While Chile’s southernmost slice of Patagonia might be known for its inordinate number of glaciers and mountain peaks, the Los Lagos Region is splendid in an entirely different way. The Chilean Lake District (as it is best known by English speakers) lives up to its name: the region is covered in a plentiful selection of glistening lakes, more often than not set to a backdrop of picture-perfect volcanoes. With its alpine-inspired towns and pretty countryside, there are enough Chile attractions in the Los Lagos Region to make it an unmissable part of the country.
Arriving in Puerto Varas, travelers are often struck by the question of whether this town is situated in the most beautiful location in all of Chile. Clustered along the shore of Lake Llanquihue, the restaurants and hotels have the ultimate view across the calm waters and beyond, to the region’s iconic landmark: Volcano Osorno. Snow-dappled and rising from a necklace of clouds, the volcano sits in a landscape of verdant vegetation and, on a clear day, can be seen from miles around.
Offering some of the best quality dining and accommodations in the region, Puerto Varas is an ideal base for exploring other local attractions, including:
Saltos de Petrohue
Few waterfalls make an impression quite like the Saltos de Petrohue. A chaotic confusion of water is channeled through basaltic lava from the nearby volcano, before plunging suddenly over a precipice. A viewing station allows visitors to stand mere meters from the falls and the entire awe-inspiring spectacle is completed by the looming cone of Volcano Osorno in the background.
During the rainy season, the Saltos de Petrohue are even more impressive, as Todos Los Santos, the lake which feeds them, rises by up to 10 ft. (3m).
Another popular day trip from Puerto Varas is to the pretty nearby town of Frutillar. The most charming street is Frutillar Bajo, where you can find the best examples of German architecture in the buildings that were built by European immigrants who arrived in the late 19th-century.
The Teatro del Lago, crouching over the waters’ edges, is worthy of a photograph or even a visit during the evening for the many concerts, film screenings or art shows that fill the theater’s busy weekly schedule.
But what all locals agree should be top of the itinerary in Frutillar is sampling the region’s typical dessert, kuchen. Of German origin, this cake should be devoured in one of the town’s cozy cafés.
It might be tempting to just stare in awe at Volcano Osorno from the comfort of a warm restaurant along Puerto Varas’ main promenade, but outdoor enthusiasts can go one step further and reach its snow-capped, 8,700 ft. (2,652 m) summit.
Although it’s recommended you hike with a guide, the ascent itself isn’t too challenging and takes around six hours. Technical climbing equipment, such as crampons and ice axes, is required but will be included in tour packages.
How to explore these unmissable Chile attractions in Los Lagos Region
Puerto Varas is connected to Santiago with regular flights from the capital to nearby Puerto Montt and a further 20-minute bus journey to the town. Our article about airports in Patagonia can give you further information.
Tour agencies can organize guides and transport to visit these Chile attractions around Puerto Varas, although a hire car from a rental company located in Puerto Montt can be an economical and easy means of getting around under your own steam.