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Temuco
   
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Temuco is the perfect starting point for an exploration of Chile's stunningly beautiful Lake District, a region of rolling hillsides, lush green forests, and snow-capped volcanic peaks. Temuco is also the cultural centre of the Mapuche Indians, the original inhabitants of the area. Almost alone among South American peoples, the Mapuche successfully resisted European incursions, maintaining independent control of their territory for over 300 years in the face of considerable force. Today, the Lake District has almost 3,000 Mapuche reservations, and Temuco is the principal market town. Traditional Mapuche crafts are sold at Temuco's Mercado Municipal and Feria Libre. For more information on the Mapuche, visit the Museo Regional de la Araucanža.

Temuco offers a wide variety of outdoor activities. In town, the —ielol Hill is the perfect place for picnics and leisurely walks, with great views of the surrounding countryside. It is also the best place in town for close-up looks at the copihue, Chile's national flower. Visitors to Temuco can also easily arrange mountain bike rentals and skiing, hiking, boating, rock climbing and windsurfing excursions.

Just a short distance from Temuco is the Parque Nacional Conguillžo, an outstanding place to gain an introduction to the natural beauty of the Lake District. Conguillio features a number of very good walking trails, which lead through the forest and meander past alpine lakes and deep canyons. Dominating the park is the still-active Llaima volcano, which erupted as recently as 1994. The park is also home to the rare araucaria (monkey puzzle tree), a protected species that can live for as long as 1,000 years and takes five centuries just to reach maturity.



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