Puerto Varas is a small, pretty-looking town in the south of Chile, lying at the shore of Llanquihue lake, surrounded by two volcanoes: Osorno and Calbuco. For three months it became my home and I could call myself a local “gringa”. I didn’t waste my time and explored and tried most of the adventure activities this place offers. So what are the options?
Saltos de Petrohué
A bus or hitch-hike ride (around 1 hour) takes you to these cascading waterfalls, roaring into the turquoise waters of Petrohué river. There is an amazing view of the Osorno volcano that stands just above. If you continue down the road, it ends at the lake called Lago Todos Los Santos. It might seem like the end but in fact, it’s possible to cross over, all the way to Argentina (you would end up in San Carlos de Bariloche). If you like walking on volcanic lava, there is a hike that goes all around Osorno volcano. But it’s a long way, make sure you have enough daylight if you intend to do that.
There are rocks all around Puerto Varas. No adventure tourism companies offer climbing expeditions but if you ask the locals they’ll tell you about the good spots and maybe even take you along. If the rocks are on private property, the owner might ask you to pay a daily fee to climb there. But the paradise for climbers is definitely Cochamó valley! It is called Yosemite of Chile and if you have more days, this is a place to go. The only way is walking in and camp or stay in the lodge. The journey takes about 5 hours but you’ll be surrounded by beautiful nature and guarded by tall rocks. For more about Valle Cochamó, read this article: Cochamó: Yosemite of Southern Chile. More about the option to do the trek on horseback, check out this site: cochamo.com
If you like rafting, Petrohué river will provide enough adrenaline. The river is class 4 and has some good rapids. The river is called Petrouhé after annoying little flies – petros – if you’re familiar with sand flies, this is it! Several companies in Puerto Varas provide rafting trips, to name the two major ones: ko’kayak and Pachamagua
Pachamagua also organizes canyoning trips on Río Blanco that runs down from the melted ice that lies on the top of Calbuco volcano. The river then carves its way through the rocks and creates a maze of slides and deep pools to jump into, all of that together = great playground for kids and grown-ups.
Provided by many tour companies in the town, ko’kayak is one of them. This region is full of fjords, Reloncaví fjord is one of them. It stretches all the way to Cochamó village (where Cochamó trail begins). And that’s where you can paddle around the fjord and explore. If you’re lucky, you may come across a lazy sea lion taking a sunbath on one of the polystyrene cubes of a local sea mussel farm.
Believe it or not, in winter Osorno turns into a ski resort. This volcano, 2,652 meters tall has 2 lifts and 10 runs in total. If you’re tempted to find out more, check out their website.
Only a half an hour drive away is a town called Puerto Montt. It lies at a seashore, therefore you may find a local fish market with all kinds of seafood you can imagine. It is also a place where you can take a bus to Chiloé island.
Fancy seeing an island that still preserves a grand part of its wilderness but also the traditional way of life of the Mapuche inhabitants? In addition to that, you may spot some cute, clumsy penguins. Check out this article for more: Chiloé Island and the clumsy penguins
A few final words about Puerto Varas
Leave at least half a day for walking around the town and along the lakeshore of Llanquihue. The town has many neat-looking wooden houses, seafood restaurants or cafés where, among other sweets, you can buy German “kuchen”.