Going around Lake Llanquihue
If you want to relax in a beautiful place, Lake Llanquihue, in the South of Chile, is everything you’re looking for. The road that connects all the spots around it is 186 kilometers long and will let you see the influence of German colonization on the architecture and the food of the area. Around this huge lake of 860 sq km., large towns coexist with small ones, waterfalls, animals and intense colors. Take your car or your bike and go for a ride.
If you don’t own a car, the easiest way to make this trip is to rent one at the place where you are staying. We stayed in Puerto Varas, a city with many restaurants, hostels, hotels and car rentals, where you can rent a car for 24 hours, for approx. CLP 30,000 (approx. 46 dollars)
Around the lake there is also a great bike track. So, if you have time, renting bicycles in Puerto Varas is also a good option. The price is about CLP 15,000 / USD 23 approx. for 8 hours.
In order to enjoy this trip to the fullest, the best is to stay at least two or three nights in the area, but one-day trip is also possible. If you are riding a bike, a good idea is to leave your excess luggage stored with one of our keepairs and walk by the lake without weight. Airkeep is already arriving in southern Chile.
Before leaving Puerto Varas, don’t miss its steep streets and beautiful waterfront. If you like trekking, you can go for a walk to Pumalín Park or climb Mount Calvario, to see the lake from above. If you want something more “quiet” you can visit the strange Pablo Fierro museum or go for spin at the casino.
After this you are ready to start the trip and go to either side bordering the lake. We started by taking the road to the east. After about 45 minutes of driving and just before getting to Ensenada, we took the detour to Petrohué, to visit the Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park. Inside the park we found two must-sees: Saltos de Petrohué and the western shore of Lake Todos los Santos.
Saltos de Petrohué are large natural pools shaped in the rock by the waters of river Petrohué coming from lake Todos Los Santos. The emerald waters run through volcanic rock and around it there are huge native trees. The best time to visit the place is in winter, since there is a bigger amount of water and the rapids are more spectacular. The entrance is CLP 2000 (USD 3) for Chileans and CLP 4000 (USD 6) for foreigners.
If you keep going on the same route you will find the parking lot before the shore of lake Todos los Santos. You will not regret the detour, because if you liked the emerald rapids, here you will see the full depth of the color in the water. The beach is beautiful and there’s a breathtaking view of the Osorno and Puntiagudo Volcanos. There is no entrance charge.
Going back to Lake Llanquihue you will find the entrance to the Laguna Verde walk, which in less than 20 minutes takes you to a lagoon of an intense green color, due to the algae that live in it. You can also see some fish in it and, during the walk, there are some very nice viewpoints to rest for a while. Entrance is free.
If you continue driving or riding around the lake, during the journey you can see signs that point to several small towns, such as: Las Cascadas, Puerto Klocker and Puerto Fonk. If you have time to stop, in all of them you will find some places to eat, German-style houses to photograph and old churches, very interesting from an architectural point of view.
A few kilometers further on is the charming village of Puerto Octay. A tiny place that seems untouched by time. You should stop to enjoy the main square, its imposing church and, of course, to buy some cheese and other delicatessen at the Puerto Octay store. You will find an exquisite variety of cheese, ideal to have a snack on the way to your next stop.
A few kilometers from Puerto Octay you will find the city of Frutillar, which is divided into Frutillar Alto and Frutillar Bajo. The upper and newest part is where the city has expanded and where most of its inhabitants live. The lower part, on the other hand, has been preserved to keep the German heritage with new and modern buildings that stay in the same style.
The waterfront is full of picturesque little houses and cafes, where you must try some of the wonderful traditional pies with a nice cup of hot chocolate. You should also take some time to visit the beautiful Teatro del Lago, right on the waterfront. This is the southernmost international theater in the world and one of the most important cultural centers in South America. Also from here, you will have a beautiful view of the volcanoes.
If you are lucky enough to enjoy a sunny day, go for a swim in the lake, because Frutillar has the best beaches around the lake. The water is a little cold, but crystal clear. The best thing is that you won’t have any salt over your skin and you can keep going quickly and without trouble.
In the afternoon, heading south, the last place to visit is Llanquihue, which means “place to dive into the water” in Mapudungun language and gives the lake its name. There you will have a panoramic view of the three main volcanoes of the surroundings: Osorno, Calbuco and Tronador.
Llanquihue is much more industrial and much less picturesque than the neighbouring towns, since the commercial development has deteriorated the natural reserves nearby. Four urban wetlands still survive: Baquedano, El Loto, Los Helechos and the Wetland of the Frogs, the home of 70 species of birds, 20 species of fish and more than 100 native plants. These wetlands are in latent danger, so if you visit them take care where you step and don’t leave any waste. With Llanquihue you close the circle, now you must take the Pan-American highway, which will take you back to Puerto Varas.
Enjoy the fact of knowing this beautiful lake and the villages around it, in addition to the delicious food you will try. Travel as much as you can and enjoy the trip.