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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Pucon - Things to do
Parque Nacional Huerquehue
A gem of the area, Parque Nacional Huerquehue protects 12,500 hectares (30,888 acres) of rivers and waterfalls, alpine lakes and araucaria forests. It's easily accessible and has an array of trails. Conaf sells decent trail maps at the entrance, where there's a Centro de Educación e Intepretación Ambiental (park information office). The Los Lagos trail (one way 3-4hr; 9km/5.5mi) switchbacks through dense lenga forests with rushing waterfalls, then enters solid stands of araucaria surrounding a cluster of pristine and placid lakes. Most hikers turn back at Lago Verde and Laguna el Toro, the largest of the cluster, but continuing on the northern loop to Lago Los Patos and Laguna Huerquehue will treat you to some of the best scenery on the hike. Reserve your spot on the bus beforehand in the summer. Most agencies and outfitters offer organized excursions.
Latitude: -39.1010252978291 / Longitude: -71.6888809204102
Opening Hours: Centro de Educación e Intepretación Ambiental (park information office): Jan-Mar 08:00-20:00
Pricing: full US$3.50
Transportation Type: bus
Details: Buses Jac to/from Pucon in morning and afternoon
Parque Nacional Villarica
This national park is one of the most popular in the country because of its glorious mix of volcanoes and lakes. Its proximity to Pucón makes Villarrica accessible for everyone - from bus trippers to climbers, skiers and hardcore hikers. The park's highlights are the three volcanoes: Villarrica, Quetrupillán and Lanín. The park's 60,000 hectares (148,263 acres) are officially divided into three sections called Rucapillán, Quetrupillán and Puesco, and are crisscrossed with an array of hikes from quick day jaunts to long multi-day traverses. The hike up to the smoking, sometimes lava-spitting crater of Volcán Villarrica is a popular full-day excursion, leaving Pucón early in the morning. You do not need prior mountaineering experience, but it's no Sunday stroll. Crampons and ice axes are required on the snow and it can be treacherous and occasionally frightening (we witnessed a tourist tumble 30m down the snow, only to be stopped by rocks). Conditions are most difficult in fall when snow levels have depleted. It is important to use reliable equipment and choose an outfitter whose guides are properly trained. Note that bad weather may delay organized ascents for days. Climbs are sometimes cancelled altogether or may be required to turn back part way.
Transportation Type: cart, taxi and mini-bus.
Río Liucura Valley
This richly verdant valley offers myriad termas (hot springs), El Cañi nature sanctuary and views of the silver-ribbon Río Liucura. El Cañi is proof that citizens can affect conservation of old-growth forests. When logging threatened the area in 1991, Fundación Lahuen purchased land to develop a park for education and to protect 400 hectares (988 acres) of araucaria forest. A hiking trail (9km (5.5mi); 3hr) ascends the steep terrain - the first 3km (1.8mi) is very steep - of lenga and araucaria to arrive at Laguna Negra. On clear days, the lookout - another 40 minutes - allows for spectacular views of the area's volcanoes. In summer, when the trail is easier to find, all hikers must go with a guide. An alternative route, which detours the steepest part, starts along the road to Cailaco; a guide is required.
Pricing: entrance to El Cañi nature sanctuary: with guide US$10.00, without guide US$5.00