The city of Roses
Puerto Varas is a lovely town on the shore of the Lago Llanquihue about 1000km south of Santiago and just 20km north of Puerto Montt. On a clear day one can see five volcanoes from the waterfront, from Puyehue in the north, Osorno, Tronador, Calbuco and to the south, Yate. Of these, osorno is the prettiest and best known, Calbuco the most active and Tronador the highest.
The town is spread out along the coast and walking the whole length will take some time. If you have the time, it is lovely. At the northern end of the town is the cerro Philippi. This is a public park on a hill overlooking the town is open to the public. From the top one has a good view of the town but unfortunately not much of the lake since it has lots of big trees.
The town centre around a small but pretty plaza is next to the pier. From here a small steam boat used to transport goods across the lake to other harbour towns like Puerto Octay and Puerto Fonck. The remains of this ship lies in front of the casino.
In the centre as well as along the waterfront are many restaurants and boutiques to suit almost any taste.
Just behind the centre and to the south is the Roman Catholic church. This church is quite pretty and often appears on photographs of the town. Built during the First World War, it is a wooden and corrugated iron construction that has withstood several earthquakes including the very big 1960 one. The churh is open to the public for visiting at times. See the tips below for visiting hours. The inside is very pretty.
There are several historic buildings in the town. These are indicated on a map available at the municipal tour offices on the pier as well as at other tour offices in the town.
"Beaches with clear fresh water"
The Chilean lakes are clear water with very little pollution. On a wind still day one can see several meters into the water and on a warm sunny days the beaches are crowded with people.
"Volcanoes and lakes."
The view across the lake is absolutely wonderful. Directly across lake Llanquihue is the huge volcano, Osorno. Almost perfectly conical and with a permanent snowcap, this is one of the most admires scenes in the whole country. At 2650m high this volcano is not as easy to climb as it may look.
On its slopes is a ski centre with two ski-lifts. The ski lift often works in summer too to ferry people up the mountain for lovely views over the lake towards Puerto Varras ans beyond as well as over lago Todos los Santos to the south west. South east of Osorno lies volcan Calbuco and to the south the rugged green mountains of the Alerce Andino park. From up close the glaciers on Osorno are awesome with crevasses that will swallow a bus. Osorno is an active volcano but has been quiet since its last eruption in 1832.
A little closer to Puerto Varas is volcan Calbuco. This is one of the most active volcanoes around. In 1892 in the biggest volcanic eruption in recorded Chilean history the mountain blew its top, literally. It is several hunderd meters lower today than it was before. It has remained active with the last major eruption in the 1970s and smaller ones in the 90s.
Lake Llanquihue is the fourth largest lake in South America. It is about 50km across and the maximum depth is 330m. The surface is about 80m above sea level.
Behind volcan Osorno is the smaller but lovely Lago Todos los Santos. Hemmed in by mountains on all sides this is a must see place for any visitor. It is believed that at the end of the last ice age the two lakes were connected but that with the growth of Vn Osorno Todes los Santos got separated and the Petrohue rever was diverted from flowing int lake Llanquihue, to flowing to the Reloncaví.