The Lake District in Chile

Last modified 16.03.2022 | Published 01.02.19881980's, Chile, South America, Travelogue

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Moving south from Santiago to the Lake District in Chile, an active volcano and a vacation within the vacation.

This article is part of a travelogue from of a five month journey in 1987-1988 to several countries in South AmericaBrazil, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile.


Saturday 23.01.1988, Concepción

We arrived in Concepción from Santiago de Chile in around eight hours. Our bus was of quite alright Chile quality and stopped once for lunch, at Talca. There was much farming land on the way and towards the end of the trip forresting became visible as well.

The bus terminal is a bit on the outskirts of the town so we had to take a local bus (10 pesos, 4 cents US) to the centre. That went well.

  • Residencial O’Higgins. Number 457 on the street of the same name. Central location. Expensive, 2400 (9.5 USD) including a very basic breakfast. Alright place, but way too expensive.

It is noticeably chillier in this town. Many businesses were closed but we managed to find a snackbar and later a tea and coffee bar right by a nice plaza.


Sunday 24.01.1988, Temuco

Our plan was to hit the beach today, but we woke up to grey day. As Conceptión seemed rather little interesting we decided to go further south towards the Lake District.

Without tickets we brought our luggage to the bus station and got two seats at Bio-Bio’s a couple of hours later. (850 pesos, 3.4 USD)

While we were waiting in the terminal the bomb alarm (probably) sounded. A suitcase had been found left somewhere near in the central part of the terminal building. At first the police cleared room around the suitcase, but then everyone was told to clear the building and cross over to the other side of the street. There was no explosion and we were let back in.

In Temuco we looked for a long time for a hotel and found…

  • Residencial Mendez on Calle Matta 382. 1400 pesos, 5.6 USD, it was a good place.


Monday 25.01.1988, Temuco

Temuco was an alright town. There were several shopping arcades and a lot of shops elsewhere as well. The town is supposed to be the centre of the Mapuche Indians, but we did not notice many of them. Not even in the markets.

The market in the town centre had a large tourist section with an awful lot of tourist souvenir junk.

Behind the railway station there was supposed to be a cattle auction with huasos (Chilean cowboys) in action. Wrong day.

Instead we went up on the Cerro Ñielol, a picturesque and peaceful national park. There were a lot of trees, very dense.

The Germans have certainly set their marks here in Southern Chile. Many stores had German sounding owner names etc., in addition to the use of words like Aleman, Germania and so on.

We rounded the evening off with good wine in our room.


Tuesday 26.01.1988, Temuco – Villarrica

We started the day at the museum. It was a quite interesting and very well made exhibition about the Mapuche Indians.

After that we did some shopping. I bought a pair of Chinese shoes for 690 pesos (2.8 USD) and Bo a blouse.

We then went off to the terminal and found a bus to Villarrica right away (250 pesos, one dollar, 1.5 hrs). There was farming land to be seen.

The town has a population of 25,000 and is situated on the Villarrica Lake under the dominating volcano with the same name. It is snow capped. It was a nice place with swimming opportunities in the lake.

  • Residencial Puchi on Pedro de Valdivia no. 682. The charged us 1600 for a twin bed room. Clean and airy and alright.

We intend to stay here for a couple of days before continuing to Pucón, located on the same lake.


Wednesday 27.01.1988, Villarrica

It is good that we don’t have too fixed plans. We took a bus (45 minutes, 120 pesos) to Lican Ray, a smaller town a bit further south. There they had many holiday houses and we thought we might rent one of them.

At the tourist information office they told us that the rental period normally was at least 15 days for a price of 70-80,000 (averaging 300 USD). Just by coincidence a big, burly man entered the office and said he had a vacant house from now until Monday for 15,000 (60 USD), or 3,000 pesos a day (12 USD).

We joined him and accepted his offer for a quite large house with gas and hot water etc. included. We are very looking forward to this.

Back in Villarrica we had no swimming due to cloudy weather. Instead we had a look at some handicraft stalls and met two Danes we had seen on several occasions in Chile. They recommended us strongly to climb the Villarrica volcano, on snow, with crampons and ice axe, to look into the boiling lava inside the crater.

As a result we got in contact with a local guide, cheaper than the agencies. The cost would be 2,000 instead of 5,000. We agreed to leave on Friday if the sun was up. But as we are moving we will have to see.


Thursday 28.01.1988, Villarrica – Lican Ray

Alvaro, our guide, came by our breakfast table at the hotel (warm bread, 200 pesos, one dollar). We had to disappoint him that we were unable to leave tomorrow as there was no bus leaving early enough from Lican Ray. After some discussion he made a proposal which seemed satisfactory. We could stay the night in a scout hostel for 350 pesos per person. This we thought was fair enough and we concluded the agreement. We also took into account that the agencies in Pucón charges 5,500 for the entire trip so we still save a good deal on this.

We paid the hotel only 1,500 for the night because of little supply of hot water. After this took a bus to “our” house in Lican Ray and had a self-made lunch. It gave us a lovely feeling after so many weeks in hotels.

The house was of a very good standard and with a huge double bed.

There were many people on the beach and the sand was of black lava downfall. I was able to swim in quite comfortable water.

After dinner, again made by the two of us, we hastily went for the Villarrica bus. It was however 40 minutes late. Alvaro borrowed us two sleeping bags and we got a private room in the hostel, quite good. I did nonetheless freeze a little during the night.


Friday 29.01.1988, The Villarrica volcano

This was an incredibly good day. We overslept a little, I didn’t hear the alarm, but we were ready when our guide Alvaro came in a pick-up to pick us up. A Canadian lady aged 45 or so joined us. We then drove to the foot of the volcano.

It was an impressive sight: Far up there, more than 2,000 metres above us at a height of 2,840 metres, the snow capped volcano was emitting smoke. It is active and had its latest eruption three years ago. The shape is that of a “real” volcano – cone – and downhill there are rivers of black lava from previous eruptions.

Alvaro gave us mountain boots and down jackets – the shoes cost us 600 extra. Further up the hill we put on crampons and we found ski poles good to have.

Before the snow we walked up on lava rock terrain, pebbles, along a ski lift. Crampons was a good idea, it went easier that way although they fell off a couple of times.

After six hours we hit the edge of the crater and looked down the way we had come. It was very steep. Down below, around 30 metres or so inside the wide crater we could see a couple of red holes where the lava was bubbling and spraying. It was a very impressive sight.

Here and there sulphurous gases emitted from the rock making breathing difficult at times.

The view was fantastic in the nice weather.

The descent went fast. We took off our crampons and ran slalom in the snow. Alvaro was good, but the Canadian lady was so slow that we barely reached the last bus back to Lican Ray.


Saturday 30.01.1988, Lican Ray

This morning we took the opportunity in our rented house to do some laundry. Not least the trousers had become dusty and dirty yesterday. We hung to dry in the garden.

We then went out on the tree-filled and peaceful peninsula between the two beaches in Lican Ray and found a little beach almost for ourselves. The water was very clean. We used the opportunity for a nude swim and sun-bathing.

Apart from this we enjoyed ourselves in the house with home-made meals and beer, and wine later on.


Sunday 31.01.1988, Lican Ray

There was too much wine last night and it took its time before we made the beach. But there we would lie down and let all sorrows eminate with the sweat – there was a genuine vacation feeling now.

For dinner we bought several types of meat and made our own parrillada with side-dishes, and melon for dessert – a real feast.

Tomorrow we will continue to Pucón on the Villarrica Lake. Bo has unfortunately lost her sun hat on a bus.


Monday 01.02.1988, Pucón

We took a Jac-bus to Villarrica where we first left a message on the Garcia-office about Bo’s hat. We then found a bus to Pucón. (120 pesos, 45 minutes) There were many expensive places to stay, prices double in the high season, but through various sources we found:

  • Private house (called hospedaje) in Calle Peru no 170. No signs. 800 pesos (3.2 USD) per person without linen. Alright, good and nice, but thin walls.

The town has a huge number of tourists, like Villarrica and particularly Lican Ray. It has a large, nice beach and is overall a pleasant place.

We visited a rather semi-interesting new monastery and thought of going out on the peninsula between the beaches. At the entrance we were stopped: Private property. At the tourist office we filed oral and written complaints and were informed that the peninsula is owned by a Santiago company and that the public is rarely granted access.

We found this downright silly as the peninsula is so nice, central and mentioned in all brochures.

We are moving further south tomorrow.


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The next chapter: We are taking a closer look at the towns, lakes and islands in the German south.

Read the introduction to this journey

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