Introduction

Llaima means 'Blood Veins' in Mapudungun and that is exactly what tourists who were visiting Parque Nacional Conguillío, and its towering Volcán Llaima (3125m), saw on New Year's Day 2008. The centerpiece of this Unesco Biosphere Reserve (and the Geoparque Kütralcura within) is one of Chile's most active volcanoes. Since 1640 Llaima has experienced 35 violent eruptions. The Mapuche believe this impressive flamethrower is a living spirit, who is rather enthusiastically coughing up the earth's imbalances as punishment. Despite the fire spitting, this wonderful park – which was created in 1950 primarily to preserve the araucaria and 608 sq km of alpine lakes, deep canyons and native forests – is open. The gray-brown magma that has accumulated over the years is to blame for the dramatic vistas and eerie lunarscape atmosphere – at its most dramatic, perhaps, in late April when the leaves are in full autumn bloom.