Mallorca is awesome for hiking – although it doesn’t look like this in the first place. The GR221, as part of the European network of long-distance trails, provides roughly 150 lovely kilometers of connected trails. Additionally, there is a lot of map material available with which you can create your own alternatives.
Solid baseline information can be found here in different languages. Also check out the section guides that can be downloaded as PDFs. Information below is from early 2014 so could be outdated.
Date: Easter 2014 – 2 persons – roughly 1 week
We took the “Tren de Soller” from Palma to Soller from which we headed towards the coast to Port de Soller
From Port de Soller, we hitched / took a bus to Deia in order to walk again north along the coast (recommended!) until reaching Port de Soller again.
We continued to Santuari de Lluc (where we also slept 1 night) while doing some variants (Torrent de Pareis)
We took a tent for being more flexible – but not really needed if you stick to the general recommendations
Since I couldn’t find any proper source with some basic information around packrafting the Palena, I intend to close this gap with this post. Within the packrafting scene, several people already did the Palena but solid information that is public and accessible in a centralized way is still missing.
I consider the Rio Palena to be a perfect river for beginners in case the river has the right level of water (go in summer, not in winter), you don’t go alone, you carry the appropriate equipment and finally you scout rapids before you take them.
However, there are no rapids that are extremely dangerous or complicated. All rapids had a reasonable easy run-out (date: February 2016) – the biggest problems represent turns of the river that have overhanging trees and plants in which you could get tangled up. And yes – some rapids could easily flip you and your raft however all of them could be circumvented.
Caution: All information is based on the water level as of February 2016 – there is high possibility that the river changes in the future and hence, the rapids & complicated points will change as well.
Ready for the Rio Palena
Near the Ferry of the Rio Palena close to the Pacific Ocean
Sunset Rio Palena
View on Glacier
Old Boat on Palena River
X-12 Gravel Road
Date: early February 2016 – trip in total lasted a little bit more than 1 week including getting there & away, relax days etc.
The best source so far to get basic information around the Palena can be found on the websites of “The Greater Patagonian Trail” maintained by Jan Dudeck. Jan did an excellent job with maintaining a huge amount of information about this great trail challenge down in South America that you definitively should have a look at. His page is also the source where you get the basic GPS coordinates in form of the file “GPT21P.kmz“. I will refer to this file further down again.
Packrafting from the Palena Bridge until the Pacific (Raul Marin Balmaceda) will take you between 5-6 days depending on water level, wind and, closer to the Pacific, tides.
Be aware that Jan’s file will only provide GPS coordinates until the town of La Junta – but you cannot miss the way afterwards. Jan is working on an update right now for this specific section of the Greater Patagonian Trail.
I recommend beforehand to mark specific places where you can get out of the river just in case you intend to leave the river earlier as planned (see difficulties & challenges below) e.g. -43.92256, -72.8071 is an excellent place to do so.
The reason for this is: Even though the river runs partially very close to the X-12 gravel road, the river is mostly surrounded by deep jungle which is pretty difficult to cross for even just a few meters.
Regarding Jan’s file GPT21P.kmz:
In the file are several coordinates called “settler” – these GPS points are specifically useful in order to find the right place to camp / no to camp.
Jan also marked some “rapids” in the file – I recommend to use this information as a baseline, but since the rapids on the Palena change depending on the season, water level etc. you need to keep your eyes open.
I walked the last 30 kms to the Pacific due to strong head winds / tides. The ferry is free of charge – but only open from 8.30am to approx. 19.00pm – use your Packraft to cross the river afterhours. On busy days plenty of tourists will use the gravel road X-12 so it should be easy to hitch-hike.
In Raul Marin Balmaceda, you can find basic hotels, electricity from 7am to 1am and a lovely short hike to the Pacific Ocean Beach.
Feedback from Jan: The Greater Patagonian Trail Section 11 to 27 is to my opinion the “Packrafting Paradise” in Patagonia that is reasonable save to paddle with a packraft. Section 1 to 18 are already published, section 19 to 27 will be published in the next 6 months. Sections 1 to 10 of the Greater Patagonian Trail are best hiked without packraft.
When venturing into the fjords with a packraft be aware that sudden weather changes, powerful wind, strong tidal currents can bring you unexpectedly into dangerous situations. The limited escape and camp options along the coat of the fjords (very dense vegetation and a steep rocky terrain) may make it very difficult to seek safe ground in such conditions. To my opinion a packraft has a too low hull speed and is too wind-sensible to safely venture into the fjords. The fjords are more suitable for sea kayak expeditions.
On a nice day packrafting seams perfectly feasible but a weather change can put you in a very dangerous situation if you are in a packraft.
Difficulties & Challenges
Some rapids have the strength to flip your boat – however, they can be circumvented.
Take care of trees / plants in turns of the river in which you could get tangled up.
On the last 30-40 kms to the Pacific you can face strong head winds which could slow down progress or even make it impossible to keep on going.
Be aware of the tides in the end which also impact your possibility to progress.
Mark potential places to get out of the river beforehand – especially for the last section from La Junta to the Pacific.
The alluvial trees you will see during the trip demonstrate the enormous power the river can have during the rain season.
On the part from the ferry to downtown Raul Marin Balmaceda, locals informed me that a puma has been located several times. I hiked this part as well on my own, but I recommend to check with the guys from the ferry how the situation is before doing so (very helpful people).
I met people doing extended hiking & packrafting trips in the Corcovado National Park north of Raul Marin Balmaceda. But you need to do your own research in regards to further possibilities there.
Getting There & Away
From Puerto Ramirez which you can reach via hitch-hike or bus from Futaleufu you can also hike down to Palena town or set into the river directly. Have a look at the GPT20P.kmz section of “The Greater Patagonian Trail”
Take the ferry from Quellon to Puerto Chacabuco that runs twice per weeks (both ways two trips per week). If you go south you have a perfect finish because you have 24 hour fjord sightseeing tour at a very reasonable low cost.
Date: November 2015, spent roughly 1 week hiking and a little bit of packrafting in the Palena region
As the original trip, we took the following 2 hiking trips and connected them. In total, they lead from Lago Verde up to the town of Palena where you can float down the Palena until the Pacific Ocean. Trip 1 – Trip 2
This plan didn’t work out.
We wanted to hike from Lago Verde up to the town of Palena before floating down the Palena River – some issues prevented us from doing so, especially the situation that we lost the way near the Rio Quinto section and the river was quite challenging to cross due to high water level
Caution – The GPS data provided via the links above is not very detailed and does not help in critical parts of this trip. It seems like the data has been created without actually following the original track since points are out of the actual track. Therefore, we lost the track near the Rio Quinto Junction and had to return to Lago Verde. Also, we didn’t find the huts marked.
What we recommend to do is basically trying to follow the path and stay on it – check regularly whether you are still on the main path since there are plenty of little paths spreading from the main path that could lead to confusion.
On the way back, we entered the Rio Pico near this place -44.19618, -71.87526 and went out close to the street further down the river (half-day trip maximum)
There were some WW parts (II-III –> scouting is recommended) followed by slow sections – after the point we left, the river gets more difficult (estimated III-IV)
Tour Alternatives & Ideas:
Start the trip at Lago Verde and head north until you reach Rio Quinto – from there, follow the Rio Quinto until you reach the main street X-11 / X-13. Obviously there are people who already rafted the Rio Quinto – however, this seems to be pretty much full of white-water and it will hard to get out of the valley in case something happens. So this is rather something for people with enough time, solid equipment and food supplies.
After discussions with locals it turned out that rafting the Rio Quinto has been done by local companies and support via horses to bring in the equipment.
Getting There & Away:
Fly in via Esquel (ESQ) from Buenos Aires and cross the border to Chile or head down south on the Argentina side until you cross the border near the town Palena
Hitch-Hiking does work well if you are alone or in a group of 2, especially on the “Austral” in Chile
There are buses from Esquel to the Border via Trevelin – from there, try to hitch-hike to Futaleufu from where you can catch again a bus towards the Austral and from there further down south to La Junta.
However, enough time should be planned for getting there and away – this is South America.
This hike can be done 4-5 days and can easily be extended with additional hikes – see Tour Alternatives & Ideas
We started by hiring a speed boat driver in Paraty who brought us to the starting point (see below) – but the starting point can easily be changed to start without the need of a boat
We slept in a tent but it was way too hot – I recommend a lightweight mosquito-dome – sleeping bag was not needed – only inlet is recommended depending on weather situation. Take care that you only camp in areas where permitted.
On the hike, there are plenty of nice beaches, some of them also have kiosks / restaurants where you can resupply
Water can be taken from some rivers on the way – filtering is recommended
We were wearing gaiters up to the knees most of the time although we got told that there are hardly poisonous snakes
There is a high probability to meet day hikers on the different trails
Rough Map (taken from Google Maps):
Helpful GPS waypoints:
Hiring a boat in Paraty (roughly 100,- USD in May 2015)
Start of our trail
Bus Stop for getting back to Paraty
Tour Alternatives & Ideas:
I’m pretty sure there are plenty of alternatives for this route around Paraty as well as on the peninsula itself. The tourist maps available in Paraty will give you an overview of possible extensions to this trip – we didn’t invest any time in this topic since our time plan was pretty strict.
Packrafting extensions could be done as well.
Getting There & Away:
We drove in 4-5 hours from Sao Paolo to Paraty by car
There are also buses from Sao Paolo to Paraty of you can fly to Rio de Janeiro and head south.
desert hiker & packrafting enthusiast & interest in information security