Destination guide: Pucon
Pucon is a city in southern Chile, on the shore of Lake Villarrica and in the middle of an exceptional natural environment, with the Chilean Araucanian volcanoes, lakes and rivers (ideal for rafting, kayaking and fishing) and national parks (ideal for trekking, zip wiring and mountain biking), as well as the region’s ski centers and hot springs.
The most interesting thing is that all these attractions can be visited at any time of year, making Pucon one of the most important lake district destinations in South America.
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Often referred to as the Queenstown of South America, Pucón has indeed arrived on the global map as a mecca for adventure sports. If you can hike it, jump off of it, ride it or climb it, you can do it in Pucón; its setting on beautiful Lago Villarrica under the smoldering eye of the volcano of the same name has sealed its fate as a world-class destination for adrenaline junkies.
Once a summer playground for the rich, Pucón is becoming a year-round adventure machine catering to all incomes, especially in February (a time to avoid, if possible), when it is absolutely overrun. The town receives alternating floods of package tourists, Santiago holidaymakers, novice Brazilian snowboarders, adventure-seeking backpackers and New Age spiritualists (in summer, the beautiful black-sand beach here is so packed with bronzed hardbodies, it can rival Miami Beach).
While the popularity and international feel can be off-putting for some (people tend to love it or hate it), Pucon boasts the best small-town tourism infrastructure south of Costa Rica. That means quality accommodations, efficient tourism agencies, hundreds of activities and excursions, vegetarian restaurants, Mexican food, falafel, a chic new casino.Like every other place in the region, the crowds do trickle in winter and skiing and snowboarding become the focus. No matter when you go, don’t forget: if you hear the Volcano Risks Alert System begin to wail, run!