GUEST ARTICLE: Ola! After leaving Santiago in our little tinbox we headed south (about 9 hrs) towards Pucón. It appears that the real Chile is outside of Santiago. Meaning very poor and nothing like what we western folks are used to, no big Ramada’s on every corner that’s for sure!
Chile – Volcan Villarrica closeup showing active smoke
We stopped about halfway and tried to find a place to stay in one of the towns along the way. After passing through about 5 toll stations (which charge about $5 each) we picked a small town to look for a place to stay for the night. After a fairly quick 15 minute excursion to try to find a place to rest our heads, we were very unlucky.
Fortunately we were lucky to find a room in the next little city of Talca, also very rural, a word to the wise – make sure to book ahead!
Back on the road again we noticed the scenery changing from a multitude of various fruit trees to that of rolling green hills, horses and mountains. As we turned off to the Villarrica area we spotted an incredible sight! The Volcano Villarrica! Wow…really, it’s a perfectly shaped volcano, still brilliant white from winter’s snow and surrounded by the greenest foliage – spectacular.
Pucón is a picturesque quaint little town located at the bottom of this still very active volcano and adjacent to the very beautiful Lake Villarica. The feel of Pucón is very relaxing, I found it to be somewhat similar to that of Queenstown in New Zealand or Banff in Canada, but of course Pucón comes with a very intimidating volcano.
The people are all extremely accommodating and the food superb, especially the grilled beef – delish. And for breaky I was able to get 1kg of cherries or strawberries for $2.50 AUD!!
There are endless activities here to pass your time, multitudes of trails to walk, horseback ride, ski, canopy (zip lines), canyon, rapid ride and chill out in natural thermals. We decided straight off to check out a thermal pool we found online called the Termas Geométricas. It’s located about 100km from Pucón on the other side of the Villaricca Volcano.
The roads are excellent except for about the last 30km which is a rough dirt road winding up through some very beautiful Chilean mountainside. At first we were thinking, “what the heck are we getting ourselves into?!” but when we finally arrived…totally worth it. It was by far the best thermal pools we have ever been to. The Chileans have set everything up incredibly well.
We were firstly greeted with the delicious aroma of a warm campfire and a cosy red cabin offering homemade treats by two little Chilean senoras (we had the homemade caramel cake and pumpkin soup with homemade bread – mmm!). A small red wooden walkway wound itself up the crevice of the mountain accompanied with two waterfalls and 17 natural hot pools sporadically situated each with different temperatures to suit.
The main attraction in Pucón is to climb the volcano which takes about 9hours, we thought about it but unfortunately there is no guarantee for a view. On most days the visibility can be somewhat cloudy, so we thought better than being totally pissed after dragging our butts straight up through a mountain of snow and ice we’d rather admire Villarrica from below, no worries!
We did admire some of the Saltos (waterfalls) and a small hike through the beautiful Park Huerquehue. Just a little hint though…there are bugs flying in the bush out there about the size of bullets, I’m not too sure what they are, horseflies maybe? In any case I fortunately never had the opportunity of being made eaten, but only by acting like the Tasmanian devil on speed!
Today we went across a pretty dodgy suspension bridge that lead to a village of the Mapuche people, the scenery of course didn’t disappoint, and we had the opportunity of meeting a very nice Mapucho senora and we got a glimpse at a traditional Maphuche hut.
Unfortunately everything was closed, I guess we came at the wrong season? Or maybe the right season as I hear this place goes off in the December and January months.
Pucón is an absolutely fantastic place, we’ve had nothing but cosy wood fire sleeps, homemade eats and incredible sights. For this place we give double thumbs up!!! Mucho Gracias!! Tomorrow we head back to Santiago and hop on plane up north to Calama and then drive to the desert in San Pedro de Atacama…until then!
This travel diary has been written by Rob Gower, a friend who enjoys taking the road less travelled!