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lakes region


The Lakes Region

A chain of lakes, forests, meadows and snow-covered volcanoes between the Bio Bio River and the town of Puerto Montt gives shape to one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. This territory, heroically defended by Mapuche and Araucanian warriors, was never subdued by the Spanish conquerors, and was eventually settled by colonists of different nationalities in 1881. However, it is the German colonists who came to the town of Valdivia in 1850, and have left their imprint on the region. Their influence can still be seen in the architecture, the cuisine and the appearance of the small villages, especially Puerto Octay, Frutillar and Puerto Varas on the shores of Lake Llanquihue.

The survivors of the Mapuche culture now live on small reservations close to Temuco and Villarica and on islands in the middle of the lakes. Nowadays, "the People of the Land", whom the Spaniards called araucanos, anchor the present to the past, as many choose to keep their culture and traditions alive. They work their fields and their looms, speak their own language, Mapudungun, worship their ancient ancestors, and a few still choose to live in rukas, their traditional homes that have been adapted to the environment.

In addition to their beautiful tourist attractions, this region has enormous cattle, fishing and forestry resources. The main towns are Concepcion, Temuco, Valdivia, Osorno and Puerto Montt. There are more than 30 lakes of all shapes and sizes, nearly all of them associated with volcanos, between Temuco and Puerto Montt. Hot springs and pools are common in the area around the lakes, and the rivers which drain them are superb for fishing (trout and salmon), or for shooting rapids.

Because of the spectacular natural resources found here, large areas have been declared national parks in an effort to preserve the remains of native forests which once covered the greater part of southern Chile, including pure stands of the prehistoric araucaria, with its unmistakable umbrella shape, and the alerce, a conifer known to reach over 3000 years of age. The natural jungle flourished on this volcanic and porous soil, known throughout the world for the quantity and variety of beautiful trees and plants, many of which are listed in international botanical studies. Forests of over 2000 years, the oldest on the planet, are home to the araucaria, along with the millenary alerce (Larch), and great trees that burst into flower like the white ulmo and the red notro, cascades of wild fuchsias and unique copihues.

From all around, the volcanoes can be seen on the horizon. These are the highest pinnacles and represent quite a challenge for the most exciting adventures. Enormous masses of lava, most with perfect silhouettes, are always crowned with snow. Reaching over 11,000 feet in height, some of them issue smoke from the great hole of their craters. When they become active, several of them erupt simultaneously.

Puerto Montt

A 2-hour flight from Santiago would take us to Puerto Montt, a city settled by German colonists in the mid-19th century, and one of southern Chile's most important cities. It features middle-European architecture, with shingles, high-pitched roofs and ornate balconies. The redwood cathedral on the city's plaza is the city's oldest building, dating from 1856. The city is the transport hub and access point to the southern Lake District, the island of Chiloé and Chilean Patagonia. This attractive port town and growing industrial center offers excellent handicraft markets, seafood restaurants in Angelmo, and a long coastline with fine hotels, restaurants and a range of services; the city also serves as an excellent base for exploring the southern lake region. From here the gravel Carretera Austral leads to the forests and fjords of Aisen and continues to the heart of Patagonia.

On the shore of Reloncav Sound, Puerto Montt is the departure point for maritime cruises through the Patagonian fjords and islands, including cruises to Laguna San Rafael and Puerto Natales. The luxury liner Skorpios offers trips to Laguna San Rafael, while the catamaran Patagonia Express, en route to this same destination, also stops at the spa-hotel Termas de Puyuhuapi, a site of extraordinary beauty.

Driving along Costanera Avenue with a magnificent view on the Reloncav Bay, the main square faces the monument to the German settlers. Contuining on, we see the cathedral built in the early 20th century, and the main commercial district, Angelmó. From there we can travel on to Tenglo channel towards Chinquihue, Pelluco towards the city of Puerto Varas, also known as the "City of Roses," or along Costanera Avenue towards Mount Calvario, Philippi Park residential districts, and the Municipal Market.

Puerto Varas

On the Southern shore of Lago Llanquihue, faced by the perfect cone of Volcán Osorno, Puerto Varas combines the best of the Lake Region's nature and culture. Well-preserved German architecture reflects this charming town's history of mid- to late-19th century immigration; nearby are excellent rivers for fishing and whitewater rafting, ancient temperate rainforests, and the spectacular Lago Todos los Santos.

Puerto Varas, the largest of the lakeside cities, boasts fine hotels and restaurants, plus the whole range of tourist services. It is the most chosen destination before departure on the Andean Lake Crossing.


Along the lake's western shore is Frutillar. A lovely route runs along the southern side of the lake, passing numerous beaches. Frutillar, settled by German colonists in 1856, is possibly the most attractive town on the lake, and is beautifully kept and very clean, offering excellent German style food. Frutillar is also well-known for the Classic Music Festival held every year in late February, whose renowned "Music Weeks" draws international participants.


This beautiful archipelago, located south of Puerto Montt and linked to the mainland by ferries which cross the Chacao channel, is definitely a world apart. Whether on dry land or in their remarkable boats, the laughing, dark-skinned Chiloe islanders live together with the sea and their fascinating legends.

Departure via Pargua to board the ferry and cross the Chacao channel, towards the island of Chiloe and through beautiful scenery of channels and fjords, to arrival at the port of Chacao, and then proceeding by bus to the city of Ancud. Touring El Isla Grande of Chiloe and the numerous small islands which make up the archipelago, one encounters beautifully structured extremely old churches at every turn. There are colorful markets full of produce, knitted goods, woven baskets, ornaments and thick pure wool blankets; small wooden houses (which can be transported by rolling them from one place to another); and ancient palafittes. Everywhere you can find thousands of nooks and crannies waiting to be discovered. Not to be missed is the curanto, a local dish consisting of all sorts of shellfish, smoked meats and pork, steamed over hot stones sunk into the ground, and gentle "golden liquor," which you can enjoy amongst the friendliest, most easygoing people you will ever have the joy to meet.

The hillsides are a patchwork quilt of wheat fields and dark green plots of potatoes. Visit of the Spanish fort of San Antonio, built in the 17th century, Costanera Avenue and the Regional Museum, with its history, mythology, folklore and handicrafts of Chiloe, San Francisco church and the colorful market — all places imbued with charm, tradition and legends of life and death.


Bordering Lake Llanquihue, past oxen and plowed fields, weatherbeaten clapboard barns and churches, we travel by Ensenada to our arrival at the Petrohue River Falls inside the Vicente Pérez Rosales Park, and then proceed to Lake Todos los Santos, also known as Lake Emerald due to the vivid blue-green color of its waters. Across the lake, you can see two snowcapped volcanoes, the perfect cone of the Osorno and the shattered cone of the Calbuco.

The Andean Lake Crossing to Argentina

This famous crossing to Bariloche, Argentina is a multi-stage affair, involving three separate lake crossings and four connecting buses. On this tour you will see snow-capped volcanoes, picturesque villages, the largest lake in Chile, and the Petrohue waterfalls. You will then cross the Andes by boat and bus. On the Argentinean side we reach the Bariloche, Latin America's top ski resort.

Enjoy nature at the very end of the world. You shall sail through Todos Los Santos Lake, Frias and Nahuel Huapi, be astonished by the color of the waters, the Calbuco and Osorno volcanoes, the Tronador mount, the Puntiagudo and the Catedral hills, and all of the South of Chile and Argentina. The trip may be started at Puerto Montt or Bariloche any time of the year, no matter the weather, as it has never been interrupted. The lake crossing does not operate on Sundays and on January 1st, May 1st, November 29th and December 25th.

Here, few men have been able to project their vision to the future, but Ricardo Schutz was one of them. On muleback, he guided the first European tourist group through the Andean route that linked Bariloche (on Argentinean side) and Peulla (on the Chilean side). This brand new adventure quickly became wildly popular, and later it would be known all over the world. Since this heroic expedition, made in 1913, we have been given the world a legacy. It has stayed in use to allow new generations to enjoy it. Nowadays, this tour is known as Cruce de Lagos (Lake Crossing).


Express Lake crossing operates from September through April:

PUERTO MONTT/PETROHUE: Departure from Puerto Montt at 8:30 AM or Puerto Varas at 8:50 AM, skirting Lake Llanquihue, and passing by Ensenada and Petrohué, with a brief stop to visit Petrohue Falls (entrance fee not included). Arrival at Lake Todos los Santos (50 miles, approx. 2 hours by bus).

PETROHUE/PEULLA: Board hydrofoil and cross spectacular Lake Todos los Santos, (20 miles, approx. 1.4 hours). Transfer from pier to Hotel Peulla. Time at leisure for lunch (not included). 

PEULLA/PUERTO FRIAS: At around 3:30 pm, we continue by bus over the Andean peaks, the highest point of our journey at 3100 feet (18 miles, approx. 2 hours), to arrival at Puerto Frias.

PUERTO FRIAS/PUERTO BLEST: Board second hydrofoil and cross Lake Frias (4 miles, approx. 20 minutes), to arrival at Puerto Alegre. Continue by bus for a short ride (4 miles, approx. 15 minutes), up arrival at Puerto Blest, through Immigration and Customs, then board the third hydrofoil.

PUERTO BLEST/BARILOCHE: Navigate on beautiful Lake Nahuel Huapi (15 miles, approx. 1.3 hours) to Puerto Pañuelo. Continue by bus (15 miles, approx. 30 minutes) to Bariloche, and drop off at your hotel. Estimated arrival time is 9:30 pm.


Andean Lake crossing with overnight in Peulla operates year around, Mondays through Fridays:

Day 1

PUERTO MONTT/PETROHUE: Departure from Puerto Montt at 8:30 am or Puerto Varas at 8:50 am, skirting Lake Llanquihue and passing by Ensenada and Petrohué, with a brief stop to visit Petrohue Falls (entrance fee not included). Arrival at Lake Todos los Santos (50 miles, approx. 2 hours by bus).

PETROHUE/PEULLA: Board hydrofoil and cross spectacular Lake Todos los Santos, (20 miles, approx. 1.4 hours). Transfer from pier to Hotel Peulla. Accommodations at Hotel Peulla; dinner and breakfast included.

Day 2

PEULLA/PUERTO FRIAS: After a hearty breakfast, depart by bus over the Andean peaks (18 miles, approx. 2 hours) to arrival at Puerto Frias.

PUERTO FRIAS/PUERTO BLEST: Board hydrofoil and cross Lake Frias (4 miles, approx. 20 minutes), to arrival at Puerto Alegre. Continue by bus for a short ride (4 miles, approx. 15 minutes), to arrival at Puerto Blest. Through Immigration and Customs, then board hydrofoil.

PUERTO BLEST/BARILOCHE: Navigate on beautiful Lake Nahuel Huapi (15 miles, approx. 1.3 hours) to Puerto Pañuelo. Continue by bus (15 miles, approx. 30 minutes) to Bariloche. Drop off at your hotel; estimated arrival time is 9:30 PM.



Puerto Montt / Puerto
Varas to Bariloche


Bariloche to Puerto
Varas / Puerto Montt







 Oct 10–
Apr 15

 Apr 16–
Oct 9

 Oct 8–
Apr 15

Apr 16–
Oct 7

Trip Length

1–2 days

2 days

1–2 days

2 days

P. Montt

Dep 8:30a

Dep 8:30a

Dep 6:45a

Dep 9:00a

P. Varas

Arr 8:50a
Dep 9:00a

Arr 8:50a
Dep 9:00a

Arr 9:00a
Dep 9:15a

Arr 11:30a
Dep 1:30p


Arr 10:30a Dep 11:00a

Arr 10:30a
Dep 11:00a

Arr 12:30p Lunch
Dep 3:30p

Arr 4:30p Overnight
Dep 8:30a


Arr 1:00p Lunch
Dep 3:30p

Arr 12:45a Overnight
Dep 9:00a

Arr 5:30p
Dep 6:00p

Arr 10:15a
Dep 10:45a

P. Blest

Arr 6:00p
Dep 7:00p

Arr 11:30a Lunch
Dep 4:30p

Arr 7:30p
Dep 7:40p

Arr 12:30p
Dep 12:40p


Arr 9:30p

Arr 6:30p

Arr 8:00p

Arr 1:00p


   *  Schedule subject to change without prior notice.


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information, please contact your Travel Consultant.