Nearby to Puerto Montt is Lahuen Nadi Park, home of the Alerce tree, the second longest living plant on earth. The Alerce is an indigenous conifer that can live several thousand years and thrives in moist climates. An understatement is this moist-love. When we visited the park as part of an excursion from our cruise ship, we viewed a 4,000 year-old mature tree and had our glasses drenched by a steady, hard rain. The trees and our bare-headed guide loved it, although he moved us with alacrity through the grove. Photographers, come prepared with wide-angles and rain gear.
Puerto Montt, established in 1853, was originally settled by German families who provided services to families going to the lake resorts. Settlers bring stuff, and a Chilean has made it a life's vocation and avocation to rescue everyday stuff. This includes farm equipment, cooking things, washers, clocks, musical instruments and other stuff. Amazingly, they have been restored to operational status.
The last lake in the crossing is Lago Nahuel Huapi which gives its name to the first national park in Argentina. You leave from Puerto Blest and travel along one arm of this huge lake to Puerto Pañuelos where another bus takes you to San Carlos Bariloche.
The lake is much bigger and the scenery quite different. Unfortunately when I saw it the snow capping the mountains was a dirty biege colour due to the still errupting ash from Volcan Puyehue.
The bird life is amazing on this lake and Pacific Gulls fly around and swoop down to take food from our hands.
Lago Frias is the smallest of the three lakes in the lakes crossing. The ferry also is the smallest because people travelling this leg are crossing from Chile to Argentina or vice versa and not the day trippers that enjoy the return trip on the other two lakes.
It is from this lake that you get the best view of Volcan Tronador.
The journey ends at Puerto Alegre where a bus take you 3km to Puerto Blest to continue the crossing over Lago Nahuel Huapi
One of the best ways to cross into Argentina is by the famous Lakes Crossing. The trip starts in either Puerto Montt or Puerto Varas and goes through Vicente Perez Rosales National Park to Petrohue where a short visit to the falls is included.
The fisrt leg is a boat trip to Puella across Lago Todos los Santos also known as the Emerald Lake because of the colour of the water. It looked very Sapphire the day I was there!
The scenery is amazing with spectacular views of Volcanoes Orsono, Puntiagudo and Tronador. The weather can be changeable and even the sunniest day in late October can be quite cold.
Meals are available in Peulla where you can have lunch. There is also food available on the boat.
Although I didn't use the company the website immediatley below explains the itinerary and gives costs.
Part two of this amazing trip takes place on land and is where you actually cross the border. Stops are made to view Cascada las Mellizas and Volcan Tronador before arriving at Puerto Frias where you go through the border formalities.
At the border you also leave Vicente Perez Rosales National Park and enter Nahuel Huapi National Park.
At Puerto Frias you board another boat to cross Lagos Frias to Puerto Alegre. Here you take a short bus trip to Puerto Blest for the final part of the trip.
Osorno Volcano at 2,652-metres is Chile's answer to Mt Fuji. It is on the south eastern shore of Llanquihue Lake and also is a feature from Todos Los Santos Lake.
Although considered one of the most active (11 recorded eruptions) of the Andean volcanoes Orsono hasn't erupted since 1869. The upper slopes are covered with glaciers and it is continually snow covered.
The best views of the volcano are from the shores of Llanquihue Lake on the road to Petrohue or from Puerto Varas where it can be seen alongside another active volcano Calbuco.
Half day bus trips are available from Puerto Montt in spring and summer to the ski lodge where you have a spectacular view of the Andes and over Llanquihue Lake to Puerto Varas. There is a choice of following a track over the lava fields or catching the ski lift to the Red Crater (at an extra cost).
Although not the company I used, the website give an idea of the trips available.
Petrohué Waterfalls is a favoured stop for tourists travelling between Puerto Montt and Bariloche in Argentina. The source of the Petrohué River is from Todos los Santos Lake which is the first lake in the famous Lake Crossing to Bariloche. It is in the Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park.
The falls are known for the aqua-green colour of the water.
One a clear day you can have an amazing view of the volcano Orsono.
There is a small charge to enter the park (Nov 2011)
Angelmó is a small bay about 2km from the centre of Puerto Montt. It is the home of the fish markets. These covered markets not only sell fresh and smoked salmon, cockles, mussels and sea urchin but you can buy fruit and vegetables and local cheese.
Anyone who has travelled much has come across this problem - where are the public toilet facilities? Puerto Montt is no different. My advice is that you use the facilities at the harbour (if you come from a cruise ship) or the bus station if you arrive by bus.
At Angelmo there are bathroom facilities.
When in the centre, you have two easy options. The two malls! Mall Paseo del Mar is at the end of Talca, a pedestrian walkway that is only two blocks long. Just go up to the foodcourt. The other is in the big mall at the Eastern end of town. Here again the toilets are located on the food court level.
Angelmo is probably the best crafts market in Chile. There are many islands in the Reloncavi Sound around Puerto Montt. People on the islands rear sheep and use the wool to produce very warm jerseys and ponchos. Maybe not always fashion wear, but good quality.
Several stalls sell lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone found only in Chile and Afganistan.
There are many restaurants that sell fresh seafood from the local salmon to shellfish. The prices are reasonable and the helpings generous even if the atmosphere is a little, well, not upmarket. I would be wary of cervichi, a shushi type fish dish as it is uncooked.
In Angelmo there is also a freh produce market with fresh fish and shellfish. The fish will be cleaned and cut to your requirements.
From Angelmo you can take a boat trip in the canal between the mainland and the island of Tenglo. There are restaurants on the island which will ferry you across for no extra charge.
Isla Tenglo is the island across from the harbour in Puerto Montt. It is easily recognised as it has a huge white cross on top.
Going there requires crossing the canal between the island and the mainland. The jetty from where the boats leave is between the bus station and the harbour right next to the harbour. Just go down to the jetty and get on the next boat to cross. The cost is CLP300 - hardly US50c. The boat leaves you on another jetty at the other side.
From there ons has to walk to the right around a little bay and along the seashore untill you get to a large white building. This is Restaurant Hoffman. This is a good place for a beer but first climb up to the cross!
The path leads up directly after the restaurant and zig-zag up the fairly steep hill. The view from the top of the hill over Puerto Montt is very pretty with volcanoes Osorno and Calbuco quite close. To the east is Volcan Yate across the Reloncaví sound.
Unfortunately there is not a great deal more up there than the view. There are no other places of interest, so best to return back the same way.
The return leg can be made a little more interesting (after a beer at Restaurant Hoffman) by taking a rowing boat across to Angemo. This is where I met Juan (On the photo below). He rows his boat across the harbour roughly 20 times a day and has been doing it for 31 years. He says he prefers the sunny days...
Volcano Calbuco is a very active volcano close to Puerto Montt. In 1893 it exploded and blew it's top away in the largest volcanic eruption in Chile in living memory. It still erupts every now and then. It is a beautiful mountain located in the Parque Nacional Llanquihue. A 40km drive will take you to the beginning of a footpath that ultimately goes all the way to the top of the mountan. Do not attempt this without a local guide!
The trip to the lookout, though, is a nice hike and requires no guide. It does require a moderate level of fitness as one has to scramble up some steep rocks along the way but it is not very difficult or dangerous.
The view from the lookout point (Esp=Mirador) is lovely and worth every drop of sweat!
From the mirador the footpath goes into the forest and there are no views of the volcano. It also deteriorates into a muddy wet path. I recommend that this part be avoided.
It takes about one and a half to two hours to reach the mirador.
The Rio Blanco waterfall is a nice 20 minute walk for the ones that want to experience the outdoors but are not looking for a strenuous hike. Just the drive out there is worth the effort! There are stunning views of volcano Calbuco as one gets closer.
The national park of Alerce Andino is only 40km from Puerto Montt and offers the adventurous some lovely hikes. The hike to Lago Triangulo is one of the longer ones but it is very pretty. You walk amongst huge trees and ferns that tower above your head past a lovely waterfall and the still lake Chaiquenes to get to Lago Triangulo high up in the mountains.
There are camping facilities about 2,5km from the park entrance. You have to carry everything there, no cars beyond the entrance. No other camping is allowed in the park.
The hike starts along the old logging roads and the first 3 km up to the Rio Cahicas waterfall is quite easy and pleasant. From the waterfall some stairs leads upwards like Jacob's ladder. Just above is a huge alerce tree that is now a monument. This tree is about 2000 years old.
From here the path gets a little more difficult with a river crossing where the bridge was destroyed. Lago Chaiquenes is nice but the views across the lake are limited by the dense forest.
From Chaiquenes to Triangulo the path deteriorates into a muddy slog after rains. Rain happens often here with over 4000mm falling every year. It is about 4km to go still, so allow plenty time!