We decided to visit Pucón after Josiah discovered you could climb the a Volcano and see lava there. An overnight bus from Santiago and we had arrived in a picturesque mountain town dotted with wooden bungalows. Its skyline dominated by pretty snow capped Volcan Villarrica. While most come for the Volcano, you could easily spend weeks here sampling the many adrenaline pumping activities, including canyoning, white water rafting, kayaking, horse riding, mountain biking, hiking various trails in the surrounding national parks and recovering with a soak in one of the many thermal baths (Termas).
We travelled return taking an overnight bus from/to Santiago. Andesmar, Pullman and Turbus all go to Pucón (Ch$11,000 – Ch$14,000 each way). For excursions around Pucón, most of the buses leave from near the corner of Palguin and Uruguay.
Pucón town itself is a pretty town to wander, with its wood panelled alpine style buildings, plenty of cafes, restaurants and bars and situated on Lake Villarrica, with it’s black sand beach. Pucón has a very established tourism industry, prices are high for tours compared to in the north (San Pedro de Atacama for example). However outside of high season (summer) you can find great rates on accommodation. Our stay at eco etnico hostel was our cheapest room Chile. A private room cost Ch$16,000 per night. It was already late November but everything was still very quiet, that did mean missing out on the atmosphere of the hostel’s BBQ nights and it was too cold to swim in the pool.
Caburgua Lake and Waterfall
Josiah booked in to climb the volcano, in hindsight it was probably not a good idea be to spend a day mountain biking before the climb! The agency he booked through gave us free bicycle hire, so we made our way to Ojos del Caburgua (a waterfall). The ride was rather more tedious than anticipated, on very hilly gravel roads. This didn’t work too well with only one functioning break and a chain that fell off when I attempted to change gears. I spent a lot of time walking. The trail is beautiful and leads you along the river, through green farmland, forest and a backdrop of mountains and volcanos. A few kms past the waterfall is Caburga Lake, from there it’s best to ride back to Pucón via the road (much faster!).
The next morning Josiah rose early for the volcano climb. The price is around $75,000. A shuttle van drives you to the ski resort on Volcan Villarrica. Outside of ski season climbers can use the ski lift to reach the snow line (Ch$10,000), this is advisable as it’s a difficult climb up steep loose volcanic rock. Unfortunately on that particular day the ski lift was closed due to high winds.
Josiah was in a group of mostly middle-aged German mountaineers, and so despite reasonable speed was at the back of the group. The bonus was his group was one of the first to the top! Josiah said the lava was putting on such a performance that even the guides were taking lots of photos. Going down the mountain is far easier than going up. You carry a sled and simply back slid down.
Termas Los Pozones
The Pucón is surrounded by dozens of thermal baths, and there’s no better way to soothe your muscles after a gruelling climb. We caught a Pullman bus to Termas Los Pozones, a 3 hour ticket costs 16,000 pesos. There are five natural pools of varying temperatures beside the river. If you want a more luxurious experience, many of the upmarket hotels operate as Termas and we passed several on our way to Los Pozones. Some have dozens of pools, waterfalls and offer spa treatments and massages. The most famous, luxurious and expensive is Termas Geometricas a Japanese style baths that can only be reached by a tour or 4×4.
Huerquehue National Park
From Pucón town we took a JAC bus at 8:30am to reach this beautiful temperate rainforest. The most popular route is the three lakes hiking trail (the yellow route on the sign). This is about the right amount of time for a decent day hike, getting us back in time for the 5pm bus back to Pucón. Park entry is Ch$5000. There are some hotels and hostels on the edge of the park and refugios within the park if you want to do a multi-day trek. The scenery is absolutely beautiful. It’s an uphill climb through rainforest with waterfalls and you see the scenery change as you progress in altitude.
Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve
The Huilo Huilo Biological reserve is a resort promoting ecological and community-friendly tourism. There are day tours from Pucón, which can be arranged by one of the many tour agencies in town (Ch$45,000) or you also stay overnight in the resort, backpackers or one of the Hobbit-ish treehouses. Unfortunately much of the accommodation was booked out in advance, and it’s difficult to do an overnight stay without your own transport. From Pucón, you first needto reach Panguipulli (check turbus) then take another bus from the bus Terminal to the town of Neltume. A one day tour is sufficient time to do one of the short trails, the canopy walk, visit a restaurant and Museo los Volcanes. This is the official website for Huilo Huilo listing information about accommodation, activities and the project.