Puerto Varas and Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park: Exploring Chile’s Lake District
After three night buses in five days, we arrived in Puerto Varas in the pouring rain. It wasn’t a great start (it rained that entire first day) but I quickly came to realise that Puerto Varas is a cool little town, and the nearby Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park (Chile’s oldest national park) is a great place to do some easy hiking.
Petrohué waterfalls (Saltos del Petrohué)
After a 45 minute bus ride, we arrived at Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, more specifically, at the trail leading to the Petrohué waterfalls. The walkway to the main viewpoint was closed so we only got a distant view which was a bit disappointing. We decided to walk down another path which took us closer to the river — the bright blue/green water quickly turned to white as the river got wilder. It was a great short walk and more than made up for not seeing the waterfalls properly.
Walking to Petrohué
We were still around 6 km from Petrohué, a tiny town on the shores of Lago Todos los Santos. We walked down a dusty road as the skies above us threatened to cave in. After about 30 minutes it started raining, which, coupled with the strong wind, made for a miserable walk. Not long after a car pulled up and offered us a ride — we were saved from the elements by 2 Chilean sisters who grew up in France.
A boat ride on Lago Todos los Santos
The sisters turned out to be great negotiators and they organised a quick boat trip on the lake for $2500 CLP (around $4) each. It was absolutely freezing but a nice ride. We went a short way up coast, past a former Miss Argentina’s house and then turned around.
The desolation trail
On the way back to port we caught our first glimpse of Volcan Osorno; the active volcano towering over little Petrohué had finally emerged from the clouds. We wanted to get closer to the giant volcano, so we started walking along the desolation trail, named because of the destruction that various eruptions have caused in the surrounding countryside. The clouds stopped us from getting the full view of the volcano (that would have to wait until we got back to Puerto Varas) but it was still a nice walk, and the other views, including Lago Todos los Santos from above, distracted us from the clouds.
Walking along deserted beaches
We didn’t have time to hike the entire desolation trail, so we eventually headed towards the lake and walked along deserted beaches back to Petrohué. It was a peaceful walk — we only saw one other group along the way. It wasn’t warm enough to swim but the water did look inviting — try it if you visit in summer!
Puerto Varas is a small town with a big German influence. It’s unlike anywhere else we had been in Latin America and actually reminded me of Queenstown (in New Zealand). Apparently it gets packed in summer and during the ski season, but visiting at the end of October meant we didn’t have to contend with crowds at all. From the waterfront you can see 2 huge volcanoes (Osorno and Calbuco) in the distance, assuming they aren’t covered in clouds. There aren’t many sights in Puerto Varas, but there is a nice German church and some old weatherboard houses. We stayed at “The Guest House“, which is a 90 year old former mansion. It’s one of the nicer old houses in Puerto Varas and is a great place to stay if you’re looking for a hotel with a bit of character (read a full review over at Mismatched Passports).
Further reading: Volcan Calbuco erupted earlier this year; check out this amazing video!
The main reason that we visited Puerto Varas was because we had a few days to kill before we took a 3 day boat trip through Patagonia. Stay tuned for a post about that (it was a great trip — a much more interesting option than taking a flight to Puerto Natales). If you’re thinking of doing the same, definitely consider spending a few days in Puerto Varas.
Have you been to Chile? What was the highlight? Let me know!
Disclaimer: We were hosted by The Guest House during our stay in Puerto Varas. All thoughts and opinions are my own.