Western philosophy describes four elements sacred to all living beings: earth, water, air and fire. Naturally, this approach also extends to travel as an all-embracing experience. The Lake Districts of the Chile and Argentina possess these elements in abundance. Here the upending earth forms the towering Andes, the mild coastal sierras and the fertile central valley. The flowing water creates crystal clear streams and hidden glacial tarns. The moving air refreshes, revive and inspires travellers to keep exploring. And smouldering fire rumbles from distant snow-capped volcanoes. Life is good here.
As a road trip, the Lakes Scenic Route starts in Temuco and roams through Chile’s ancient evergreen forests, around serene sapphire lakes, through charming villages, idyllic meadows and immaculate farmlands of European settlers. Onward, it winds up and over the Andes, via the picturesque ‘Seven Lakes’ route and south along the famous ‘Route 40’ of Argentina to the lakeside township of Bariloche. This itinerary can be tailored whichever way you like as a self-drive, or with a driver. Why not make it more leisurely for lake lingering, or perhaps some outdoor adventures?
Pick up your car at the airport or city car rental office in Temuco. Your destination for today will be the town of Pucon located at the foot of the Villarrica volcano and the eastern end of the Villarrica Lake surrounded by extensive native forests. This town will be a good base for visits to the nearby national parks, hot springs, waterfalls and lakes.
For this day we recommend a combination of hiking in the Huerquehue National Park, where you will be able to see the famous Araucaria trees and then relax by the thermal springs.
Day at leisure to explore the beautiful area of Pucon.
Today you will experience the natural contrasts between the Chilean and Argentinean slopes of the Andes. Crossing the mountain range at 1,207m the countryside will change dramatically. Green rolling farmland and lush native forests of the Villarrica National Park will be replaced by the dry but very colourful Pampa of the Lanin National Park. The immense Lanin Volcano will be a constant point of reference during the trip as you drive through spectacular forests of ancient Araucaria trees growing at the base of the volcano. In the afternoon you will reach San Martin de Los Andes, situated on Lacar Lake.
Explore the 7 beautiful lakes on the route to Villa La Angostura and pass through two different National Parks; Lanin and Nahuel Huapi. The unpaved Seven Lakes route will take you to the tranquil village of Villa Angostura from there you will continue onwards to Bariloche.
Morning tour of Bariloche’s surrounding mountains, lakes and parks. Take a chair lift up Campanario Hill from where you will have incredible views.
Free afternoon. Bariloche is famous for its chocolates made in the Swiss tradition; visit Mamoushka or Rapa Nui, or ask your guide for their personal recommendations!
Today you will drive back into Chile. You will cross from Nahuel Huapi National Park into the Chilean Puyehue National Park.
After a brief journey inland past Rupanco Lake drive along the border of the Llanquihue Lake: the third largest lake in South America. On your way to Puerto Varas stop and visit the lakefront town of Puerto Octay known for its German influences. From Octay, head towards the charming town of Frutillar recognised for its 19th-century architecture, famous theatre and the local museum. Afterwards, continue your drive around the lakefront where you can see the perfectly cone-shaped Osorno Volcano. This is the same route that German colonists embarked on centuries ago.
Day at leisure. Options for today include a full-day tour to Chiloe Island, a land of myths and legends famous for its folklore, its culinary traditions and the beautiful colourful stilt houses. Alternatively, you can add more days to stay in Chiloe and have more time to explore or just relax before returning home.
Return your car at the Puerto Montt airport or downtown car rental office.