Time for a new country! Chile, the land of volcanoes, Torres del Paine (which, we wouldn’t be visiting, sadly) and expensive groceries, as we soon found out. We knew Chile would be more expensive, especially compared to Argentina. We had gotten used to some more expensive prices in Bariloche already, but we weren’t as prepared for it as we thought we were, haha. Anyway, we were looking forward to discover the nature of Chile, spending time by the lakes, and discovering Santiago and Valparaiso.
But, I need to rewind a bit first, as we had a bit of a hard time figuring out where to start our journey in Chile. Once we were set on Puerto Varas, we didn’t have much luck with buying our bus tickets, unfortunately. The day we wanted was completely sold out, as well as the day after, meaning we potentially had to stay 2 extra days in Bariloche. Not what we wanted to hear.
However, after finding tickets to Osorno for Friday (the day after we wanted to leave), and learning there are several evening buses from Osorno to Puerto Varas, we decided to give it a shot. Booked the tickets to Osorno, with crossed fingers there would be no delays etc.
Now, this might turn in to a rant at some point. You’ve been warned :P..
We left Bariloche on time, and the border crossing took a while, but overal nothing out of the ordinary to report. We arrived in Osorno a little bit later than scheduled, but when you cross a border there is always a little bit of delay I guess.
From Osorno to Puerto Varas
As soon as we got our bags we found the ticket counter for the bus to Puerto Varas, and got in line. There was an older man in front of us with his son, buying (no joke) tickets for all his trips in the coming year or something. At 10 in the evening. It took for-e-ver. At some point we were like, “uhm, ‘scuse us, we need to catch a bus”. Which, he totally understood, thank god, haha. In the end the bus we needed was 20 minutes late, but yaknow..
Then the fun began. We were told we would be dropped on the road, which was fine (or so we thought). What wasn’t really clear, is that it would be on the side of the freak’n highway! They stopped on the side of the road, just in front of some toll booths, and were like: this is your stop. So yeah, there we were, on the highway, 2 heavy backpacks each, no clue how we were getting in to town.
They told us to cross a 6 lane highway to the other side! Now I can (semi) laugh about it, but jesus I was pissed off at the time. You pay for a ticket and they dump you on the highway… It would have taken them 5 minutes to drop us at the BUS STATION in town, given there was barely any traffic in town at 11 at night. Not a great first impression of Chile, lol. Anyway, we made it to our hostel with the help of a local. And we hoped it wouldn’t be like this with all the other buses we had to take in Chile.
At our hostel we had a delicious pizza waiting for us as we hadn’t eaten anything for dinner yet. You’d think the bus would stop for food, but this only happened once so far for us, in Argentina. And it was at a sandwich place. We quickly learned to always bring food on the bus, haha.
Back to the pizza, we were in touch with the people at our hostel, Refugio Tia Susy, as we would arrive past the official check in time. Thankfully this wasn’t an issue, and they mentioned we could order a pizza so it would be ready when we arrived. Super thoughtful, and it was a great pizza :)!
One of the reasons people come to Puerto Varas is to visit the Petrohué river, the Todos los Santos lake, and to see the volcanoes (there are 2). There’s a lot more to do around the area of course, but those are the musts. On our first day we just relaxed and strolled through town and got some groceries. On day 2 we woke up early and took the bus in the direction of the river and the lake. It was super cloudy, and we couldn’t see the volcano, so we figured we wouldn’t get the views we were hoping for. But, after a little snooze in the bus, I opened my eyes to a clear blue sky and bright sun. Sometimes it goes that fast!
Lago Todos los Santos
After a bit more than an hour we arrived at Lago Todos los Santos. It was the last stop on the bus so everyone that was left came off and we were all greeted by the captains from the tourist boats. We initially weren’t planning on doing a boat ride, but the weather had cleared up and the price was right, so we decided to give it a go. And I’m glad we did, the view on the volcano from the boat was amazing! It was only a short ride of about 30 minutes, but it gives you a different perspective. Of all the nature of Chile, the volcanoes are something else…
After we came off the boat we walked around the beach for a bit, before heading back to the bus stop. Next destination would be the Saltos de Petrohué.
Saltos del Rio Petrohué
From the lake it’s only a 15 minute ride to the saltos, and we couldn’t miss them even if we tried. If you go in the weekend (like we did), there will probably be many cars parked in front, and maybe even a tour bus. Because of this we had to stand in line for a bit to get our tickets. Tickets that were double the price for tourists, unfortunately, 7000 pesos for foreigners, versus 3500 for Chileans. We didn’t know it yet, but this would basically be the case everywhere we’d go in Chile.
We paid and entered, and found the saltos straight away. In google maps ‘saltos’ is translated to waterfalls, but (I might be spoiled by Brazilian waterfalls here) it was more like a big, wild river. Having said that, it was still very cool! The water had these amazing blue, to almost white colours, and there was this beautiful view on the volcano again.
Our second destination in Chile was Pucón. This place is pretty well known among travellers for the extreme sports, but also for hiking, the on-again-off-again active volcano, and of course the lake. We would be spending more time at the lake than we had initially planned, as the temperature would hit almost 40 degrees for 2 days in a row! Lets just say we had no choice but to relax, which was probably a good thing haha. We even added an extra night to our stay so we could do another hike on a day we’d ‘only’ have 30 degrees.
Santuario el Cañi
The day after we arrived we went for our first hike, in Santuario en Cañi. Another entrance fee, but this one was the same for everyone at 4000 pesos (around €5). Also good to mention is that you need to reserve your spot in advance (first time we saw this) on the website of the sanctuary. We had several people on the bus that didn’t have a reservation. However, there were still spots open so they allowed them to register on the spot.
Before we could start the hike we received some information about the area and the walk. We were also offered a stick of bamboo as a walking stick, which turned out to be quite necessary, especially on the way back down.
The start of the trail is relatively easy and flat, but this soon changes to a challenging 6 kilometer climb. We started at around 400 meters altitude, but by the time we made it up we would be at just over 1300 meters!
But that wasn’t all of it yet… this first part only brings you to the lakes. To the mirador, the crown jewel of this hike, is another steep 200 meter climb. We stopped many times during this last part, but boy was it worth it.
Parque Nacional Huerquehue
The other hike we did while we were in Pucón was in Parque Nacional Huerquehue (pronounced as ‘herkewe’). Due to the hot weather and lack of rain the region had been having, the forest fire alert was at the highest level. Because of this, only one trail was open: the Los Lagos trail. This happened to be exactly the trail we wanted to do, so we got quite lucky there. Also for this park there is a fee, 8000 pesos (around €10), Chileans pay half, and you need to reserve your spot in advance on www.aspticket.cl. Do this a couple of days in advance, as Huerquehue is the most popular park in Púcon.
This trail required quite some climbing again, but thankfully there was not as much elevation gain as the El Cañi hike. We started off at 780 meters altitude and the highest point is at 1330 meters. There are a few waterfalls to see along the way, and of course the lakes as soon as you make it to the top. Huerquehue is a beautiful national park!
All this nature in Chile makes you yarn for a city (not really), so our next stop will be Santiago.