In March Tom’s contract with Start Up Chile (our reason for being in Chile) ended. But instead of heading back to the States we decided that it was high time for a serious vacation. So we packed up our stuff, moved out of our apartment in Santiago, and set off on the road for a month long adventure through Patagonia (Chile and Argentina’s Southern tip). Tom had been dreaming about this vacation for a long time, a really long time. Since childhood it had been a dream of Tom’s to travel through Patagonia. And after having been there I can see why.
We started our trip by returning to the scene of a much loved previous vacation; Pucon.
It would be difficult to explain the beauty and uniqueness of Pucon, so I’ll let our actions speak for themselves. By the second day of our stay in Pucon we had found an apartment and decided to return there to live for a few months after our Patagonia trip was concluded. More about that in future posts.
After a few wonderful and relaxing days in Pucon we hopped on a bus and headed to Puerto Varas about 4 hours south of Pucon.
Puerto Varas is a small waterfront city. There is no shipping port here, so it feels pretty quaint and quiet. The area around the waterfront is really fancy and well developed with plenty of upscale hotels and restaurants. We stayed at a wonderful little hostel called Casa Azul at the recommendation of some friends. The hostel was clean, eclectic, well located, and the owners were very friendly. I would definitely pass this recommendation along. On our second day in Puerto Varas we decided to take a day trip to a nearby German village called Frutillar.
Frutillar was founded in 1856 by German immigrants. During the 1840s and 1850s the Chilean Government initiated a colonization program with Germany which encouraged German families of middle socio-economic status to immigrate to the southern cities of Chile. Thusly, it is not uncommon to stumble across villages with German inspired architecture and German speaking citizens throughout southern Chile.
In addition to it’s unique architecture and interesting history, Frutillar recently became well known for building its Teatro del Lago, or Lake Theatre.
Besides it’s breathtaking modern architecture, it is also the largest theatre in the country and it is considered to have the best acoustics of any theatre ever built in South America. If you ever find yourself in the area during the last week of January or the first week of February make sure to visit the theatre for it’s famous music festival, “Semanas Musicales”.
On our third day in Puerto Varas we decided to do an activity through our awesome hostel. The owner, a German born immigrant, took us on a day excursion to Puerto Varas’s nearby Osorno volcano, on a hike through the forest at the base of the volcano, and to some awe inspiring waterfalls.
We took a chairlift part of the way up so we could walk around on this active volcano (which erupts every hundred years and is currently several years overdue for an eruption) and check out its many red craters.
We also got some spectacular views of the valley below, the Andes mountains, and even a few volcanos on the Argentina side.
Tom and our guide had to drag me off of the volcano. I could have stayed up there and taken pictures all day. But we had a hike to get to. A hike through a lava field.
And after that, a trip to the most amazing waterfalls I have ever seen.
With the volcano visible in the background and several raging waterfalls all converging in a lushly forested surrounding, “spectacular” just doesn’t cut it. In the end I was glad they dragged me off that volcano so that I could experience the Petrohue waterfalls. This is perhaps my most most highly recommended guided tour of our trip. If you are planning a trip to Puerto Varas, do not miss this tour. Many hostels and tour companies offer this package, you do not have to do it through Casa Azul, although our guide was both friendly and knowledgable.
We wrapped up our stay in Puerto Varas with a waterfront stroll and a visit to the church.
Built in 1915 by a German immigrant, it has become a landmark due to it’s striking German architecture. It’s impossible to miss this massive church, which stands on a hill overlooking the bay.
[photo courtesy Equifase 2012 Chile]
After a few days in Pucon and a few days in Puerto Varas we were starting to get into the hang of the nomadic lifestyle. There is something incredibly freeing about carrying your daily necessities on your back and being free to move from place to place at a whim. After only a week we were off to a pretty darn good start. And really our journey into “true” Patagonia was only beginning. But I’ll save that for the next post. Stay tuned for Chiloe!