The next stop on our picturesque Patagonian adventure brought us to Puerto Varas, a scenic city located on the gorgeous Llanquihue Lake. As if that weren’t enough of a feast for the eyes the stunning Calbuco and Osorno volcanoes tower over the city providing an incredible panorama. The German inspired Architecture throughout Puerto Varas also gives this place a quaint look and feel that captivates visitors. Located about 21 kilometers from Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas is a nature lover’s paradise adjacent to national parks, forests and mountains. With so many outdoor activities to choose from such as trekking, climbing, skiing, fishing and kayaking this city is the perfect stop for anyone making their way down Patagonia.
Unfortunately for us we were in a time crunch due to a scheduled flight and only had two days to enjoy this magnificent place. The good news was that we found a wonderful tour company on short notice that met all of our needs and took us to some of the best places around Puerto Varas. If your time is limited and you’re in the area you have to check out Paleo Tours. They offer a variety of day tours with prices ranging from 18.000 CLP to 45.000 CLP ($ 27- $67 USD). They even offer a unique “Paleo Tour” where visitors explore the magnificent nature of Puerto Varas like the hunter-gatherers of the past. Wanting to save our energy we chose an easy sight-seeing package at 25.000 CLP per person.
Our tour started with our gracious and warm guide Hector picking us up at our hostel (Hostal Puerto Varas– $51 USD). That morning we were the only two people along for the ride but this wasn’t the only reason it felt like a private tour. Hector was really pleasant and made us feel like we were touring the area with a friend. We never felt rushed or like he was trying to push activities on us, it was just a relaxing day all around. He gave us some history on the area and told us about the Calbuco volcano explosion in 2015. It was astonishing to see that areas we passed were still covered in ash.
During our tour we visited Vicente Perez Rosales National Park. While there our first stop was a visit to El Crater de la Burbuja, one of Osorno’s many craters that visitors can actually rappel down. Since I have an irrational fear of being swallowed by the earth it goes without saying that Manu and I merely observed the opening from the top while enjoying the panoramic views that surrounded us. We continued ascending Volcán Osorno in the car and arrived to the ski resort located at the base. Here we had the option of taking the ski lift (10.000 CLP) up to an area where we could do a mini trek (You could also sign up for zip-lining which we decided to skip). The views at the top of the lift were unreal and we could see all of the surrounding lakes. Witnessing the volcano up close was also an incredible sight. From here we trekked about 30 minutes to the edge of Cráter Rojo, a huge red crater on the side of Osorno. It was massive and amazing!
Next we visited Laguna Verde an emerald-green lake that was exceptionally peaceful. When visiting be sure to pass by the concession stand where you will find some unique and exquisite handmade crafts. Saltos de Petrohué was the next stop on our tour. We walked around the park enjoying nature and the great company of our guide and then stopped to marvel at the raging waterfall in the background. The water was crystal blue and remarkable. It looked like an exciting place to go rafting and something we would definitely want to try in the future.
Hector then drove us over to Lago Todos los Santos for a relaxing boat ride around the lake (1.500 CLP). Seeing Osorno volcano from this angle provided us with another unbelievable view. During the ride we visited what has been dubbed as the “floating dollhouse”/ Casa Muñeca Flotante. The miniature replica house floating on the lake was a cool prop and looked perfect with the volcano looming over it in the background. Our last stop was a fun bonus where we were able to get some refreshments and see llamas up close. Although I had seen what felt like a million llamas already during our trip I was still super excited to feed them!
After our lovely day we said goodbye to Hector as he dropped us off in the city center. We decided to have dinner at Cassis where the only thing better than the food and desserts was the incredible view of Llanquihue Lake. That night we witnessed a gorgeous full moon that rose up behind Osorno volcano. We were scheduled to leave Puerto Varas the next day so we woke up early to walk around and discover the city. We stumbled upon a great Christmas market selling handmade crafts and local foods. The local artisans were incredibly talented and we were able to score some quality goods from the region.
Puerto Varas was another one of my favorite cities visited during our trip. The scenery, the locals and the magnificent feeling of being among nature makes this a truly special place. If you have the time while backpacking through Patagonia it would be well worth it to spend some extra time here. If not do not miss the highlights mentioned in the post. This is definitely a destination worth revisiting.
- A bus ride from Bariloche to Puerto Varas takes about 7 hours and will cost around 18.000 CLP
- El Tepual International airport in Puerto Montt services this area
- Micro buses run frequently between Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas (800 CLP)
- A shuttle also runs from the bus station to the airport (2.500 CLP)
- Check out a great You Tube video from Paleo Tours and see some of their tour highlights!