Accessed from the bustling port of Puerto Montt, a short flight from Santiago, Puerto Varas is a pretty Germanic town looking out across Lake Llanquihue to the spectacular volcanoes of Osorno, Puntiagudo and Calbuco that loom high on the far shores. Ringed by dramatic national parks, Puerto Varas is the gateway to Chile’s southern Lake District, a picturesque area of temperate rainforest, aquamarine lakes and glacier-topped mountains that straddles the border with Argentina. Originally founded in 1854 by German settlers, Chile’s “city of roses” retains its traditional, wood shingled architecture and pretty churches and now brims with bars, hotels, restaurants and tour agencies.
Close by, Volcano Osorno offers excellent walking, rafting and fishing as well as access to Bariloche just across the border via the breathtaking “Cruce de Lagos” lake crossing, a series of boat and bus trips that cuts through the heart of the Andes. Further south, punctuated by the towering, granite peaks of the Cochamo Valley, lush temperate rainforest competes with millenary Alerce trees, giant redwood like conifers, in the Alerce Andino National Park before the landscape splinters into a myriad of islands and vertical Patagonian fjords, inaccessible by road.