What a surprise Southern Chile turned out to be. Greenery, lakes, mountains, coastlines, it has it all! Literally. I went down there expecting to see some nice towns and ended up having one of the best days so far in South America.
As I left San Pedro de Atacama at the top of Chile I decided that I would travel through the north of Argentina and wait to see Chile in the south. I think I chose the right path. As you travel through Southern Chile, you hit some amazing towns/cities on the edge of lakes surrounded by volcanoes and ice capped mountains. The scenery is stunning and the towns relaxing. There is so much to do in every place, you can’t get enough and you never have enough time.
I only had a week to see it all which compared to the rest of my travels, felt like just a weekend. I first traveled down to Pucon from Santiago. Pucon is quite famous due to it hosting the most active volcano in Chile. Volcan Villaricca is a stunning sight from everywhere in the town and just pleading to be hiked.
I had definitely not intended to climb this beast but the temptation to conquer it was too great. I booked a tour, freaked out about the dangers and headed off the next morning. The weather was cloudy and wet but within a few hours we were driving through the clouds to the starting point. Dressed in every piece of safety equipment, the task seemed a bit daunting. The five hour trek to the top is on extremely steep ice and it was the first time I had done anything like this. It was fantastic! The views, the challenge, the weather, reaching the top was a great feeling.
Being an active volcano meant we got to see LAVA! I honestly didn’t think I would see lava but I guess it came on to the bucket list and got ticked off straight away. I can’t recommend climbing Volcan Villaricca more. It’s a bit pricey but completely worth it and when will you be able to do something like this again? We went with Patagonia Experience and they were brilliant. Helpful guides, funny guys and I felt safe the whole time. Don’t pick a cheap guide, it’s a dangerous place and you want people who know what they’re doing. Expect to pay $80,000 Chilean pesos for the pleasure.
Other things to do in Pucon include hiking up to the lakes in Parque National Huerquehue. It’s a bit of a hike though, so don’t climb it the day after the volcano. It wasn’t as fun. Still fantastically beautiful! I would recommend camping out there so you have time at the top to enjoy the lakes and walk around them. Otherwise you will be pushed to do it all in a day and you have to rely on the 8.30am bus from Pucon and 5.30pm bus back so you can’t take your time. There is white water rafting in Pucon as well, sadly time wasn’t on my side so I can’t comment directly although from what I’ve heard it is worthwhile.
From there we headed off to Isla de Chiloe. I was looking forward to heading there although with two days it was a whirlwind trip. It wasn’t as exciting as I hoped. I think perhaps coming off the back of climbing around Pucon and such an amazing hike, made it tough competition. If you want a relaxing fishing town then you will see plenty. The walks are quiet and not too challenging, I felt like it was a little bit of a retirement village. Either way it was pretty and not overloaded with tourists so that’s always a bonus, as well as the cheap salmon.
From there we headed to Puerto Varas which was simply to enjoy the town and drink as much as we could for Jess’s birthday. It felt more up market and quaint. The bars are welcoming and the food is great. They have the best food markets to get yourself smoothies, sushi, schwarma, the list goes on. Cheaper and just as amazing as the restaurants. There is a lot to do here as well but again time was against me and I had to head off to Patagonia.
In summary, I wouldn’t have any regrets visiting the south of Chile again. Don’t miss it off your South American plans, it is a perfect place to spend a week or two or four. Enjoy.
Thanks for reading!