Wrought by fire and water, the Lake District and Volcanoes straddling the Andes are as action-packed as they are spectacular!
For the indigenous Mapuche, European settlers, and holidaymakers, this part of Chile and Argentina has long been captivating. Because, this is a magical region of shimmering lakes, smouldering volcanoes, and ancient forests. So, there are plenty of national parks with lots to see and do. Here you can go kayaking, rafting, mountain biking, skiing, as well as fly fishing. In other words, this natural playground has something for everyone! Puerto Varas, Pucón, and Bariloche are the gateways to the Lake District of Patagonia. So, let’s take a closer look at each of these fantastic adventure bases!
Puerto Varas – Chile’s most popular gateway to the Lakes
Encircled by menacing snow-capped volcanoes, Lake Todos los Santos is the showpiece of Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park. It is an inland fjord with steep ridges and soul-stirring views. Upstream over the Andes, you can traverse from Puerto Varas into Argentina by boat on the Andes Lakes Crossing. This is more than a scenic route through the Lake District. In fact, it’s a journey through unbound space and silence. Then downstream, emerald waters tumble through the cascades of the Petrohué Waterfalls into the scenic Lake Llanquihue.
Picturesque Puerto Varas overlooks the lake, with two ominous volcanoes, Osorno and Calbuco, standing guard. Especially with its excellent accommodation options, this quaint lakeside town makes an ideal base for exploring. Likewise for seaside indulgence, head to the remote Mari Mari Natural Reserve. This is a luxury eco resort perfect for admiring Chile’s rugged Pacific coastline.
Pucon – discover the northern Lakes District
Further north, Villarrica National Park has caves, lush forests, rivers, and lagoons. Not to mention the imposing Villarrica Volcano. This is one of only five known volcanoes to have an active lava lake within its crater. You can also climb it! Starting in Pucón, the hike up is challenging full-day excursion offering breathtaking views. Meanwhile, for those who like their adventure with a touch of luxury, nothing beats Vira Vira. Here, you can also explore the Araucanía heartland of the Mapuche people, including Huerquehue National Park with various treks.
Across the volcanic spine of the Andes, Lanín National Park boasts some of Argentina’s best hiking, fishing, canoeing, and camping. Together with Nahuel Huapi National Park, it features the scenic ‘Seven Lakes Route’ through Argentina’s Lake District. It winds through sweeping landscapes of multihued forests, towering peaks and serene lakes, to the fairy tale city of Bariloche.
Bariloche – the Argentine capital of the Lakes District
Tucked along the wooded shore of Lake Nahuel Huapi, Bariloche is in one of the most idyllic lakeside settings imaginable. Moreover, the adjacent national park is home to rare and elusive wildlife including the small pudú deer, otters, and pumas. During the year, Bariloche is the centre of ravishing natural beauty and thrilling adventure on foot, horseback, bike, or kayak. Meanwhile, for winter sports, the snow beneath ‘Cerro Catedral’ offer pristine powder, great runs, and a legendary Après-ski scene. Of course, for the most exclusive retreat in the Argentine Lake District, Llao Llao Hotel is world-class.
Naturally, there other Stays of Distinction in the Lake District offering a range of all-inclusive experiences. Firstly, less than an hour from Puerto Montt, is Hotel AWA, complete with private beach and marina. This magnificent retreat boasts exceptional lodging, dining, and spa services. Further north, Futangue Park is a boutique hotel with spa hidden away in a private reserve. From here, you can hike deep into the forest to Geyser’s Cottage, a secluded mountain lodge with pristine hot springs. And finally, set upon the azure shoreline of Nahuel Huapi Lake, is the charming Villa Beluno. Reminiscent of Italy but in the heart of Argentine Patagonia, this gorgeous villa exudes romance and elegance. Yes, it is certainly easy to spoil yourself here in the Lake District!
Highlights of Lake District & Volcanoes:
– Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park is home to the Petrohué Waterfalls and Osorno Volcano.
– The Andean Lakes Crossing offers a road and boat transfer across the border from Puerto Varas to Bariloche.
– Villarrica National Park offers volcano-climbing and other adventures around Pucón.
– See the endemic Araucaria ‘Monkey Puzzle’ forests in Huerquehue National Park.
– The Seven Lakes Route connects two pretty lakeside towns in Argentinian Patagonia.
– Bariloche is a picturesque lakeside town surrounded by Nahuel Huapi National Park.
– Cerro Catedral ski fields are the biggest ski centre in South America.
Looking for an exceptional experience?
– One of the region’s premier luxury lodges, &Beyond ViraVira boasts an organic farm and unrivalled access to Lake District adventures.
– Located on a vast reserve, secluded Futangue Park offers superb hiking trails.
– Lakeside retreat AWA Hotel is just a short drive to Puerto Varas and the region’s many attractions.
– Remote coastal eco-lodge Mari Mari Natural Reserve offers adventure, culture, and wildlife.
– The grand old dame of Bariloche, Llao Llao Hotel is the perfect destination for golf and pampering.
– Villa Beluno is a lakeside villa with an elegant style and incredible cuisine.