Puerto Varas, Chile

There’s a real buzz about Puerto Varas, and it’s been dubbed the next big thing in the Chilean Lakes District. A bit less touristy than over places, but still close to a great national park with a huge volcano, and lots of outdoorsy activities available. We really liked the town – pretty small and cute, but with a nice local flavour.

Down at the port on Lake Llanquihue

The area was built by 19th century German immigrants, so the town is full of old German buildings, and down the road is a bizarre little German-influenced seaside town called Fruillar, where we spent our first day. It’s kind of like being in a little British seaside town (maybe this feeling was exacerbated by the cloud on the day we visited!) There’s a little pier, swan pedaloes, an inflatable playground on the water, and cute little goblin-themed cafes (a 19th C German thing, apaz) where you can buy ‘kuchen’ (cake), and elaborate coffees and hot chocolate, with cream and flavours like orange, mint and berries. We spent a couple of hours here looking at antique books, and stuffing ourselves silly with sugary treats. The buses in Chile are so cheap, it was only a pound to get there and back so we didn’t feel bad for bailing after a couple of hours!

A cloudy day on the pier by the “beach” at Frutillar

Blending in with the local goblins

Getting sugar high on posh orangey creamy coffee

We stayed in an absolutely stunning hostel – an old 1930s mansion house with high ceilings, beautiful big double rooms and a great kitchen with original features, and a huge living room with a roaring wood burner in it. Naturally, we hung out a fair bit at the hostel (especially given the 2 days of cloud!) and spent a fun night drinking loads of wine and chatting with fellow travellers, exchanging tips and Whatsapps (now par for the course…) and then stumbled out to a nearby cafe for late night ‘completos’ (hot dogs with avocado and tomato)

On our 2nd day, despite the overcast weather (and our monstrous hangovers… 1.5L+ of red wine is clearly too much) we got up early and went to nearly Parque Nacional Vincente Perez to hike the park trails. It was a pretty cool park, different to the ones we’d visited previously. As the park’s basically around a huge volcano, it’s mainly black sand beaches, and trails of volcanic ash. Occasionally we came across huge volcanic canyons that the flowing lava had cut through the ground, which were pretty impressive!

Gigantic lava canyon tracks

There were a couple of cool miradors (lookouts) and we stopped a while on the black sand bays, where we got volcanic ash on our bums from sitting on charred tree stumps! I also had my first ‘going native’ experience when nature called, of having to do a number 2 in the woods (miraculously i wasn’t caught short on our 5 day trek, but instead it happened on a 4 hour trail!) It was an experience. Let’s leave it at that.

This also happened to be our 18 month anniversary so in the evening we headed back to Cafe Danes for a slap-up meal. We sampled local favourite ‘pastel de choclo’ (corn pie with chicken… think a chickeny corny version of shepherd’s pie) and ‘lobre a la pobre’ or ‘poor man’s steak’ which is a huge piece of steak with eggs, fried onions and chips (they love a good heart-attack inducing meal in Chile!)

Pastel de choclo and lomo a la pobre at Cafe Danes

On our last day, we were FINALLY blessed with some sunshine! So we took a walk around town, visiting a beautiful old 19th century church where we stopped in to check out the MANY Jesus statues, and we went to chill by the lake where we could FINALLY see the 2 volcanoes we’d come to see! In the park, it had been so cloudy we’d only seen the base of the volcano but finally we saw the main Volcan Osorno and a smaller volcano, beautiful and grand, glistening on the horizon of the sunny bay.

We chilled for a while on the pier, watching boys playing on kayaks and being chased around in the water by crazy stray dogs, and enjoying the novelty of really hot sunshine after a couple of days of cloud.

We’d drunkenly decided on our next move – down to remote Chilean island ‘Chiloe’ – after chatting to a couple of cool Bristolians in the hostel. So we boarded our bus for the 3 hour journey….

Checking out the old 19th Century German church