the remarkable stories of La Junta and its history shared by owners, Alan Vásquez and Connie Palacios.