Puerto Varas is a picturesque town on the shores of Lago Llanquihue in south central Chile. Overlooked by the snow-capped volcanoes of Calbuco and Osorno, it is a favorite destination for independent travelers and lovers of adventure sports.
Puerto Varas is a great center for watersports, with lots of opportunities for kayaking, canyoning, rafting, fishing, and sailing in the waters surrounding the town.
The landscape around Puerto Varas is perfect for hiking, climbing, and skiing.
The town's German heritage is reflected in its architecture, making for a charming and unique atmosphere much like an Alpine resort.
Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park is a spectacular natural wonder, with highlights such as Lake Todos los Santos and the Petrohué Falls.
For a change of pace, enjoy a little glamour at the Casino on Del Salvador.
Explore the island considered one of the most isolated places in the world. Marvel at the giant Moai statues sunken into the ground. Stroll over to the Ahu Tongariki, the tallest stone platform there, and take a photo with this landmark, the Moai and the Poike volcano forming the baackdrop. Afterwards, visit the Orongo, the ceremonial village located in the middle of the Ranu Kau crater and a deep cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The majestic lake encircles and fills the crater. During the Summer Solstice, you'll see the breathtaking sunrise and sunset over the Ahu.
If you love penguins, their little waddling style of walking and lovely hops on the water, you should not miss the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve located in Isla Damas. Obtain a permit and dive and fish alongside the Humboldt penguins, the common bottlenose dolphin, whales, marine otters and more. Trek the hiking trails and explore the variety of flora and fauna that make up the ecosystem for 59 diverse species of vascular plants such as the yellow añañucas, Eulichnia acida and more. Punta de Choros offers cabins and campsites where you can relax following your adventure.
If you love astronomy, gazing at the sky and astrophotography, you'll be mesmerized by the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter) Array Observatory. An international project, it's the world's most expensive ground-based telescope. Travel to San Pedro de Atacama and visit the ALMA Operations Support Facility. You can see the control room, laboratories, and 66 high-precision antennas and watch the project's personnel at work. You'll be fascinated by the galleries inside the facility that document the wondrous discoveries made by Chile's magnificent telescope.
Encompassing the natural grounds of the Chilean Lake District, the Alerce Andino National Park offers a plethora of natural scenery from its tall, reddish trees. Hike the trails to admire the vegetation, lagoons, lakes, mountains and amazing forests. Marvel at the sight of the Chilean fauna as it emblazons the forest with magnificent colors. En route, you may come across a pudu, cougar, viscacha or be visited by an amazing condor, black-bodied woodpecker or Harris' hawk. You'll be aat one with nature and its creatures.
Located on the shore of the Maullin River, this amazing conservatory offers outdoor activities in the heart of the tropical forests, meadows, and river. Sail through the Maullin River's sunken forests, where the treetops stoop to be engulfed by the river. Spend the day fly fishing, bird watching or horseback riding surrounded by the forest, its flora and fauna. Afterwards, relax in the country house and enjoy a homemade meal prepared by the owners.
Puerto Varas has an oceanic climate with mild summers and cold, wet winters. Most visitors arrive in summer and the town is very quiet in winter.
There is no airport in Puerto Varas but El Tepual (PMC) in Puerto Montt is only 20 miles to the south. It has regular services from Santiago and other Chilean cities. A taxi to Puerto Varas will cost around CLP$20,000. Alternatively, you can take the bus into Puerto Montt bus terminal and then change for Puerto Varas for a combined fare of CLP$3,300.
Puerto Varas has train services from cities as far north as Victoria. Fares from Victoria are from CLP$16,000.
Puerto Varas lies on the main route 5, running from Santiago in the north to Puerto Montt and on to Quellon in the south.
Puerto Varas has regular bus services from other Chilean cities, including an overnight service from Santiago. The fare from Puerto Montt is CLP$800.
Hostel Margouya Patagonia on Purisima is a good hostel in a traditional, centrally located building. Gran Hotel Colonos del Sur on Del Salvador offers luxury rooms in a lakeside location with views of the volcano.
Llanquihue - this is a peaceful lakeside village just three miles to the north of Puerto Varas and ideal for those who like a quieter location that is still close to the main attractions.
Puerto Montt - this is a busier resort just 15 miles to the south of Puerto Varas, and is a good choice for those who enjoy a more lively resort on the coast.
Del Salvador - this is the main downtown area of Puerto Varas and is where you will find most of the old German colonial houses.
The town is easily walkable but minibuses will take you anywhere in Puerto Varas for around CLP$500.
Taxis are less common in Puerto Varas but can be ordered from your hotel. You will pay around CLP$400 for the initial fare and then CLP$1,500 per mile.
Care should be taken if driving into the mountains around Puerto Varas but the main highways and town streets are in good condition. Car rental is available for around CLP$25,000 per day.
Del Salvador is the main shopping street, with stores selling outdoor clothing, sports goods, fashion, and local crafts.
A quart of milk in Puerto Varas is priced at CLP$675 and a dozen eggs are CLP$1.540.
La Gringa on Imperial serves good American-style food, with mains from CLP3,500. Casavaldes on Santa Rosa serves Chilean seafood with mains from CLP$5,300.