I traveled to Chile back in January of 2016 and since then have not updated my blog on this trip. So I want to start journaling again on my travels with tips, guides, and my own personal insight.
On this trip I traveled by myself for the first time and went to two South American countries, Chile and Argentina. In this post I recap my time in the lake region of Chile in the city of Puerto Varas. Here the land is filled with lush forest, lakes and beautiful volcanoes.
Day 1 & 2 – Arriving in Puerto Varas
From Santiago, Puerto Varas is a little over 500 miles south and in the beautiful lake region of Chile. I flew 14 hours south from Chicago via Miami and Santiago and landed at around 3 pm. Clear and sunny, the views from the plane were stunning of the surrounding volcanoes and mountains. By the way, this was the first time flying on a 787, first time in the southern hemisphere, and first time traveling on my own.
This part of Chile is vast, so it’s recommended to rent a car. I chose Budget and for the most part the rental was easy although expensive. It seems everything in this region is expensive. Also if you’re used to driving an automatic, prices go way up so perhaps learn to drive a manual (something I’ve never learned how to do).
It’s not hard to navigate the surrounding area but if you’re not great with directions, at least invest in a map. Google Maps, an app easily installed on a smart phone, will still track where you go regardless if connected to any service. Also make sure to download a map from Google Maps before you travel. Apps were immensely helpful especially in the remote regions.
From Puerto Montt airport to the city of Puerto Varas, it’s an easy 20 minute drive with partial tolls. Luckily my hotel had free parking and the staff was helpful guiding me to where I needed to go. The Radisson Puerto Varas (the one by the lake), is a beautiful hotel although pretty expensive. I used points to stay here and it was worth it with stunning views of Lake Llanquihue and of Osorno Volcano.
Because I was so tired the first day, I didn’t do much but check in, place my luggage in my room, and roam the boardwalk of the city. That day the skies were clear and I had perfect camera shots of the volcano. I was just beat down after a while so I came back to the hotel, ate something, and wondered why my eye was getting red and closing up. Turns out that something was infecting my eye; not how I wanted to start a trip.
I noticed that in Chile, people stay out really late, past 10/11 pm. I was in no mood to be out that late and alone but I did leave my window open to let the nice cool air breeze come in off the lake. It’s nice to have a view of the lake from your room so you can relax with a nice glass of wine or champagne. Definitely recommended for the price.
Day 3 – Petrohué Area
One reason I loved this Radisson was the included breakfast spread. I don’t think I ever had such a great hotel breakfast before and was the perfect way to start the day. On Day 3 I decided to head to Petrohué, a waterfall just under Osorno Volcano and near Todos los Santos lake. My eye at this point was so red and puffy, that it looked kind of serious!
With my sunroof down and my own tunes to listen to, I drove east on one single road. About an hour away, the area is easily accessible and for a small fee I parked my car. I was worried for a bit because it was so cloudy in the morning and I could only hope that the clouds would disappear.
I’m not sure why but the area is full of bees and they will chase after you. Perhaps I smelled great but I could never get rid of bees and it was more than annoying. When I arrived at Todos los Santos Lake, it wasn’t busy at all and the skies were beginning to clear. I snapped photos of Osorno Volcano and the surrounding lake. I know for a few thousand pesos, it’s possible to take a boat ride out on the lake but I didn’t end up doing that.
It’s a beautiful place and it was fun to walk on the ashy grey beach. There isn’t much to do there but for me the point to visit was for the view and after an hour I decided to move on. About 10 miles south of the end of Petrohué, there is the main entrance for hiking around the Saltos del Petrohué. This is the river where the Todos los Santos Lake drains into and there are several waterfalls to take pictures of. There were many people hiking so I never really felt alone but I was okay with that.
I ended up hiking for a couple of hours and went to the edge of the hiking trail. More than enough to really experience the area while snapping photos of Osorno Volcano. There is a gift shop and souvenirs but I felt it was mostly overpriced and honestly not that authentic. That’s the one thing I found a lot in Chile. It was hard to find authentic souvenirs, even in the touristy sections.
I returned my rental back to the airport but I ended up getting lost along the way. I remembered that in Google Maps, my location is always tracked so was able to guide myself back using a grainy map but it was a little concerning for a moment. Next time I’m going to be sure to download the map offline before I begin my next travels. It’s also may have been more wise to book a rental through my hotel since it was so expensive to go all the way back to the airport and then take a cab back. I don’t think I calculated that too well.
Back at the hotel, there was a local restaurant that was always packed but eventually I got in. In this region of Chile the main food to eat are sandwiches and things with heavy beef. It was a shock to my diet but I never had a bad meal while on this trip. That night I had some local beer, Cerveza Cristal, and had my Chilean beef sandwich.
Before I went back to my hotel I decided to check the remaining parts of the city and the local church (Iglesia del Sagrado Corazon). After some souvenir shopping and feeling exhausted from my long day I retired to my hotel to watch the Australian Open and sip on my free drinks!
Day 8 – Short night in Puerto Varas
I had to split up my trip half way and so I had two separate stints in Puerto Varas. In between I took a bus ride over to Bariloche, Argentina, something I’ll cover later. But I returned to Puerto Varas for a short night and to be honest I didn’t get to see much. The bus dropped me off in the city, fortunately, and I walked back half of mile to the Radisson. Ate quickly and called in a night to be up in the morning for a flight to Santiago. Sometimes it’s just the way traveling works.
Overview of Puerto Varas
First it should be said that Chile is a beautiful country, no doubt. Puerto Varas is known for its outdoor beauty because of the surrounding views and you really come to Puerto Varas to hike and be outdoors. Most visitors no doubt came to hike but that isn’t really what interested me.
One thing I learned is that nothing happens quickly in South America. Everything is far away and takes time. Renting a car, checking in a hotel, driving, taking a bus ride. It’s easy to spend much of your day doing what seems like nothing. I felt frustrated at first and tired but had to accept it. This part of Chile is only accessible by tours or driving and both are not that cheap.
But for me it’s worth it. Not very many tourist make their way down south to that part of Chile. And there weren’t too many tourists so in a way I did get a more authentic view of Chile.
People in Chile are nice but the one thing I wish I knew before coming was my Spanish. I obviously picked up sayings and phrases but it would have helped immensely if I knew more. And I never felt like anything was sketchy or that I was put into a dangerous situation. Quite the opposite actually. The only thing I ever really worried about was wrecking my rental car.
Puerto Varas, Chile is a wonderful tourist destination that is a bit off the map. It’s somewhat expensive, especially compared to much of South America, but in a way you get what you pay for. It was always a relaxing experience and the views are what make it worthwhile. Just make sure to have patience on everything you do including the flights, hotels, rental cars, taxis and taking buses.
This was my first glimpse into Chile and it opened me up to the vast, remote, and beautiful landscapes Chile possesses. I will be back to explore other regions for sure. With one glimpse Chile became one of my favorite countries I have traveled to.