Once it was a sacred place to Araucans but now – a commercialized site with hotels and diverse tourist attractions. But the main value of the site – Laja Falls – has not changed.

Four horseshoe waterfalls

Shortly before the falls Laja River becomes wide, shallow and slow. A large island divides it into two arms and shortly before the falls each of these arms again is divided into two even smaller arms.

On each of these four smaller streams have formed waterfalls.

The two smaller falls – Salto Chico – are located on the southern arm of Laja River. Width of these falls is approximately 85 and 165 m, height – approximately 20 m.

The two more impressive falls are located on the northern arm, 1.3 km to the west from Salto Chico. These falls are higher – the most impressive one – westernmost is 35 m tall and approximately 110 m wide. The other one is approximately 95 m wide.

Laja Falls in Chile - the tallest, easternmost fall
Laja Falls – the tallest, easternmost fall / Marco Correa, / public domain

Thus the total width is these falls is very impressive – approximately 455 m!

Both arms of Laja River meet soon after the falls and for the next 4 km the stream continues in a narrow, 20 m wide gorge.


There are stories that this impressive natural landmark was a sacred place for the local Araucan people. The young Araucans had to prove their manhood by walking along the upper rim of the larger falls but the older ones meditated here.

White people came here relatively late, in 1756.

Just like in the case of many other large waterfalls, Laja Falls have served as an anchor for the development of the tourist industry. Now this site is heavily commercialized, with numerous hotels and tourist attractions.

Well, maybe the commercial buzz around the site has taken away some part of its natural charm – but it gives jobs to many people. And – the water still is falling and no one has taken away the eternal rainbow playing in the mist of falls.


  1. Wild Waters, WelcomeChile.com. Accessed in 04.01.2012.
  2. Saltos del Laja. Accessed in 04.01.2012.
Laja Falls on the map
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Location, GPS coordinates: 37.2157 S 72.3832 W
Categories: Waterfalls
Values: Geology, Visual
Rating: 3 out of 10 stars
Where is located? South America, Chile, VIII Biobío, some 32 km north from Los Ángeles
Name in Spanish: Salto del Laja
Height: 35 m (the main waterfall)
Tallest single drop: 35 m
Width: 110 m, 95 m (eaasternmost falls) and 85 m, 165 m (Salto Chico)
Stream: Rio Laja

Landmarks of Chile

Conguillio National Park, araucarias and Sierra Nevada volcano, Chile
Conguillio National Park, araucarias and Sierra Nevada volcano / Javier Ignacio Acuña Ditzel, / CC BY 2.0
The natural and man-made heritage of Chile is very diverse, also thanks due to extreme length of the country extending from driest deserts in the north to the most southern historical inhabited lands of the world in Patagonia. Highlights of Chile are: magnificent views of Patagonian Andes and fjords, the volcanic landscape of Northern and Central Chile and the driest desert of the world – Atacama.

Waterfalls and rapids

Virginia Falls, Canada
Virginia Falls / Paul Gierszewski, / public domain
Some of the most fascinating and awe inspiring natural monuments are waterfalls, or locations where a river abruptly changes its elevation.

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