Best things to do in Puerto Varas
Find out more about those top places in Puerto Varas
Lorded over by two snow-capped volcanoes, Osorno and Calbuco, the picture-perfect town of Puerto Varas is the perfect gateway to Chile’s inland sea, Lago Llanquihue. Puerto Varas itself is a charming town with Germanic origins that far outshines its much larger southern neighbor Puerto Montt. Indeed, the wide streets, half-timbered houses and Lutheran-style cathedral stand today as testament to the German colonization of southern Chile, which took place in the mid-19th century. While the town’s history is unexpectedly unique, it is the surrounding landscape that truly makes Puerto Varas a hidden gem with a variety of adventure sports and hiking trails allowing for easy trips into the Chilean Lake District.
Towering over the vast Lake Llanquihue is Orsano Volcano, one of South America’s greatest natural wonders. A variety of tours runs daily from Puerto Varas to the perfectly conical slopes of the volcano, which allow you to walk through millennia old coigües forests, marvel at the La Burbaja crater and take ski lifts to the highest summit where you can see magical lava formations.
Surrounded by snow-capped volcanoes and lush pine forests, Lake Llanquihue is Chile’s most scenic lake and its second largest. Puerto Varas, which sits on its shores, is the ideal base for exploring this pristine wilderness. Every day tours leave the mountain town to explore the lake’s rich flora and fauna, the German influenced towns that pepper its shores, including charming Frutillar, and admire breathtaking views of the Andes.
Not far from the base of Osorno Volcano is the spectacular Petrohué Falls in the mesmerizing Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park. Set amongst verdant pine forests, the waterfalls are one of Chile’s finest with numerous trails around the edge that let you admire the full force of nature. Make sure to look out for the aptly named torrent ducks that live in and around the white water rapids.
A highlight of Puerto Varras is undoubtedly the Museo Pablo Fierro, one of Chile’s most eccentric museums. With the powder blue clapperboard exterior bedecked in vintage cars, bicycles and other unique objects and the interior crammed full of unusual and often unforgettable memorabilia detailing the 19th century colonization of southern Chile, the museum is unforgettable.
Located on the eastern shores of Lake Llanqihue, a tour of the Germanic village of Frutillar is one of the best tours available from Puerto Varas. With a factory producing excellent smoked sausages, inns selling traditional pilsner and 19th century Alpine lodges lining the twisting streets, it is easy to forget Frutillar is in Chile and not Bavaria. Tours of the village often encompass the fascinating Museo Colonial Alemán, which details German immigration to the area.
There is no more iconic experience in Puerto Varas than taking to the tranquil waters of Lake Llanquihue to savor the spectacular views of the Andes. Boat tours and kayak excursions from the town take you to the lake’s most remote islets where you will be amazed by the rugged volcanic geology and the bio-diverse ecosystem.
For thrill seekers, the best experience to be had in Puerto Varas is rafting the white water rapids of the Rio Petrohué, where you will get up close to the raw power of nature. To cap this adrenaline pumping experience off, tours finish with cold beers and traditional southern Chilean food against a backdrop of glacier capped peaks.